What is a graphics card

The photos above also help to illustrate the types of video ports used with video cards. For more information on any of these ports, click the links below.

GPU Buying Guide: How To Choose the Right Graphics Card

GPU Buying Guide: How To Choose The Right Graphics Card

Insufficient GPU power will affect the performance and lead to poor visual experience during games, photo and video editing and other visual tasks. If you don’t know where to start, our graphics card buying guide will help you make the right decisions when it comes to choosing your next graphics card and taking control of your PC’s graphics performance.

Along with your computer’s processor (CPU), the graphics processing unit (GPU) has the greatest influence on your computer’s performance. This is because the GPU processes the data from the CPU and renders it visually on the screen. However, knowing all the details of knowing when to upgrade your GPU and choosing the right graphics card for your needs can be confusing.

Why you should upgrade your graphics card

More than any other component of a PC, the GPU is responsible for the quality of the graphics or visuals that appear on the screen. In the beginning, processors were responsible for both processing and rendering graphics, but nowadays virtually every computer on the market includes some kind of graphics card.

As graphics cards age, they become less able to keep up with the latest games, streaming, and software. While they don’t actually degrade, your 5-year-old graphics card may not support the latest video editing software or stream 4K video without stuttering. Or, it may have a hard time presenting your brand new video game the way you want.

When you plan to upgrade your graphics card, you should really think about how you use your computer. For example, if you mostly use your gaming PC and newer games don’t run at a constant 60 frames per second (fps) then that’s a good sign that you need to upgrade.

Potential bottlenecks

Make sure your GPU is not causing CPU bottlenecks. This happens when the CPU is generating more frames per second than the GPU can handle, which can lead to screen stuttering. If this scenario affects your computer’s performance, most likely you need to update your graphics card.

Finally, if you’re shopping for a new graphics card now, we suggest you check out our pick of the best graphics cards of 2022, as you’re sure to find one that suits your needs!

Why does your graphics card matter?

For many people, gaming is the most hardware-intensive task you can ask your computer to do. So it’s no surprise that serious gamers spend hours researching the latest GPU technology and frequently update their GPUs frequently. As GPUs become faster, games are designed to take advantage of the extra performance, forcing manufacturers to create even faster GPUs while continuing the cycle.

If you don’t prioritize gaming, you may not care so much about your GPU’s capabilities. That said, professional applications often take advantage of the GPU’s special processing capabilities directly, just in different ways. Examples include video editing, where the GPU can be used to speed up processes such as video encoding, 3D rendering, and computer-aided design / manufacturing (CAD / CAM) applications such as AutoCAD. All of these programs use the extra processing power of the GPU, although they benefit most from GPUs designed specifically for these applications.

Choosing a GPU is therefore an important part of building, purchasing, or upgrading your computer. As with any PC component, the first question to ask yourself when choosing a graphics card is how will you use it?


The gaming industry has played a key role in the evolution of GPU technology. Today’s PC games are more realistic and complex than ever before, and the rising performance of modern GPUs is both one reason and a response to gamers demanding better looking and more complex games.

Simply put, if you’re building a computer to play games, the GPU will be your number one purchase. Other components can affect performance as well, such as CPU, storage, and RAM, but the GPU has the most direct connection to what you see on the screen while you play.

However, there are many different types of games out there, and not all of them require the most powerful GPU on the market. Therefore, it is important to review the required, recommended, and optimal game specs to ensure you are getting the right graphics card.

Buying the best GPU you can afford is a good way to secure your version in the future and keep it ready to play popular games that have yet to be released. That said, if you know exactly what games you want to play, doing a little research into the ideal GPU to run this title is a great way to start the purchasing process.

Video and professional applications

aMD Radeon pro wx7100

Those who use their computers for complex tasks such as 3D rendering, game development, and video editing also benefit from faster graphics processors. Advanced applications such as AutoCAD and Adobe Premiere Pro can use graphics processors for faster processing and a faster and more efficient workflow.

Therefore, there is a whole segment of GPUs designed specifically for professionals. These workstation graphics processors are optimized for these applications, and their drivers are certified to be stable and reliable in performing these operations. Professional-grade graphics cards can be extremely powerful and are often more expensive than even high-end gaming GPUs, but since they aren’t specifically designed for gaming tasks, they’re likely not ideal for gaming PCs. Therefore, the most expensive GPU is not always “better”, and it is important to choose a GPU based on how you intend to use it, not just on price.

Integrated vs discrete GPUs

Most modern processors have integrated graphics, which are essentially graphics processors built into the processor itself or otherwise closely related to the processor. These integrated graphics tend to be lower-performance options, providing enough power to run your operating system and run web browsers, email clients, productivity apps, and other routine software, but they don’t do anything more than regular (or older) games. This changes quickly as processors get more powerful, but for now, if you want to play games, a separate (or discrete) GPU is probably your best bet.

Standalone GPUs range from relatively inexpensive, entry-level options to incredibly powerful GPUs that alone can cost well over £ 400,000. You can purchase discrete GPUs as part of off-the-shelf systems, for a PC you build yourself, or to upgrade an older GPU.

Type Control Panel in the search bar on the desktop and click on the option when it appears. Then click Hardware and Sound .

Find Out What GPU You Have in Windows

Open the Start menu on your computer, type “Device Manager” and press Enter. You should see an option at the top of your graphics card. Click the down arrow which should contain the name of your GPU. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that I have a Radeon RX 580.

If you’re not sure which company designed this chip, you can right-click it and select Properties to view the manufacturer – Advanced Micro Devices or AMD in my case. (Remember that Device Manager uses graphics drivers to determine what GPU you have, so if you suspect you may have installed the wrong drivers you should skip to the next section.)

Once you’ve got the GPU name, you can search Google to find out more about it or compare it to the minimum requirements of the game you want to play. Usually, a higher number means a better card – so a game requiring the RX 580 may not work on the RX 480, which is weaker (though there is a workaround for this at times).

If you’re comparing two cards that use different naming schemes – like the AMD RX 580 and their more powerful RX Vega 56 – you may need to do a bit of research to see which card is more powerful and what the price difference is.

Find the Manufacturer and Model Number

If for some reason you need to know exactly what type of graphics card you have, you will need to do a little more work.

The manufacturer can be easily found thanks to a third-party app called Speccy. Download the free version, run it, and click Graphics in the sidebar. Scroll down and look for a Subvendor entry which should tell you who created the actual card on your PC – in my case Asus made that particular RX 580. (You’ll also be able to see how much video RAM your card has, among other specs.)

Unfortunately, it won’t give you the exact model number you’ll need for, say, warranty claims. (Asus makes several different RX 580 cards, and they will need the exact model number to provide support.) PC up.

In that case, find your graphics card, remove it, and look at the sticker on the side – it should have the model number you need. You may want to write down this information somewhere so you don’t have to open your computer next time – you never know when you might need it!

The gaming industry has played a key role in the evolution of GPU technology. Today’s PC games are more realistic and complex than ever before, and the rising performance of modern GPUs is both one reason and a response to gamers demanding better looking and more complex games.

What is a graphics card (GPU)?

While often used interchangeably, graphics processors and graphics cards are not the same. Also called video cards, video cards, or video cards, video cards generate and send images to a computer screen or monitor. For this purpose, graphics cards contain various components, including a graphics processor or a graphics processor.

The GPU is the nerve center of the graphics card where the processing necessary to display images takes place.

The GPU is the nerve center of the graphics card where the processing necessary to display images takes place. After getting texture data from the graphics card’s GPU memory, it performs a quick calculation to process the data. Once processed, the data is sent back to RAM before being transferred to the screen where it appears as an image or frame in a video game or computer game.

Get sharper graphics with Avast Driver Updater

No matter how powerful your GPU is or how much free video RAM you have, your graphics card is only as good as the drivers running on it. Outdated or defective software can cause crashes, lag in gameplay, reduced FPS, and poor quality graphics.

Therefore, keeping your drivers fully optimized with a world-class driver update tool is crucial to ensuring optimal performance.

With Avast Driver Updater, not only graphics drivers benefit from automatic detection, repair, and update – that’s it. Along with crystal-clear images and silky-smooth video rendering, Driver Updater keeps your entire PC running at peak performance. Fewer freezes, richer sound and faster browsing.

Most modern GPUs only support the HDMI and DisplayPort formats, which are basically the standard for gaming-oriented systems and displays. A popular configuration of modern gaming GPUs are three DisplayPort outputs and one HDMI.

Memory Bandwidth, Memory Capacity

The last components we’ll cover are memory bandwidth and memory capacity. Memory bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be copied to and from the graphics card’s dedicated VRAM buffer per second. Many advanced visuals (and higher resolutions in general) require more memory bandwidth to run at a reasonable frame rate as they increase the total amount of data copied to and from the GPU core.

In some cases, the lack of memory bandwidth can be a serious bottleneck for the GPU. AMD APUs such as the Ryzen 5 3400G have severely limited bandwidth, which means increasing the DDR4 memory clock speed can have a significant impact on overall performance. The choice of game engine can also have a significant impact on the memory bandwidth your GPU needs to avoid this problem, as can target game resolution.

The total amount of onboard memory is another critical factor in GPUs. If the amount of VRAM needed to run at a given level of detail or resolution exceeds available resources, the game will often still run, but will need to use CPU main memory to store additional texture data – and the GPU takes much longer to pull data from DRAM, unlike to the built-in pool of dedicated VRAM. This leads to massive stuttering when the game hesitates between fetching data from a fast local storage pool and general system RAM.

One thing to keep in mind is that GPU manufacturers sometimes equip low-end or midrange cards with more VRAM than is standard as a way to pay a little more for the product. We can’t make an absolute prediction as to whether this makes a GPU more attractive, because frankly, results vary depending on the GPU in question. We can say that in many cases it is not worth paying more for a card if the only difference is a larger RAM buffer. As a rule, weaker GPUs tend to encounter other bottlenecks before being clogged with limited available memory. If in doubt, check the card reviews and look for comparisons to see if the 2GB version is better than the 4GB version, or whatever the amount of RAM would be. More often than not, assumingthat everything else is equal between the two solutions.

Check out our ExtremeTech Explains series for more detailed information on today’s hottest technical topics.

Make sure your GPU is not causing CPU bottlenecks. This happens when the CPU is generating more frames per second than the GPU can handle, which can lead to screen stuttering. If this scenario affects your computer’s performance, most likely you need to update your graphics card.

A Few Other Potentially Confusing Terms

What is a discrete graphics card

A graphics card is also sometimes referred to as a discrete or dedicated graphics card. This means that the graphics card is a separate piece of hardware that most often connects to the rest of the computer via the PCIe slot on the motherboard.

Meanwhile, the term external graphics card describes the usual dedicated graphics card installed in an external case and connected to the computer with a cable, usually through the Thunderbolt 3 port. People most often use external graphics cards with laptops because they help keep the laptop mobile while increasing its gaming performance and bringing it to a level similar to a desktop computer.

Then we have integrated GPUs or integrated graphics and this refers to the GPU integrated into the CPU, i.e the CPU has both the CPU and GPU cores on the same bone. These integrated GPUs take up no motherboard space and are more power efficient, but they also don’t have memory of their own and have to use system RAM instead.

As a result, integrated graphics are typically not as efficient as even the cheapest dedicated GPUs, and therefore rarely suited to gaming. However, they are able to fully take care of the basic graphics tasks, and considering that they help save space, energy and money, it goes without saying that they are suitable for everyday activities such as browsing the web, watching movies, playing music, e.t.c.

This is where the term “Accelerated Processing Unit” or APU comes in. Basically, this is just a marketing term introduced by AMD and simply means a line of processors that come with integrated graphics.

However, AMD Ryzen APUs offer some of the most powerful integrated graphics cards ever seen, and are actually great for gaming if you’re building a basic build and don’t mind playing games at lower resolutions and / or at lower settings.


And that’s it for this article. We hope you found it helpful and helped clarify the difference between GPU and graphics card as well as some other related terms.

Finally, if you’re shopping for a new graphics card now, we suggest you check out our pick of the best graphics cards of 2022, as you’re sure to find one that suits your needs!

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Video card expansion slots (connections)

The graphics expansion slot is where the card connects to the motherboard. In the image above, the video card is inserted into the AGP expansion slot on the computer’s motherboard. In the course of the development of computers, several types of expansion slots used for graphics cards appeared. Currently, the most common expansion slot for graphics cards is PCIe that replaced AGP that replaced PCI that replaced ISA.

Some OEM computers and motherboards may have a built-in or integrated graphics card with the motherboard.

Can I install more than one video card?

Yes. Both AMD Radeon (using CrossFire) and NVIDIA GeForce (using SLI) cards can support two or more graphics cards simultaneously.

Although graphics circuits have been used in arcade games since the mid-1970s, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the first graphics chips for computers appeared. NEC’s 7220 or NEC 7220 high-performance graphics display controller was one of the earliest computer graphics processing chips, supporting clock rates from 4MHz to 5.5MHz. It was one of the most popular and advanced graphics chips in the 1980s.

In the early 1990s, many developers started integrating 2D acceleration into their graphics chips, with S3 Graphics being the first. Named S3 86C911, it used the ISA socket on the motherboard and contained 1 MB of video memory.

Developed by NVIDIA and released on October 11, 1999, GeForce 256 was touted as the first consumer graphics card with 2D and 3D hardware acceleration in one device. The first GeForce 256 chips contained 32 MB of SDR video memory and had a clock frequency of 166 MHz. Later versions of GeForce 256 were changed to DDR video memory to improve performance. GeForce 256 helped pave the way for the graphics cards we know and use today.

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