Graphics Cards Explained: How To Buy The Right GPU
The graphics card (also known as GPU) in your PC or laptop is one of the most important components, and although GPUs are primarily used by gamers to push cutting-edge graphics to ultra-high resolutions. high, they can also play a very important role. for creative professionals (or amateurs).
So how important is a GPU? Well, for starters, if your PC or laptop didn’t have one at all, you’d be hard pressed to use it – because you couldn’t plug in a monitor and interact with the computer! That’s why pretty much all computers have a GPU.
There are also two main types of GPUs: integrated and dedicated. An integrated graphics card occurs when the graphics processing unit is essentially integrated on the same chip as the processor (CPU). Almost all modern processors come with integrated graphics, and these have many advantages. For starters, this means that you don’t have to worry about getting a GPU, because there will already be one with the CPU.
Integrated graphics are also more compact and less power hungry than dedicated graphics cards, making them ideal for thin and light laptops. In fact, most laptops will use integrated graphics. Buying a PC or laptop that uses integrated graphics is usually cheaper than buying one with a dedicated graphics card. Integrated graphics are primarily manufactured by Intel and AMD for their respective processors. Modern Apple-made MacBooks and iMacs now run on the company’s own M1 chip, which also combined a CPU and GPU.
However, while the integrated graphics are suitable for everyday use, they are not powerful enough to handle modern games and advanced 3D applications. They may also struggle to render high resolution videos.
So if you’re looking for more power, you’ll want dedicated graphics (also known as discrete graphics). These graphics cards fit into your PC’s motherboard and can give it a huge upgrade in graphics performance – and they’re made by Nvidia and AMD, the two biggest names in discrete graphics.
Not only are the dedicated graphics more powerful, they can be purchased separately, which means you can upgrade your PC with them in the future. It’s a good way to keep your PC going and making sure it can keep up with your creative workloads over the years. Some laptops (especially gaming ones) also come with separate graphics cards, giving them the kind of performance you usually expect from a desktop.
Buying a dedicated graphics card can have a huge impact on your creative work, with 3D rendering, video editing, game design, and animation all benefiting from the extra power. But what should you be looking for? Read on, as we cut through the lingo and explain everything you need to know about graphics cards.
One of the most important specifications for a graphics card is the amount of video memory (also known as VRAM) it has. Memory on a video card is dedicated to graphics tasks and stores image data for quick access. Part of this includes the Z-buffer, which includes information regarding the depth of objects in 3D space from certain perspectives, and is used in computer games and to create CGI effects for movies.
While this all might seem quite complicated, as with standard RAM, the more VRAM a graphics card has, the better it performs. Modern graphics cards range from 2GB to 24GB for Nvidia’s flagship GeForce RTX 3090. The latest generation of video memory is GDDR6. Choosing a GPU with lots of GDDR6 memory (or the faster GDDR6X) is a sure-fire way to guarantee you brilliant performance.
Another important specification that you will see when talking about graphics cards is their clock speed. This speed, measured in megahertz (MHz), basically tells you how fast the graphics processing unit can render graphics – hence, the higher the MHz, the faster the graphics card – the better for gaming. and rendering.
Many people still improve the performance of their graphics cards by overclocking them. This is a complex process that involves forcing GPUs to run at higher clock speeds. This should only be attempted by people who know what they’re doing, but if you want a free boost in your GPU performance, it may be worth doing your research. There are apps from GPU manufacturers that make graphics card overclocking relatively easy and safe. Many GPU manufacturers also sell factory overclocked versions of their cards that come out of the box already overclocked. These are usually identified by having “OC” in their model name.
The outputs of a graphics card are also important because they determine what (and how many) displays you can attach – and what resolutions they support.
All modern graphics cards should at least have an HDMI port. This is a universally accepted port that makes it easy to connect any modern monitor, television, or projector. Most HDMI ports support resolution up to 4K (3840 x 2160) at 60Hz. HDMI 2.1 can support 4K at 144Hz and up to 8K (7680 x 4320) at 30Hz.
There is also DisplayPort, another popular video output port, which supports 4K up to 120Hz and 8K at 30Hz. The Dell UltraSharp UP3218K 8K monitor can also use two DisplayPort connections to run 8K at 60Hz.
Some GPUs still come with VGA and DVI connections, although these are showing their age these days and are mostly used to connect older monitors. Some GPUs also have USB-C connections, which can also be used to send video signals.
By looking at each of these specifications, you’ll be able to get a good idea of what kind of performance to expect from a graphics card and choose the one that best suits your needs.