Your Guide to Buying a Graphics or Video Card on eBay

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Your Guide to Buying a Graphics or Video Card on eBay

A graphics card has plenty of common names, including video card, graphics board, video adapter, display adapter, graphics adapter, and display card. A video card can be integrated as well as dedicated. Dedicated cards are expansion cards installed in motherboards for generating a feed of images to displays. Modern cards have their own processors and memory and offer advanced features, including MPEG-2/MPEG-4 decoding, accelerated rendering of 2D graphics and 3D scenes, TV output, and multiple monitor capabilities. Modern motherboards generally have expansion ports that allow a graphics board to be connected, and the configuration that is formed is termed a graphics controller or video controller.

There are several buying considerations when looking for a video adapter. An introductory level knowledge of the various components, sizes, types, and interfaces of common video cards is necessary for a buyer to make an informed purchasing decision. Video cards can always be found on eBay, which features a large collection of graphics boards with a number of variations.

Integrated vs. Dedicated Graphics Cards

Some motherboards include a graphics chip on the motherboard. This chip generally has a small quantity of embedded memory and uses some of the system's RAM. It is usually called onboard graphics or integrated graphics. It generally has a low performance and is not suitable for running 3D applications. Dedicated video cards, on the other hand, have their own processors that are specifically for processing video images and also RAM to help reduce the load from the main system. On such motherboards, there is a slot for adding higher-performance video cards, and the integrated graphics chip can be disabled.

Components of a Graphics Card

A modern graphics card consists of several components that are mounted on a printed circuit board (PCB). Typical components of a video card include a graphics processing unit, heat sink, video BIOS, RAMDAC, video memory, and various connection systems. General knowledge is necessary for a buyer so that he or she can choose the right graphics card.

Visual Processing Unit (VPU)

Visual processing unit (VPU), also known as graphics processing unit (GPU), is a special electronics circuit that, in simple words, displays the graphics on your computer screen. It spontaneously manipulates and alters memory in order to accelerate the image building process. The highly parallel structure of modern GPUs makes them extremely effective as compared to general purpose CPUs.

Heat Sink

A heat sink is a passive heat exchanger component used to cool a device by dissipating heat into the surrounding atmosphere. It is mounted on most of the modern cards and evenly spreads out the heat when a fan is mounted on the heat sink for cooling it as well as the GPU. Some cards are liquid cooled and have a waterblock and lack a heat sink.

Video BIOS

Firmware or video BIOS has a minimal program for setting up and controlling the video card. The information it holds includes memory timing, operating voltages and speeds of the graphics processor, RAM, and other changeable details. Generally, the reason for change is to overclock the video card to allow faster processing speeds. This is a dangerous process, however, as it can irreversibly damage the card as well as cause damage to the motherboard. Modern video BIOS do not necessarily support all the functions of a video card. It is mostly focused on identification and initialisation of a card.

Video Memory

The memory capacity of modern graphics cards ranges between 128 MB and 8 GB typically. GPU and display circuitry often need to access the video memory. Therefore, a special multi-port or high-speed memory, such as WRAM, SGRAM, or VRAM, is often used. Video memory was generally based on the DDR technology up until the year 2003. In the years since then, manufacturers have developed DDR2, GDDR3, GDDR4, and GDDR5. The clock rate in the modern cards typically ranges between 1 GHz and 6.3 GHz.

Video memory can also be used to store other data and screen images. Z-buffer, for example, can manage the depth coordinates in textures, 3D graphics, and compiled shader programs. Older and newer graphics cards are briefly compared in the following table. The types of RAM, memory sizes, and interfaces have greatly evolved in the last decade.

Cards

Types of RAM

Memory Size

Interface

Style of Interface

Older

DDR

DDR2

128 MB maximum

AGP

PCI

Parallel

Newer

GDDR3

GDDR4

GDDR5

256 MB or greater

PCIe

Serial

Other interfaces are also being researched, and memory sizes have gone up to 8 GB and beyond. The newer versions outperform the older cards in almost every aspect.

RAMDAC

Random access memory digital-to-analogue converter, or RAMDAC, is a kind of RAM chip that converts digital signals to analogue signals. These converted signals are then used by a computer display, such as a cathode ray tube (CRT) display. RAMDAC controls the functioning of the video card. Various computer display refresh rates can be supported by RAMDAC, depending on the RAMDAC data transfer rate and the number of bits used. To avoid flickering, 60 Hz is set as a typical threshold level for CRT displays, and 75 Hz or more is usually recommended. LCD displays do not have this issue.

It is hard to find RAMDAC as a discrete component these days, mainly due to the integration onto a GPU die and the ever increasing popularity of digital computer displays. TVs, LCDs, and current plasma displays that operate in the digital domain do not require a RAMDAC. A few remaining legacy plasma displays and LCDs that feature analogue inputs only do require a RAMDAC, but the signal is converted to digital, and the display bears an unavoidable loss of quality during the 'digital to analogue to digital' conversion.

Connection Systems/Outputs

Several connection systems between the computer display and the graphics card include video graphics array (VGA), digital visual interface (DVI), video in video out (VIVO), high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI), and display port, to name the most common.

Video Graphics Array (VGA) (DE-15)

Video graphics array (VGA), also called D-sub, is an analogue-based standard that was designed for CRT displays. Electrical noise and image distortion are the major problems of this standard. VGA transmission bandwidth can handle high resolution playbacks of 1080p and higher, but the picture quality can degrade, depending on the cable length and quality. If image constraint token (ICT) is disabled on a Blu-ray disc, VGA analogue interface can be used for Blu-ray playback at 1080p.

Digital Visual Interface (DVI)

DVI is a video display interface. This digital-based standard is designed for displays that include video projectors and flat-panel displays, such as LCDs and plasma screens. In some cases, DVI is used by high-end CRT monitors, as well. Using its native resolution, DVI avoids electrical noise and image distortion.

Video In Video Out (VIVO)

Mostly used for S-video, component video, and composite video, it allows the connection with video game consoles, DVD players, video recorders, and TVs. A VIVO splitter cable mostly comes with either four or six connectors. The four include S-video and composite video for both in and out. The six include S-video in and out, component P(R) out, component P(B) out, component Y out, and composite in.

High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)

HDMI, a digital replacement for analogue video standards, supports copy protection through high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) and is a compact interface (audio/video) for transferring uncompressed video data as well as digital audio data, compressed and uncompressed, from the source device to a compatible digital television, digital audio device, video projector, or computer monitor.

Buying a Graphics Card on eBay

Enter search terms like graphics card, video card, or graphics board into the search bar on the eBay home page to see a relevant list of results. Enter your postcode as a filter to see local listings for the desired graphics card. In case you are lucky enough to find the product you are looking for in your vicinity, you can pick up the video card from the seller at a time of your choice as soon as the order is successfully processed. If not, then you can still consider the rest of the results, but shipping charges are generally added to the final cost.

For some queries, eBay suggests some related searches, which are often helpful in getting down to the right product in no time. You can also filter the results based on your personal preferences by selecting other various options. One common practice is to go through a seller's feedback and user reviews before placing an order. This gives you better insight into the seller.

Conclusion

Video cards, integrated or dedicated, are used for enhancing the visual effects or graphics on a computer. Dedicated cards are expansion cards that generate a feed of images to displays. Advanced motherboards have expansion ports to accommodate such cards. Modern cards mostly have their own memory and processors and offer several advanced features like the ability to connect multiple monitors, accelerated rendering, and TV output.

Buying considerations include acquiring basic knowledge of the various components and connection systems. The various components, such as GPU, heat sink, video BIOS, video memory, and RAMDAC, are mounted on a printed circuit board. Notable connection systems between the video adapter and the computer display include video graphics array (VGA), digital visual interface (DVI), video in video out (VIVO), and high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI). A buyer should base the purchasing decision on his or specific needs. eBay boasts a large collection of video cards in a number of variants.

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