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 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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:
- NVIDIA GeForce Series: NVIDIA is a prominent manufacturer of GPUs, and the GeForce series is widely used for gaming and professional graphics work.
- AMD Radeon Series: AMD is another major player in the GPU market, and their Radeon series is popular for gaming and multimedia applications.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tesla and A100 GPUs from NVIDIA: These are examples of GPUs designed for high-performance computing and AI workloads.