A graphics card is a fundamental part of any computer. It converts the image data from the PC into a visual representation on the screen.
Hamburg – It ensures that the image the developers have conceived is actually displayed on the buyer’s screen – the graphics card. The card can either already be integrated into the main processor of a computer or be connected externally. But not all graphics cards are the same.
Graphics card: structure and functionality
Although there are large differences in the performance of graphics cards, some components are present in each model. The graphics processor or chip is used to convert the data output by the main processor of the PC and is present in all graphics cards. The processor must be cooled so that it does not overheat in load situations – therefore a heatsink is also universal. For storing certain textures or 3D models, graphics memory is also part of the base stock of each card. In addition, graphics cards have different connections:
A good graphics card is essential for the latest games to work reliably on your own PC. In fact, the final image quality and the speed of the PC directly depends on the performance of the graphics card. An outdated graphics card can therefore become a real spoil sport when it comes to video playback.
Graphics cards do exactly what their name suggests: they output the graphics and send them to the screen. To do this, they calculate the image previously sent to them from the PC using on-screen coordinates and color information. This means: no high resolution graphics without a good graphics card.
What to consider when buying a graphics card
Especially with powerful gaming graphics cards, prices in the mid to high three or even four digit range are not uncommon. For example, the GeForce RTX 4090 costs around 2000 euros (as of 11/2022). To be satisfied with the investment in the end, a few points should be considered:
- You should pay attention to the performance of the graphics processor (GPU = graphics processing unit). This is the heart of the graphics card and determines the basic performance of the entire graphics card.
- The graphics memory is equally important for a smooth image. A high clock rate and a sufficient size are elementary so that the graphics card can process large amounts of data. Caution: If the memory on the card is too full, this has a negative effect on the image structure.
- If the PC is to be used for gaming, the memory interface is also of particular importance. If you want to play games with your computer, you should choose a graphics card with at least a 192-bit memory interface (as of 11/2022). Much less is enough to work – for example with the Office applications.
- If the screen is analog, the graphics card must also be able to send the image data in analog form. You can tell if the monitor is analog by looking at the connection. A VGA connector is a sure indicator that the monitor is connected analog. In this case, the new graphics card requires a special chip that enables the conversion of digital to analog image signals – a so-called RAMDAC (Random Access Memory Digital/Analog Converter).
- In addition, heat resistance is an important detail when buying a graphics card. Processing large amounts of data, as a graphics card must do, can quickly lead to overheating. Therefore, a graphics card should also be able to withstand temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius for a short time.
How to find out which graphics card is integrated into the PC
One tool that can be used to determine the graphics card is the Windows “Task Manager”. To open it, right-click the “Start” button and select “Task Manager” from the list. Once you’ve arrived at the program menu, you can select the “Performance” tab in the top area. Now “Task Manager” shows all graphics processors in the left side list (usually under names like “GPU 0” or “GPU 1”). If you now select one of the graphics processors, the correct name will appear at the top right above the diagrams. Additional information about the GPU is also shown below the diagrams.
Another way to get information about the graphics card is the “DxDiag” tool preprogrammed by Microsoft in Windows. The “Run” dialog can be opened with the key combination “Windows” + “R”. Type “dxdiag” there and confirm the entry. The next thing to do now is to switch to the “Display” tab of the DirectX diagnostic tool. Here the program displays information such as name, manufacturer or driver for the graphics card.
Provider and benchmark comparison when buying a graphics card
There are now many suppliers of graphics cards on the market. Here is a selection:
To get an overview of such a large number of providers, you can compare “benchmarks” with each other. A so-called “benchmark” is generally a comparison or a comparison standard against which objects, processes, methods or services can be compared with a previously defined standard. Therefore, such analysis options are also very popular in the gamer scene, in order to end up buying with the best possible price-performance ratio. A popular tool that provides benchmarks for a wide range of hardware – including graphics cards – is 3DMark.
Use and connection of external graphics cards
Connecting an external graphics card is very easy in most cases. It usually works according to the “plug-and-play principle” – you connect the graphics card to the USB or Thunderbolt interface and the laptop, Mac or PC automatically recognizes it and uses it in the further process. Chips already integrated on the motherboard use less power than additional, external graphics cards. For a very high performance requirement – such as playing Battlefield or streaming on Twitch – these are mostly not sufficient.
To improve the PC’s visual performance, so-called expansion cards can be used. These can be connected via an interface – mostly PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) in today’s computers. (mg)