How to Buy a High Performance Video Card

If you're an avid player of video games, if you do a lot of video editing, or if you do 3D modeling, you're going to need a high-end video card. In the world of computers, there are many different components that comprise a full system. The video card--also known as the graphics card--belongs to one of the fastest advancing markets out of all the different components, which can make it difficult to know what kind of video card you need. Knowing how to buy a high-performance video card comes down to knowing what the different specifications do and knowing which of those features will benefit you.


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    Understand the Graphical Processing Unit. The GPU is the most important part of a video card, as it performs all of the calculations necessary to display beautiful, real-time graphics on your screen. A GPU's strength is measured in clock speed, notated with "hertz" as its unit of measurement. In general, the higher the clock speed, the more power it has. Upper tier GPUs will have a clock speed between 700 and 800 MHz.
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    Understand video card memory size. Video cards have their own memory banks on which they can store data for graphics calculations. Without a large video memory size, the video card would then have to use the computer's RAM for data storage, which would ultimately slow your computer down. A high-performance video card will have at least 1 GB of memory.
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    Understand video card memory type. There are different kinds of video card memory, with DDR memory being the most common. DDR2 and DDR3 are similar to DDR but they can perform more calculations in the same amount of time. GDDR5 is more recent and was designed specifically to handle high-end graphics while requiring less energy and producing less heat. For high performance, try to find a video card with DDR3 or GDDR5 memory.
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    Understand the video card bus interfaces. The bus interface is the type of connection slot used to connect the video card to the computer motherboard. There are 2 types: AGP and PCIe. AGP is older, has fewer features, and is much slower than PCIe. If you want to buy a high-end graphics card, PCIe cards perform better than AGP. However, first make sure your motherboard accepts PCIe cards by checking your motherboard's manual.
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    Understand the display interfaces. The display interface is the type of connection used to connect the video card to your monitor. Cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors will likely require a VGA connection. Liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors will likely require an HDMI or DVI connection. Check your monitor's manual to see which display interfaces it supports.
    • As a bonus, if you purchase a high end card with HDMI output, you will be able to connect your computer to an HDTV, which will allow you to extend your computer display onto the television. Similarly, high end cards often have multiple display ports, allowing you to connect multiple monitors and extend your desktop across said monitors.
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    Consider extraneous video card features. Some video cards come with multiple GPUs for faster processing. Some video cards come with shader effects, which are used to calculate specific graphical effects in real-time applications. These extra features can be very useful but they have specialized roles and will result in a higher price tag.
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    Consider your budget limitations. Selecting a high-performance video card means that you'll need to set aside a good amount of money. Be prepared to spend at least $150 to $300 on a video card with high-end features. If you need to compromise due to a tight budget, start by dropping the extraneous features.

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Categories: Portable Media Players