Video Card Specs -- what to look for?

Discussion in 'Video Cards and Graphics' started by WhipperSnapper, Sep 21, 2007.

  1. WhipperSnapper

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    About two years ago when I was video card shopping, the most important specs were a card's number of processing Pipelines, the number of Vertex shaders, and the speeds of the core and the RAM.

    What specs are important on a video card? What's a ROP?

    In the past, you could generally look at the number of pipelines (ie, 8, 12, 16) and use that to separate cards into power groups. Is there anything equivalent to that today?

     
  2. nullpointerus

    nullpointerus Golden Member

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    If you are just a typical user looking to find the right card, it's better to ignore these technical details and instead ask for specific model recommendations from fellow ATers and/or read lots of hardware reviews from reputable sites (like Anandtech).

    Architectural differences and the fact that certain games and game engines tend to favor the differing strengths of ATI and nVidia's four (total) significantly different architectures makes it difficult to explain all this. Well, that and *I* don't understand it well enough to explain it to you.

    But on the other hand, if you just want to learn about GPUs, there are plenty of knowledgeable people here. Just remember that the weekend can be rather slow here.
     
  3. WhipperSnapper

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    I can figure out where cards stand relative to one another pretty easily since I'm an Anandtech vet and value-bargain shopper, but I'd like to better understand the details, too.
     
  4. Cookie Monster

    Cookie Monster Diamond Member

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    Ok, understanding the technical terms .. will be pretty difficult. I tell you that , because bigger number =/= bigger performance (there is so many things invovled its too hard to simplify things down). Id say benchmarks are the best tool for comparing different video cards.
     
  5. Munky

    Munky Diamond Member

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    Generally, the biggest factor that determines the performance of a video card is the amount of shaders. But the number itself will not tell you everything, because modern Nvidia cards have scalar processors which work with one data element at a time, while Ati cards have 5-component processors that work with 5 elements at a time. Moreover, Nvidia has their shader units clocked at about 2x the clock frequency of the rest of the gpu, while Ati uses a single clock domain. In addition, Ati's shaders are more sensitive to driver optimizations to extract the most parallelism out of the code. So, the bottom line is the spec numbers aren't a reliable way of comparing video cards anymore, and your best choice is just to look at published benchmarks to determine the overall performance level of new video cards.
     
  6. WhipperSnapper

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    Thanks Munky. I think I'll stick with looking at multiple benchmarks from various sites.