Video Accelerator Card | Graphics Card

The video accelerator card, also known as a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) or graphics card serves as a link between the processor and the display monitor, which is responsible for what we see on the screen.

Traditional Video Card Role:

  • A regular video card translates the processor’s output into a format that the monitor can show, simply handling the translation task.

Limitations of Older Cards:

  • Older video cards solely transferred what the processor created to the monitor, leaving the decision of what to display to the processor.
  • In graphical operating systems like Windows, constant screen data movement by the CPU, such as handling windows, drawing boxes, and managing cursors, led to performance issues and slowdowns.

Graphics Accelerator:

  • Graphics accelerators, a type of video adapter, have their own processors to enhance performance.
  • These specialized processors excel in graphical tasks, surpassing the capabilities of the computer’s general-purpose CPU.
  • Graphics accelerators not only enhance results but also relieve the computer’s CPU from graphical computations.
  • This allows the CPU to handle other commands concurrently, preventing slowdowns.
  • The increasing use of graphical and multimedia applications has transformed graphics accelerators from a common enhancement to a vital component in modern computers.
  • Many computer manufacturers now include graphics accelerators in their mid-range and high-end systems as a standard feature.

Different Components of Video Accelerator Card

All video display adapters contain certain basic components, such as the following:

■ Video BIOS.

■ Video processor/video accelerator.

■ Video memory.

■ Digital-to-analog converter (DAC)

■ Bus connector.

■ Video driver.

block diagram of video accelerator card, block diagram of graphics card, gpu
Figure: Basic block diagram of a video accelerator card

Video BIOS:

  • Video adapters have a separate BIOS, similar to the main system BIOS.
  • The video BIOS, stored in a ROM chip, connects the video adapter hardware to the system software.
  • It displays information during system startup and can be upgraded like the main system BIOS.

Video Processor:

  • The video processor, or chipset, is crucial for a video adapter, defining its functions and performance.
  • Adapters with the same chipset share similar capabilities and performance.
  • Software drivers are tailored to the chipset, and drivers for one chipset can often work on others with the same chipset.

Video RAM:

  • Video adapters typically use onboard memory to process and store images.
  • While AGP allows system memory use, modern cards come with sufficient onboard memory.
  • Some low-cost systems use Universal Memory Architecture (UMA) to share system memory.

Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC):

  • The DAC (or RAMDAC) converts digital images to analog signals for the monitor.
  • RAMDAC speed (measured in MHz) affects the adapter’s refresh rate.
  • Though newer chipsets incorporate DAC into the video processor, it remains essential for systems with analog components.


  • Obsolete bus standards like MCA, ISA, EISA, and VL-Bus are replaced by PCI, AGP, or PCI-Express for better performance.

Video Driver:

  • Drivers facilitate communication between software and the video adapter.
  • Well-designed drivers are crucial for optimal video performance, regardless of hardware capabilities.
  • Video adapters come with drivers from the manufacturer to support the adapter’s processor.

Examples of Graphics Card

Some well-known examples include:

  1. NVIDIA GeForce Series: NVIDIA is a prominent manufacturer of GPUs, and the GeForce series is widely used for gaming and professional graphics work.
  2. AMD Radeon Series: AMD is another major player in the GPU market, and their Radeon series is popular for gaming and multimedia applications.
  3. Intel Xe Graphics: Intel has been developing integrated graphics solutions for a long time, but they have also entered the dedicated GPU market with the Intel Xe Graphics.
  4. NVIDIA Quadro Series: NVIDIA’s Quadro series is designed for professional use, particularly in fields like content creation, CAD (Computer-Aided Design), and scientific simulations.
  5. AMD FirePro/Radeon Pro Series: AMD’s professional-grade GPUs, such as the FirePro and Radeon Pro series, are tailored for workstation use, offering high performance for content creation and design.
  6. Tesla and A100 GPUs from NVIDIA: These are examples of GPUs designed for high-performance computing and AI workloads.

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