What’s a Graphics Card?

graphics card bGraphics cards are an integral element to your computer’s proper functioning, even if they’re not as widely discussed as the motherboard or CPU. They’re an important component to understand, especially if you’re in the market for a new computer. Read on for a better understanding of what a graphics card does and why it’s important.

When you look at your computer’s monitor, what you see is actually composed of over one million tiny dots of color called pixels that come together to create one cohesive image. In order for your computer to manage these pixels and ensure that they are all the correct color to create the correct image, it receives binary data from your computer’s CPU and turns it into the picture you can understand. While some computers have this graphics ability built directly into their motherboards, it’s much more common for this translation from binary data to visible image to occur on the graphics card.

Let’s zoom in a little further. Your computer’s CPU works with your computer’s software applications, which are written to send information about the preferred image to the graphics card. The graphics card then decides how to use the pixels provided by your computer’s monitor to create the image that the applications want to project. The graphics card sends that information to your computer’s monitor through a cable, ultimately allowing the image to appear.

g cardTo create an image using only binary data requires a tremendous amount of data. A graphics card attempting to cast a 3D image will need to create a wire frame out of straight lines, then rasterize the image and provide the lighting, texture and color. When this process it put to the test in fast-paced gaming environments, your computer is forced to go through this process around sixty times per second. The graphics card is essential to these fast-paced functions, which would overwhelm your computer were it working alone.

The graphics card functions with the help of four other computer components: the motherboard (for data and power), the processor (for directions regarding each pixel), the memory (to store data regarding each pixel and to store completed pictures), and the monitor (to output the final image).

g card2The graphics card itself is composed of a printed circuit board (much like a smaller-scale motherboard) with its own processor, called the graphics processing unit (GPU) and RAM, or random-access memory. It also contains an input/output, or BIOS chip, where the card’s settings are stored and diagnostics can be run on the memory, input and output upon startup. A graphics card’s GPU is specifically tailored for performing the difficult mathematical and geometric calculations necessary for rendering graphics, and top-tier GPUs can actually possess more transistors than the average computer. That kind of processing power can creates a lot of heat, so graphics cards tend to be located under a heat sink, fan, or both.

When the GPU creates images, the data that composes completed pictures are stored on the graphics card’s RAM. This data could include information about every pixel, from its color to its location on the screen.

That’s just a quick overview of the graphics card. Hope this was helpful!

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