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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Buy the Right Graphics Card

If you have upgraded your display recently, you may have noticed that your graphics aren’t as clear as they should be. This may be due to the legacy video card in your computer. With a minor upgrade to your video card and a little time, you could improve your system’s video output dramatically. Before buying a new graphics card, here are some recommendations to follow when shopping for the right card:

System Specs
The first step is to evaluate the type of motherboard that you have in your current system.  You could either remove the case and physically look at what slots on your motherboard or check the system’s user manual or manufacturer’s website for specifications.  As outlined on our previous blog post on Graphics Cards, there are three basic types of video interfaces available: PCI, AGP or PCI-express. From this chart provided by Diamond Multimedia, you can see the difference in the configuration for each card type.

Illustration provided by Diamond Multimedia

Be sure to check what version of AGP or PCI-Express is compatible with your system.

What will be the primary use of your display? Watching movies, gaming, photo editing? Depending on the function, you may need a higher-end graphics card to accommodate the demands on your computer’s video. If you are a gamer, you will need a performance video card that supports 3D rendering and HD. For photography or graphic arts, a video card with high resolution and better image quality is more important. The amount of video memory is also crucial to providing the best graphics output.

Video cards are built with a variety of ports to connect to your display. First, check the available ports on the back of your display. Does it have VGA, S-Video, DVI or HDMI? For high quality video, it is better to use DVI or HDMI, because they provide higher quality digital output. VGA and S-Video are older, analog interfaces that have lower resolution capabilities.  If you have an older PCI card with only DVI, but a display with an HDMI connection, there are adapters available to connect a HDMI cable to a DVI port.

Diamond Multimedia provides an excellent video on installing a graphics card.

Diamond Multimedia. How to Buy a Video Card/Graphics Card.

Diamond Multimedia. Installing a Graphics Card, Part 1

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