What Is a Graphics Card and How Does It Work?

Your laptop has many elements inside its case, every accountable for a special perform. When you opened up your PC case proper now, you’d probably discover a motherboard, a CPU, some RAM, and a storage drive. Then, in some computer systems, you’d additionally discover a graphics card, the little bit of {hardware} accountable for creating pictures in your display screen.

The graphics processing unit (GPU) is an important piece of {hardware}. With out it, you would not have the ability to play video games, watch films, and even flick by a Powerpoint presentation. So, what’s a graphics card, and does it truly work?

What Is a Graphics Card?

So, when somebody says “graphics card,” they’re referring to the GPU—the graphics processing unit. Just like the motherboard in your laptop, the graphics card can be a printed circuit board. It comes with a particular set of directions to comply with, and relating to standalone (referred to as discreet) GPUs, it’s going to additionally include followers, onboard RAM, its personal reminiscence controller, BIOS, and different options.

nvidia gtx 1080ti graphics cards

Whereas graphics playing cards can are available all totally different sizes and styles, there are two principal sorts:

  • Built-in: An built-in GPU is constructed straight into the identical housing because the CPU or an SoC. The overwhelming majority of Intel CPUs include built-in graphics, although it is a bit hit or miss with AMD’s CPUs. Built-in graphics are helpful for some modest gaming, net searching, electronic mail, and probably watching movies. They’re additionally much less power-hungry than a discreet GPU.
  • Discreet: A discreet GPU is one separate from the CPU, added to an enlargement slot discovered on the motherboard. A discreet GPU will ship extra energy than an built-in GPU and can be utilized for high-level gaming, video enhancing, 3D mannequin rendering, and different computationally intensive duties. Some fashionable GPUs require a whole lot of watts to run.


A contemporary, discreet GPU will sometimes outperform an built-in GPU, however you do need to take CPU and GPU generations into consideration. When you’re evaluating {hardware} produced in the identical period, the discreet GPU will win out. It merely has extra processing energy and extra cooling obtainable to course of advanced duties.

What Elements Does a Graphics Card Have?

io shield inputs graphics card

Particular {hardware} varies between graphic card fashions, however most fashionable, discreet GPUs have the next elements:

  • GPU: The GPU is an precise {hardware} element, much like a CPU
  • Reminiscence: Also referred to as VRAM, the graphics card comes with devoted reminiscence to help operations
  • Interface: Most GPUs use PCI Specific, discovered on the backside of the cardboard
  • Outputs: You may discover numerous video outputs, typically comprising HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, or VGA
  • Followers/Warmth Sink: All GPUs include followers and a warmth sink to assist dissipate warmth build-up throughout utilization
  • Energy Connectors: Trendy GPUs require a six or eight-pin energy connector, generally even requiring two or three
  • BIOS: The GPU BIOS holds preliminary setup and program data, retaining information on voltages, reminiscence, and extra while you energy down your machine

How Does a Graphics Card Work?

A graphics card is primarily accountable for rendering pictures on a show, be that photographs, movies, video games, paperwork, your common desktop setting, a file folder, and anything. All of these items, from duties that require great computing energy, like a online game, to one thing we deem “easy” like opening a brand new textual content doc all require using a graphics card.

Increasing on this a bit of, your graphics card maps the directions issued by the opposite applications in your laptop into a visible rendering in your display screen. However, a contemporary graphics card is able to processing an outstanding variety of directions concurrently, drawing and redrawing pictures tens and even a whole lot of instances each second to make sure no matter you are , no matter duties you are trying to finish stays clean.

So, the CPU sends data relating to what wants to seem on display screen to the graphics card. In flip, the graphics card takes these directions and runs them by its personal processing unit, quickly updating its onboard reminiscence (referred to as VRAM) as to which pixels on the display screen want altering and the way. This data then whizzes out of your graphics card to your monitor (by way of a cable, after all), the place the pictures, strains, textures, lighting, shading, and every part else modifications.

If finished nicely, and the graphics card and different laptop elements aren’t pushed to carry out actions exterior their capabilities, it appears to be like like magic. The above description could be very, very fundamental. There may be much more happening below the floor, however that is a tough overview of how a graphics card works.

Who Makes Graphics Playing cards?

There are two massive names relating to graphics playing cards: AMD and Nvidia. These two GPU powerhouses have dominated the marketplace for a long time, and though CPU big Intel is getting into the sector with its Arc Alchemist graphics playing cards, the names ringing out are AMD and Nvidia. Now, technically, AMD and Nvidia do not “make” graphics playing cards. They design them, then ship them to a chip foundry for manufacturing, or license their designs to different manufacturers like MSI, ASUS, Zotac, Palit, and so forth, who do the identical.

nvidida rtx graphics card in case

However, we do not wish to quibble, so let’s follow speaking about AMD and Nvidia. When you open an internet site at this time and try to purchase a brand new graphics card, you will find yourself with a design from one in all these two. This begs the query, does it actually matter which GPU you purchase?

Tips on how to Select a Graphics Card

On the time of writing, the world remains to be rising from the worldwide chip scarcity that contributed to GPU (and different PC {hardware}) costs rocketing. However as costs slowly start to fall again to respectable ranges (do not maintain your breath!), you would possibly surprise the way you go about selecting a graphics card on your machine.

There are some things to take into consideration:

  • Worth: The price of a brand new graphics card is at all times going to come back in the beginning. What’s your finances for a brand new GPU? Ignoring the inflated costs, you are still $500 for an Nvidia RTX 3070 or $580 for an AMD RX 6800 XT. These are mid-to-high finish GPUs from the most recent technology.
  • Availability: The provision of your most popular GPU may even have a think about your buying determination.
  • Specs: Determine if it’s worthwhile to splash a heap of money on a high-end GPU or if an entry-level, extra budget-friendly mannequin will do the job. Put it this fashion—if you happen to’re planning on checking your emails, hitting up your social media, and watching YouTube, you in all probability need not drop a thousand bucks on a high-end mannequin. However if you wish to play video games in 1440p and even 4K, it is best to undoubtedly think about a top-end mannequin.
  • Compatibility: Ensure that any potential GPU is suitable along with your {hardware}. Does it match into your motherboard with the opposite elements? Do you will have sufficient energy connectors? Are you about to introduce a large bottleneck to your system?

Everybody Wants a Graphics Card

Keep in mind, graphics playing cards and GPUs aren’t restricted to desktop computer systems. They’re present in your smartphone, your pill, your smartwatch, your PS5, your Xbox Collection X, and every part else that shows a visible interface. The expertise is not at all times as superior, however every part with a display screen wants a strategy to present you data. Now you already know the place it comes from.

Black graphics card with two fans, on a wooden table, with red and blue lighting
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