Computer video cards are a great way to upgrade an older system and give it new life. Let's face it, eventually every PC owner realizes their once great computer just isn't up to snuff anymore. Rather then go out and buy a new PC the owner should be looking at getting a new video card. They are certainly much cheaper than buying a new PC.  I'll go through some of the important things to look for when shopping for computer video cards.

There are three types of slots computer video cards can fit into, make sure you get the right one

You need to choose the right computer video cards according to the slot available in your PC. There are three types.

  1. The oldest is the PCI slot. If your PC is over 4 years old you probably have one of these. The good news is computer video cards designed for PCI slots are really cheap now. Unfortunately they might not give the performance boost you're looking for.
  2. The next type is the AGP slot. Computer video cards designed for the AGP slot are also relatively cheap now, and some of the best give a real nice performance boost.
  3. The latest is the PCIe, or PCI express slot. The latest and the greatest when it comes to computer video cards. These aren't cheap, but the performance is amazing.

To be honest, if your PC has an old PCI slot, it probably is time to replace the PC. The only exeption really is if you just cruise the web and do mostly text based work. Computer video cards for PCI slots aren't really that good for todays games, and may even have trouble with some graphics heavy web sites.

Update 2012:  All video cards worth buying use the PCIe slot.  If your computer doesn't have this slot than it really is time to get a new system.  I hate to say it, but you're just not going to find a great card that'll drastically improve your system performance.

Video cards chips - which one is the best?

There are two main manufacturers when it comes to the graphics chip on computer video cards. ATI and Nvidia, you will see some made by Intel out there but they are generally more of a business product than a home product. Since both Ati and Nvidia are extremely good chips the choice will be more of a personal choice, some people prefer the 'look' of graphics from an Ati chip, while others like the Nvidia 'look'.

Now although you'll see cards made by dozens of different manufacturers they all in fact use one of the two above chips.  So when looking at video cards ignore the brand and focus on the chip as that is what determines the overall power of the video card as well as their cost.

Computer video cards have onboard memory, how much do you need?

Computer video cards can have as little as 64mb of memory all the way up to 1gb and more. The more memory, the more the computer video card will cost. If you are a gamer you'll need as much memory as you can afford. It is in this onboard memory that the textures used in your game are stored. Computer video cards with insufficient onboard memory will chug along as they constantly need to access the hard drive to load new textures.  On the other hand if you're not a gamer you can actually skimp on memory without any real performance degradation.  A good way to save money.

The most important stat when it comes to computer video cards

Manufacturers of computer video cards love to flaunt a video cards chip speed and onboard memory. These are important stats, but not the most important thing to look for.  Now, if you're a gamer, especially one who likes action games pay attention here, this is important.

The true guage of good quality and fast computer video cards is the number of pipelines. To put this simply the more pipelines a video card has, the more quickly it can display graphics on the screen. Low end computer video cards will have just 4 pipelines while the higher quality computer video cards will have 8 or even 10 or more pipelines.

When you look at computer video cards weigh the stats in this order.

  1. Number of pipelines
  2. Chip speed
  3. Onboard memory

If you do this you'll be able to weed out the garbage computer video cards and zero in on the best.

Other considerations when it comes to computer video cards

Without exception you should make sure that the computer video cards you're interested in have support for DirectX 10. Older computer video cards will most certainly not support this but the newer ones should.

Now, if you're looking to upgrade your card for gaming I suggest you read this article to learn about what features to look for when trying to find the best video card for gaming.

How much do computer video cards cost?

Computer Video Cards on Amazon.

Well that depends on many factors including slot type, pipelines, memory and speed, not to mention any sales that may be going on. I suggest you read video card reviews from such sites as ConsumerSearch and ConsumerReports. Video card reviews on these sites are written by unbiased users just like yourself and can be a real help in choosing the best computer video cards. You will of course find many more useful links right here on this page too.