Computers are made up of many components that work together to create the environment you see on the screen. Without one single part, the entire group may cease functioning.
Graphics cards are one of the most critical components of a computer, and you should not plan to build or buy a computer without one. However, not everyone needs an expensive standalone graphics card for their PC.
What Exactly is a Graphics Card?
A graphics card is the part of your computer that creates the display you see on the screen. Without a graphics card, you won’t be able to see any part of the computing process, including your operating system interface, internet browser, or word processing programs.
Not every graphics card is a standalone unit the size and weight of a brick. Many graphics cards are built into motherboards, which can help lower the cost and space required. However, choosing lower-end graphics options will often limit some of what your computer can do.
Do Any Computers Come Without Graphics Cards?
Every computer you purchase in a regular store will have some graphics card in it because otherwise, it would output no images. Check the label that lists all the components. If no graphics card is listed, it’s probably an integrated GPU instead of a standalone GPU.
What Is the Difference Between Integrated and Standalone GPUs?
Integrated GPUs are built into a motherboard. They usually require less power but won’t give you the results you might get with a high-end standalone card.
Standalone GPUs are what people think of when they picture a graphics card. They’re a separate component requiring fans and a power connection in most cases. They range from less than $100 for a card that will display word processing programs but won’t game to thousands for a card that can run complex CAD programs and cutting-edge games.
What Graphics Card Do I Need?
There’s no good way to recommend a graphics card that will work for everyone. Each person has their own set of needs and means, determining what graphics card they want and ultimately get.
Consider what you can afford and what kind of performance you require. You should also choose between standalone GPUs and integrated graphics before starting a build since you must choose a motherboard with integrated graphics if that’s what you desire.
How to Choose the Right Graphics Card?
There are a few critical factors that should help you narrow down the choices and zero in on the right card for you.
This is one of the most significant things you’ll have to consider when purchasing a GPU. Price out your entire build and then see what you have left to buy your graphics card. If you don’t have as much as you’d hoped, check whether you could replace another component with something a bit cheaper to put the extra cash toward your card.
Almost any GPU will do if you are just using a word processing program to write. If you’re going to stream 4K content, you might want to look for something with a few more options and a little more power. If you’re going to use engineering programs or play games with heavy graphical requirements, you might need to choose a very high-end card.
Type of Build
Some cards simply won’t fit in micro ATX builds, for example. Some of the newer cards, like the RTX 3090, are quite large and won’t work in every case, depending on what else you’re installing.
Type of PSU
Each card has different requirements, and higher-end cards usually use much more power. If your current PSU isn’t rated high enough to handle the card you want, you’ll have to select a card that draws less power or purchase a new PSU that can keep up with the GPU’s demands.
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start narrowing down your choices and getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes one card different from another.
What Should I Look for When Purchasing a Graphics Card?
There are a few things you need to consider when purchasing a graphics card. Some of them are mentioned below.
- Look at how much memory the card has. If it doesn’t have at least 6 GB of memory, you will have more difficulty playing games at higher resolutions. You’re better off choosing something with more than 6 GB if your game graphics are an essential consideration to you.
Memory speed is vital since faster memory means the card performs more quickly.
- Consider what ports you need, and then look at the cards you’re considering for purchase. They may have different numbers or types of ports. Knowing what kinds you prefer in advance can help you remove or add some cards to the list.
- Check whether the card supports the programs you want to use with it. Some VR headsets require or suggest different cards to make them work. It will be a wasted purchase if you get a card that won’t work on the programs you’re purchasing it for.
- Read reviews to see what kind of performance you can expect from the card. The process can be a little complex because the way a GPU works has a lot to do with the other components in a build.
If you can, search for a reviewer using the same CPU and motherboard or a very similar combination. Getting an idea of what the card can do should help you know whether it can meet your needs.
Can I Use a Standalone Graphics Card With an Integrated Graphics Card?
You can build a system that includes both types of cards. However, only one card will be active and used by the system at any given time. When you embark on a more demanding activity, the computer may switch to using the higher-end card, reserving the integrated graphics for things like word processing and web browsing.
You don’t have to give up on a standalone GPU because you want a motherboard with integrated graphics. Having both also means you’ll still be able to see your screen to troubleshoot if one of the graphics cards stops working.