ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Beginners Guide To Graphics Cards

Updated on March 20, 2011

Most computer users never give a second thought to what video graphics subsystem is generating the images on their monitors. It's enough for them that the entire video system works, they can see their desktops, and who really cares about anything else.

They are not necessarily wrong in this belief as for the vast majority of computer users out there, as long as the video subsystem generates pixels in the proper resolution for their screens and provides a sufficiently fast refresh rate of 70 Hz or more to avoid that pseudo-strobic flickering you see sometimes on older CRTs, who really gives a second thought about graphics cards?

It turns out that the video subsystem is a critical part of your PC and with the upcoming "Fusion" in the next few years of the computer processor (CPU) with the graphics processor (GPU), computer users should be aware of what all this circuitry does and why they should care.

Of course, if you're already a gamer, enthusiast, prosumer, or image management professional you are in a completely different league and you may find that the GPU is of greater importance and impact to what you do with your PC than the CPU and you'll be up to your ears in multi-card solutions as Crossfire and SLI.

Here are the basics so any computer user can master the lingo:

Slot: AGP was the standard for many years but PCI Express (PCIe) has now taken over thanks to its advanced features and much greater bandwidth. If you are stuck with an older motherboard without PCIe, my advice is not to seek out the AGP cards that are still in the market, but consider changing your motherboard. There are plenty of perfectly serviceable motherboards out there with PCIe that etailers sell for $40 to $60. Much better to change the motherboard and have a PCIe video card that you can migrate to your next system than shell out for an AGP card that has no upgrade capability. Note that higher end modern motherboards have a PCIe 2.0 slot which offers double the bandwidth of the 1.0 version. In this case, by all means get a PCIe 2.0 card and enjoy the benefits.

Memory: You should choose a graphics card that has the maximum amount of memory in your budget range. More memory equals greater performance from the card, including higher display resolutions on larger screens, and vastly improved 3D renderings which are very important in the newer high-end games as well as to art and video professionals. The current "sweet spot" is 512MB, but many cards are coming onto the market with a full 1 GB of RAM.

DirectX: This is a common battleground for advanced computer enthusiasts. All graphics cards currently on the market support DirectX 9 (DX 9) and many now offer support for the Windows Vista only DX 10 and 10.1. What advantages will you get from DX 10? Almost none unless you plan to run a game or use software that specifically takes advantage of that level. For 99% of the users out there DX 9 is just fine.

Connectors: Most modern flatscreen monitors have DVI connectors, however, there are many new video standards which are generally incompatible with each other. You would be well advised to ensure that your monitor and card are happy with each other before you pull out your plastic, as some will require different connectors and very large flatscreen monitors may call for a dual link DVI. If your card only provides a single DVI, you're out of luck.

Shop, shop and shop around! Graphics cards plummet in price like the Coyote falling off a butte. At the time of writing, Nvidia had just dropped its prices on the very high end GeForce GTX260 from $399 to under $300 to counter similarly featured and priced AMD-ATI's Radeon HD 4870. An educated graphics card consumer can realize big savings!


Check out hundreds of Hal's PC Technology articles in these categories:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)