Bob, this could a short answer: If you are not a gamer, it almost doesn?t matter what you get, almost all video solutions (including integrated ?chipset? video with ?shared memory?) will meet all of your needs. Personally, I would recommend that you get a card that has a DVI-I output (digital output for an LCD display with digital input; any card with DVI-I will also support a display using a conventional analog 15-pin VGA interface). But even that is now commonplace and found in many if not most cards, even low-end cards. So your options are wide open and there is no need to spend a lot of money on a premium card for your planned use of the card and your computer.
Now for a bit more detail:
Display adapters (video cards) work in 2D mode and 3D mode, and these don?t necessarily mean what many people think that they mean.
In 2D mode, the card displays images presented to it as bitmaps by the programs you are running (even if the image is a 3D image). Basically, the program says to the video card ?display these pixels? and gives the graphics card the list of the exact pixels to be displayed at every point on the screen. The display just puts them up on the screen.
In 3D mode, however, the video card itself (rather than the program you are running) actually generates the image (the pixels). The program says ?I want a sphere of this size on the screen at this location with this shading and this texture?, but the 3D video card, not the program, actually generates the pixels that you see on the screen. The video card is now a much more active (and performance determining) component of the system, because the video card, rather than the program, is actually generating the pixels that you see displayed on the screen (although it?s doing it from very specific ?blueprint? supplied by the program).
We have long ago passed the point at which there is any significant difference in performance between any currently manufactured video cards running in 2D modes. And ALL of the applications that you listed ? even Photoshop and video/TV ? are 2D applications.
So you can pretty much do whatever you want and go with a relatively inexpensive video card, because the primary 3D applications are video action gaming and CAD / computer modeling, and you didn?t list either of those as a major use of your computer.
I do want to make one other point, however: Windows Vista comes out next year, and one of Vista?s major ?eye candy? features will be the ?Aero? user. Aero is optional, Vista will run without it if the user wants to turn it off or if the video card doesn?t support it, but if you are building a new computer at this point, you don?t want to build one that won?t at least be capable of running Vista with Aero. And Aero itself requires 3D capabilities, although as 3D apps go, it is not performance intensive. So make sure that you get a video card that will be capable of running Aero. This isn?t difficult, and it?s likely that almost any card in current production and using a current ATI or NVidia video chip will support Aero. The major technical requirements are a minimum of 128MB of memory and support for ?Pixel Shader 2?, but someone has to write a Windows Vista Aero driver for your video card and it?s video chip, and there are a number of cards out there which would be Aero capable but for which no driver exists or is currently planned to exist.
[With regard to shared memory chipset video, note that systems using Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950 will run Aero, while those using the earlier GMA 900 currently will not run Aero. GMA 900 is one of the cases of hardware that is apparently Aero capable but for which there just is no driver. In fact, the Microsoft Windows Vista Advisor originally said (based on actual analysis of the hardware capabilities) that GMA 900 WOULD run Aero. But neither Intel nor Microsoft has committed to writing an Aero driver to support GMA 900, and this is a real sore point with me. There are tens of millions, perhaps even a hundred million computers, many even manufactured in 2006, that use GMA 900, including many, many laptops from all of the major laptop vendors (Toshiba, Dell, HP, Sony ?..). Yet because neither Intel nor Microsoft will write the necessary driver, owners of these systems may be out of luck as far as Aero is concerned.]
Now, all that said, let me point you to an excellent review of video cards that came out a couple of months ago, it can be found here:
The article says it?s a review of gaming cards but, in fact it?s just a good review of video cards in general, and you won?t go wrong if you get any of the cards that were well regarded in their particular price range. And for your purposes, the best of the low-end cards (in the $100 range) would be just fine.
Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, Ohio
Well Bob, from the list of applications you mainly use, you may even get away without a graphics card at all!!
Many motherboards now come with integrated graphics built in them nowadays. If you are not a gamer or into 3D rendering, then you night get away with going for integrated graphics. The last time I had a system with integrated graphics, the motherboard had a standard SVGA port on the back. I'm not 100% sure how they ship now, but I suspect that they may have DVI ports for TFT monitors. If like me you are running a good old CRT there are adapters available to convert DVI into SVGA. This is something you will need to double check regardless of whether you go for integrated graphics, or an add in card.
If you may run games occasionally, then you really need a graphics card to get decent performance and graphics from your machine. These come in two flavours: PCI-E and AGP. AGP is becoming dated now, and PCI-E is the new standard. You will need to double check the motherboard specifications just to make sure you buy the correct card. All the new motherboards I have seen are PCI-E, but its just something to double check to save frustration at the assembly stage of your new machine.
Right, you should now know whether you need a card or not, and which interface you require. Next question is RED (ATi) or Green (nVidia)? Really doesn't matter too much for middle of the road cards, but you may have a personal preference. The current market cards are fairly evenly matched on performance, and each company is taking turns at "mine is faster than yours". This is only really with the top end enthusiast cards, and the difference is not noticeable in normal use. Both companies are producing excellent cards that run games at a high FPS (frames per second). Once over about 75 fps, you really can't tell them apart by eye anyway. Another consideration is Croosfire (ATi) and SLI (nVidia). These systems are again aimed at enthusiasts, so unless you need a future proof setup, you can really overlook these. They are both setups with more than one graphics card for super high performance. If you do want either though, this limits your motherboard selections. There are quite a lot of mobos that support crossfire (ATi), but only the nForce chipset motherboards will allow nVidia's SLI to work.
Anyway, I digress. Current midrange cards and their approximate prices. I live in the UK, so the best I can do is apply a currency conversion. Prices will only be approximate:
? 7300 Series (GS or better) (