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Video Cards (Display Adapters)

A video card (also called a graphics card, video adapter, display adapter, graphics adapter or video board) is an expansion card designed to give a PC display capabilities. The three main interfaces of video cards are PCI-E (PCI Express), AGP and PCI. Video cards use their own RAM built into the video card, unlike onboard video adapters that use a portion of the system RAM.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

The GPU is a single-chip processor on the video card that creates lighting effects and transforms objects every time a 3D scene is redrawn. The GPU is primarily used for 3D applications. NVIDIA was the first company to develop the GPU with the NVIDIA GeForce 256, which had over 22 million transistors and could process 10 million polygons a second.

Video Card Overclocking

Overclocking means to alter a PC component so that it runs at a higher clock rate than originally intended by the manufacturer. Overclocking can be used to squeeze a little extra performance out of a GPU. Video card RAM can also be overclocked. There are a few things to consider before you decide to overclock your video card. First, overclocking will require more power so a quality power supply is a must. Since more power is required this will also lead to more heat being produced and the stock cooling solution may or may not be able to handle this extra load. In general, a higher quality cooling solution than the stock cooling is recommended when overclocking.

There are also risk involved with overclocking, as the lifespan of the video card may be severely diminished. If the proper steps are not taken, overclocking could also lead to the instability or complete failure of the card. Overclocking may also void the warranty of your video card. Check with the video card manufacturer, as the warranties vary from company to company. Some cards even come factory overclocked.

Video Card Cooling

The GPU on video cards can produce large amounts of heat, especially high-end cards designed for PC gaming that are often overclocked by the user. The most commonly used method for video card cooling is the standard air setup of a heatsink and fan combination. In silent PC builds or home theater PCs, where the least amount of noise is required, only a heatsink can be used without the use of a mounted fan. However, this will require excellent case airflow to remove the heat dissipated from the GPU heatsink. A heatsink made specifically to work without a fan will also be required.

For those high-end video cards that produce large amounts of heat, water cooling is becoming increasingly popular. With water cooling, a liquid/water is used to transmit heat away from the GPU water block. A water block is similar to an air cooled heatsink. Water blocks have hollow openings for the water to flow through. They do not have the fins typically seen on heatsinks, as air is not used to remove heat. Small heatsinks can also be used on the video card RAM, but this will generally not be needed unless the card is being heavily overclocked.

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