Every gamer is excited about when the latest model of graphics card will enter the market, and what will be specs of it. A graphics card is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of your pc. However, a lot of people get confused about its actual functionality and end up spending way more money on it than needed.
But what is a graphics card used for anyway? And if you are not into gaming, do you even need to have one for your computer? Graphics card is hardware in your computer that we use to increase the overall video memory and make the display quality with higher definition. In some cases, it enables the computer to do heavier works by increasing the overall power capacity.
To help you avoid that and learn the basics of a graphics card, let’s check out everything you need to know about the graphics card down below.
What is the purpose of a graphics processing unit
A Graphics card is hardware that helps to process images on your pc. It’s mainly attached to your PC’s motherboard and works in twine with the other components such as the CPU, and RAM.
However, there’s a slight confusion about the graphics card. Most people think that it’s possible to run the PC without a graphics card at all. Yes, you can run a computer without any graphics card, but you can only turn the power on. You won’t be able to see anything on the monitor though.
But you might wonder, why it’s not the same for a lot of cases where the computer seems to run without a graphics card. Well, graphics cards are actually divided into 2 main sections; integrated graphics card and dedicated graphics card. In the following segment, we’ll talk about both of these types in greater detail.
1. Integrated Graphics
The integrated graphics is actually attached to most of the CPUs that you find available in the market. They are super small in size, pretty efficient, and they are very affordable as well.
Integrated graphics is the reason that you see some computers that run without a graphics card. It’s powerful enough to run some of the main features of your computer, even some of the backdated games as well.
But it’s certainly not powerful enough to handle the pressure of high-end games or huge editing programs. For that, you’ll need to get a dedicated graphics card, which we will take a look at in the next segment.
2. Dedicated Graphics
A dedicated graphics card is big, powerful, and super expensive compared to integrated graphics. You need to install it manually in the motherboard to make it functional, and it comes with cooling fans attached to it as well.
However, it has all the power you need to run the latest games and all the graphical software that puts massive pressure on the video rendering section. Also, it helps to cool down the PC in the process as well.
But dedicated graphics cards are super pricey, and you should pick only the one that you’ll use properly. Most people spend too much on a graphics card that they won’t even use, and that’s a big waste of money.
What is a Graphics Card Used For
The graphics card is used for rendering video, accelerating real-time 2D and 3D data, and overall graphical data. It’s a critical part of your pc that helps to run everything that requires display function.
Not to mention, it’s extremely important for gamers as games require powerful image processing. However, an integrated graphics card is not enough to handle all that pressure. You definitely need to invest in a higher-end dedicated graphics card to run all the recently released games.
Also, you need to have a pretty powerful dedicated graphics card if you do photo editing, illustration, video editing, or any such tasks that put pressure on the image rendering. It’s not only designed to help games run smoother, it’s needed for so many different functions as well.
If you are into music production, game creation, or even programming, you need to have a decent graphics card on your pc. That’ll help to run everything as evenly as possible, and you won’t have to deal with any crash or lag. However, in that case, you won’t need to have the super high-end graphics card that you want for gaming. You need to remember that, and it’ll help to save your money as well.
What Brands Produce the Best Graphics Card?
When it comes to a graphics card, Nvidia and AMD, both are dominating the marketplace with their high-end GPUs. However, there’s a classification of the product that they produce, and depending on the budget you have for your graphics card, you might want to go for specific ones.
For instance, Nvidia produces some of the most premium quality graphics cards that you can find on the market. And on the other hand, AMD has great quality ones in all price range.
So, if you are willing to spend a lot of money to get the most top-class graphics card for your PC, Nvidia is your best bet. But if you are on a tight budget but still want a good quality graphics card, AMD has the best ranges of products for you. Just make sure to do some basic research on it before you choose to put your money on the table for it.
History Of Graphic Cards
The history of graphic cards dates back to the early days of computing when the need for displaying graphical content arose. Since then, they have evolved significantly, both in terms of their technology and capabilities. Here is a brief overview of the history of graphic cards:
- Early Days (1960s-1970s): The earliest graphic display systems were vector displays, which were used in various research and military applications. These displays used electron beams to draw images directly on the screen, one line at a time. The IBM 2250 and the DEC VT05 were among the earliest vector displays used in the 1960s and 1970s.
- 1980s: The first dedicated graphics processing units (GPUs) emerged in the 1980s. IBM introduced the Monochrome Display Adapter (MDA) and the Color Graphics Adapter (CGA) for their IBM PC in 1981. The CGA allowed the display of 16 colors at a resolution of 320×200 pixels, while the MDA was monochrome and mainly used for text-based displays.
In 1984, IBM introduced the Enhanced Graphics Adapter (EGA), which significantly improved the color and resolution capabilities of the PC. The EGA could display 16 colors from a palette of 64 at a resolution of 640×350 pixels.
- 1990s: The 1990s saw a rapid evolution of graphic cards as 2D and 3D rendering technologies advanced. The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) introduced the VESA Local Bus (VLB) in 1992, which allowed graphics cards to directly access the system’s memory, improving performance.
In 1995, NVIDIA introduced the RIVA 128 (Real-time Interactive Video and Animation accelerator), which was one of the first 3D accelerators. Around the same time, 3dfx Interactive released their Voodoo Graphics cards, which popularized 3D gaming and introduced the concept of multi-texturing and SLI (Scalable Link Interface).
- 2000s: The 2000s witnessed a fierce competition between NVIDIA and ATI Technologies (now part of AMD) in the graphics card market. NVIDIA’s GeForce and ATI’s Radeon series of graphics cards became the dominant players in the industry.
This period saw significant improvements in GPU technology, including programmable shaders, better texture filtering, and increased memory bandwidth. The introduction of DirectX by Microsoft and OpenGL by the Khronos Group played a crucial role in the development of GPU technology during this time.
- 2010s and Beyond: The 2010s saw the rise of mobile and integrated graphics solutions, as well as the continued development of discrete graphics cards. NVIDIA and AMD continue to lead the market, with GPUs becoming more powerful and energy-efficient.
Today’s GPUs are used not only for gaming but also for various compute-intensive tasks, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cryptocurrency mining. The development of ray tracing technology, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR) applications have also pushed the boundaries of graphics card capabilities.
Ray tracing is a computer graphics technique used to generate highly realistic images by simulating the behavior of light as it interacts with objects in a scene. It is based on the principle that light rays travel in straight lines and can be traced from their source to their point of interaction with objects, such as reflection, refraction, or absorption.
Ray tracing can produce stunningly realistic images because it accounts for various optical effects, such as shadows, reflections, and refractions. Due to its computationally intensive nature, ray tracing has traditionally been limited to offline rendering, such as in animation and visual effects, where rendering times are less of a concern.
Here’s a brief overview of how ray tracing works:
- Camera rays: The process starts by generating camera rays, which are traced from the camera (or viewer) through each pixel in the image plane. The image plane represents the final rendered image, and each pixel corresponds to a specific point in the 3D scene.
- Intersection tests: For each camera ray, the renderer performs intersection tests to determine which objects in the scene are hit by the ray. The renderer calculates the closest intersection point between the ray and the objects in the scene.
- Shading: Once the intersection point is found, the renderer calculates the color of the pixel based on the material properties of the intersected object, the lighting in the scene, and the specific optical effects at play, such as reflections and refractions.
- Recursive ray tracing: For effects like reflections and refractions, the renderer generates additional rays that are traced recursively. This means that a new ray is generated at the intersection point and traced through the scene, following the same steps as the original camera ray. This process can be repeated multiple times, depending on the complexity of the scene and the desired level of realism.
In recent years, real-time ray tracing has become possible thanks to advancements in GPU technology and the development of dedicated ray tracing hardware. Companies like NVIDIA and AMD have introduced graphics cards with ray tracing capabilities, enabling real-time ray tracing in video games and other interactive applications.
Real-time ray tracing is often combined with traditional rasterization techniques, using ray tracing to enhance specific aspects of the scene, such as reflections, shadows, or global illumination. APIs like Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing (DXR) and Vulkan Ray Tracing have been developed to support real-time ray tracing in modern graphics engines.
You just went through a lot of information, and hopefully, you got your answer to what is a graphics card used for. As you saw, it’s super important hardware that serves a lot more purpose than just gaming.
However, now you can also tell that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a graphics card if you are not going to use it.
It’s always the best idea not to overclock your GPU, and get the amount that you’ll actively use. That’ll give you the best value for your money, and provide you with the performance that you crave as well.