Video Card vs. On Board
What is required to determine your needs.
Congratulations, you just bought a top of the line computer system, and you have the bill to prove it. You made a couple of errands on the way home to the local GameStop or Best Buy, and purchased the latest video game, and can’t wait to get home and start playing it.
But something strange happens after you fire the computer up and install the new game. It doesn’t work. How can this be when you have a brand new top of the line PC? Three words: On Board Video.
Your new rig might rock, but it isn’t going to play anything that’s graphically intense without a video card installed.
This is just a scenario so don’t get scared yet. Your computer might very well come with a card installed. I’m not saying it hasn’t ever happened that a computer doesn't ave a card installed, but it’s rare and I’ve never seen it. But even if you don’t have one installed, you might not need to go out and buy one if it doesn’t fit your needs.
If you prefer online chess, solitaire, or Bejeweled, you won’t be needing anything additional to what you already have. If you’re a mid-range gamer the subject can be a gray area. Since you don’t play top of the line games, the question to whether you need a graphics card for a mid-range game is questionable.
The first thing I would do before buying any game is to check the specs on the box. It will tell you what is required for the best play possible. If the mid-range game requires a card, you have two options: either don’t buy the game, or buy both a card and game. Most of these types of games can be found on the $9.95 rack at your local electronic store. Just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they aren’t good. I’ve picked up quite a few gems on these racks.
Now that we’ve established whether you want a card or not, lets assume you want to bite the bullet and buy one. Now your faced with the type of card you need and the brand. I’d suggest you go with either ATI Radeon or Nvidia Geforce. You can’t go wrong with either of these brands. Because everyone has different needs, I’m not going to recommend one over the other. I will, however, explain a little about them without bombarding you with technical terms.
Before you take your credit card out to make a purchase, before you do anything in fact it’s very important that you know what your video card port on your system board is. They come in two types, AGP and PCI Express. AGP is older technology, so if you just bought a new computer it’s going to most likely have the PCI Express port. Make sure you buy the card that corresponds with your board's compatibility. If you're not sure just check the box and you should have no problem determining what is needed.
Since I’m keeping the technical terms a bit light, I’m going to explain what you can do to boost your card’s performance once installed. If you learn nothing else about video cards, remember the word Overclocking. Your card will come with software and drivers that will need to be installed and most of the software will have Overclocking options, which you can tweak to reach a speed performance thresh hold.
With this Overclocking function, you can actually speed up the performance of the card beyond what is stated on the box. Just make sure you don’t overdue your Overclock, so to speak. In other words, if you push the settings too far you can fry your card, or worse, your system board, so be very careful.
I hope this helps you, and good luck in your video card search.