Of all the electronic components that make up a computer, the graphics card is an indispensable device for the visual experience. It is an integrated circuit that takes care of data processing and transformation into visible information, that is revealed to the user through a monitor, television, projector, etc. In this article, we will explain to you the different types of graphic cards, their components and their main features and will show you the best deals for Black Friday sales.
In the case of integrated graphics cards, the GPU (graphics processing unit) does not use the RAM of the card itself, but uses the VRAM (Video Memory) of your computer. They are also integrated in the same chip as the CPU (your computer's processor). This option is the cheapest and can be suitable for non-graphics intensive activities.
Dedicated cards have their own independent source of memory. Therefore they are kept outside of your computer's RAM, ensuring better performance. It should be taken into account that they consume more energy, so it is recommended to have a good cooling system. They guarantee a better visual experience in the most demanding games or graphic design programs. We can find them in two formats: with a direct connection to a motherboard port or in MX format for laptops.
Most commonly, today's desktops have dedicated graphics cards. In the case of laptops, low-end computers almost always use integrated cards as opposed to high-end computers that have their own dedicated graphics cards.
This term refers to the graphics core, that is, the brain of our card and where all the necessary operations are carried out. The GPU accelerates the performance of the different applications related to image processing.
Here are the specifications of this component that will determine to a greater extent the quality of our graphics card. These are:
Core clock speed(CPU)
It is measured in MHz or GHz (GB being a unit of measurement greater than MB) and indicates the speed at which the cores in a graphics card operate. This is one of the most important variables to determine the performance of a card. The higher the clock frequency, the faster the data processing. Low-end cards are around 825MHz. and high-end cards can exceed 1200MHz. Two types of frequencies are usually specified: Base Clock (processor base frequency) and Boost Clock (the frequency that reaches within temperature and power consumption limits).
Number of shader processors
They are called CUDA cores (on NVIDIA cards) and stream processors (on AMD cards) and are mainly responsible for texture rasterization and object geometry. These are the most important elements of the power of our graphics card because the more shaders there are, the more power there will be. A low range model will have around 192 cores, being able to reach 3594 cores in the most powerful models.
Number of pipelines
In charge of changing vertices and lines to pixels when moving from 3D to 2D images.
The so-called random access graphics memory consists of a special integrated RAM memory that allows storing the data concerning the graphics when requested and thus avoid saturating the main RAM memory of our computer. As we have mentioned before, dedicated cards have their own RAM memory.
Being less determinant in the performance of our card than those of the GPU, the quality of the GRAM is subject to different factors:
It is measured in GB or MB. The higher the capacity, the less time it takes to process the data. That can be 4GB, 6GB... and even 16GB, if we refer to the high-end models.
The interface or data bus
It is measured in bits and refers to the number of data that can be sent or received per unit of time. For example, if we have a 128-bit bus, it is capable of sending and receiving up to 128 bits per clock cycle.
The more bits, the more data can be transferred. There are different types, such as PCI Express (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express). These are slots that allow communication between the device and the motherboard of the computer. Their size is indicated by an x, usually preceded by a number (e.g. x16), which reflects the slot size. To clarify, the higher the value of the number, the larger the size.
It is measured in MHz or GHz (effective frequency). It is complementary to the data bus, since it determines the data transfer speed.
It is usually measured in GB/s and is the result of the combination of the two previous variables: it is the product of the memory interface (bits) by the effective frequency of the speed divided by 8:
AB [GB/s] = (Memory interface [bits] ∙ Effective frequency [GHz]) / 8
Regarding the development of the different types of GRAMs used in the cards, the GDDR3 version launched by Samsung in 2003 has been followed by GDDR4(2005), GDDR5(2008), GDDR5X(2016) and GDDR6(2018). At least, these are the most popular ones, they were the best rated in their release date and in this article they have been ordered from lower to a higher speed. In this regard, it is also worth mentioning the HBM memory used in very high-end models.
Ultimately, the main thing is the bandwidth that depends on two parameters (speed and interface). For example, a 128-bit graphic and GDDR5 will be better than a 256-bit graphic and GDDR2.
The most commonly known outputs to make the connection between the graphics card and the monitor are the VGA output (to carry an analog image), DVI (for digital displays and replacement of the previous one) and HDMI or DisplayPort (digital image transmission technologies that also have the ability to transmit high definition videos and audios at high speeds).
It follows from the above descriptions that we recommend purchasing the latter option.
This section refers to the connection systems between the graphics card and the motherboard of your computer. In the same way that it happens in the GRAM, they determine the relationship between the bus architecture, the frequency and the necessary bandwidth in a set time.
Sometimes, when trying to find information about graphics cards on the web, if you do not have extensive knowledge of computers and some terms can generate confusion among users.
First of all, we can find that this device receives several names: video card, video board, display adapter and graphics accelerator card. When we talk about this component, it is usual to refer to the GPU (component described above). In many occasions, this term is confused with the graphics card itself. As we have said, the GPU refers to the graphics core of the card, but this is not the only component.
We can find the terms iGPU and dGPU that refer to both types of graphics cards: integrated or dedicated.
Sometimes we can find that the processor speed is called Core Speed.
If you have several options in mind and you are not sure which one to choose, we recommend this graphics card comparator that takes into account aspects such as memory, performance and ports, among others.
Note: Before purchasing a new graphics card make sure it is compatible with your computer. In case you need it for a program or a special video game to be displayed correctly, we recommend looking at the minimum requirements first. The idea is not to go overboard but neither to fall short.
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