Choosing your PC’s video card can be difficult; some users don’t need much at all while some spend thousands on bleeding edge video technologies to push the limit. Below are a few factors to consider in choosing your PC’s video capabilities.
Enough for Most People –
In almost all cases computer video is processed through a separate, GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). GPU’s serve a function similar to your computer’s central processor but are completely dedicated to video processing.
Most motherboards today have a built in GPU which provides decent visual power without any added price. If your computer use is restricted to email checking, facebooking, and less-than-high-definition videos, a computer with an integrated chip will probably meet your needs.
High Definition / Home Theater Systems –
It’s becoming more and more popular to use a small computer as a home theater system. These systems are great since they can serve as DVD/Blueray player, DVR, sound system, and everything else all in one.
Systems such as these will need an HDMI connection and, while they don’t require it, they will benefit from an upgraded video card; especially if you’re planning on using them for Blue-Ray or to playback high definition video files.
When picking your PC’s video you’ll want to consider which connectors you need. If you’ve already got a monitor, check which connection it needs and make sure the computer you choose provides it.
This is the most common medium for video connections. Virtually all monitors support VGA and it provides a very good picture. VGA monitors are typically cheaper, mostly because they’re older. If you’ve already got a VGA monitor or you want to spend as little as possible, this will be the best choice.
DVI represents the next generation of computer-to-monitor connections. Monitors designed in the last few of years will support DVI connections. It provides a slightly better picture but not enough on it’s own to justify an upgrade. If you’re planning on buying a new monitor as well as a computer, DVI will be the best choice
HDMI is a high quality transfer medium that delivers both sound and video through one cable. Found mostly on TVs, though some monitors do support it, this connection is typically only necessary if you want to display your computer on your TV. This is a great way to watch movies, play games, and more.
PC gaming is notorious for requiring huge sums of money spent on the most cutting edge components. This is justified, as many of today’s popular games take place in highly detailed 3D worlds that require mountains of calculated data to display. What most people don’t realize however is that most games allow changes to their display settings which allow them to be run on lower end computers as well. So in choosing a “gaming computer” the question is less about running the game and more about how high you want to turn up the video settings.
Low Settings – If you’re comfortable with low settings you won’t need much. You’ll want a computer with an added video card, most cards between $40 and $70 will do the trick. You’ll also want a reasonably fast dual-core processor, 2.4 GHz or faster.
Medium Settings – Medium settings, as you can imagine, require a little bit more. In this range you’ll either want one, more expensive video card, or two of the cheaper video cards. Using two video cards at once is referred to as CrossFireX or SLi, depending on the video card’s manufacturer. A 2.8 GHz processor or better will be plenty for medium settings.
High Settings – PC’s capable of running today’s games at the highest settings will have two or three high-end video cards, usually $150 or more each. They also use fast quad or hex core processors.
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