Bruce Kerr reveals what to look for in a new PC.
Bruce Kerr reveals what to look for in a new PC.

BYTE ME: The myths around PCs and video cards busted

CONTINUING our quest to obtain and maintain a useful PC, this week we delve further into the significance of some of the computer specs that are floating around in our industry.

The next widely mis-understood performance parameter that we need to look at is the video card.

Often referred to as the video, graphics, video card, GPU or graphics card this is the device (card or chip) that is responsible for the display signal that is pushed to your screen.

There are principally two types of video devices - dedicated add in video cards that can be purchased separately and added (plugged into) a motherboard.

These dedicated video cards can cost between $80 to $2,000 each and have their own memory chips and graphics processor unit (hence GPU).

Like a CPU (Central Processing Unit) every GPU has a power benchmark so we can compare the power offered by all the different GPU's that are currently on the market.

The other type of video device is the integrated or 'on-board' video card - also often referred to as the video chip.

This device is built into the motherboard as another 'computer chip' so the connectors are also built into the motherboard.

This type of device can add as little as $20 to the overall cost of the motherboard.

So why spend $2,000 on a video card ?

The expensive add in dedicated video cards are mostly for computer gamers and for the handful of users that are doing digital video editing or computer aided drafting as an occupation.

These people demand totally different performance parameters from their computers compared to the average user.

For the gamers it is simply a jitter free, smooth running and realistic image as they conquer armies, slay dragons, and rescue the princess - or compete in a world rally championship.

For gamers an expensive video card can be 10 times as powerful as an integrated video chip and provide a level of gaming realism that leaves a standard PC for dead.

For dedicated photographers and CAD operators a high-end video card will shave about an hour of waiting time off an 8-hour day of processing images.

For everyone else it will add problems! Why?

Dedicated video cards, offer another major point of failure, produce a lot of heat energy, require extra cooling fans, make more noise, cost more money, and consume a lot more power.

In a laptop situation this also massively reduces the amount of up-time expected from a battery charge.

For the average computer user the $20 extra integrated 'on-board' video chip will offer the same performance as the $2,000 dedicated part.

This is where so much myth abounds.

So many people in the computer industry (read computer techs) are computer gamers - so they think that every computer should be a gaming PC and have one of these high-end cards. Like any urban myth, this notion gets propagated to the point that someone just wanting to type up documents thinks that their PC will be pretty useless without a 'video card'.

Around 95 per cent of all of our laptop and desktop sales over the past 20 years have used a simple on-board graphics/video chip which is built into the motherboard.

If any 'tech' tells you otherwise then he is most likely doing you a dis-service.

Next week we talk about USB ports, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Sound and hopefully get started on the size of screen sizes and weight in laptop devices.

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to and Bruce is still contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.