A graphics card is a device which provides additional processing power and memory dedicated for displaying 3D graphics found in computer games and 3D editing. A graphics card also allows a computer to export its display to monitors and TVs, usually offering video output with several different types of cords. Selecting the right graphics card for your computer comes down to physical hardware needs and personal computing preferences.
1. Determine what type of video cards your computer can handle. PCI express and AGP are the two main graphics card formats used today, with PCI being the more powerful technology. Depending on your motherboard, you may only be able to use one or the other, or both. You computer’s manual or support on your computer manufacturer’s website should be able to tell you which types of cards your motherboard can use. If you have a choice of either, PCI express is a stronger option.
2. Determine the goals you have for your computer graphics card, and how much money you plan to spend. If you only want to do basic word processing and Internet surfing, a cheap baseline video card will do the job. If you want to be able to play any game on the market, a newer, mid line graphics card will be needed. If you want to play games set to very high graphics settings for the best possible experience, you will have to pay a premium.
3. Research video cards online at review sites, or computer hardware stores. Oftentimes actual stores with customer reviews such as Newegg and Tigerdirect are the most useful for researching new hardware. Users that have tested the ins and outs of hardware often posted detailed reviews of products, often comparing and contrasting them to similar products. (These discount online vendors also have some of the best prices available.)
4. Purchase and install the card, then evaluate the results. If the card performs satisfactorily, keep it. If the card does not perform as well as you like, many stores will allow hardware to be returned within a certain window of time, although they may charge a restocking fee, and may not refund shipping costs.