Choosing a Good Graphics Card

Graphics Card

A graphics card is what makes your computer the versatile performer and entertainer it is. It’s the component that makes your computer a gaming console. A graphics card not only comes equipped with a dedicated video memory – a sine quo non of any video game, but also a processing unit which makes every piece of the gaming action look real.

So how does a graphics card work?

It translates data into those millions of pixels (or tiny dots) that come together to make the images you see on your computer monitor. Simply put, it takes all the binary data from the CPU and converts it into images. So a fast, effective and efficient graphics card can make all the difference to your computer gaming experience.

While the motherboard with integrated graphics is good enough for ordinary computer functions such as internet browsing, word processing, email etc, casual gaming requires a separate graphics card that’s not very high-end. Designers engaged in 3D graphic work as well as people who are heavily into gaming needs an exceptionally powerful graphics card.

Go for performance

Performance, naturally, is a key indicator to the efficiency of a graphics card. Loads of memory and a super-fast processor are what make for an excellent high-end graphics card.  A graphics card’s performance is measured by its frame rate or by the frames per second (FPS). In layman terms, it means the number of images it can show per second.

Though the natural FPS for the human eye is 25, majority of the powerful, fast and action-packed games need an FPS of 60. Within the FPS, you also need to look for vertices per second and pixel fill rate of the card. While vertices per second (also known as triangles per second) underlines the speed of creating a wire-frame image, the pixel fill rate is an indicator of the number of pixels the card can process in a second.

Check for hardware requirements

Since the speed of a graphics card is a reflection of the quality of its hardware, you need to check out the specifications of the card’s hardware before deciding on the one best suited for your requirements. The hardware includes memory bits, memory clock rate, bandwidth and speed (both GPU clock speed and RAMDAC speed).

The model number of the card is indicative of this data as it is a combination of GPU, clock rates as well as memory bandwidth. The memory of the card, or its bandwidth as it’s called, is really important to the selection of a good and powerful graphics card. Talking of memory, it’s not the size or RAM that makes a difference but the bandwidth that’s a vital parameter.

The compatibility factor

Display is also critical to your final choice. Like other factors, this also depends on your needs. A really high-end graphics card would perform well only with a high-resolution monitor. Most fast-paced, action-packed games of today would be compatible only with a high-quality monitor. The compatibility of the graphics card with the CPU and the motherboard are also material factors in gauging its hardware efficiency.

It would not be incorrect to say that the compatibility of the video card with all computer related systems needs to be carefully checked out before deciding on a graphics card. Will it physically fit into the CPU, or is too large or small? Then there’s the question of power. How many power connectors does the graphics card have, and how much energy does it need to function smoothly? These points need to be kept in mind while choosing a suitable graphics card.

Look at the cooling capacity

Some graphics cards, especially the powerful ones, generate a lot of heat that can cause damage unless backed by a cooling system. While the inexpensive variety of cards comes with a reference cooler (which causes the excess heat to flow out from the back), the better ones are generally equipped with custom or aftermarket coolers.

The latter are unique to individual manufacturers and designed for the specific cooling needs of a particular graphics card. The custom coolers work silently and effectively but have the disadvantage of recycling the hot air emerging from the card into the case. This, in turn, lowers the ability of the card to get rid of excess heat.

Generally speaking, high-end graphics cards are more expensive than those delivering average performance. In other words, the costlier a graphics or video card, the more efficient it is. Cost apart, the specific requirements of the user are a critical factor in deciding on a good graphics card. If you don’t really need to go in for a lot of gaming or graphic designing, there’s really no point in spending a lot of money on a high-end card, which may also necessitate up gradation of your PC in other ways.

On the other hand, if your requirements are high-end then it’s better to buy a high-end graphics card to match, even if that entails an additional expense in making it compatible with your system.

Monday, April 4, 2016