Buying Guide to Graphics Cards
The graphics card is a vital performance component of your computer, particularly if you play 3D games,
or work with graphics and video content. The graphics card sits in an expansion card slot in your PC and
it is specifically designed to process image data and output it to your monitor, enabling you to see it. A
graphics card works by calculating how images appear, particularly 3D images, and renders them to the
screen. 3D images and video images take a lot of processing capacity, and many graphics processors
are complex, require fans to cool them and need direct power supply. The graphics card consists of a
graphics processor, a memory chip for graphics operations, and a RAMDAC for display output. It may
also include video capture, TV output and SLI and other functions.
What are your needs?
The first decision you need to make is whether you need a graphics card for handling 3D images or
whether you are simply requiring 2D image rendering. For 2D requirements, you need only a low-cost
solution. In many cases, an integrated graphics solution will suffice for 2D applications.
However with 3D graphics, the performance of the graphics card will impact directly on the frame rate and
image quality of 3D programs and games. The differences between the low and high-end cards can be
substantial, both in cost and performance.
Rendering 3D graphics is like lighting a stage, both the geometry of the shapes in question and the
lighting of it need to be taken into account. The geometry of an image calculates the parts of an object
that can and can't be seen, the position of the eye and its perspective. The lighting is a calculation of the
direction of the light sources, their intensities and the respective shadows that occur. The second part to
presenting a 3D image is the rendering of colours and textures to the surfaces of the objects, and
modifying them according to light and other factors.
Most modern graphics cards include a small microchi