How to Compare Video Card Performance: 5 Steps - MakeSureHow
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Comparing video cards is not unlike comparing fine wine or poetry. The opinions of the experts start from an objective evaluation, and then quickly move into the realm of subjectivity. Video cards have objective specifications such as the speed of the processor, number of chips and calculations per second, but when real-world performance is considered, the results depend as much on the person viewing them as the hardware in the computer.


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    Performance Overview: Graphics cards are essentially miniature computers within the larger system. They have a processor and memory that connect to the main computer. The performance of the graphics processing unit, the video memory and the connection to the main computer all affect how well the card will perform. Graphics card GPUs, like computer CPUs, handle the heavy lifting. Typically GPUs with a high speed rating and cards with more GPUs will perform better than those with a lower speed and fewer GPUs. Most video cards, though not all, will have dedicated RAM, and typically the more RAM the better the performance. Video cards that can communicate more quickly with the main computer can process data more quickly.
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    GPUs: According to Videocard Benchmarks, the top three producers of video cards are Nvidia, ATI/AMD and Intel. Among those, Intel most often makes integrated video cards. Both AMD and Nvidia use various methods to create GPUs and connect them with the computer. The first thing to look at is the clock speed of the GPU. This number, measured in megahertz, describes the number of power cycles per second. Modern GPUs also use virtual cores; Nvidia calls this CUDA and AMD refers to stream processors. These are discreet processes that can run in parallel on the processor. So every clock cycle, each core can process its own information. Finally, the GPUs improve in basic operation over time. Microsoft's DirectX software determines many of the features available, and the more modern graphics cards are able to use the latest version of DirectX. For example, a video card that is fully compatible with DirectX 11 will perform better than one that only supports DirectX 9.
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    Memory: Dedicated video memory can have a significant impact on the performance of a video card, or it might make very little difference. The memory is used to store information that the GPUs are working with. When the graphics being rendered requires a great deal of information, more memory is a boon. When running 3-D games, for example, you will see a noticeable benefit from video card memory. The memory size, speed and bandwidth all combine to affect the performance. The memory size, measured in bytes, determines the space available for data at one time. The speed of the memory determines how quickly new data can be loaded into the memory, and the bandwidth indicates how much data can pass through the memory to the processor. In general, the memory bandwidth has the greatest correlation with performance of any specification.
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    Connections: Once the video card has processed the graphics, it needs to communicate that information to the main computer as quickly as possible. The connection between the card and the motherboard determines how quickly that communication can happen and affects the performance of the card as it interacts with the other computer systems. The PCI Express specification determines how quickly the information can travel between the video card and the motherboard. The higher the PCIe level, the faster the data can move. The motherboard is backward compatible with earlier specifications, but the system can only operate at the lowest speed level, so if you have a motherboard with a PCIe 3.0 slot, the video card can only perform at the PCIe 3.0 speed -- or lower if the card is only rated for the PCIe 2 or 1 specification. PCIe slots can have up to 16 lanes of data throughput, so a PCIe x16 configuration will transmit more data than a PCIe x8 or x2 setup
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    Benchmarks: Translating all of the hardware specifications into real-world performance can be difficult. To provide some sort of comparison, many organizations have developed benchmarks that run video cards through a variety of tests to determine the performance. Windows has a built-in benchmark known as the Windows Experience Index, which can provide some basic information on current performance. If the graphics scores are not the lowest ratings, there may not be any real-world performance increase from a new graphics card. Since benchmark programs are designed to stress-test video cards, the differences between a benchmark and the way a computer is used in the real world might make it appear that the benchmark is inaccurate. To combat any bias due to one benchmark, it's a good idea to use several ratings to more accurately compare performance. Videocard Benchmarks, Hardware Compare, GPU Review and Graphics Card Benchmarks provide ample, up-to-date benchmarks to compare (see in Resources)

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Categories: Computers and Electronics

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