Upgrading a computer to take advantage of the latest advancements in graphics card is one of the easiest ways to extend the useful life of any PC. Finding the right graphics card for your machine is a lot more difficult than it sounds, given all the options available on the market. Before you lay down any hard-earned money on an expensive piece of hardware, there are a few things you'll want to consider before taking the plunge. A new GPU can do wonders for any computer, provided you select the right one for your needs that complements your existing system.
Work, Pleasure or Both?
Which particular video card will be best for your PC depends on what you intend on using it for. If you're a gaming enthusiast, today's demanding programs will require a much higher-end GPU than moderately taxing programs like Adobe Photoshop or other graphics editors. If you plan on running CAD software or other architectural modeling software, you'll need a different kind of Video Card entirely. Heavy duty options like the Nvidia Quadro series or the ATI FireGL or FirePro line will be better suited for enterprise-level editing work. For everything else, the ATI Radeon and Nvidia GeForce lines will do just fine.
ATI vs Nvidia
ATI and Nvidia are the two leading household brand names in graphics cards. The choice of either an ATI or an Nvidia video card can make a big difference in your performance depending on what kind of hardware you have as well as your preferred operating system. The most obvious example of this has to do with the Linux operating system. Though ATI is catching up in the open-source driver department, Nvidia is the superior choice if you plan on running Linux exclusively.
The Right Tech for the Job
In addition to brand names and model lines, there's the question of specific graphics technologies like Nvidia's CUDA and DirectX to take into account. For the average user, just about any recent video card will do regardless of which specific technologies they employ. In addition, you'll need to make sure your video card has the right output ports to support whichever monitors you'll be using. That means VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort interfaces. You may be hooking up multiple monitors of differing types, so it's definitely something to consider for the future.
In the end, most any ATI/AMD Radeon series graphics card or any of the Nvidia GeForce video cards will handle most user’s needs. As long as you get a Graphics Card with at least 512 MB of VRAM, typically GDDR3 memory or better, your needs should be more than met. Finally, you need to make sure that your current power supply can handle the new Graphics Card that you plan on installing. Newegg.com features a power supply calculator that will allow you to determine whether or not your Power Supply Unit is up to the task. As with any technology purchase, make sure you do your homework on all potential Video Cards before making a final decision.