Determine What Makes A Good Graphics Card

Determine graphic needs to get the best card for your budget.

Video cards for computers feature technology that grows perhaps more quickly than traditional central processing unit (CPU) technology. Graphics card manufacturers create a new generation of graphics chipsets at least every two years and sometimes even more often than that. Today’s graphics card is very quickly yesterday’s old technology. When deciding on which graphics card to purchase, be aware of these key factors when choosing the best card for your budget.


1. Examine the chipset of the graphics card. There are two main competing graphics card vendors on the market, nVidia and AMD-ATI. Other graphics card manufacturers exist, but they typically use chipsets designed by one of these two companies. Graphics card chipsets work based on numbers, with lower numbers representing slower chipsets than higher numbers. Additionally, the first number in the chipset, such as the 6 in 6800, represents the generation. For example, a 6600 chipset is slower than a 6800 chipset, but both are from the same generation, or family of chipsets and share similar features.

2. Examine the memory. Graphics card performance is determined in part by the amount of video random access memory (RAM) it contains on the graphics card. 512 megabytes (MB) and 1-gigabytes (G) are very common numbers. Some graphics cards even allow the main system memory to be shared with the video memory, which increases the total amount of memory allotted to the video card.

3. Check the interface. Video cards with an accelerated graphics port (AGP) interface are for systems older than four to five years. All systems since 2006 use a peripheral component interconnect PCI-Express interface, with PCI-Express x16 being the most common version. PCI-Express is several times faster than the older AGP standard.

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4. Check for scalable link interface (SLI) or CrossFire capability. This technology allows you to run multiple graphics cards simultaneously and combine their processing abilities for increased performance. This requires a motherboard capable of supporting multiple graphics cards.