Most graphics cards are connected to the motherboard of your computer and their main function is to show images on your monitor. Modern graphics cards are capable of accelerating the rendering of three dimensional images, such as the ones you see in modern videogames, and the playback of videos. Although they normally come with only one video output, and therefore you can only use one monitor, it is becoming more and more common to see these types of devices to connect up to four monitors simultaneously.
A bit of history
The first graphics cards only needed to display text. Things got a bit more complicated when the use of graphics was generalized. In a short period we went from having only four unique colors, with the infamous CGA graphics cards, to 16.7 million unique colors in modern graphics cards.
The technology of these devices has evolved hand in hand with that of videogames, primarily because the users of these are more willing to invest money in this type of device. It wasn’t until the emergence of the first 3D videogames graphics underwent a major improvement.
Before the emergence of accelerated graphics cards, the processor was the only device that executed all graphical rendering operations. Unfortunately, the creation of these 3D worlds is very costly for a single processor. The rendering of these kinds of images can be done concurrently. With the arrival of graphic cards the manufacturers include hundreds of specialized processors in a single chip for the rendering of 3D images. Therefore, videogames with more and more complex environments can be created.
At first this is the reason why graphics cards were devices that were included independently from computers. But not all uses have the same requirements. A laptop user requires a graphics card that is both smaller and of low power consumption, in order to prolong battery life. In addition to this most people don’t use their PC to play videogames with complicated 3D environments.
For these reasons integrated graphics chips were created. A chip is included onto the motherboard with reduced functionality, occupying less space and power consumption. A conventional graphics card that operates as a graphics accelerator requires a greater amount of memory. In this memory is stored the images that are to be shown as well as the textures of objects. In the case of an integrated graphics chip, the chip uses the RAM installed in your PC, sometimes slowing it down.
The next step was logical. Use current graphics cards not only for videogames but also to accelerate the playback and processing of video. As with 3D image creation, these devices take advantage of the ability to process information concurrently.
The development of graphics cards collide with the development of processors. This is due to the improvement of manufacturing technologies; it’s easier to create processors with a larger number of features. This can clearly be seen in Intel Sandy Bridge or AMD Fusion processors, where a graphics chip is included within the CPU.
Different graphics cards according to how they are integrated
- Discrete: These are the most common graphics cards that you will find in desktop PCs. They are connected directly to the motherboard through an expansion port. It is also common to find configurations of these cards where several of them are interconnected thanks to SLI or Cross Fire technology.
- Integrated onto the motherboard: These are commonly found in laptops and netbooks. their functionality is on a chip that is mounted onto the motherboard, and although some of them come with RAM, they usually use the computer’s RAM instead.
- Integrated into the processor: These are found in newer processors and use the computer’s RAM. This is clearly the future for graphics cards and chips, however we are only seeing the beginning of this new technology.
Different graphics cards according to their output connector
- VGA: Developed by IBM; very sensible to interference and the length of the cable. Their greatest disadvantage is that they don’t include an audio signal. You need an additional cable to connect a television and watch videos or movies.
- DVI: The first standard totally digital PC connector, making it less susceptible to interference. There are several connectors in this category with different features and some even include an audio signal.
- HDMI: Higher resolution screens require a connection that can deliver the signal without loss of quality. In the case of an HDMI signal, audio is integrated.
- Display Port: Capable of including audio and video. Can be used to connect several monitors and include 3D stereoscopic signals, which are basically composed of two video signals, one for each eye, to create the 3D effect.
- Thunderbolt: Thunderbolt is based on Display Port, more specifically the mini Display Port. You can connect external PCI Express devices as if they were inside the PC on the motherboard.
We hope you find this article helpful and remember that if you’re looking for advice on upgrading your graphics card for your computer, you can contact 911-computer.com. We offer a professional and affordable computer repair and maintenance service in Houston, The Woodlands and Spring. Contact us and we’ll pay you a visit.