If you are creating a gaming system it is very important to have a good video card. For most other applications, it really does not matter as much. For general use computing, a good video card can be had for around $40. High-end gaming cards can run as high as $400(USD)-$600(USD). It is also possible to install more than one video card. This allows you to run two displays. You can also buy two video cards to enhance the 3-d rendering rate for a really high-end video game system.
There are many different companies that sell video cards. However, almost all video cards are based on either one of two chipsets.
I would very much suggest buying a video card that is based on either NVidia or ATI. Within both the NVidia and ATI chipsets there are many different cards depending on how much ram and how advanced of rendering you need. The more expensive cards will greatly enhance game play. New cards are introduced all the time.
There are several different ways a video card will interface to your motherboard. It is important that your motherboard supports the same type of interface that your video card does. These are not interchangeable. The following interface types are common.
These are summarized in table 1-6.
Table 1-6: Common video card types
|PCI||Useful for adding a second video card. However, PCI as a primary card is virtually useless for ANY video game.|
|AGP||The current common video interface format. Will be replaced by PCI Express.|
|PCI Express (x1)||The single-lane version of PCI express. Can be used by low-end video cards.|
|PCI Express (x16)||The 16-lane version of PCI express. Used by many video cards.|
If you are going to use only one display I would suggest going with PCI Express or AGP. The cost difference between PCI Express and AGP is minimal, so it will likely be dictated by what your motherboard supports.
It is also possible to have two displays setup to the same computer. This is done by installing either an AGP and a PCI card, or a higher-end card that has two video outputs. Dual display support is discussed further in Chapter 5 and Chapter 9.
A video card will be hooked to a monitor or LCD display. There are three common output formats for the display to talk to one of these devices.
Figure 1-4 shows all three output types.
Figure 1-4: VGA, S-Video and DVI
The first port is a standard VGA port, the second is an s-video and the third is a DVI port. It is important that your display device match one of the ports on your video cards. Most video cards that only include a DVI output will also include a small VGA adapter, but this is not always the case, so make sure you see VGA support listed if you need VGA support.
If you are using a LCD display you should try to use DVI for optimal performance. However, most LCD displays work just fine using VGA as well.
Some video cards also offer two DVI ports. This allows you to control two display devices at once. Figure 1-5 shows a card with dual DVI.
Figure 1-5: A Dual DVI video card
This allows you to have two displays hooked to the same computer.