Video Cards - Do It Yourself Computer Kits

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Choosing a Video Card/Graphics Adapter

<<-- Back to Choosing a Motherboard
-->> Next: Choosing a Computer Case

Video Cards, also known as display adapters, graphics cards, or graphics controllers, converts digital signals into display images.

Many motherboards have an integrated video processing capability. Computers with these motherboards don't need to have an additional Video Card installed. However, if you're planning on using graphics intensive applications, then you should seriously consider adding a higher performance video card to your computer.

Video Card
TigerDirect

Popular Video Cards from Amazon.com

The Video Card has three main components:

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
The GPU is the card's on-board microprocessor (CPU). The GPU is specially designed for rendering graphics for a PC, workstation, or game console (such as the Wii, Xbox, or Playstation). Their highly parallel architecture makes them more efficient at processing complex alogorithms than a general purpose CPU. Integrated (on-the-motherboard) GPUs are usually much less powerful than ones installed on dedicated video cards.

Video Memory
Video Memory is memory dedicated for holding the necessary information for a video card (or graphics controller) to drive a display device such as a monitor. The video memory may be used to hold 3D vector data, backbuffers, textures, GPU programs, and overlays.

Video BIOS
The Video BIOS stores the video card's configuration data. It is a memory chip that contains instructions which allow the video card to interface with the underlying computer hardware and operating system.

Bus Types
The most popular (and functional) cards today are PCI-Express (PCI-E) based. Meaning that the cards are designed to the PCI-E specification and will fit into a PCI-E slot on your motherboard. Modern cards will require a PCI-Express x16 slot.

Still available, are AGP-based video cards. AGP is an older architecture--the cards are slower than PCI-E.

Next down the line are simple PCI-based video cards--slower still than AGP.

Choosing the Right Card for YOU
If you're not a serious gamer, then your choice in video cards won't be difficult. Just about any PCI-E video card out there will suffice for a household computer used for email, Internet browsing, word processing, etc.

If you need the extra horsepower for gaming, graphic design, video editing, etc., then you'll need to choose a higher-end card.

For example, see my $1000 Gaming PC configuration below and the card I chose for this particular PC:

Parts List Updated on: [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Build Your Own Computer - Hardware List

Component Where to Buy Description Comments
Barebones PC Kit

ASUS Ivy Bridge Unlocked
TigerDirect
$722.99
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Unassembled bundle includes the following parts:
  • Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-V LX Intel 7 Series Motherboard - ATX, Socket H2 (LGA1155), Intel Z77 Express, 2400MHz DDR3 (O.C.), SATA III (6Gb/s), RAID, 8-CH Audio, Gigabit LAN, USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0, CrossFireX Ready

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K BX80667i73770K Processor - Quad Core, 8MB L3 Cache, 3.50GHz (3.90GHz Max Turbo), Socket H2 (LGA1155), 77W, Fan, Unlocked, Retail

  • CD/DVD Drive: Sony Optiarc AD7280S-OB 24x DVDRW Drive - 24x, SATA, Black, OEM

  • Memory (RAM): 2x (8GB Total) Corsair CMX4GX3M1A1333C9 XMS3 4GB DDR3 RAM - PC10666, 1333MHz, 4096MB

  • Hard Disk: Seagate ST1000DM003 Barracuda 1TB Hard Drive - 7200RPM, 64MB, SATA 6Gb/s

  • Computer Case: Thermaltake VN40006W2N Commander MS-I Snow Edition Tower Case - ATX, Mid-Tower, 3x 5.25" Bays, 5x 3.5" Bays, 7x Expansion Slots, USB, USB 3.0, Security Lock, White

  • Power Supply: Ultra LSP650 650-Watt Power Supply - ATX, SATA-Ready, SLI-Ready, 135mm Fan, Lifetime Warranty w/ Registration

This barebones bundle is offered by TigerDirect.com. You'll get a discount for buying all of the parts in one bundle, plus you'll greatly reduce the possibility of buying incompatible parts since TigerDirect.com guarantees that all of the included parts are 100% compatible with each other.
Video/Graphics Adapter TigerDirect
$129.99
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EVGA 01G-P3-1557-KR GeForce GTX 550 Ti SuperClocked Video Card - 1GB, GDDR5, PCI-Express 2.0 (x16), Mini-HDMI, Dual DVI, DirectX 11 SLI Ready, Plus Photoshop Elements 10 Promo This isn't the highest-end video card available, but it will work very well for most gamers.
Floppy Drive/ Card Reader TigerDirect
$9.99
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Sabrent CRW-UINB 7-Slot USB 2.0 Internal Memory Card Reader & Writer - Aluminum, SDHC/SDXC/M2, USB 2.0, Black, 3.5", Self Powered, SDHC, MicroSD Support Multi-format media card reader. Accepts most common types of media cards.
Keyboard TigerDirect
$15.99
Microsoft ANB-00001 Wired Keyboard 600 - USB, Black A basic but functional keyboard at a bargain price.
Mouse $13.99
TigerDirect
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Microsoft Basic Optical USB Mouse A basic optical USB mouse. Good quality and affordable.
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Build Your Own Computer - Software List

Component Where to Buy Description Comments
Operating System Amazon.com
$161.66
Microsoft Windows 7 Choose the version of Windows best suited for your needs. For most, Windows 7 Home Premium is a good choice. When you shop for your copy of Windows, you may be confused by the options. If you have an existing copy of Windows (say Windows XP or Vista) and you have the original media (CD/DVD), you can purchase an Upgrade version of Windows 7 for significantly less. But remember, if you don't have the old discs, or if you're not installing over an old version, it wont work! You can also buy the cheaper OEM (System Builder) version of Windows, but the license will not allow you to move it to new hardware if you upgrade at any time in the future! So, buying the full retail version may work out better for you in the long run.
Online Backup Software Click here to try Mozy for FREE! Mozy Online Backup
Up to 2GB FREE!
Don't skimp on backing up your new PC. You can lose everything in a flash--through no fault of your own. Protect yourself--it is well worth the money. It can cost THOUSANDS of dollars to recover data from a damaged hard drive if you don't have a good backup!
Anti-Virus Software Kaspersky Labs
FREE 30 day trial!
Kaspersky Labs
If you're going to build your own computer, you'll need to protect it. You've heard about what kind of damage that viruses, malware, and trojans can do to your computer. Be sure to protect yourself. Kaspersky Labs has been in the business for quite a while, and in my experience as an enterprise-level systems administrator, I've come to depend on Kaspersky's services--They're usually the first ones on the block to update their virus definitions in response to a newly discovered threats!
Full Internet Security Amazon.com
$25.90
Norton Internet Security 2012 Internet Security Suites combine Antivirus, Malware, and other protective services in one package. Norton Internet Security 2012 also includes a Firewall for additional protection.