Tech Blog

Do I Really Need A Video Card?

This is one of the most commonly asked computer questions and one that has multiple answers. In the end though, you can easily answer this yourself by spending 5-10 minutes learning a little more about video cards.

The large majority of computers today include something called an integrated graphics processor (IGP). The IGP is a small chip located on the motherboard which is responsible for processing video output. It’s usually powerful enough to display your desktop, browse the Internet, and run simple applications like Microsoft Word or Solitaire.

But what happens when you try to run more exhaustive programs like Adobe CS or high end games like Call of Duty or Diablo 3? Your computer SLOWS DOWN a lot. Either that, or the graphics look like crap. ( pardon the French )

A video card solves that problem by moving graphics processing off of the motherboard and onto a dedicated card. The video now has its own processor and memory, which means it no longer has to share resources with your CPU. This gives you an overall better performance.

Just like any other piece of hardware, video cards come with different amounts of power and different price tags. If you know which program or game you are trying to optimize, the best thing to do is to check the developer’s website for recommended specs.

Your safe bet is to just purchase a “good” card that will allow you to run 90% of the programs out there. I say “good” because it is a relative term. Less than 1% of people will need the latest and greatest video card. These flagship products are usually VERY EXPENSIVE and one of the first things that custom computer builders throw in. Their promises of ultimate power look awesome to the customer, thus allowing them to claim more profits on a more expensive card. Most of the time, the customer could have gotten away with something much more simple.

On the other hand, buying a very cheap graphics card is kind of pointless. Usually the price difference between a cheap and mid-grade card is not that much, and if you don’t want to spend the extra money, you should just stick with the integrated graphics on your motherboard and not get a card at all.

Still, there will be circumstances where people out there will NEED the ultimate card or get by just fine with the cheapo card. For the rest of us, choosing anything in between will work best.

With current mid-grade prices anywhere from $50 to $400, there are dozens of options out there. The best part is choosing the lucky winner. Happy shopping.