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What is a Graphics Card and How Do They Work?

When you use your laptop or computer, the images that you see on the display are made up of tiny dots known as pixels. A screen set to the most common resolution settings will display over two million pixels, and the computer needs to determine what to do with each one in order to create the image. In order to do this, a translator is needed to take binary data from the CPU or central processing unit and turn it into an image that you can view on the screen. The translator is known as a GPU, or graphics processing unit.

Integrated Graphics vs Dedicated Graphics

These days, most consumer laptops and desktops will come with a secondary GPU that is built into the CPU, known as integrated graphics. On the other hand, a dedicated graphics card such as the Intel Arc™ GPU isn’t built into the processor but is a separate component. These will usually be present in pro-level or custom computers, which have the space for them. The main advantage of a dedicated GPU over integrated graphics is that it will typically be able to render more complex visuals, at a faster pace in comparison.

What is a Graphics Card?

Similar to the motherboard, the graphics card is a printed circuit board that has its own processor and VRAM. Along with this, it has an input and output system that stores the settings of the cards while performing diagnostics on input and output and startup, and the memory. The processor, which is known as the graphics processing unit, works in a similar way to the computer’s central processing unit. However, the main difference between these two is that the GPU is specifically designed for performing complex, geometric and mathematical calculations that are needed for rendering graphics.

Choosing a Good Graphics Card

It’s often quite easy to spot a top-of-the-line graphics card as you’re going to get a fast processor and a lot of memory. Along with that, it might look nicer than anything else that is designed to go inside the computer’s case. However, if you are in the market for a new graphics card, you might find that a high-end option provides more power than you actually need. If you’re mainly using your computer for things like email, social media, word processing and other everyday tasks, you probably won’t need the best graphics card you can find. On the other hand, mid-range graphics cards are usually an ideal choice for most casual gamers, while people who do a lot of 3D graphics work, play high powered, graphically intense games or do a lot of high-graphics tasks like video editing might find that a high-end graphics card is the best choice for them.

If you’re hearing a lot about graphics cards and wondering whether or not you actually need one, then the first step is understanding what they are and how they work. Most computers these days come with integrated graphics, but there are some users who will need a dedicated graphics processing unit.

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