Graphics Cards

A graphics card in a modern PC serves two main functions. The first, and most obvious is that it puts an image onto your screen. The second function is to enable the PC to generate 3D images and advanced graphics effects, such as textures, lighting and water effects, mainly for use in games. Graphics cards DON’T however, have any bearing on the manipulation of photographic images or scanned pictures, Which is handled by the processor and memory. So, if you plan on doing a lot of gaming with your PC, a good graphics card is a must, but if you do not intend to play any games, you don. t really need to worry too much about your system’s graphics card.

Choosing a new graphics or can be difficult, with so many products to choose from.


The main graphics chips are supplied from either ATI or NVidia. These are then usually incorporated into a different companies own graphics card assembly. There are three different types of cards:



High spec cards with lots of memory and fast processors giving plenty of power for games or other intensive video applications. These often include extras such as TV/Video In/Out, DVI connectors and dual monitor support. Prices in this section would be over £110+, sometimes well in excess of £300.



General applications and some gaming. Some of the newer games do require more powerful cards. For guidance you should check the minimum specifications on the back of the game box (you can normally strike a good balance of Processor, Memory and Graphics card to suit most needs). Most cards include S-Video, TV Out connectors as standard. Prices are usually between £50-£110.



Ideal for general Office and Internet applications. Running graphic intensive games are not really possible with these cards as the processor and memory is not rated enough for those tasks.


One other type of graphics chip is available. Onboard graphics These aren’t really cards at all, but a series of chips mounted directly onto your computer’s motherboard. They provide a cheap way of getting an output onto your screen, and performing basic graphics functions, but they are no match for an AGP graphics card.


Do I need a new graphics card?

The obvious way to tell if your current card is up to running your latest game is to try it out. If the graphic detail is poor and the picture becomes jerky or freezes it most likely the card. However it could also be a driver problem, you should always ensure that you are using the latest software drivers, which can normally be downloaded from the manufacturer’s site (ATI) (NVidia). Also you can check the video settings in the game and try lowering the detail.


If the above does not improve the game then you should considering upgrading.

Different Card Types

Video cards come in three different connector types: PCI, AGP, and PCI Express. The slots all look different and are easily identifiable from each other.


PCI these connect into the often white slots of your Motherboard, they have been common on motherboards since the early 1990′s.


AGP Often brown connectors were introduced as they allowed four times the bandwidth over PCI. Most AGP video cards are now designed to work only with the newer AGP 2.0 and 3.0 standards.


PCI Express often shortened to PCIe is the latest technology designed to replace AGP and work with the main board systems to allow larger amounts of bandwidth to be transferred, resulting in increased system performance.


Different types of graphics card connectors include:

DB-15 VGA/SVGA connector commonly used for standard output to an analogue monitor


S-Video output allows you to connect your PC to a TV or VCR to output the same display as on the screen.


DVI connectors are typically used to connect digital flat screen monitors. The three different types are DVI-D (Digital), DVI-A (Analogue), DVI-I (Integrated Digital/Analogue).


Dual monitor support refers to splitting your video signal to go across two monitors instead of one. This can be useful for designers, engineers, and others who prefer to view large files on and still have other windows open. Often the dual monitor support consists of one standard VGA output and one DVI connector, which provides a higher-resolution output used for newer high-end monitors.