Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Graphic Cards

A Graphics Processing Unit (Visual Processing Unit) is a dedicated graphics rendering device for a personal computer, a workstation or a gaming console. Their highly parallel structure makes them more efficient than a typical CPU for a range of complex algorithms. The most common operations of these devices is their 2D graphic support. However the modern GPUs even support 3D graphics and include digital video related functions. Examples of companies that produce such GPUs are GeForce and Radeon.

Modern GPUs use transistors to do calculations related to 3D computer graphics. They are widely used for texture mapping and rendering polygons. Since most of these computations involve matrix and vector operations, GPUs are also being used for non-graphical calculations. Recent graphics cards even decode high definition video on the card, taking some load off the central processing unit.

The presently available Graphic Cards can be classified as

  • Dedicated Graphics Cards - The term "dedicated" refers to the fact that these cards have RAM that is dedicated to the card's use. These cards are removable as they interface with the motherboard by means of an expansion slot such as "PCI Express Graphics" or "Accelerated Graphics Port". They are considered to be the most powerful class of GPUs present. Examples includes the graphic cards from GeForce and Radeon
  • Integrated Graphics Solutions - These are graphics processors that utilize a portion of a computer's system RAM rather than dedicated graphics memory. Such solutions are typically far less expensive to implement in comparison to dedicated graphics solutions. However they are considered unfit to play modern games as well as run graphically intensive programs. Modern desktop motherboards often include an integrated graphics solution and have expansion slots available to add a dedicated card later. An example is the Intel built in graphic card
  • Hybrid Solutions - This type of graphic cards competes with the integrated graphics in the lower end PCs. They are a bit more expensive than Integrated Graphics but cheaper than dedicated cards. They share memory with the system memory, that is, they utilize a part of their internal memory and a part of the system RAM. It is important to note how much of the system memory is utilized besides the total memory. Examples are Hypermemory and Turbocache
  • Stream Processing - A new concept application of GPUs is that of stream processing and the General Purpose Graphics Processing Unit (GPGPU). In certain applications requiring massive vector operations, this can yield several orders of magnitude higher performance than a conventional CPU. Still efforts are being made to pursue this new market with an array of applications

To know about your graphics card, follow these four simple steps

  1. Open start menu
  2. Select Run
  3. Type dxdiag and press Enter (This actually runs the diagnostics of DirectX)
  4. Select the display option to know about the graphic card

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