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Graphics Cards Tech Explained: How different components of a GPU work

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A Graphics card is the main driving force behind a Gaming PC; you may need a high-end processor if you are into streaming. But the central component of a gaming PC is the Graphics card. Graphics cards come in all configurations and sizes to cope with the market at large. There are two main manufacturers of Graphics cards Nvidia and AMD.

Nvidia is the leader in the game because of the integration, and it holds a monopoly in the high-end market. While AMD is the oldest graphics chip maker, its graphics cards are not as strong as the graphics cards made by Nvidia. It has a wide variety of GPUs in the mid-range market often at lower prices compared to Nvidia’s offerings.

A Graphics card is made up of different components, and today we are going to list them separately and their individual purposes so that we as a consumer can learn which configuration of the Graphics card is better for us. So, without further ado let’s get into it.

GPU

Like a motherboard graphics cards are printed PCB boards, and they have their own processors called the GPU. A GPU is very similar to the CPU, but it performs the tasks related to the pixels which our processor can do. So what’s the purpose of the GPU?

Before 1981 when IBM released the first ever GPU, our CPUs had to do the graphics related tasks and because of the complexity of the programs processors had software that used to execute the tasks.

Since there was no physical hardware to execute these tasks. It was the main reason why the systems back in the day were specifically slow.

Image: how stuff works
Image: how stuff works

That’s where a GPU comes in the game, it is specifically designed to perform complex mathematical and grammatical calculations that can bog down a CPU. All high-end GPUs have more transistors than our high-end processors the reason being it has to perform complex tasks.

In case of Nvidia, the cluster of CUDA cores make the CPU, while AMD has stream processors that make the GPU. The CPU only sends a vague drawing command to the GPU, and the GPU turns that into a beautiful image. Since a GPU often has a lot of transistors, it produces a lot of heat, and that is why a high-end Graphics card usually has a three fan design.

VRAM

Graphics cards (I should have written the GPU since it is the processing unit, to keep it simple I have written Graphics card) have their memory. Whenever you buy a Graphics card you can see they usually have the word “GDDR5 or GDDR5X or HBM2 memory” it is the type of the VRAM they are using.

Before I go into the details, a small fact about the VRAM is that the Nvidia’s entry-level Graphics card GT 1030 comes in two configurations of VRAM one version uses the traditional GDDR5 memory while the other uses the DDR4 memory which is comparatively a lot slower.

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GDDR means Graphics double data rate memory, the high-end pascal Graphics cards use GDDR5X memory which is the extreme version of the GDDR5 and lastly the new offerings from Nvidia uses the GDDR6 memory.

While AMD uses HBM2 memory which means the 2nd iteration of the high bandwidth memory, the purpose of a VRAM is similar to the purpose of a DRAM (RAM). It stores data on the go since graphics card does not have a dedicated Hard drive the VRAM stores huge data too for a short time.

Another thing to notice is that the memory here is dual channel the GPU can read and write on the RAM which makes it considerably faster the system memory. Since the VRAM is very fast, it dissipated a lot of heat which is the reason why it is placed near the GPU so that it can get colled side by side too and it also helps in latency management too.

ALSO READ: Building a cheap and fully-functioning Gaming PC under $500 is now possible

RAMDAC

We know that our computers have their own language that they use to store data which is very difficult for us to comprehend and you would most like hate seeing only numbers and letters on the screen.

It is where the RAMDAC comes in as the name suggests it’s a DAC and its purpose is to change the contents on the VRAM and convert them into an RGB electrical signal which has information about the size color and location of every pixel on the screen.

Image: wikimedia comms
Image: Wikimedia comms

It uses the DATA from the VRAM that is why it usually referred to as RAMDAC. For every primary color, there’s a separate RAMDAC, and the number and efficiency of RAMDACs also determine the maximum refresh rate your graphics card can output.

The Graphics card

These were the three fundamental components that are used to build a Graphics card, your decision of a Graphics card can change if you have proper knowledge of these components.

While you do not need to worry about the RAMDAC since all graphics cards have a similar one, you do need to care about the GPU and the VRAM.

If the games that you want to play are open world’s, then a Graphics card with moderately better GPU but bigger VRAM would work. If you are into games that have complex situations fairly often than more processing power would help you the most.

 

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