have made this FAQ for people who are confused on what video cards are and what they do. I will be covering everything from slots, to video card brands and overclocking ect. I hope you learn something out of this FAQ.
Table Of Contents:
1. What does a video card do exactly?
2. How to Install your Video Card
3. The AGP slot
4. The PCI slot
5. The PCI-E slot
6. nVidia & ATI
7. Workstation cards(CAD, Medical solutions, etc.)
8. Integrated Graphics Cards
9. Gaming cards
10. DirectX - END OF PART 1
11. Drivers -Start of Part 2.
14. Unlocking Pipelines
15. Pipelines and Clock Speeds
17. Conclusion -End of part 2.
Here we go!
1. Graphics Card
What does a graphics card do exactly? Well yeah it puts an image on your monitor well... yes and then some. Your video card renders evrything you see from a tiny pixel to a giant high res image of CS. It receives a rendering signal from the CPU which is sent to the video card's core itself. After receiving instructions it renders whatever image it's been asked to render. The higher your Core clock speed, the faster it renders the image. The higher memory clock speed, the faster it is able to recall it. 3D Video cards (basicaly all video cards you will find today are 3D acceleration cards) do a slightly different task. For example a game engine or a 3d program sends to a cpu information describing a geometric shape (a cube for example), and a texture (image) to go around the walls of this shape to make it visible. Now the cpu would normally take this shape, and calculate how the texture will distort if one looks at the shape from an angle that has been set by the game/program, as well as other effects such as antialiasing filters. This shows up on your screen as a 3d shape. You could for example rotate it, and the look will change because the textures are calculated and filtered differently. Now, in today's games and 3D applications, you no longer have a single cube to render - you have huge scenes with many shapes, textures and effects. This is too much for a cpu which doesn't specialize in floating point calculations. For this task, 3D acceleration (graphics) cards were created, and that is what they do.
2. How to install your video crad.
Installing a video card isnt the hardest thing to do, probably a quick 5 minute process, heres a quick run down on how to do it.
1. Remove your current drivers (read how to remove drivers under the drivers section).
2. Open up your case
3. Take out your old card
4. Pop in your new one(Make sure it's the correct one)
5. Lock your case back up
6. Boot up
7. Install new drivers from the video card brand website (ATI/nVidia) the drivers on the disk provided are usually out of date.
8. Reboot after drivers are installed
9. Have fun pwning people on cs!
3.The AGP Slot
The AGP slot runs in three versions: 2x, 4x and 8x the common ones today run 4x/8x. The AGP or Accelerated Graphics Port does exactly what it stands for -- it allows faster communication between the GPU and the CPU and creating a bigger bandwidth. Note that the difference between these versions are not only bandwidth but also the amount of power going to them. Here are some pictures of the different AGP slots:
However, 2x and 4x are backwards compatible and so are 4x/8x. This is because the older the agpslot, the more voltage it would provide for older, powerhungry cards. Newer cards use less power, therefore a 2x slot will provide more then enough power for your 4x card. 2x and 8x however differ far too much in other ways, and are therefore incompatible.
Furthermore, just about every game or program today only uses the bandwidth up to about 8x.
Ah yes the old PCI slot. This slot is the successor of the old ISA slot which is a giant brown looking thing. Anyways, PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect This bus slot is used for most accesories that a computer can accommodate such as sound cards, networking cards, video cards and RAID controllers. Really just about anything. Until the AGP slot came out PCI was the main graphics bus... why don't we use it now? Pci slots SHARE their bandwidth inbetween themselves, so the more peripherals occupy pci slots, the less bandwidth each one gets. That, and since the pci slot is an old standard, it has low bandwidth power. This is why the agp slot was created - to provide more bandwidth for a card, as well as a dedicated pipe to the cpu. A picture of a PCI slot:
5. The PCI-E Slot
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express is the most recent addition to the motherboard buses. It looks like a backwards PCI slot and also runs much faster than the AGP slot, so next generation cards will be obviously put into the PCI-E bus format. Unlike the 8x speed of the AGP slot PCI-E will run at 16x. THAT'S GREAT! it runs twice as fast!!!! Well yes and no. The AGP 8x refers to its bus clock speed, PCI-E 16x means it has 16 individual lanes each supporting 250MB/s per direction adding up for a total of 4GB/s. As for the AGP 8x, its max bandwidth is about 2.1 GB/s; HOWEVER, nothing in today's video card structure and operation uses more than AGP 8x anyway. Some info about the pci-e slot:
6. nVidia & ATI
These companies are the most popular GPU makers. They create the highest rated equipment and ship it to millions daily. Every half a year or so these companies release the cutting edge technology and display stunning and amazing graphics, of course, each company trying to outdo the other. There are other companies however, pursuing other markets, such as Matrox.
Click Here for a list of all nVidia cards.
Click Here for a list of ATI cards.
7. Work Station cards
These are created for 3D designers, NOT GAMERS, and can process incredibly large 3D scenes, with much better quality then gaming cards, which process smaller scenes, at lower quality, but at breakneck speeds. Workstation cards include the Quadro FX line from nVidia, FireGL from ATI, Parhelia from Matrox and the WildCat series from 3dlabs, which has unfortunately been bought by nvidia and therefore no longer released. Other companies make them too, such as Matrox. I ONLY recomend these GPUs to those who do more editing with Pixar Toy Story effects programs than gaming. These cards will still play your games, but usually just a little bit slower then gaming cards, and a drastically higher price.
8. Integrated Video Cards
What is an integrated controller? Well it's simple really.. it's a GPU core imbedded onto your motherboard. Sounds good right? Well, only if you have 0 expansion slots. In the real world, the integrated graphics solution is not the way to go; in fact it's probably the slowest form of a GPU and most likely not as advanced when compared to external cards. These are meant for grandma to read email, not for csDoug to blow heads off in Counter-Strike.
9. Gaming Video Cards
These cards are usually slightly cut down/crippled and modified versions of workstation cards. Unlike workstation cards, they render smaller scenes, with lower quality, but at breakneck speeds. Usually, the newer the game, the better graphics it will use, the beefier the card you'll need to process them. Thats what drives newer and stronger cards to come out. Because of the way they are made - usually slightly crippled and modified workstation cards, they could be backwards modified into their workstation counterparts! For example, it's possible to mod a 6800GT into a Quadro FX4000 - which is worth about 5 times more.
The continuation of this guide will continue on later and will be PART 2.
Part 2 will be about
# Unlocking Pipelines
# Pipelines and Clock Speeds