Tip & How-To about Computers & Internet
Video cards are one of the few things that no one really pays much attention to. Unless you are a hard core gamer or you use a program like a 3D cad program you may think it doesn't matter much. Boy you would be surprised just how much difference it does make.
Recently I needed to replace a video card on a older computer. This was a 2.8ghz desktop with a single P4 processor. Was pretty good when it was new but didn't seem to be able to handle some of the newer games and updates to the 3d cad programs I use. I figured I was going to have to go buy a new machine to get something that would be good enough. Boy was I wrong about that.
My machine used the older 4x AGP style of video card, and not even the faster 8X AGP version. So while I had originally installed a good video card there hadn't been any real improvements in what could be installed. Almost all new video cards are now using a PCI-E connector so I couldn't use one of those. So figuring I was going to go buy or build a new system I started shopping around. What I found was a brand new (early 09) AGP video card with either 512 or 1GB of video ram. More importantly (and the entire reason for this tip) is that these new generation of video cards have a dedicated video processor. This VPU can actually be more powerful than the main processor on your computer. And because it has more power the main cpu is no longer used to help generate the images. So your main cpu now has extra processing power to spare. And because your new video card has lots of its own fast video ram you will actually be able to increase the video settings.
So what happened was after a bit of wondering if it was worth putting money into a old machine (that was taken out of my budget for a new computer) I bit the bullet and purchased a 1gb XFX video card. These are based on ATI video chips. There are other brands which are just as good so don't be concerned about that. I replaced my old video card installed the drivers and started to explore what the changes were. To sum up it was just a huge eye opener. I would not have thought a video card would make that much of an improvement. And it seemed to improve everything.
As an example. I had installed call of duty. Even with the video settings set as low as they would go it was still totally unplayable. With the new video card I can now play with all settings set to the maximum detail. In testing it when from a very few frames per second to over 100. So not only was the picture better but the game play was super smooth because of the much faster frame rate. And if my monitor could display higher settings I could crank it up even more. This card improved things so much that I can now even play multiplayer on-line. As I tried more and more programs I found everything had improved. Even the way windows opened up things was better. Watching movies on dvds was better. Basically for $75 I have a new computer. It improves everything that much!
So when you think about a video card replacement or upgrade you should look for a few things. One is to get as much ram as you can. 512 is good but 1gb is better. If you are comparing video cards you also need to look for the number of 'pipes'. The more the better. And you want to check the speed of the DAC (digital to analog convertor). the faster the better. You will easily be able to find a great video card for PCI-E or AGP for under $100. I've seen some sale prices for the 512mb versions as low as $45.
If you don't really want to spend the money on a new computer, consider about upgrading just the video card with one of the newer generation video cards. It will make a new machine out of your computer.
Posted by Dave King on
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