GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

GPU or Graphics Processing Unit is also referred to as a Graphics Card or Video Card. It is used to render images, video, and animations for your display monitor or screen. GPU performs quick math calculations and frees up the CPU to do other things.

Whereas a CPU uses a few cores focused on sequential serial processing, a GPU has thousands of smaller cores made for multi-tasking.

A Graphics Card can cost anywhere from $50 on the very low end of the scale to over $1,500 for high-performance products.

There are two types of GPU: Integrated and Dedicated/Discrete.

Integrated GPU

Integrated GPU is built into the CPU and uses the same RAM to process graphical data as the CPU. Many computers that have minimal need for powerful graphical processing and are perfectly sufficient using Integrated GPU.

Dedicated/Discrete GPU

Dedicated/Discrete GPU are separate elements in the System Unit as seen in the photo gallery. Many high-end Graphics Cards use their own VRAM for video processing. This comes at a great cost but with great benefit as it dramatically increases computer performance for any form factors like Graphics/CAD/CAM Workstations, Audio/Video Workstations, Home Theatres, Gaming PCs, and even generic Thick Clients.

Because GPUs are processors, they require their own cooling systems that come in the form of attached fans. It is important that when installing a GPU on a Motherboard that there is enough space around the GPU for the fans to adequately cool the processor to prevent overheating.

Engine Clock Speed

When comparing GPUs from the same family, a higher base clock speed (that is, the speed at which the graphics core works) and more cores signify a faster GPU. The boost clock is the speed to which the graphics chip can accelerate temporarily when under load, as thermal conditions allow.

Onboard Memory

The amount of onboard video memory (“frame buffer”) is usually matched to the requirements of the games or programs that the card is designed to run.

Updating Graphics Cards

Most pre-built desktops these days have enough cooling capability to accept a new discrete GPU with no problems.

The first thing to do before buying or upgrading a GPU is to measure the inside of your chassis for the available card space.

Next, check your graphics card’s height. The card partners sometimes field their own card coolers that depart from the standard AMD and Nvidia reference designs. Make certain that if your chosen card has an elaborate cooler design, it’s not so tall that it keeps your case from closing.

Finally: the power supply unit (PSU). Your system needs to have a PSU that’s up to the task of giving a new card enough juice. This is something to be especially wary of if you’re putting a high-end video card in a pre-built PC that was equipped with a low-end card, or no card at all. Doubly so if it’s a budget-minded or business system; these PCs tend to have underpowered or minimally provisioned PSUs.

The two most important factors to be aware of here are the number of six-pin and eight-pin cables on your PSU, and the maximum wattage the PSU is rated for. Most modern systems, including those sold by OEMs like Dell, HP, and Lenovo, employ power supplies that include at least one six-pin power connector meant for a video card, and some have both a six-pin and an eight-pin connector. Midrange and high-end graphics cards will require a six-pin cable, an eight-pin cable, or some combination of the two to provide working power to the card. (The lowest-end cards draw all the power they need from the PCI Express slot.) Make sure you know what your card needs in terms of connectors.

Video Card Ports

Three kinds of port are common on the rear edge of a current graphics card: DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. Some systems and monitors still use DVI, but it’s the oldest of the three standards and is being phased out on many high-end cards here in 2019.


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