Computers are made up of many components that work together to create the environment you see on the screen. Without a single department, the entire team could go down.
The graphics card is one of the most important components of a computer and you should not plan to build or buy a computer without. However, not everyone needs an expensive standalone graphics card for their PC.
What exactly is a graphics card?
The graphics card is the part of the computer that produces the display you see on the screen. Without a graphics card, you will not be able to view any part of the calculation, including the operating system interface, internet browser, or word processing programs.
Not every graphics card is a standalone unit the size and weight of a brick. Multiple graphics cards are integrated in the motherboard, which can help reduce the cost and space required. However, choosing lower-end graphics options will often limit some of what your computer can do.
Are there any computers that don’t have a graphics card?
Every computer you buy at a regular store will have some graphics card in it because otherwise it won’t output the image. Check the label that lists all ingredients. If no graphics card is listed, it’s probably the integrated GPU instead of the standalone GPU.
What is the difference between integrated and standalone GPU?
The integrated GPU is built into the motherboard. They generally require less power but won’t give you the results you can get with a premium standalone card.
Standalone GPU is what people think of when they picture a graphics card. They are a separate component that requires a fan and power connection in most cases. They range from under $100 for a card that will display word processing programs but won’t cost thousands of dollars for a card that can run complex CAD programs and advanced games.
Which graphics card do I need?
There is no good way to recommend a graphics card that works for everyone. Each person has their own needs and means, determine what kind of graphics card they want and ultimately get.
Consider what you can afford and what kind of performance you require. You should also choose between standalone GPU and integrated graphics before you start building because you have to choose a motherboard with integrated graphics if that’s what you want.
How to choose the right graphics card?
There are a few key factors that will help you narrow down your choices and put in the right card for you.
This is one of the most important things that you will have to consider when buying a GPU. Price your entire build and then see what you have left to buy your graphics card. If you don’t have as much money as you would like, check to see if you can replace another component with something a bit cheaper to top up your card.
Almost any GPU will do if you just use a word processor for writing. If you’re going to stream 4K content, you might want to look for something with a few more options and a bit more power. If you plan to use technical programs or play games with heavy graphics requirements, you may need to choose a very high-end card.
Type of construction
For example, some cards will not be suitable for micro ATX builds. Some newer cards, like the RTX 3090, are quite large and won’t work in all cases, depending on what else you’re installing.
Type of PSU
Each card has different requirements, and higher-end cards typically use more power. If your current PSU isn’t rated high enough to handle the card you want, you’ll have to choose a card that consumes less power or buy a new PSU that can keep up with the GPU’s requirements.
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start narrowing down your options and dig deep into what makes one card different from another.
What should I look for when buying a graphics card?
There are several things you need to consider when buying a graphics card. Some of them are mentioned below.
- Look at the memory capacity of the card. If it doesn’t have at least 6 GB of memory, you’ll have a harder time playing games at higher resolutions. You’re better off picking something with more than 6 GB if your game’s graphics are a necessity for you.
Memory speed is important because faster memory means the card performs faster.
- Consider what ports you need, then consider the cards you’re considering to buy. They can have different numbers or types of ports. Knowing in advance which cards you like can help you remove or add some cards to the list.
- Check that the card supports the programs you want to use with it. Some VR headsets require or recommend different tags for them to work. It will be a waste if you receive a card that does not work on the programs you are purchasing.
- Read the reviews for the kind of performance you can expect from the card. This process can be a bit complicated because the way the GPU works has a lot to do with other components in a build.
If you can, look for reviewers using the same CPU and motherboard, or a very similar combination. Understanding what the card can do will help you see if it can meet your needs.
Can I use a standalone graphics card with an integrated graphics card?
You can build a system that includes both types of cards. However, only one card will be active and used by the system at any given time. When you embark on a more demanding activity, the computer can switch to a more advanced card, dedicating the integrated graphics to things like word processing and web browsing.
You don’t have to give up a standalone GPU because you want a motherboard with integrated graphics. Having both also means you’ll still be able to see your screen for troubleshooting if one of the graphics cards stops working.