Inside your computer’s CPU lies a tiny piece of hardware that has the potential to shake up an entire civilization.
We’re talking, of course, about the Graphics Card that entails the processing agency of every computer. Also known as the GPU, a graphics card is an essential component of any machine to display outputs.
Here, we will try to understand GPUs better, find out what they do, and decipher whether you need to install one on your PC. Let’s dive in!
What is a graphics card, and what does it do?
A graphics card is a crucial component of every computer’s processing unit. It is a piece of hardware that lies near the motherboard and handles the process of showing the output to the user.
Any task given to the computer cannot be completed without the work of the GPU. In addition, it is responsible for producing all images that you see on your monitor. Thus, it plays a vital role in the inventory of visual content designers, gamers, etc.
Graphics cards, or graphics processing units, are no different from a translator. They are in charge of taking the output generated by the CPU, translating it so that the display peripheral understands what is to be done, and then displaying it on the screen. All output has to pass through the GPU so that it shows up on your monitor.
Fundamentally speaking, a GPU creates additional graphics-related memory inside your CPU. That memory might be temporary, but it lies separate from the RAM on the motherboard.
GPUs also enable your PC to handle better graphics. Users will experience better picture quality with better GPUs. Additionally, GPUs make the machine more robust, increasing its potential and doing more work.
To answer the titular question in this article, yes, your computer always needs a graphics card to function. In fact, every manufactured machine comes with some kind of graphics processing unit built into it.
You would simply not see anything on the monitor if your graphics card was absent. However, two fundamental types of GPUs can be used in a computer – integrated or dedicated. Both types have different abilities and are suited for vastly different tasks. So let’s look at what each of their specialties is.
As the name suggests, integrated GPUs are an all-inclusive aspect of most modern CPUs. Most computers manufactured today have an integrated graphics card inside their CPUs.
These integrated GPUs are either located on the motherboard or inside the CPU itself.
The process of including a graphics card in a CPU for retail has become an industry norm today. The GPU that most computer manufacturers sell is arguably not the best one available in the market, but it has been designed and built to cater to the PC’s needs.
The primary advantage of an integrated GPU is that users do not need any extra hardware in their PC to see an image on the screen.
The integrated GPU is built to do just that. Initially, manufacturers started placing the GPU on the chipset itself. That meant that the processor had added weight and processing power. In addition, it meant that if you bought a motherboard, you would essentially get a new GPU for your computer.
Later, these manufacturers started including the GPU inside the CPU but not precisely on the chipset. That way, the distance between the two processors – CPU and GPU – became negligible, allowing faster clock speeds and increased efficiency.
Integrated GPUs are easy to use. You do not need a degree in electronics to make the proper connections and get images on your screen. Every pre-assembled PC you buy from a retailer contains an integrated GPU.
On the other hand, if you are building a PC on your own using various hardware, you only need to get your hands on a motherboard and a CPU.
With these two devices, you will have a place to plug in your monitor and begin the journey of visual delight. You can connect the GPU to your display screen using various plugs – VGA, DVI, etc. VGA connections have been out of the limelight for a long time now. However, HDMI has swiftly taken over the helm.
Most computers across the globe use integrated GPUs because they are very miserly when it comes to using power. They do their job while using no extra power. If you try to calculate how much power integrated GPUs use, you will find that they use very little power beyond what the CPU does initially.
That attribute of GPUs has led to them becoming a common phenomenon across the globe. Since they are that common, users seldom run into compatibility issues with integrated GPUs and their drivers.
Like we said before, if you purchase a pre-assembled Windows PC from a trustable retailer, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to GPUs. They have received the “easy-to-use” moniker thanks to all the attributes mentioned above.
“Faster, higher, stronger” might be the motto for the Olympics, but it can easily be the idea behind making Dedicated GPUs. These are special, uniquely built processors that allow your PC to go to insane display heights. Higher graphics processing speeds are the USP for dedicated GPUs.
Making full use of these wildfire speeds, dedicated GPUs can allow users to indulge in playing high-quality games or work on crucial visual content.
As the name suggests, dedicated GPUs are specialized pieces of hardware that exclusively handle graphic processing. They do not mingle with the CPU directly. You must have heard someone say that they intend to purchase a new “graphics card” or “video card.”
The card they are talking about is a dedicated GPU. Dedicated GPUs give your PC faster processing speeds than those offered by any stock integrated GPUs. They can pull that feat off using their pioneering graphics RAM, a memory system that specializes in processing video of any kind.
A dedicated GPU will enable users to run heavy, state-of-the-art software on their PC and make the process of running mundane software that much smoother. For example, using a dedicated GPU, you may be able to run Photoshop much faster than you would have with an integrated GPU.
Because the advent of dedicated GPUs has been a recent phenomenon, they allow users to connect the monitor to the graphics card in more ways than one. For example, while an integrated GPU might give users the option of a VGA or DVI port, a dedicated GPU will have an HDMI port.
Some top-end GPUs might also feature multiple ports that will allow you to connect two monitors at once. You will also realize that users who need multiple monitors generally work with cumbersome software. Dedicated GPUs cater to the needs of these very people and make their processes smoother and faster.
Dedicated GPUs need a particular slot in your CPU. Most modern-day GPUs, generally manufactured by Nvidia or AMD, are compatible with an external PCI-Express x16 slot in your PC. In addition to the slot, dedicated GPUs need an adequate power supply and the necessary power connectors.
Since dedicated GPUs use more power than integrated ones, they also heat up more.
You will notice that most dedicated GPUs have specially designed fans for cooling the setup down when it heats up too much. Sometimes, users may have to make upgrades or adjustments to other hardware to make room for dedicated GPUs and their required airflow.
Should you buy a dedicated graphics card?
Whether you buy a dedicated graphics card or not depends on how powerful your PC is and whether you need its services. If you are looking to work around considerably heavy software, you might want to upgrade to a dedicated GPU.
Gamers, visual content designers, sound studio producers, video editors, etc., always need the extra push in their systems. They cannot survive without using heavy software and consequently need to use top-notch dedicated GPUs.
On the contrary, if you are looking to use a PC only to draft documents, use essential software, and basic computational tasks, then you can survive with ease on a stock integrated GPU system. That is the very purpose of every integrated GPU – to be adequate for average users.
You may not be able to run the latest trending game on your PC using integrated GPUs, but they will support all your MS Office tasks with ease and grace.
Dedicated GPUs cost a lot. For example, a mid-range GPU made by Nvidia or AMD may cost upwards of USD 200. That is a considerable investment to make if you aren’t planning on using it regularly.
Users should also know their PCs well before making upgrades to dedicated GPUs. Entry-level models of laptops and desktops are not equipped to handle the power consumption numbers of high-end GPUs. So unless you want it bursting into flames, triangulate the capacity of your PC before upgrading to dedicated GPUs.
Every PC contains a graphics card. All computers need some hardware to push the output onto their screens, and graphics cards do the job well. They are designed to translate the output coming from the CPU into language compatible with the output peripherals.
Your PC can either have an integrated GPU or a dedicated GPU. Both these types function differently and are designed to sustain different kinds of work.
You can effectively choose the right type of GPU for your PC by analyzing your processing speeds with an existing GPU. If you are not satisfied with the results, you can always upgrade.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.