As games have advanced in recent years many have become very demanding when it comes to graphics. However, not all games necessarily require you to go and invest in an expensive graphics card. It can be hard to know if this is what you need to do in order to continue to enjoy your favorite games.
Whether you need a graphics card for gaming largely depends on the type of games you play; however, installing a graphics card may not be the only fix if you are experiencing buffering while playing on your current system. This article will go over what a graphics card is, if integrated graphics may be right for you, common signs that you need a graphics card, and some other situations that may require you to purchase a graphics card.
What is a graphics card?
A graphics card or a graphics processing unit (GPU) is a computer component that contains the graphics chipset. The graphics card is responsible for processing the data that renders images. The graphics card houses not only the chipset but also cooling components and VRAM.
There are two main chip manufacturers for retail graphics card, these include Nvidia and AMD. They are very competitive and as a result have a variety of options that perform similarly to each other. Each manufacturer creates chips for a wide variety of users.
In addition to the chipset a graphics card contains the cooling components and VRAM. The cooling components vary depending on which chipset is included. It is also responsible for the size of each graphics card, the more powerful chips require a larger cooling system to keep it performing at safe temperature.
VRAM is ram that is dedicated for graphics. The VRAM is responsible for loading in images quickly and keeping games running smoothly. VRAM is very important for loading in textures and all the details in your games. If you have big open world games or games that load in a lot of assets at once you will want to consider getting a graphics card that has a lot of VRAM.
What is the difference between integrated and dedicated graphics?
There are two different types of graphics you can choose to use, either integrated or dedicated. If you install a graphics card you are using dedicated graphics.
Integrated graphics is where your CPU includes the graphics within the same chipset as the CPU. Integrated graphics are great for someone looking to use a computer for general use and can be used for some gaming as well. These are usually lower level games that don’t require as much image rendering as some bigger power hungry games. Integrated graphics cards are great because they are usually more budget friendly, take up less space, and require less power.
Dedicated graphics is another term some people use to refer to graphics cards. It basically means that the CPU and the GPU work independently of one another. There are many benefits from using dedicated graphics cards. The biggest benefit is that it frees up the CPU to perform other processing tasks and leaving the heavy graphics processing to the GPU. Additionally since graphics cards include VRAM it will free up memory space for your RAM to perform other non image rendering tasks. Dedicated graphics also allows you to perform more demanding tasks besides gaming and to use more monitors than most integrated graphics can handle.
What other components matter when it comes to gaming?
If you are a gamer wanting to upgrade your system there are some other components that also play an important part in gaming beside the graphics card. These include RAM and CPU.
Random-access memory (RAM) is short term memory that your computer uses to interact with the process you are using your computer for. For example, if you are writing a document the RAM is what stores all the changes you make prior to pressing the save button. Once you click save that data is stored on your hard drive.
When it comes to gaming RAM is responsible for storing short term data needed for you to interact with the game. These things include textures loading in the background and certain animations that come up when you interact with certain assets in the game.
The CPU is responsible for processing data and following computer program’s instructions. CPUs have what are known as cores and each core is responsible for processing a certain amount of data. When shopping for CPUs generally the more cores a CPU has the more efficient the CPU will be. When you have a higher core CPU tasks will be done faster because there are more cores working at once. The other stat to look at for CPUs is the clock speed this is how quickly each core works.
What are the signs you would benefit from installing a graphics card?
If you are not sure if installing a graphics card would benefit you there are some common signs that you may be experiencing with your current computer system that may help you decide that a graphics card is right for you. If you are experiencing some of the following, a graphics card may be a good option for you.
- Maxing our your RAM
- CPU running hot
When you are experiencing buffering during game play there could be multiple reasons why this is happening. It could be an easy fix such as you have the graphics settings set too high and using a lower setting will fix the issue, but if you want to play your games at the highest graphics settings a graphics card may be the solution.
The buffering could also be happening because you have maxed out the amount of RAM you have. RAM is responsible for helping you run multiple tasks at once, so if too much is going on and there is not enough memory you will experience buffering. This could be solved by purchasing some RAM and installing it into the motherboard if you still have some RAM slots left. Installing a graphics card with more VRAM could also help because you will have freed up some of your memory space that can now be used to help run other tasks that your games demand.
If you notice that your CPU temperatures are running high there is a chance that your computer will shut off to avoid doing more damage to the CPU. There are many different reasons this can happen. It could be a simple fix of cleaning out the dust in your fans, or adding an additional exhaust fan. It may also help to install a graphics card if this is happening because the graphics card can take some of the load off the CPU and allow it to work less during your game play.
What types of games require a graphics card?
If you don’t have a computer that you are upgrading and are looking to buy or build a new one and wondering if you need dedicated graphics there are some game genres that usually have more demanding graphics. This is due to a variety of features of each of these games. If you are already considering a graphics card for gaming, we have broken down the best graphics card for your gaming type here.
First player shooter
First player shooter games usually require a decent graphics card to run smoothly and keep you completive. A lot of these games move very quickly and thousands of digital assets that are required to load in. As these games have advanced the details and textures that the game developers have added have created a big ask for gamers. Your system must be able to load textures as you move about your game, play animations every time you and other players take a shot, and much more as you progress through the game.
Having a beefy graphics card will also help keep you competitive in your game play. First player shooter games move quickly and buffering or a slight delay could mean game over. While you may get away with playing with integrated graphics and enjoy the game play if you may get somewhat frustrated if you keep losing because your system can’t meet the demands of the game.
If you enjoy adventuring through open worlds and interacting with a large array of objects that help you advance in the game a graphics card could enhance your game play. These types of open world games can have thousands of digital assets that each have their own animation. They also have a large amount of textures that have to constantly load in as you move about the world. These games usually have cut scenes and other graphics that have to quickly load in.
When you add all these demands together an open world game can be very demanding of your system and not having a graphics card can make an open world game almost impossible to play.
Some simulation games
If you play simulation games you can usually get away with integrated graphics to a certain degree. We say “some” simulation games because whether you need a graphics card to really enjoy a simulation game can often times be controlled by the player. This is because simulation games often times involve players building lots and adding in items and the biggest thing you run into with graphics is loading all those assets and animations at once.
If you notice that your simulation game is freezing or buffering and you can control how many items are being loading in at once, you can delete some of the items your using and that may help your game run smoothly. While you can fix it by controlling your game play if you want to take your simulation games to the next level a graphics card may open a lot of doors for you in terms of what you can do in your game.
What types of games can run on integrated graphics?
If you don’t want to purchase a graphics card but want to play some games there are some types of games that run just fine with integrated graphics and getting a graphics card won’t increase the performance that much. This is mainly because these types of games just are not that demanding.
Casual games are aimed to suit a large audience and are usually very simple. These games don’t have a difficult interface and usually have simple animations and characters. They also don’t usually have many textures that have to load in and don’t ask much as far as graphics capabilities.
If you enjoy brain teasers and love doing puzzles on your computer then you really don’t need to worry about installing a graphics cards. These puzzle games demand very little processing power by either the CPU or GPU that integrated graphics can easily handle these types of puzzles.
Some people lump simulation games in with casual games and they are right to a certain extent. Simulation games do appeal to a very broad audience and usually have a easy to use interface. Many of them can be run on integrated graphics and don’t require too much GPU power.
When deciding if you need a graphics card for your simulation game to run just consider how big the game is. If it is one of the simulation games that has dozens of extensions and loads very big lots than you may be better with a graphics card. However, even the most complicated simulation games can run on integrated graphics up to a point and if you don’t want to invest in a graphics card you can likely get away with using integrated graphics.
What are some other benefits of having a graphics card?
If you are not a gamer there are still some situations where you would benefit from using a graphics card.
Support multiple monitors
If you have an office setup and want to add on multiple monitors a budget friendly graphics card can do the job. Graphics cards are much better option than going with a dock that allows more monitors because your integrated graphics cannot always support the number of monitors you are wanting to connect.
If you connect too many using splitters, docks, or other accessories and overload the integrated graphics there is no guarantee that the monitors will work properly. Finding a graphics card that has the correct number of ports already built into the card itself is the best way to run multiple monitors, you will find that you get the best performance using this method. You also do not run the risk of damaging your equipment because you are overextending what it is capable of.
There are multiple professions that require a heavy duty system, graphic design is probably the most common and high in demand currently. If you are considering entering the profession a good graphics card is a must. Design applications are very demanding and usually require precise graphics.
Graphics cards not only allow you to run these applications with little to no freezing or buffering but also can give you a wider range of colors and less pixelized images so you can create amazing designs. If you have a good graphics card and feel that you aren’t getting a super clear picture, see if your monitor may be the problem. Keep in mind that even if your graphics card can support 4K resolution, if you don’t have monitor that can display these high resolutions you won’t be getting the most out of your graphics card.
Photo/ Video Editing
Another in demand profession that requires a high quality graphics card is editing, either video or photo editing requires a good graphics card. With video editing in particular you want to make sure you have plenty of VRAM available.
Editing photos or videos requires a lot of work for your graphics card to process. You want to make sure you have a high resolution so you can be precise in your editing. Similar to graphic design, any kind of image rendering or manipulation is going to require a heavy duty graphics card.