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Video capture cards allow a video signal to be sent directly to your computer. From there you can record to your hard drive like a DVR or TiVo would record from your television. Cards that allow you to record to your hard drive may also allow you to pause and rewind live television broadcasts as well.
Many videophiles will use capture cards in video editing processes. There are internal and external cards available. Internal cards will typically boast more advanced features, though external ones are appealing for their ease of use. Simply plug them into a USB or Firewire port and power supply to get started.
The inputs and outputs available will vary between each model, but most newer ones, especially ones that can be used as DVRs, will come with coaxial, S-Video and Firewire.
Typically a video capture card will come with software designed specifically for it. This software allows you to watch television or other video signals and then burn them to DVD. Some cards have interchangeable software and some do not, so make sure to check what comes with yours.
There are a lot of different things to look at when buying a video card. The main ones, like manufacturer, slot type, and memory spring to mind. But there are other considerations that might not be thought of by your casual at-home user. So here are a few to think about:
The fill rate is basically how fast a graphics processor can do two things: draw pixels and fetch textures. The ideal situation is to have a balance, so you do not want pixel rate to be three times that of the textures.
Another important feature is the memory bus width. Just like a wider highway can accommodate more cars, a wider bus memory can facilitate the transfer of more data from the video memory to the graphics processor and back again.
These are both very important, but the heart of the video card is the graphics processing unit (GPU). This chip is what makes the video card's 3D performance possible. The best GPUs are made by Nvidia and ATI, so be on the lookout for those. The new Nvidia GeForce 9000 series cards are packing a nice punch. Make sure to look at the model number though, because both companies make products in all tiers of performance to accommodate all kinds of needs.
Today's computer games will list the minimum system requirements in order for them to be played properly. One of these specifications is the amount of dedicated video memory. The more memory a video card has, the more textures and detailed information it can store. This means that playing the same game on two different machines with different amounts of video memory could produce two very different displays.
While memory is not the only consideration in determining the quality of a video card, it is still an important one. The smaller the amount of video memory, the more your computer will have to engage in, the slower process of accessing its own RAM to continue with the game.
It is important to understand the danger of placing too much emphasis on video memory, however. A higher-end graphics card with less memory is still going to be better than a lower end card with more. The trick is to find the right balance.
Choosing the right video card for your machine is very important. Choosing the wrong one can result in you not being able to accomplish what you need to and potentially losing a nice chunk of change in the process. The first step is to determine which type of card is needed. There are typically three categories that video cards fall into.
The first category is known as either hardcore or extreme. These cards will be the fastest and best-performing cards, designed for serious 3D video gaming and other visually demanding applications. The mid-range category is known as mainstream. Here you will find more affordable video cards for people who like to do a little gaming and maybe some light video editing or photography. The last category is called value cards. These will be the least expensive and provide you with the basics needed for Internet browsing and the ability to output the video signal to another monitor or television.
In order to pick the right card you must make sure that your machine can support your choice. Hardcore video cards required for serious gaming are going to need a processor speed in the ballpark of 2.4GHz or higher. For mainstream cards don't go any lower than 1.66GHz, although 1.8GHz would be better. Value cards should fall in the CPU speed range of 800 MHz to 1.66GHz.
Grab a doorknob after walking across a carpet should give you a clue to this culprit – Static Electricity. It can seriously damage your video cards during installation. So remember this tip. Place and keep your hand on the power supply whenever you are touching the card. This should be enough static guard for a successful installation. Though, for a more detailed approach it's best to consult the computer manual before attempting anything.
If you have decided to purchase a new video card, you should investigate the cost of this new card. Graphic designers or others involved in creating video as a career will tell you to purchase a video card costing more than you would like to spend.
However, if the video card is only needed for multimedia on a home computer, finding a more affordable video card is best. Video cards usually sell for between $100-$200. For this price range, it is possible to buy a fairly good video card to suit your family's needs with at least 128 megabytes of video memory, but the high-end cards at 256 megabytes can cost between $400-$500.
It doesn't matter if it's Indy or home movies. Before you embark on the editing or viewing process on your computer you will need a video card. This card enables the computer to translate video data so it can be seen on the monitor. It is also removable so it can be upgraded. Video cards like PowerColor Radeon 9250 are good because they offer up the latest viewing technology at a very affordable price.
Like other card components a video card also calls the motherboard home. Installing it can be a bit tricky if you don't know what you're doing. Compatibility is a common problem that usually occurs during installation. Keep in mind that video cards are not made for every kind of motherboard slot. There are ones made for PCI or AGP slots. Make sure your card matches up with the specific slot type you have to avoid round two at the computer store.
Today's video cards feature all kinds of cool new options. They also react differently with each type of computer. In most cases they will enhance your viewing experience. However, a newer card might be problematic for an older computer. The best way to be sure before you buy is to go for a test drive. Stop by your local store and ask questions. See if you can actually see a card in action in a computer similar to yours. This way when it comes to buying you'll be better prepared.
Let's face it we all get old. It's a fact of life. The same thing goes for video cards. Because games and editing software advance so fast a new card can become obsolete after they pass their 2year mark. A good way to tell is during game play. If the game freezes or skips a frame then you know it's time to retire your current card. Though, before you make the final discard decision make sure everything else is in working order.
If you decide to purchase a pre-configured computer rather than build your own, make sure to check the graphics specifications for the models you are interested in. If you plan to use this computer for gaming you need to make sure it lists a specific video card. Computers that say “Integrated Graphics” are not going to get the job done.
This means that the graphics capabilities of this machine are built directly into the motherboard. That may sound good, but it is not. These types of computers will be fine for displaying your desktop, basic applications and surfing the Internet. Beyond that there is really no significant power to speak of in the graphics department.
Once you narrow down the models that interest you, take a look at the video cards they list and compare them. The video card is not the only thing you should be considering when buying a computer, but for moderate to heavy multimedia use like gaming and 3D rendering programs, it is very important.
Now you know that when you get home with your new computer you will be able to do more than type in a word processor. No sense in having a high quality display screen with a computer than cannot match it.
DirectX 9.0 was first introduced by Microsoft in 1996. It gives computer users the ability to improve the way they use multimedia on their computers. The application programming interface is extremely popular with gamers, and those involved with designing games.
Video cards which are compatible for DirectX such as the XFX GeForce 6200, will not have not have software conflicts with the latest version of DirectX 9.0. Therefore, it is important to consider a DirectX compatible video card when shopping for a new one.
DirectX can give you the ability to enhance the graphics, 3D animation, or audio when playing multimedia. Not only will DirectX enhance your graphics, but you can also download the free version of this software from Microsoft.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|