Graphics Beginners\' Guide, Part 1: Graphics Cards

twile

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A pretty good read, even though it was all standard info for me (But beginners or not, who can pass up another Tom's article? ;)). I liked the animated cooling images, those were a nice touch.
 

amddiesel

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A pretty good read, even though it was all standard info for me (But beginners or not, who can pass up another Tom's article? ;)). I liked the animated cooling images, those were a nice touch.
Indeed
 

enewmen

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Good article.
I will also like to see information about pixel-shaders, vertex-shaders, unified shaders, anisotropic filtering etc. in PAINFUL detail. antialiasing , HDR, etc is easier to understand.
I'll search older articles on this.
 

stallyn

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Awesome, Found it very interesting! But could there be a better description of chipsets and what the duration of the lifecycle estimated to be? 8O
 

cleeve

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Good article.
I will also like to see information about pixel-shaders, vertex-shaders, unified shaders, anisotropic filtering etc. in PAINFUL detail. antialiasing , HDR, etc is easier to understand.
I'll search older articles on this.
Thanks.
ALL that stuff is coming, and more. The whole article is colossal. Approaching 10,000 words.

Patrick had to split it up into many segments. It's friggin comprehensive, I promise. :)

P.S. Those are pictures of my 'ol 9700 PRO, god bless her!
 

sojrner

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thought I recognized that heatsink, mine was an AIW and I replaced that sink... truly a bad-a$$ card if ever there was one. The Champ.
 

AlienNation

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Hello , I read the article even though i know my share of knowledge when it comes to graphical cards , its always great to have an amazing article refresh everything up.

I have a question , and I'm not sure if this is the right place..If not id appreciate it if you can point me to the right place for such questions

Tom said that the Vram of a card stores mostly textures to feed the gpu , ive always wondered What exactly does the memory do? , ive read in articles that having a faster vram helps in rendering shadows and raster operations..also having a larger size helps when increasing resolution..

But what exactly does memory do when it comes to help increasing performance IE: when the speed increases..whats being fed faster? the textures? geometric information?

Any answer is greatly appreciated !
 

hllord

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A quick overview of the power connectors and how they are different and sometimes not compatible would have been a perfect touch.
 

hkBst

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I don't think the info on HDMI is correct. As far as I know the video part of it is DVI except that it has Digital Restrictions Management. It's thus not a superior interface but rather a step backwards for the free world.
 

AliveTomato

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I really Thought that this was a great article. I cant wait to see( 8O ) more :D . You guys have kicked this site up another notch. THANKS!! :D
 

nottheking

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Excellent to see this. Perhaps I can refer people to this article rather than writing up/Ctrl+V'ing a good-sized post when somebody needs an explanation on some site or other.

Just a few comments, though. First, I would've appreciated if in addition to showing what each sort of connection interface looks like on a card, you also showed what the appropriate slot looks like on the motherboard; with a lot of people looking for new video cards, even on older systems, I've found it's important to be able to help people tell apart AGP, PCI-e, and plain ol' PCI slots. (also, I saw a lack of mentioning for VESA in the slots; nit-picking, I know. :tongue: )

Oh, and when it refers to the auxiliary power connections for later AGP cards, I'm left a little confused by the "dual 4 pin power sockets," which, in contrast to the words that follow it, implies that lots of cards had multiple power sockets, when indeed, the 6800ultra was the only AGP card that had more than one power connector on it.

But aside from that, great article! I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that this might be among the harbingers of a return of THG's Graphics/Display section to being something other than a poor joke.
Hello , I read the article even though i know my share of knowledge when it comes to graphical cards , its always great to have an amazing article refresh everything up.

I have a question , and I'm not sure if this is the right place..If not id appreciate it if you can point me to the right place for such questions

Tom said that the Vram of a card stores mostly textures to feed the gpu , ive always wondered What exactly does the memory do? , ive read in articles that having a faster vram helps in rendering shadows and raster operations..also having a larger size helps when increasing resolution..

But what exactly does memory do when it comes to help increasing performance IE: when the speed increases..whats being fed faster? the textures? geometric information?

Any answer is greatly appreciated !
VRAM performs three primary functions (or what it stores):
  • [*:78c0555a4e]It acts as the PC's "frame buffer." Anything that's displayed on a screen attached to the PC (be it analog OR digital) is stored in this buffer. If multiple independent displays are used, there will be more than one frame buffer in the VRAM.
    [*:78c0555a4e]In more advanced 3D games (pretty much all of them today) it acts as a "redering buffer." It's like a frame-buffer, but it's to here that shaders, calculations, etc. that are performed by the GPU are written. Ostensibly, eveything written here will find its way, in some shape or form, into the final frame buffer.
    [*:78c0555a4e]Lastly, VRAM is used for holding texture-maps. Simply put, they're image data bits that can be used in various ways; most commonly, it's a "color-map" that might look like an ordinary image, that is then applied to the 3D meshes to turn an invisible "wireframe" into the models you see. Some shaders, such as bump-mapping, normal-mapping, paralax-mapping, and specular-mapping, rely on texture-maps as well, though they technically aren't images; the map, for, say, bump-mapping or paralax-mapping, is more of a "height-map" that tells how elevated that pixel should be.Of course, other things can be stored to; I believe most software also does use it to store geometric data that's not being calculated at the time, though the space for that would be negligable. (geometric data actually being worked with will be stored within cache and registers within the GPU itself)

    At any rate, faster memory (faster in bandwidth, not clock speed) means that the GPU can read/write to it faster, and hence more quickly access and modify what's stored there. The result: faster calculations overall. This is especially important when, say, you're rendering (or playing) something in a rather high resolution; the higher the resolution, the more pixels there are to write to, and hence, far more bandwidth used/needed.

    I hope this cleared some things up.

    Sweet dude, been wondering when you'd get this out.

    BTW, just curious, why is this thread in the 'memory' section instead of 'graphics'?

    Just curious, because wondered why I hadn't seen it earlier.

    Cheers! :trophy:
    It appears that a LOT of major threads are winding up in the "Memory" section. Perhaps an internal joke on someone's capabilities?! :lol:
 

cleeve

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Moderator
Thanks for answering that, nottheking.

Just to answer sopme of your questions... some things weren't delved into with maximum detail, that was a conscious effort not to saturate the reader for whom this is a primer.

The idea was to have something to initiate a layman to the point where they would feel confortable reading an average graphics card review, maybe even reading video card specs and drawing a few hypotheses/expectations of performance on their own.

having said that, sometimes more info can be better so if you guys have alot of feedback on a particular subject I suppose the primer might be modified in the future to accomodate that.

But I urge you to wait until all the parts are released until you make your judgements. Like I said, lots and lots more info on the way. Can't give you a date though, that's up to Patrick. :)
 

BomberBill

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Everything you wanted to know about graphics cards (but were afraid to ask) is in this primer.

Speak out in the Toms's Hardware reader survey!
I wanted to congratulate Toms on its latest efforts with regards to "beginners guides." I unashamedly and unabashedly admit to thoroughly enjoying such guides because my pc knowledge is average at best and its in understanding the fundamentals that we can all better work with our beloved machines; even more terrific is being able to talk chop with a veteran who bemoans this and that on his/her pc. :lol:

Thanks again Tom's; great work!
 

nubie

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I am quite surprised no one caught this:
S-Video is an analog video standard used by the television industry. It provides a low resolution signal to televisions like single-cable composite, but the color information is separated into three channels, which represent the basic colors. It allows for a higher-quality signal than single-cable composite-but still at a low dynamic resolution. However, while S-VHS is superior to single cable composite video, it is vastly inferior to high-quality component video (Y, Pb, Pr) outputs.
I think that S-Video is divided into chroma and luma, as backed up by this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-Video

Due to the separation of the video into brightness and colour components, S-Video is sometimes considered a type of component video signal, although it is also the most inferior of them, quality-wise, being far surpassed by the more complex component video schemes (like RGB). What differentiates S-Video from these higher component video schemes is that S-Video carries the colour information as one signal.
An interesting and confusing oversight, I hope that it was a mistake and the writer did not intend to convey the information as written.

Any insights?
 

cleeve

Illustrious
Moderator
You are absolutely right, nubie. I'll advise to have it changed thusly:

S-Video is an analog video standard used by the television industry. It provides a low resolution signal to televisions like single-cable composite, but the video information is separated into luminance (brightness) and chrominance (colors). It allows for a higher-quality signal than single-cable composite-but still at a low dynamic resolution. However, while S-VHS is superior to single cable composite video, it is vastly inferior to high-quality component video (Y, Pb, Pr) outputs.
Nice catch.
 

twile

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A couple things about links... the Part 2 article links here, so I'm posting here. On Page 10, there are 3 links at the top about 3dfx, Crossfire and SLI. Those all point to... page 10! Whee! Seems they should either be removed or pointed elsewhere.

Also, on the same page:

There are other factors to consider as well. While two graphics cards linked together will offer a performance boost, the result is rarely anywhere near twofold, so from a budgetary standpoint, it is important to keep in mind that paying twice the money will not yield cost effective results. A 120% - 160% performance increase is a more realistic expectation with multi-card solutions
I wish you'd get 120-160% performance increase! Then I'd soo go Crossfire. I think it should've been "A 20% - 60% performance increase" instead ;)

Overall I liked the article a lot, and learned a few small things along the way. Great job with the animations again, it really helps to see the difference when the images are lined up just right and cycle through, rather than going from one full-screen image to another and looking for the difference. This is true even more so to a person who doesn't know what aliasing is and just hasn't ever noticed it, or thought about it as a problem that could be fixed.
 

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