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Home > Computer Articles > Graphics Cards

Video Card Comparison

One of the most important components of Cheap Desktop Computers is the graphics card. Depending on what you use your computer for, a graphics card can mean the difference between a dream and a nightmare. Hopefully what we have listed here will help you decide on what types and brands to look for.


It All Depends On Your Usage

What your primarily use your computer for should be the deciding factor on what to get. For simplicity's sake, we've categorized computer users into three general areas.

  • Email & Internet - Users here are just using the computer for light Internet activity, email, or word processing. If this is you, don't bother getting a new video card. Your standard on-board graphics card will be more than adequate.
  • Light Gamers - Typical gamers may not need the high end graphics cards, but good speeds would be nice. This category appeals to those that play simple graphical games. A normal everyday graphics card would consist of 512 MB or 796 MB, and cost less than $100. Because of the dropping computer prices, this is the best time to buy high end cards to last longer.
  • Heavy Gamers - Those who play games will need to have a decent graphics card. Getting a 3D card here is a must, otherwise you're game may not function at all. PC games are taking advantage of the 3D aspects, and without 3D capabilities you will miss some groundbreaking graphics. For heavy gamers, it is recommended that you get a high end graphics card in the 1 GB to 2 GB range because you'll be demanding a lot from it.

In the end it's all up to what you plan on using the computer for. Don't just spend $300 on a GeForce and only use it to play solitaire, that'd be a waste. Plan for the future, and pick wisely because bigger and better cards are constantly entering the market.


Video In/Out Functions

The biggest "new" feature in graphics cards today is the Video In/Out functions. If you plan on watching DVDs on television, watching television on your computer, or doing video editing from a camcorder, you'll need a very good graphics card with these features. In most cases this will involve additional cooling fans on the graphics card itself, so be prepared for more fan noise.


PCI/AGP Sockets

There are two slot type of graphics cards PCI/AGP. Each is basically equal in power, PCI being the same as AGP. The reasoning for creating an AGP slot was that the PCI slots were being filled up with other junk. So whether you buy PCI or AGP you won't notice any difference.

It's been said that AGP is better because it doesn't cause IRQ conflicts and works apart from other PCI components. AGP also has different speeds (1x, 2x, 4x...) so you'll want to check your motherboards specs to see what type of AGP card you can handle. With a PCI slot there is nothing to compare, any PCI card will work on any PCI slot.

So with that, get an AGP slot type graphics card if possible.


Video Support

There are a few extra features that cards may or may not have that play a major part in certain activities:

  • DVD Acceleration - Enhances the operating performance of DVDs.
  • OpenGL Support - Used with some high end 3D modeling software & games.
  • Direct3D Support - Used with some high end 3D modeling software & games.

You'll want to make sure you pick a card that supports these capabilities if you will be doing 3D modeling or video editing on your computer a lot.


Support & Drivers

It's always best to check out a manufacturer's website before purchasing anything from them. Graphics cards are always being updated, and you'll want a well lain out website to help you download new drivers. The 3DFX Voodoo cards went out of business and so did their website. This meant finding driver updates would be harder, and newer updates not be published, which is a situation you seriously want to avoid.


Read Reviews

Once you've found a few cards that you like, it's always best to look at product reviews and see how well they work for others. Just going on your basic instincts, or trusting some John Doe is not enough. This is why we suggest doing some online research on a product before you make a purchase. Epinions and PriceGrabber are two great places to get reviews of Cheap Desktop Computers as well as most graphics cards.

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