What is a graphics card?
Do we need it in our computers? What is a graphics card? I am here to create this helpful guide to your graphics card to help answer these questions as this is the most important piece of your custom built pc.
As we go through more about graphics cards, how does it work, and do we actually need it; I would like to address its importance not only from a tech point of view but from a social facade.
So let us begin this helpful guide to your graphics card and help you know more about this topic. A graphics card(also known as GPU) is an expansion to your motherboard which generates output images to display on a device such as your computer monitor.
Frequently, these are advertised as discrete or dedicated graphics cards.
- Discrete graphics is a separate graphics system in a computer. Discrete graphics may refer to a stand-alone graphics card that you plug into a motherboard slot.
- Integrated graphics shares memory with the CPU and provides another alternative to “discrete graphics”. Integrated graphics are built into the motherboard and allow for a simple experience that would include a GPU(Graphics Processing Unit)with some being non-programmable.
Basically we need to know before we spend 300$+ if we actually need a graphics card, or can we squeeze by having minimal graphics with the integrated card. This is something only you can answer before we dive into more about graphics cards.
Let us have a look at the specs for a graphics card and see what we are getting our hands on. This helpful guide to your graphics card will show you all the information you need to make the best decision. If you are new and are unfamiliar with this information below, I will be explaining more on each of the graphics card specs below.
Graphics Card Tech Specs
Dimensions & Weight
Depth : 8.5 in
Height : 4.4 in
Weight : 15.66 oz
Width : 1.5 in
Brand : MSI
Compatibility : PC
Manufacturer : MSI COMPUTER CORP
Model : GTX 1050 TI 4GT OC
Packaged Quantity : 1
Product Line : MSI
Interfaces Type : DisplayPort
Type : DVI-D (dual link)
Type : HDMI
Color Category : Black, White
Compliant Standards : MIL-STD-810G
Power Consumption Operational : 75 Watt
Required Power Supply : 300 W
Bus Width : 128-bit
Installed Size : 4 GB
Memory Clock Speed : 7.008 GHz
Technology : GDDR5 SDRAM
API Supported : DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5
Boost Clock Speed : 1455 MHz
Clock Speed : 1341 MHz
Graphics Processor Manufacturer : NVIDIA
Graphics Processor Vendor : NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 TI
HDCP Compatible : Yes
Interface Type : PCI Express 3.0 x16
Max External Resolution : 7680 x 4320
Max Monitors Supported : 3
Output Ports (for SD) : DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI
Supported Video Signal : DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI
Alright, getting into this meaty post is going to be exciting! We are going to keep things simple in this helpful guide to your graphics card so you can fully understand the graphics card!
The first important thing we need to look at is, the size. It is the very first option we see and for a very good reason!
We need to know how big it is by using the dimensions to find out if it will fit in our computer case. Forcing it into the case isn’t a viable option as this card is around 200$ and throwing that kind of money away is madness.
Power Your Graphics Card Properly
So we got the dimensions, having a strong idea of how it will fit, let’s see what amount of wattage powers it.
If we scroll up slightly we can see it says, Power Consumption Operational : 75 Watt. Also, Required Power Supply : 300 W. Now these 2 are completely different even though they both focus on wattage for this specific hardware.
- The power consumption is only 75 watts but the required power supply is actually 300 watts. This just means the overall power needed is 300w where as the basic usage for 3d images on your device will consume up to 75w.That power won’t hinder your computer really unless you are using more power from the graphics card in which case you want to push your graphics card to the limit. So overall it should have a limit of 300w when pushed to its max.
- It is also good to note this is a good example as to why we look to obtain a power supply around 500-550w right under 600W. Having the power supply to support the full power of your GPU(graphics card) is important as things could like grim if you have less.
As we looked at the power supply in our previous post, helpful guide to your motherboard, we know we can have access to at least 500-550w of power.
So don’t fret as these things are already taken care of and we don’t need to worry too much about the power!
USB Ports(Peripherals) Your Graphics Card Uses
Next important thing to seek out is what kind of peripherals(USB ports) we have access too. As we can see in the above example, we have 3 types of ports. DVI-D(dual link), Display Port, and HDMI.
Each of these has a role to play when creating your computer “setup” or “build” as most call it.
- The DVI-D is a dual link that allows you to use a port that doesn’t take up an HDMI spot.The basic difference is that dual can support higher resolutions. The single link cables can be seen as having 8 pins missing, while the dual link use all 24 pins. As for the difference between DVI-D and HDMI, not much changes other than the DVI-D not transmitting audio. However, newer versions of the DVI-D in current graphics cards will transmit audio when connected to a DVI to HDMI cable or adapter.
Having a choice between dual and single link DVI-D cables is basically that the hardware from a single link cable supports up to 1,920×1,200 resolution while the dual link DVI supports 2,560×1,600. To put it simply, if you want a bigger monitor go with the dual link.
- The last port we have is the Display port. Again with no major differences over HDMI, the one key difference is if you want to run multiple monitors for your custom pc build. It will be more supportive of it as there are cords in which we can run multiple displays such as an HDMI splitter which holds usually 3-4 extra ports.
From my experience the difference doesn’t exist as it feels like the same output as an HDMI.
I use an HDMI port to run multiple screens on my computer, but for a basic point of view I would say this is more of a preference then anything.
Does your Graphics Card Support Multiple Monitors
Speaking of multiple screens, that leads me to the next point we should look at. How many monitors does the graphics card support.
If you are wanting to create a man cave, this is your most important feature to notice. You can create some very awesome custom pc builds having 3-4 screens.
- To find this out, simply go to the example above. Closer to the bottom of the specs it states, Max Monitors Supported : 3.
Easy right? That is all we need to do when we want to know how many monitors our graphics card of choice can support!
Those are the major things I wanted to cover for the graphics card, however we still have a few extras to look at that might throw us a curve ball. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on any information!
- One snippet we can look at is the max resolution that’s supported by this graphics card. 7680 x 4320 is great because this tells us we can easily run a 4k monitor for this graphics card. This just means that the amount of pixels supported on your monitor can be 4k. Could be great if you plan to build a man cave for that ultimate immersion.
High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection Compatibility port on the Graphics Card
Another small but interesting spec about this graphics card in particular is it it’s compatible with HDCP. HDCP(High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is a feature that was only recently added to the tech industry that help get rid of piracy such as movies, music, etc.
This means that you can’t steal from higher quality content and say its lower quality content.
What makes HDCP cutting edge is if you want to use HDMI to show display on others content, if that content is using HDCP there won’t be anything displaying on your side.
The reason is HDCP has an encryption process that checks if both ends are using HDCP to display that content.
A great example is if you want to watch the big game at a bar with multiple displays.
If that big game is being displayed using HDCP, you would need to have HDCP cables rather than HDMI to get the display to show otherwise, you are at the merci of old tech like satellite to get a display and only a certain amount depending on the provider of the content in the first place.
- Now we look to a smaller but potentially more important piece which is how we actually plug in our graphics card in.That is what the example above calls, interface type. An interface type is the way we know how the graphics card can plug into the motherboard to allow for the exchange of information. The two main types of interfaces are PCI Express and AGP. There are also ISA, PCI, and PCI-X interface types, but they are rare and outdated.
Graphics Card ClockSpeed
The last spec we need to look at is the clock speed and boost clock speed.
As we talked about in our article, What is a Processor?, we have a base clock speed that the hardware goes through the cycles to display information.
Essentially, overclocking a GPU increases its performance by enhancing the rate that the graphical processor works at.
All GPUs are set to run at a certain speed, called the base clock speed, but different cards usually have the potential to surpass the speed set by the manufacturer.
- As we can see up in the example, the base block speed is 1341 MHz(MegaHertz) while the boosted clock speed is 1455 MHz.
I just want to pat you all on the back for getting through another meaty article. It is awesome you guys want to know more about custom pc building and I’m excited to help with that. We have covered the main pieces of custom built pc’s from, motherboards, to processors, to finally graphics cards. I hope this has been a helpful guide to your Graphics Card.