Graphic CardsMarch 20, 2008 – 8:23 AM
In many businesses today, graphics play an increasingly important role. TV, movie, and video game production companies are obvious examples of businesses which require high quality graphic cards to support their needs. Other, less obvious, examples require the same attention be paid to their graphic cards. Some of these businesses might be large industrial companies which require complex control and monitoring system. These systems are, more and more, incorporating complex graphics, charts, and video, which leads to the need for adequate graphic cards.
Other businesses are beginning develop a requirement for high performance graphic cards as well. This is due, in large part, to the growth in online meeting and collaboration tools. Whatever the business your network enables it is important for the network administrator to have a good understanding of graphic cards. Even if the business does not fall into any of the categories I’ve mentioned above, it is important to be knowledgeable of graphic cards so that you will purchase the equipment suitable for your network.
The advantage a graphic card gives your computer is that the processing of all graphics happen off of the motherboard. Many motherboards do have a built in capability to handle two dimensional images. This is sufficient for web-browsing and creating documents and is probably adequate for many business needs. Some businesses require more.
Moving the processing of graphics off of the motherboard requires a separate printed circuit board which connects to the motherboard. The graphics printed circuit board (at what point does it become a graphics card?) connects to the motherboard in the same way as I described in a previous article titled, Memory and Storage – Part 3: Bus Specifications.
To make this printed circuit board a graphics card we need a few things. Most importantly we need a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). The GPU is very much like the computer’s CPU except that is optimized for the mathematical operations commonly seen while processing graphics. This optimization is the main difference between many GPUs on the market. To be honest, only the most demanding graphics needs would require you to pay much attention to these differences. Simply having the graphics processed in a GPU which has been optimized at all will most likely give you all that is needed.
Another element required by graphics cards is memory. The GPU uses this memory to temporarily store information it needs to process the graphics in an efficient manner. This memory can also be used as a buffer to store images which need to be displayed soon. The amount, and type, of memory used by the graphics card is important. To read about the right memory that can provide performance improvements, see my previous articles titled, Memory and Storage.
A graphics card also needs a way to connect to the monitor. Most graphic cards have a RAMDAC. The RAMDAC is a dedicated Digital to Analog (DAC) for the RAM to connect to an analog monitor like the traditional CRT monitors. The RAMDAC, as its name implies, converts the digital information into an analog signal. Some graphic cards may even have multiple RAMDACs which allow the card to support multiple monitors.