Byte Me Article 229 – Get the low down on video cards

Get The Low Down on Video Cards

Now we have covered the upcoming Windows 10 in sufficient detail it is time to look at another query that many of our customers have.  So many new customers walk through our doors looking for a new laptop or desktop and tell me that they have been ‘advised’ to get one with a video card.  So what is this all about?

Video cards are one of the confusing areas of computing and plenty of people that ‘should be in the know’ front an opinion that is normally well off track.  In this case I am referring to the neighbours teenage son or your ‘IT guru’ nephew or your cousins baby sitters boyfriends best mate – whatever the case may be (as everyone seems to know an IT expert).  These backyard experts often tell you “don’t get one without a video card”.

In actual fact it would be hard to get a PC without a video card as it would simply not work.  A video card (or graphics card or graphics accelerator as they are often called) is a chip or electronic circuit board responsible for displaying information on your computer screen.  This is the same whether it is a tablet, netbook, notebook, laptop, desktop, workstation or server.

2015-07-11 Byte Me Artilce 229 - What is a video card

Where the confusion sets in is that you can use a video card that is already integrated / shared / built into the mother board – or you can use one that is a dedicated ‘add in’ video card.  Every computer will come with one type or the other, although both types have their strengths and weaknesses.

When the ‘backyard experts’ cry – get one with a video card they are referring to a dedicated video card – which is really good for computer gaming (shoot em ups) and any other game or training software (Microsoft Flight Simulator) where you have a lot of rapid movement with fine detail on the screen.

In the industry these more powerful solutions are often referred to as a gaming card and they can be literally 2 to 10 times as powerful as the integrated video cards.  So they will display shoot-em-up games and such in great detail and without jerky movement.  Gamers need the extra power and memory offered by dedicated video cards.

For everyone else who is not a PC gamer a dedicated video card is of dubious worth as they will not help you run programs like Word, Excel, Outlook, MYOB, QuickBooks, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, YouTube Videos or even a DVD movie ANY better than a standard integrated video card.

Unfortunately the downside of a dedicated video card (besides extra initial expense) is extra heat, extra power consumption, more fan noise, less battery life (in laptops), more complexity and it creates another point of system failure!  Put simply – if you don’t play fast moving 3-D or high resolution games then you DON’T want a dedicated video card in your PC!

To further explain this point, around 95% of the laptops and desktops we sell leave the door with standard ‘integrated’ video cards and never hold back their users.  On the other hand we see new customers bring in at least 2 desktop PC’s every week that have a dedicated video card which initially added $100 to $500 dollars to the cost of the PC that has now failed.

In some of these cases, they never play games so we can simply remove the dedicated video card and hook their screen up to one of the integrated video ports and their problem is fixed.  This leads to the next point that many ‘salesmen’ that sound like they know computers, recommend these high end video cards (because they sound really great with lots of megabytes and gigahertz) to customers that will gain zero benefit from them!

Next week we will look at all of the different types of video connections that are available with a view to deciphering which works best for you. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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