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Buying a Graphics Card

In 1982, IBM manufactured the first set of graphic cards. Video card technology has since accelerated in an unbelievable way. At present, Nvidia and AMD, two of the world's graphic card manufacturers, control more than 90% of the market. AMD became a video card manufacturer when the company bought ATI in 2006. Other smaller graphics card companies exist, but they only buy cards from the major manufacturers to rebrand and sell.

The video card in your computer converts binary numbers from the CPU into the images that appear on your screen. On the screen of your computer are very small dots call pixels. The graphic card decides what to do with these dots to display the right imagery. The latest video cards display quality images on the computer screen and function as processors.

The modern generation of graphics cards consume more voltage than previous models. This is one of the major problems confronting computer manufacturers as future video cards may require more voltage. Innovations in battery technology, for laptops, have not been fast enough to power the ever-improving graphic card demand. The best graphic cards are the most expensive ones. Buying and installing the latest graphic card on an old machine may not give the best graphic experience. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 is, at the time of writing this guide, one of the best graphic card for gaming.

Components of Graphic/video cards

1. Graphical Processing Unit (GPU): The GPU is the main component of the video card and its job is to process images. The GPU also functions like the processor of a computer. A fan and a heat sink with fins help in maintaining temperature conditions of GPU inside the computer. The faster this GPU (higher clock speed), the better.

2. The Random Access Memory Digital-Analogue Converter (RAMDAC): The function of the RAMDAC is to convert images stored in the frame buffer to the screen for display. The RAMAC is one of the hardware specifications that determine the value of a video card.

3. Video Memory: Images processed by the GPU are stored in the video memory before they're displayed on the screen. The bigger the video memory the better it can display 3D images.

4. Interface: The interface connects the graphic card to the motherboard. The better cards use PCI-E (PCI express).

5. Connections: These are one of the output channels of the computer. There are three types of connections namely DVI, V-video, and standard VGA interface. The S-video is a TV-out plug that enables images from the computer to be display on a TV screen.

If you want the best and you're not concerned about cost, opt for the highest grade. The list below shows the various hardware specifications for graphic cards.

  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)
  • Size of memory bus (bits)
  • Amount of available memory (MB)
  • RAMDAC speed (MHz)
  • Memory clock rate (MHz)
  • GPU clock speed (MHZ)

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