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What Should I Consider When Buying a Graphics Card?

Modern video games demand advanced graphics capabilities.
Older computers might not have the power to handle upgrading to a newer graphics card.
A computer motherboard.
Many laptops contain graphics cards that can't be upgraded.
A graphics card.
A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.
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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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When looking to purchase a new or used graphics card, also known as a video card, you will either be looking to upgrade an existing one, or you will be buying a new computer and comparing the graphics cards between several different machines. Either way, the first consideration you should make is to determine your intended purposes of the card, and then figure out the price range that you will be able to afford. These cards can range from very cheap to very expensive. These two factors will help guide you through the next steps of buying a graphics card, namely deciding what features you want or don’t want it to have, and where you will buy the card.

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The basic purpose of the graphics card is to process information from the computers central processing unit (CPU) and turn it into the pixels and images that you see on your monitor. Like many computer components, these cards are constantly being improved and upgraded to support new features, specifically to allow for pictures, video and 3-D graphics that are clearer with more realistic colors. Better video cards are designed with more memory and a faster processor that help your computer to display images and video with better speed and performance. A newer and more expensive card will be great for playing the latest and most visually impressive games on your computer, but will be of little value to you if you plan on using your computer solely for something like email or budgeting software.

If you want the latest video card, and you are upgrading from your existing card, you need to consider whether or not your computer is powerful enough to handle it. Video cards can require many extra resources like power or memory that your current configuration might not be able to handle, so you will need to examine the specifications of the new card to be sure that you will be able to install it. Similarly, there are several different types of interfaces to connect the video card, such as AGP, PCI and PCI Express, so it is very important that your motherboard has the correct one, otherwise the new card will be useless. You could also be searching for a laptop computer and comparing video cards, and if you are, remember that laptops are often built with video cards that are not upgradeable at all.

If you are a gamer and you are deciding that you want the latest games, and you have a computer that can handle them, then you are ready to look at some of the finer features when buying right the graphics card. One important feature to look into is the frame rate, which will directly impact the performance of the card by allowing for smoother animation and scrolling. You should seek a card that can process animations on higher end games at around 60 frames per second. There are other features that are important for processing graphics more impressively, like the GPU clock speed, available memory, and RAMDAC speed, and you will need to be sure that your computer’s CPU can handle these specifications.

The beauty of upgrading something like a graphics card is that there are many places to buy them from, and it is not difficult to shop around for new and used cards to find one that fits in your price range. Also don't forget that the card you are replacing may be valuable to someone else who is looking to upgrade their own computer, and you may be able to sell it to help cover the cost of your new card.

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anon325073
Post 5

My computer does not have a video card, but it supports fancy games but it hangs. Can anyone tell me what is the best video card?

anon279531
Post 4

A lot of things go into determining why you're getting a choppy feed from youtube or any other video program. Also, is it just youtube?

Try posting your problem along with your full computer specs onto a tech or gamer forum and they will usually supply you with enough info to determine your problem.

drtroubles
Post 2

Does anyone know if changing your graphics card will help with the quality of online videos and streaming media?

I have been having some trouble getting YouTube to run smoothly and wonder if it is my graphics card at fault. I always have choppy feeds and there everything seems low quality. Whenever I try to view a file there are lots of pixels visible.

I am not very computer savvy, so if I need to buy a new graphics card any advice on which one to choose would be appreciated. Of course, if you think that the problem is anything else, I would also like some suggestions on how to fix things.

animegal
Post 1

For those of you that are into online gaming and love MMPORGs, buying a graphics card can be an important investment.

For those into graphic heavy games like World of Warcraft and Rift, I would suggest checking out some forums and seeing what players have to say about the best cards. They are constantly being upgraded and player feedback is the best way to find something that works for you.

Also, remember that a lot of MMPORGs are heavy on RAM. Even if you get an amazing graphics card, you may be able to use it to it's full potential if your system isn't up to snuff.

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