Graphics cards can be quite a confusing subject when people aren’t fully aware of what they are and what they do. We’re here to break it down and help you understand!
The main purpose of a graphics card is to take the strain off of the processor and provide dedicated processing power for the graphical tasks of the Computer i.e – making the picture.
They aren’t essential in your everyday Home or Office PC, but when you start editing photographs, movie editing and especially gaming, they become much more relevant. Having dedicated graphics for gaming is pretty much an essential – especially to play the more up to date releases. However, what would it be like if you played them without one?
In a simple answer, almost unplayable. As an example, if you imagine watching a film and you keep pressing pause, play, pause, play, pause, play. That’s what happens when you try to play a demanding PC game, without an appropriate graphics card.
PC gaming has, and always will be, the dominant force in gaming.
The power you can draw from a Computer with appropriate components will dominate over a Next Gen console like the XBOX ONE or the Playstation 4 in both performance and quality. The downside to this is that a top end graphics card alone costs nearly as much as a Console (£400), however a mid range card (£130) is far more affordable and will allow you to play most games on high settings.
For photo editing and video editing a top end graphics card is rarely needed, as the software you use isn’t as demanding as a game. For instance, a static image doesn’t take as much processing power as an animation of an explosion. But again, a computer with a graphics card will outperform one without when editing photos.
The final improvement when having a graphics card is when used with multiple displays. Although most PCs and laptops can now support 2 displays, graphics cards can allow the user up to 4. I realise 4 displays for most home and office users is a bit “overkill”, but for some people and professionals it can help a lot. Music developers often have multiple displays, as do artists, and without a graphics card this would not be as easy.
Choosing the graphics card for you is similar to the Apple or Microsoft argument. In this case the main two manufacturers are ATI and NVidia – both will do the job, so it is down to personal preference. Both companies provide a very large range of cards, ranging from £60 to £400+ so before purchasing one, make sure you are getting one that is suitable for YOU.
Graphics cards are important for photo editing & gaming – General photo editing suits a low end card – Gaming (especially the latest games on maximum graphics settings) requires a top end card.
I hope that this helps you next time someone asks you ‘Do you need a graphics card?’
Thanks, Tom M