Video cards, aka graphics boards and display adapters, are a kind of dedicated computing devices with their own PCB, processor, memory and cooling. The key component in this adapter is a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) that takes all responsibilities connected with image processing and displaying. It dramatically unloads the CPU, ensuring the maximal performance. GPU is usually accompanied by video memory modules which much resemble RAM in functionality.
» Video Cards: Full list of devices
Both, GPU and memory, communicate with the main system due to video cards drivers that create strong connection of hardware pieces with OS. Producing too much heat during operation, display adapters require a powerful cooling system to be integrated. This usually features a heatsink and one, two or three fans. Besides, the cards might support liquid coolers with vapor chambers and cooling plates.
All graphics adapters are divided into four types, depending on means of connection to the motherboard: integrated, AGP, PCI, PCI Express. The last three types refer to discrete cards. Integrated or on-board adapters are already installed into the CPU, performing the same functions as discrete ones. Despite the possibility of upgrade, this solution proves to be less efficient than discrete one; hence, it might suit typical home/office tasks but won’t cope with hardcore gaming graphics, for instance.
To continue, AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) adapters can be found in older entry-level systems. They feature four operating speeds (x1, x2, x4, and x8) but would choose the lower speed supported by the card rather than the maximal one. PCI boards are more efficient than AGP ones, although suit mainly older PC systems. If you are lucky to have one of these items in your PC, make sure to download drivers for video cards to boost their performance.
Finally, PCI Express adapters suit all advanced PC systems and are able to work with hardcore graphics (gaming and professional). As the name implies, they are connected to the dedicated PCI-e slot on the motherboard, demonstrating up to x16 speed. In addition, if the motherboard has several PCI-e slots, it’s always feasible to install several discrete boards to work in various scenarios. For sure, such configuration becomes possible only after downloading/updating drivers for video cards.
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