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What Is A Video Card? Integrated Vs. Discreet

Friday, June 15th, 2012 by | Filed Under: I've Always Wanted To Know...

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:
What is a video card in a computer? What’s an integrated and discreet video card?


A video card, at it’s most basic level, is used to display the image on the screen of your computer. Most computers today can either have a integrated card, a discreet card, or sometimes both. An integrated video card is a portion of a CPU which has dedicated circuitry to process images and video. Most modern CPU’s have integrated graphics which allow for longer battery life on laptops and cheaper desktop computers. A discreet, or dedicated, graphics card is a board with it’s own memory, graphics processor and circuitry dedicated to video and image processing.

There are two main reasons to purchase a system with a discreet video card over one with an integrated one:

The first of which is discreet video cards provide the processing power necessary to play many video games. These games often require dedicated video cards because the integrated video cards are not fast enough and do not have enough memory available to handle the complex images and fast paced action.

The second of which is to run advanced 3D graphics or programs which utilize a video card to do some of the processing. These programs can take advance of a video cards ability to calculate complex math very quickly and speed up processing times greatly.

Discreet video cards are usually made by AMD or nVidia and can be recognized by a line in the specification sheet listing something like “Radeon 5850 1 GB GDDR5″ while integrated cards are usually Intel HD Graphics, Intel HD 2000/2500/3000/4000 or lower model number Radeon’s like Radeon 4200. If both are mentioned then your system comes equipped with both an integrated and discreet video card.

It is important to mention that as integrated graphics improve the distinction between integrated and dedicated starts to blur. AMD’s A8 line of CPU’s has a reasonable powerful integrated Radeon graphics which lets you play most games at lower detail levels. Intel’s latest HD 4000 integrated graphics (found on some of the newest Ivybridge processors) can, on slightly older games, provide acceptable frame rates on lower detail settings.


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