Graphics cards

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The graphics card is an important component of any PC and a key performance component, especially when it comes to 3D gaming. Put simply, it is an expansion card in your PC that processes image data and outputs it to your monitor.

Graphics cards act as processing powerhouses, doing much of the hard work for your CPU to calculate how scenes look, especially with 3D graphics. Capturing a 3D scene and rendering it on screen requires incredible processing power. So much processing power, in fact, that the fastest GPUs often have more transistors than mainstream CPUs, require fans for cooling, and require direct connections to power supplies.

A graphics card consists of several components: a graphics processor or GPU; memory for graphics operations; a RAMDAC (more on RAMDAC later) for display output and possibly other ancillary components for TV output and capture, SLI and the like.

2D or 3D: that is the question

A graphics card should be purchased in accordance with your needs. As a simple rule, all currently available graphics cards are equipped for 2D operation. If 2D is as far as you want it, then you should look for an inexpensive solution, maybe even integrated graphics.

It’s the 3D graphics performance that really separates the wheat from the chaff. The performance of the graphics card directly affects both the frame rate and the image quality of 3D programs and games. There are big differences between low-end and high-end cards here.

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