When it comes to Graphic cards, non-gamer PC & Laptop buyers’ first question usually is “Do I need a Graphic Card?”. The following post answers that question.
Onboard graphic card vs Dedicated graphic card
All PC’s have a graphic card. It is impossible to view anything on a monitor in the absence of a graphic card. That said, all motherboards have a basic and less powerful graphic card installed on them to render display on the attached monitor. Such graphic cards are called Onboard Graphic Cards. So the original question of “Do I need a Graphic Card?” actually should be “Do I need a Dedicated Graphics Card?”.
Generally speaking, Onboard Graphics Cards are quite sufficient for everyday office work, internet surfing and watching movies(not HD, in some cases), playing 2D games, 3D games (very old, e.g. Quake III), Photoshop, etc. It means that the majority of PC buyers should be happy with Onboard Graphics and can save the bucks for a better use.
But for games (and hardcore ones), the following para’s will try to give you an idea as to what amount of GPU power is required for various types of games.
64 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB or 1024 MB?
Well, generally speaking, higher memory is better but it may not hold true in some cases (which I will discuss below).
GPU released around the pre-2007 era can be played with minimal settings on GPS’s with 256 mega-bytes or less of memory. Features like anti-aliasing cannot be enjoyed with these GPU’s. Nowadays the onboard GPU’s also have 256MB’s of memory so Cards with 256Mb’s of memory are pretty much useless.
512 MB graphic memory
Most basic graphic cards in this age feature atleast 512MB’s of memory. Faster cards like 9800M GT make the most of its 512mb memory and provide a good gaming experience. Whereas slower cards like GT240M, despite having 1GB (=1024MB) are worse compared to 9800M Gt as they could not fully exploit the memory. Therefore, a speedier cards is what you should opt for and not always the one with larger memory.
1GB or More
As I showed above, 1GB or more memory is useful for very powerful cards which are at the high-end (say, GeForce GTX 280M)and fairly costly.
Graphic Card Speeds
A GPU’s speed depends on a lot of factors. One of the prominent of is whether it is DDR2 OR DDR3. DDR2s are in the mainstream but DDR3s are getting popular in the high-end ones. A summary of the factors which determine a GPU’s power is given below;
- GPU clock speed (MHz)
- Size of the memory bus (bits)
- Amount of available memory (MB)
- Memory clock rate (MHz)
- Memory bandwidth (GB/s)
- RAMDAC speed (MHz)