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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Understanding gaming PC video card

This piece of hardware along with the CPU, motherboard and RAM is one of the main responsible for the 3D performance in your gaming computer. It plays the most significant role among the other hardware in your gaming computer in terms of 3D performance so you should make enough room in your budget to choose a quality video card for your gaming computer. Its function is basically to display the video output sent to it by the CPU with the help of other hardware like the monitor in your gaming computer. This is the piece of hardware responsible for the cool graphics that we usually see in the latest 3D games. There are two main video card GPU manufacturers ATI and nVidia. There’s also a lot of video card manufacturers like EVGA, XFX, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, Sparkle and Zotac which uses the nVidia GPU; Powercolor, Sapphire, Visiontek and Diamond which uses the ATI GPU. Asus, MSI, Gigabyte and XFX often use both GPU. Hardware like the video card is so common that there are so many computer hardware retailers in the market with both types of GPU available. Since this piece of hardware is so crucial in 3D performance we will tell you which features to look for so you can choose a video card for your gaming computer.

Features to look for when choosing a video card for your a gaming computer

1) GPU – GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit and is no other thing than a processor specialized in processing video instructions. It does a better job processing video data than the CPU and that’s the main reason why the GPU is used for that purpose. The main factors that determine the performance of a GPU are: number of stream processors, number of pixel shaders, manufacturing process, shaders speed and core speed.
a) stream processors – they are responsible for the video data. Each GPU series have a given number of stream processors. Usually the more the better but that isn’t always right because advances in technology sometimes allow a newer GPU with less stream processors to perform equally if not better than an older GPU with more stream processors. There’s sometimes enhanced versions of the same series of GPU with more stream processors and in that case the GPU with more stream processors will perform better. An example of that is the Geforce GTX 260 from nVidia which comes in two versions, one with 192 stream processors and the other one with 216. Obviously the one with 216 stream processors perform better than the other one.
b) pixel shaders – they are responsible to render some special effects like waves in crystalline water and shinning things. The rule for quantity that applies for stream processors also apply here.
c) manufacturing process – this is similar to the CPU manufacturing process. The lower the number the higher he clock speed the GPU can reach. The lower the number the less the power consumption and heat. Common architectures are 65 nm, 55 nm and 40 nm.
d) core speed – the faster the better. Present GPU architectures allow to clock the core to speeds never reached before. There are some versions of video cards with the GPU clocked at higher speeds than the standard video card. Those cards are also faster than a card from the same series of GPU at standard clock speeds.
e) shaders speed – as the core speed the faster the better.
2) memory – just as the system memory or RAM, the memory in a video card is responsible to store data temporarily. The features that determine its performance are as follows: size, speed, type and interface.
a) memory size – the more the better. Common sizes are 256 MB, 384, 512 MB, 640, 768 MB, 896 MB, 1 GB and 2 GB. When similar video cards are compared, the one with more memory should perform better.
b) memory speed – the fastest the better. Memory’s speed is usually determined by its type. Common types are DDR2, DDR3 and DDR5 with DDR2 being the slowest and DDR5 the fastest.
c) memory interface – the higher the better. Common interfaces are 64 bits, 128 bits, 256 bits, 320 bits, 384 bits and 448 bits.
3) video card interface – common interfaces are PCI, AGP and PCIe. PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect and is the older/slower. AGP stands for Accelerated Graphics Port and it is between the other two in terms of performance. PCIe stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express and is the newest/fastest of all three.
4) ports – just look for whatever port you need in your gaming computer. Common port types are: DVI, D-Sub, TV out and HDMI. A D-Sub port transfers analog signals of lower quality while and DVI port transfers high quality digital signals. This feature doesn’t affect 3D performance.
5) SLI or Crossfire – as we said before, this feature lets you install two or more video cards in the motherboard to improve 3D performance. The motherboard must have at least two PCIe slots and at least two similar video cards with support for this feature must be installed to enable it. SLI is nVidia’s technology while Crossfire is ATI’s. It depends on your budget if you choose a motherboard with SLI or Crossfire support.
Those are the most important features to look for when choosing a video card for your gaming computer. Now is time to lean how to choose one of the most underrated gaming computer piece of hardware which is the power supply or PSU. Keep reading for important information about why this piece of hardware is usually underrated and why choosing the right one is more important than the common user usually think.

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