What to Look For When Choosing a Good Graphics Card
Graphics cards are one of the hardest parts of a computer to understand. Their technology changes rapidly and manufacturers use numbers and fancy names to label their cards leaving the average computer builder stumped as to what is actually good and what isn't.
It can take a fair bit of learning to fully understand everything that is going on inside of this small piece of hardware but there are a few things that even an amateur can learn to help them in choosing a good graphics card.
The GPU is much like the CPU of your motherboard, it is the brain of the graphics card. Most of the power comes from the GPU and a good GPU is required for intense graphical tasks like high-end gaming.
There are many ways of measuring GPUs but the main ones are by the number of cores and their MHz ratings.
The video memory supports the GPU in it's operation by allowing information to be stored temporarily for quick retrieval. Generally the higher the video memory the better but you should also consider the bus width. Higher bus width is recommended for more intense applications as it allows memory to be accessed more quickly.
If you are looking to do graphical or video rendering then you will need the best GPU and video memory you can afford.
The rendering technology included in the card is what controls maximum resolution and multiple monitor support. Additional rendering technologies include 3D rendering for stereoscopic 3D if you have a compatible monitor.
If you plan on having multiple monitors or if you want 3D rendering then you will need to invest in a high-end graphics card.
Application programming interfaces, or API, are the software that are used on a computer in drawing graphics and animations. DirectX is one you have probably already heard mentioned before. There are three main APIs that cards support and good cards will support all three.
Display Interface Connectors
This is simply how many and what type of connections the graphics card has. The standard connection types are DVI, mini-display ports, HDMI and VGA. DVI, mini-display ports and HDMI are the most modern options and newer monitors will use them, especially LED and 3D monitors. Older LCD and CRT monitors will typically use a VGA connection.
VGA connections are becoming less featured on newer cards so if you have an older monitor you will have to look for an older card that supports it.
Additional Features to Consider
All of the above things are the main aspects of a good graphics cards but each card will have it's own additional features that separates it from the others. Some cards might be smaller, cooler and use less power which is a great feature if you are building a smaller computer or a laptop.
Additional fans may be offered on some larger cards to aid in cooling while some might feature special heat sinks. You should consider extra features when choosing a good graphics card but let the previous aspects be the main deciding points.
Don't be afraid to research and read reviews of all the graphic cards you are considering buying, they can greatly help your decision.