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Glossary:Graphics card

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Key points

Graphics cards (also called video cards) process game graphics and other related features.
Common manufacturers are Nvidia, AMD and Intel.

Dedicated versus integrated graphics

Graphics come in two forms, dedicated and integrated. On modern computers, both are capable of running games, but they differ greatly. Dedicated graphics have a distinct processor and their own memory (VRAM), and increase performance by taking the burden off of the CPU and RAM. They are actually separate cards that are added to a computer in most cases (laptops can have built-in dedicated graphics). Integrated graphics are hardwired into the CPU or motherboard, stopping the need for an additional card at the expense of performance. Usually memory is shared with the computer's RAM, with a small amount of dedicated video memory. In some cases, using an integrated graphics card will reduce available system memory, because of shared resources, causing another performance hit. Dedicated graphics typically outperform integrated graphics when used on comparable computers, although new advances in integrated graphics are catching up with their dedicated competitors.

The most well known and common integrated graphics system is made by Intel for use with their processors. AMD have integrated Radeon lines for AMD processors. AMD also have their line of APUs which boast performance far greater than any standalone CPU but far worse than most dedicated graphics cards; they provide a good option for low-budget PC gaming builds.

Some laptops include switchable graphics, having both an integrated chipset for basic computing and a dedicated GPU for gaming.

Switchable graphics

Some computers (usually laptops and tablets) pair integrated graphics with a dedicated graphics card and switch between them based on the current task.
Some games may not be detected for switching, requiring manual intervention.
One solution is to set the computer to always use the dedicated card when plugged in and the integrated graphics when running on battery.
One such example is Nvidia's Optimus technology.

Multiple GPUs

Some graphics cards can be used in tandem with up to 3 other graphics cards to boost the overall output of the cards. With Nvidia cards this technique is called SLI, with AMD/ATI cards it is called Crossfire. Nvidia's technology requires video cards that are exactly the same type (e.g. A GTX 760 and another GTX 760). AMD/ATIs technology requires cards from the same series (e.g. A HD7970 can be combined with a HD 7950).

Identifying the graphics card

Run dxdiag[citation needed]
  1. Run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool:
    • Windows Vista and later: Open the Start screen/Start menu, type dxdiag and press Enter.
    • Windows XP: Press Win+R, type dxdiag and press Enter.
  2. Go to the Display tab. The computer's video card is listed there.


Overclocking is causing the GPU to run at speeds beyond what the manufacturer recommends. Overclocking can damage the GPU if performed improperly. If done properly however a notable increase in performance can be achieved. The gain further depends on the type of GPU. It is recommended to look up corresponding information online to see the "sweet spot" of the GPU to overclock.

Overclocking can be done through software like EVGA's Precision X or AMD's Afterburner.

Please note that overclocking will usually void the warranty and that it increases the chance of a GPU malfunctioning. Overclocking is done at the risk of the user and is not recommended for novices.

GPU scaling

GPU scaling allows the GPU to determine how non-native resolutions are displayed on the display. If configured to perform scaling on the Display, the video scaler of the monitor will determine it instead. Some TVs and other non-monitor displays may show black borders on widescreen resolutions. GPU scaling does not affect this; see Overscan for solutions.
See the glossary page for more information.


Overscan article on Wikipedia
TVs and some other non-monitor displays might either crop 15-20% of the image (overscan), or show the image with surrounding black borders (underscan).
Every manufacturer has their own specific configuration combo for true 1:1 pixel mapping, from just setting the right option in the menu, to having to use the right HDMI input port and giving it the right "name"[1][2][3]

Overscan and underscan refer to the behavior of certain television sets and displays to show the image incorrectly; typically as a result of misaligned configurations or expectations between the TV/display and the graphics card that sends out the video signal. This is an issue that originates from how early analogue televisions differed, and the solution that TV producers came up with to counteract these differences. While the overscan article on Wikipedia covers the subject in more detail, the importance of it is that the solution that TV producers came up involved adding black borders around the actual image that was sent. So instead of a video signal only containing the intended image to be displayed and nothing else, the signal would also include black borders around said image.

  • Underscan refers to when TVs/displays shows the black borders around the image that was added by the source device to the video signal. The receiving display end up showing these black borders because the black borders were not expected to be a part of the video signal, or the TVs/displays expected the black borders to be smaller than what they are sent as.
  • Overscan refers to when TVs/displays crops parts of the actual image. The receiving display does this because it expected additional black borders around the image to be a part of the video signal, but in fact the video signal either did not include black borders at all or the black borders were smaller than expected.

The solution to both scenarios is to tweak both or either device so that their configuration matches each other properly. For a crisper result, disable or tweak the settings of the display if at all possible before implementing overscan correction on the graphics card end.


Glide Emulation

The 3Dfx Voodoo card was the first true 3D accelerated video card (prior cards simply increased the number and sizes of available display modes and/or increased the color depth available). It utilized its own unique API known as Glide, which itself was simply a subset of the OpenGL API. Unfortunately after their acquisition by Nvidia, their Glide API was abandoned and Nvidia did little to add support for it. Luckily it can be emulated through various tools: