Video cards are what allow you to display images on your screen. What happens is a graphically intensive program, say a video game will send the graphical equations to the CPU, these equations are very complex, and with the CPU running a hundred other different things the computer/ program will slow down since the CPU is trying to deal with these graphical equations. So now with all of our extremely pretty video games, we must have a graphics card to solve all the complex graphic equations, taking a heavy load off of the CPU. With a graphics card, the CPU simply sends the equations to the graphics card for it to handle. Like the CPU there are 4 main things in determining a Graphic cardís speed.
The core: The core of a video card is very similar to that of a regular CPU. It takes equations, and solves them. However the answers to these equations are pixels, which are displayed on the screen. The cores of most modern video cards run around 400-600+ Mhz: This time though the faster the core, the generally faster the card, you donít have to worry about the architecture or any of that, just simply the frequency.
The pixel pipeline: After the core is finished with an equation, it sends the result of the equation, a pixel, down the pixel pipeline. Here textures, lighting effects, shadows, colors, ect. Are added to the pixel, and then displayed on screen. In most cases the more pixel pipelines, the better since the pixel pipelines usually determine the graphical power of a card. For instance a card with a 400Mhz core and 12 pixel pipelines is better then a card with a 500mhz core and only 8 pixel pipelines. Most graphics cards that are decent have around 12-24 pixel pipelines. One thing that you should keep in mind is that graphic card creator ATI uses less pixel pipelines, but more shaders per pipeline. If you where to look at an ATI cardís spec sheet it may say 16 pixel pipelines (48 shaders). What this means is that while the card has less pixel pipelines, it can pretty much do more with the pixels that are coming down the pipelines. However a card with 24 pipelines can perform closely to that of an ATI with 16 pipelines and 48 shaders. In general the more pixel pipelines the better image quality you will receive. Newer cards use Stream Processors, which are very similar to pixel pipelines. The same rule follows for these cards as well, as the more Stream Processors the better.
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