PC Video Cards
The video card you have in your system will determine what games you can play, how good they'll look, and how well they'll run. We won't call out specific video cards to buy in this section because cards stay relevant only for a year or so before they're replaced by newer models. Instead, we'll talk about how the video card can affect the quality of your gameplay experience and give you some tips on understanding game system requirements.
You can expect to upgrade your video card every two or three years to keep up performance levels and to maintain support for all the latest graphics-quality advancements. New games tend to take advantage of the features and extra processing power introduced by the latest video cards. Older cards that aren't as powerful and have fewer features won't perform as well or, in the case of extremely old cards, won't even work with some new games. For example, many of today's games now require video cards compatible with DirectX 10 or higher.
Having a powerful video card lets you increase screen resolution and graphics-quality settings while still maintaining playable frame rates (how quickly the game updates onscreen). Faster frame rates help games run smoothly, without any choppiness. Players often have to compromise on graphics quality with less-powerful video cards. You'll have to reduce screen resolutions and disable some graphics effects to keep frame rates at an acceptable level on weaker video cards.
Games offer video card guidelines in their minimum and recommended system specifications. These guidelines can specify video memory sizes, DirectX compatibility levels, and even GPU type. The video card requirements can vary widely from game to game, given that some games can be much more graphically demanding than others.
In general, you can expect video cards that barely meet the minimum specifications to run games at the lowest graphical settings, whereas cards that meet baseline specifications are good for medium graphics-quality settings. You'll need a much more powerful card if you're the type of person that plays on a big widescreen display with the highest graphics settings.
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