Selecting A Video Board

This very short article tries to put some sense into the nonsense of understanding terms and prices when buying hardware.

Due to the growing interest and public understanding in graphics cards, the market is virtually 'flooded' with hundreds of brands to choose from.

Before attempting to pick the vendor, one must decide what his needs (and desires) are, in terms of features and functionality.

Only then can one determine in what price range the wanted video board is.

With prices starting at under $150 and reaching $1500 (or even a few thousand $ for professional boards), there's a very wide range of options.

However, boards have improved so much over the last few years that entry-level products now provide all the features and performance needed for any (mainstream) application.

Though you can still buy ISA-bus video cards, the higher performance of local-bus video has made ISA obsolete. If your PC doesn't have VL-Bus or PCI slots, consider holding off on upgrading your video board until you can afford a new motherboard, too.

Though video boards are improving so fast that they sometimes become obsolete within six months of their introduction, there are three market segments with price ranges that stay relatively constant. Here's how they look currently:

Low-end video boards (under $200):
These are the boards that are typically bundled with new systems. These days they use a 32-bit accelerator chip and come with 1MB of VRAM, which lets them do 8-bit color at resolutions up to 1024x768, and 24-bit color at 640x480. Unless you have special needs, this is plenty.

Midrange video boards ($200-$400):
These boards are for people who have jumbo monitors or who occasionally need to do some real work in 24-bit color. Current midrange boards typically use 32- or 64-bit accelerator chips and come with 2MB of VRAM, which lets them do 8-bit color at 1280x1024 and 24-bit color at 800x600. (The cheaper end of this range includes some low-end boards configured with 2MB of VRAM.)

High-end video boards (over $400):
These are boards for graphics, DTP and CAD professionals, and aren't really worth the big bucks for anyone else. Get one with sufficient VRAM to run 24-bit color at the highest resolution you want to use (3MB for 1024x768, 4MB for 1280x1024, 6MB for 1600x1200), and make sure that the board supports any color correction software you use.

See also: Selecting the Video BUS

Photograph copyrights by Intel Corporation

Written and edited by UDI Latarre

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