Search TQA Weekly
Log into your TQA Weekly

Do you really need a dedicated graphics card?

The Accelerated Processing Units Cometh

Learn about Accelerated Processing Units, and how these have revolutionized the on-board graphics game.

Episode #4-30 released on April 12, 2014

You'd be surprised by the answer, or maybe some of you actually know the answer already. If you are a gamer, Bitcoin miner, video editor, 3D artist, etc... the benefits of a graphics card are obvious, for the rest, I will explain why you don't actually need a dedicated graphics card, today, and how to save money on your custom tower.

Modern computing technology is far more advanced than just a few years ago. For starters, we now have access to APUs, which stands for Accelerated processing unit. These APUs have replaced conventional CPUs which most of us are used to.

But, what is an APU?

A modern CPU contains several computer processing units that take data and process it. We have used CPUs in the past to process images and video with varying results. APUs combine CPUs and GPUs. GPU are graphics processing units and are much faster at processing graphical and video type commands than CPUs are. This means that we not only benefit from a direct speed increase from the on-board, internal GPU processing the graphical information, but combined with the other dedicated CPU, we can process more, faster and more effectively without the requirement of a dedicated GPU device, such as a graphics card. We won't be playing Crysis 3 on high, but we can play some games, and do many of our other tasks more easily.

For those ready to buy a new computer, what does this mean for you?

If you are on a budget, opt for an on-board graphics solution conbined with an APU. Going with either a Intel i5 or an AMD FX 6-Core solution, both having 6 cores, will cost less than having to buy a dedicated graphics card. Having an on-board graphics solution means that you should build with 8 GB of Ram instead of 4GB because part of the RAM will be dedicated to the APU to process the image.

Not getting the benefit yet?

Building in this way will allow you to potentionally save several hundred dollars. Graphics cards are expensive, a GTX 760, a mid-range Nvidia card is roughly $300 dollars. The AMD FX processor, and compatible motherboard, with 8 GB of RAM, is also approximately the same price. With no graphics card, built-in sound card, and probably a single hard drive, we can determine that having a 500 Watt power supply will be plenty, far less expensive to buy than a 750 Watt power supply. Some computer towers also come with 500 watt power supplies, and because of the very little heat output expected, basically only the APU, we can use a smaller tower, which is also less expensive.

The energy cost itself is also a benefit, running a computer with a dedicated graphics card is more expensive than an on-board solution.

Now, I expect some of you may want to slowly build your computer, and may not have enough money to actually build your higher end rig right now. I have a few hints to help you out.

If you are an Intel fan, remember most high end Triple A titles are GPU bound. Using an Intel i5, having a minimum of 8 GB of Ram, and later getting at least a Nvidia GTX 760 which allow you to play most games. Considering getting a 750 Watt powersupply that is 80+ rated. Need a small boost, double the Ram to 16GB, maybe add a SSD to reduce load times.

If you are into AMD, I got an extra surprise for you. Opt for the AMD FX 6-core, a 750 watt power supply 80+ rated, get an ATI R9 260 or better, and if need be double the Ram, and get a SSD. Where is the surprise? Most motherboards are not rated for Nvidia SLI, however most are rated for ATI Crossfire. Crossfire uses the PCI-E bus as the transmission means, and can also use the APU as part of the Crossfire build. Not only do you get to use your APU in double duty, but using ATI allows you to take advantage of Mantle, AMD's latest feature available on the newer R7 and R9 cards.

Expect to pay somewhere around $700 dollars for your computer, that includes the Windows license, but the price will vary based on your selections. Be sure to visit your local computer boutique, and don't be afraid to ask questions. The more you specify, the better the experience will be, the better the end result.

Note: Prices are subject to vary with time and location.

Register your web-site and domain at https://godaddy.com and use the referral code : WOWtqa at checkout and save 35% off your order.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions