video card : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

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video card
Introduction What To Look For
History Shopping for a Video Card
What Does The Video Card Do? Links
Slot Types

Introduction

The video card (aka graphics adapter or video adapter) is a card that fits in the 16x PCI-E (Peripheral Component Interconnect — Express) slot (or the AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) slot or one of the PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slots in older computers) that generates the image that appears on the screen.

History

The image is made of dots called pixels. For example, on a 17" monitor the image might be 1024 dots wide by 768 deep. There are thus 786,432 pixels. People with 21 inch monitors may have an image 1280 × 1024 pixels. The smallest monitors might support only 640 × 480 pixels. About 70 times a second, the graphics adapter sends the entire picture, dot by dot, to the screen. For high resolution colour, inside the video graphics adapter, there are three numbers for each dot. One tells how red the dot is, a number from 0 for no red, to 255 for very red, one tells how green it is, and one how blue. 0,0,0 is black. 255,255,255 is white. 255,0,0 is bright red. 0,255,0 is bright green. 0,128,0 is dark green. 0,255,255 is bright yellow. The computer changes the picture by manipulating the numbers associated with each pixel. This scheme gives over 16 million colours. Low res colour might have only one number 0 to 15 associated with each pixel. This works much faster and requires less hidden RAM (Random Access Memory) on the video card, but allows only 16 different colours on the screen at once. A compromise might be 256 or 65,536 different colours. Hardware has become so cheap that 16 million colours is pretty well standard now.

What Does The Video Card Do?

Most of the power in today’s video cards is used for gaming, especially 3D games. 70 times a second, the CPU (Central Processing Unit) builds a mathematical wire frame model of the scene, and the video card fills in the triangles with colour, shading and texture. The video card processing power is also used to unpack the compression when you view movies or YouTubes. For text, the video card prepares raster model letters in various sizes from the font outlines, like tiny anti-aliased images for each of the glyphs. Then to draw text, it copies the exemplar letters to the spot in video memory which corresponds to the desired spot on the screen. This takes relatively little computing power. When you scroll, the video card repeatedly moves the entire block of rendered letters in RAM to a spot corresponding to a slightly higher position on the screen. If the video card is fast enough, the text appears to move smoothly without jerks.

In addition to all this, 70 times a second, the card sends the complete picture to the monitor.

Slot Types

Most graphics cards today go into a special PCI-Express-16 aka PCI-E slot. Older motherboards use an AGP slot. Modern graphics cards use a digital DVI-D (Digital Video Interface — Data) external connector or an integrated analog-digital DVI-I (Digital Video Interface — Integrated) external connector. High end ones use HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connectors.

Sometimes the video adapter in integrated into the motherboard. Add on cards cost from $60.00 CAD to $600.00 CAD . Gamers can spend even more on the video card than they do on the computer. Features to look for:

analog VGA digital DVI-D integrated DVI-I HDMI
analog VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) digital DVI-D integrated DVI-I HDMI
for HDTV (High Definition Television)

What To Look For

Shopping for a Video Card

Most cards support Windows 7 and 8. If you have Linux or a Mac, you need to check it is compatible and comes with suitable drivers. Ditto for older Windows OSes (Operating Systems). See notes on PCI-Express. The cards are listed in increasing order of cost.
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒ASUS HD7770-2GD5 Graphics Cardto electronic home
asin B0088PK040
2 GB GDDR5 RAM, heatpipe cooling, dual fans. 915 mh. PCI-E version 3.0. 256-bit. DVI-I, DVI-D and HDMI connectors. 225 watts. Specs.
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Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
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Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Zotac NVidia GeForce GT 640to electronic home
asin B00898QCWA
2GB GDDR3 PCI-Express 3.0 Video Card ZT-60201-10L. There are several minor variants. This is what I got myself. I wanted something low power (65 watts) with bug-free drivers. I don’t do gaming. The most taxing thing I do is watch videos. It has a Windows experience index of 7.1, more than adequate for my needs. It comes with a codec called vReveal reputed to exploit the video hardware 5 × faster for videos and other game acceleration software, including 3D features. It has HDMI, DVI-D, DVI-I and a converter to make the DVI-I into VGA. Ports are labelled! Max resolution 2560 × 1600. I run mine at 1920 × 1200, the limit of my monitor. The card is quite heavy, but that is because of the heat sink. It has an onboard fan with translucent orange blades. Manufacturers like to decorate video cards. It has no S/PDIF, composite or s-video. It is made in China. The workmansip looks excellent. It does not need an extra power connector. Core Clock: 900 MHz, Memory Clock: 1782 MHz, 384 Stream Processors. 128-bit. DirectX 11. There is nothing to tweak in the install other than the resolution. This is pretty much the only brand Staples carries. They offer impressive discounts. Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
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other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Cardto electronic home
asin B0047ZGIUK
1 gig of DDR-5 RAM, Uses a PCI-E 2.0 16-bit slot. It has two DVI outputs and HDMI. The RAMDAC GPU runs at 775 MHz. Accesses RAM 256 bits at a pop. Supports DirectX 11 and Windows 7/8. 2560 × 1600. 150 watts. Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
India flag junglee.com tigerdirect.com American flag
other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒ZOTAC NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660to electronic home
asin B009AEL3JO
2GB GDDR5 2DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort PCI-Express Video Card ZT-60901-10M. PCI Exress 16 version 3. Uses the NVidia GeForce chip set. Zotac is a German company that makes PCs, motherboards and videocards. Can connect to HDTV. Dual silent fans. The name puts me off. I think of Adam Sandler and his character, Zohan Dvir. Zotac sounds like the name of the arch villain in a video game or a stomach remedy. It has a 192-bit path to memory. 960 shaders, 80 texturing units, 24 rasterising units. 140 watts (lower power than the competition). Max resolution 3840 × 2160. There are 3 sub models, with slightly different clock frequencies. The 903 (980 Mhz) is slowest, then the 901 (993 MHz), then the fastest, the 902 (1046 Mhz). Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
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other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒NVIDIA Quadro 6000 VCQ6000-PB by PNY premium video cardto electronic home
asin B0044XUD1U
Has 448 Cuda processing cores. Has 6 Gig of GDDR3 RAM. It accesses ECS memory 512 bits at a pop. DVI-I connectors. Takes up two PCI Express gen 2 × 16 slots. Supports Stereo OpenGL 4.1, DirectX 11.0, CUDA, and OpenCL. It consumes a whopping 204 watts. Very expensive. Specs no longer posted on the PNY website.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
India flag junglee.com tigerdirect.com American flag
other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock
electronic product image recommend electronic⇒PNY 6000 Quadra VCQK6000 PCI-Express x16 12Gb 384bit GDDR5 graphics cardto electronic home
asin B00E920GAO
Ultra expensive, top of the line PNY video card. 4096 × 2160 resolution. DVI-I,DVI-D and 3-pin 3D Stereo outputs, ships with DP-DVI-D(SL) and a DVI-VGA adapter, stereo connector bracket and 6 pin PSU cable. It has 2880 Cuda cores, 12 GB GDDR5 memomy, Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s, supports 4 displays. 225 Watts (ouch). Specs.
American flag amazon.com bestbuy.ca Canadian flag
Canadian flag amazon.ca canadacomputers.com Canadian flag
Chinese flag amazon.cn ncix.ca Canadian flag
German flag amazon.de newegg.ca Canadian flag
Spanish flag amazon.es tigerdirect.ca Canadian flag
French flag amazon.fr bestbuy.com American flag
Italian flag amazon.it ncixus.com American flag
UK flag amazon.co.uk newegg.com American flag
India flag junglee.com tigerdirect.com American flag
other stores UN flag
Greyed out stores probably do not have the item in stock

Crossfire is a technique for allowing up to four video cards to work in a single machine either to control multiple monitors or to speed up response.

When you buy a monitor or video card, check which sorts of connector and cable they use. You need a match and you need a cable which could cost upward of $50.00 USD extra.

I was blown away when my Samsung monitor came with three cables: for VGA, DVI-D and HDMI.


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