A Guide to Choosing a Great Video Card for your PC

Replacing with an ATI video card is a good choice if you game!

If you’ve never replaced a video card, or simply are confused as to which one to get this video card guide is for you.  We’re not going to go into the different brands or models, but rather into the technology itself as what makes a great video card.  The fact is everyone has different requirements when it comes to a video card.  That’s where this video card guide comes in, we’ll talk about different features and capabilities in simply terms so you can pick the best video card for your needs.

First off you’ll need to determine which kind of slot you have on your motherboard for a video card.  If you have the PC or motherboard guide it’ll tell you in there.

There are 3 different types..

  1. The PCI slot.  This is the oldest one out there, if your PC is 5 or more years old you probably have one of these.  To be honest you’ll probably not be able to realize a great performance gain with this type of slot.
  2. The AGP slot.  A newer, mid-speed slot.  Some real bargain cards with great capabilities can be had for this type of slot.
  3. Finally we have the PCIe slot.  This is the latest and the fastest.

Before continuing with this video card guide you must know what slot you have.

After you know the slot type you need to decide how you will be using your computer.  Understanding this will guide you towards the correct video card for your needs.  Will you be playing the latest games?  Movies and videos?  Or just browsing the net and email.

If gaming is your thing then choose a video card with a chipset made by Nvidia or ATI, these two companies are leaders when it comes to gaming graphics.  If you wont be doing any cutting edge gaming than consider other chipsets, such as Intel.  Let your usage guide you towards the proper video card chipset.

An important concept of this video card guide is understanding fully how you use your PC.

Once you know the slot type and which chipset you should be looking for you need to consider the amount of memory on the card.  Basically the memory on a video card is used for holding textures.  The more memory, the more it can hold.  This is primarily for gaming as there are tons of different textures on the screen at once.  You’ll know if your card doesn’t have enough memory if while playing the screen slows down or freezes when turning quickly.  If you don’t game, then this doesn’t really mean anything to you.  Guide yourself to a less expensive video card in this case.

Now here’s a key point to this video card guide

This video card is one of the top rated cards available

Manufacturers are going to flaunt two numbers when trying to get you to buy their video card.  Chip speed and memory.  We’ve already talked about memory.  Chip speed is simply how fast the card processes data.  The one thing not heavily advertised, especially by low quality cards are the number of pipelines.

When it comes to video card performance it goes like this.  First the card has to fetch the data (either from on board memory of from the hard drive), then it processes it (chip speed) and finally it sends it to the monitor.  Now, this is a simplification but in the end think of the number of pipelines as the number of lanes on a highway, the more lanes the smoother and faster everything goes.

Cheap, low-end cards will have 4 lanes, mid-speed cards 6-8 lanes, and fast cards 10 lanes.

Let the number of lanes help guide you to the right video card for your needs, again, if you game this is an important stat, do NOT ignore it.

Also consider the support for different software such as DirectX.  On newer cards this almost isn’t a problem anymore, but for older cards it can be.  If you want a new card for a particular game, and the game supports DirectX10 then make sure the card supports it too.

Learn more about replacing a video card

I suggest after you read this video card guide to head to sites like Consumer Reports, Consumer Search and even Amazon to read video card reviews.  The video card reviews are written by real users like you and can really help you find the top video card for your needs.

Filed Under: Computers

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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