Learning About Graphics Cards

Graphics cards or graphics processing units (GPU) are responsible for image rendering on computers. A GPU frees up the processor or central processing unit (CPU) for regular computation tasks. Dedicated GPUs are more powerful than integrated graphics cards. They're also faster and have more memory. Computers used for gaming, graphic design, and running resource-intensive enterprise software need dedicated GPUs for smooth performance.


How Much Memory Do I Need in a Gaming Graphics Card?

While an integrated GPU uses part of a computer system's RAM, a dedicated graphics card has its own memory. The ideal amount of GPU memory needed depends on what you do with your computer. The rule of thumb is that the GPU RAM should be at least half of the system memory. For regular workloads such as casual computing and light gaming, look for graphics display cards with video RAM of 1GB or 2GB. Choose a card with twice the video RAM to play premium PC games.

GPUs with 4GB of RAM are suitable for VR and 3D gaming, as well as editing multimedia files such as RAW images and 4K videos.


Do Servers Need Graphics Cards?

Some servers do. Those equipped with processors and no integrated video cards need dedicated server GPU graphics cards. Servers powered by CPUs with integrated graphics may also need dedicated GPUs, if they're doing server-side rendering for remote users. Such GPU render farms are prominent components of online gaming infrastructures.

Another reason to get a server graphics card is to use it as a GPGPU (general-purpose graphics processing unit). A GPGPU doesn't do graphics rendering; rather, it supplements the CPU in a server by taking up tedious computational tasks. Graphics cards have more processing cores than CPUs. This advantage makes them better suited for parallel computing. GPU offloading frees up server processors for sequential computing tasks and makes servers faster and more energy efficient.


Types of GPU Coolers

NVIDIA graphics cards get hot under heavy load and require cooling to keep them functioning at peak levels. GPU manufacturers such as NVIDIA and AMD usually supply single-fan desktop or laptop graphics cards that use air blowers for cooling. They create negative airflow by sucking cool air from the front and venting hot air out of the rear. While these are efficient, there are other types of GPU coolers.

Most aftermarket video cards employ open-air cooling. These coolers use multiple fans to pull cold air onto heat sinks that cool GPUs and then vent hot air in all directions. An all-in-one GPU cooler lowers temperature by using a closed-loop design that vents heat through an external radiator. Lastly, there are liquid-cooled GPUs. These transfer heat to flowing water or coolant.

Graphics cards help computers render high-definition images and videos smoothly. Find the right internal or external graphics cards for your PC as well as a wide selection of graphics display card accessories at B&H Photo and Video.