Glossary:Graphics card

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Key points

Graphics cards (also called video cards) process game graphics and other related features.
Common manufacturers are Nvidia, AMD (formerly ATI) and Intel.

Dedicated versus integrated graphics[edit]

Graphics come in two forms, dedicated and integrated. On modern computers, both are capable of running games, but they differ greatly. Dedicated graphics have a distinct processor and their own memory (VRAM), and increase performance by taking the burden off of the CPU and RAM. They are actually separate cards that are added to a computer in most cases (laptops can have built-in dedicated graphics). Integrated graphics are hardwired into the CPU or motherboard, stopping the need for an additional card at the expense of performance. Usually memory is shared with the computer's RAM, with a small amount of dedicated video memory. In some cases, using an integrated graphics card will reduce available system memory, because of shared resources, causing another performance hit. Dedicated graphics typically out perform integrated graphics when used on comparable computers, although new advances in integrated graphics are catching up with their dedicated competitors.

The most well known and common integrated graphics system is made by Intel for use with their processors. AMD (formerly ATI) have integrated Radeon lines for AMD processors. AMD also have their line of APUs which boast performance far greater than any standalone CPU but far worse than most dedicated graphics cards; they provide a good option for low-budget PC gaming builds.

Some laptops include switchable graphics, having both an integrated chipset for basic computing and a dedicated GPU for gaming.

Switchable graphics[edit]

Some computers (usually laptops and tablets) pair integrated graphics with a dedicated graphics card and switch between them based on the current task.
Some games may not be detected for switching, requiring manual intervention.
One solution is to set the computer to always use the dedicated card when plugged in and the integrated graphics when running on battery.

Multiple GPUs[edit]

Some graphics cards can be used in tandem with up to 3 other graphics cards to boost the overall output of the cards. With Nvidia cards this technique is called SLI, with AMD/ATI cards it is called Crossfire. Nvidia's technology requires video cards that are exactly the same type (e.g. A GTX 760 and another GTX 760). AMD/ATIs technology requires cards from the same series (e.g. A HD7970 can be combined with a HD 7950).

Identifying your graphics card[edit]

Run dxdiag[citation needed]
  1. Run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool:
    • Vista and later: Open the Start screen/Start menu, type dxdiag and press Enter.
    • Windows XP: Press Win+R, type dxdiag and press Enter.
  2. Go to the Display tab. Your video card is listed there.

Overclocking[edit]

Overclocking is causing the GPU to run at speeds beyond what the manufacturer recommends. Overclocking can damage the GPU if performed improperly. If done properly however you can gain a 5-10% increase in performance. This may fluctuate depending on what kind of GPU you are overclocking. It is recommended to look online to see the "sweet spot" of overclocking your GPU.

Overclocking can be done through either Evga's Precision X or AMD's Afterburner software.

Please note that overclocking will probably void your warranty and that it increases the chance of a GPU malfunctioning. Overclocking is done at the risk of the user and is not recommended for novices.

GPU scaling[edit]

GPU scaling determines how non-native resolutions are displayed on your display.
Some TVs and other non-monitor displays may show black borders on widescreen resolutions. GPU scaling does not affect this; see Overscan for solutions.
GPU scaling is not available when using a VGA connection.
GPU scaling: Fullscreen / scaled
Fullscreen / scaled

In this mode the output stretches to fit the monitor, often with unwanted results (e.g. fat characters). Some non-widescreen games have a setting for use with this mode to make the stretched output have the correct widescreen aspect ratio.

GPU scaling: Maintain aspect ratio
Maintain aspect ratio

In this mode the output expands to the biggest size while retaining its original aspect ratio. The unused space is left black.

GPU scaling: Centered / no scaling
Centered / no scaling

In this mode the output displays at its original resolution. Graphics are sharp and have the correct aspect but the result may be very small depending on the resolution of the output and your monitor.

AMD/ATI[edit]

GPU scaling settings (AMD).png
Set GPU scaling[1]
You must first set the desktop to a non-native resolution otherwise the settings will be greyed out.
  1. Open the AMD Vision Engine Control Center or Catalyst Control Center (depending on your card).
  2. From the main view choose My Digital Flat Panels.
  3. Choose Properties for the display type.
  4. Choose Image scaling.
  5. Choose Enable GPU scaling.
  6. Choose the setting you want.
  7. Click Apply. Your screen may temporarily go black while the new mode is being applied.
  8. If the change did not work for a particular resolution set the desktop to that resolution and repeat the above.

NVIDIA[edit]

GPU scaling settings (NVIDIA latest).png
Set GPU scaling
NVIDIA Optimus GPU scaling is controlled by the Intel driver; see Intel for details.
Built-in scaling is not supported by some displays (e.g. laptops) so will be greyed out in those cases.
  1. Open the NVIDIA Control Panel.
  2. Open the Display section (if it is closed).
  3. Choose Adjust desktop size and position.
  4. Choose your display (if you have more than one).
  5. Choose the setting you want.

Intel[edit]

GPU scaling settings (Intel latest).jpg
Set GPU scaling[citation needed]
  1. Launch the Intel Graphics Control Panel.
  2. Choose Display Settings or General Settings (depending on the driver version).
  3. Change the Scaling or Display Expansion option accordingly (depending on the driver version).
  4. Click Apply.
On some older Intel drivers this setting is behind an Aspect Ratio Options button.


Overscan[edit]

Some TVs and other non-monitor displays will put black borders around the image.
Disable this in the display's settings if at all possible before trying Overscan since the result will be much better that way.

Glide Emulation[edit]

The 3Dfx Voodoo card was the first true 3d accelerated video card (prior cards simply increased the number and sizes of available display modes and/or increased the color depth available). It utilized it's own unique API known as Glide, which it's self was simply a subset of the OpenGL API. Unfortunately after their acquisition by nVidia, their Glide API was abandoned and nVidia did little to add support for it. Luckily you can still emulate it:

References

  1. How-To Enable and Configure GPU Scaling Feature