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What are all those cards?

What are sound cards, graphic cards, network cards, and all those other cards all about?

You might hear of different kinds of “cards” in a PC. Some are usually included as basic hardware, while others offer optional features. Most basic PC’s will include a Sound Card, Video Card, and maybe a Network Card. Also, in some modern PCs, these can also be integrated with the motherboard.

Here’s a quick run through of the three mentioned above:

Video Card – A/K/A graphics adapter, display adapter, or video adapter. It’s the circuit board enabling a computer to display information on the screen. Your resolution, number of colors, and monitor refresh rate are determined by your video card plus the limitations of the monitor itself.

Sound Card – This card makes it possible to use a microphone or line in to record, or speakers, headphones, and line out to play sound. Most will include MIDI controllers (often called SW Synth).

Network Interface Card – Also called a “NIC”. This adapter board is plugged into a computer so it can be connected to a network.

If you would like faster graphics, networking, or TV tuning features that you currently don’t have, then shop around for one of the cards mentioned above. Most budget PC makers use the cheapest components they can find, so your graphic and sound cards might not be that great—you may want to upgrade. I know it might sound scary, but it’s easier than you think.