Fact Checked

What is a Video Graphics Card?

Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber

A video graphics card is a computer hardware device. Also called a computer graphics card or video adapter, the video graphics card manages the many graphic duties of the computer. At its most basic, the video graphics card receives data from the computer's central processing unit (CPU) and converts the data into images, which it then transmits to the computer monitor via the monitor cable. The computer CPU is certainly capable of rendering graphics, but the video graphics card relieves some of the load and provides better graphic imagery and video playback for today's high definition software applications and games.

Depending on the computer and motherboard, the computer graphics card might be integrated or might be a separate card. Most low-end budget computers and laptops are equipped with an integrated video card to conserve space or provide only basic video rendering capabilities. Higher-end computers sport a separate, removable video graphics card connected to a slot on the motherboard, the main "brain" of the computer that connects all of the computer parts together. Separate video graphics cards require a compatible motherboard with a graphics card slot.

A video graphics card.
A video graphics card.

Video graphics card technology has changed, becoming more sophisticated as the demand for faster and clearer graphics has grown. Older computers might have a series of Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots that accept a variety of PCI cards for modems, a video sound card and the now-outdated graphics card. Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology is faster but is overshadowed by the even faster PCI Express card that accommodates the vivid high-definition games and video playback. Extreme graphic acceleration for very high-end gaming uses a graphics processing unit (GPU) engine that provides real-time, realistic images and playback.

A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.
A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.

The video graphics card needs special software to allow the card to communicate the data it receives and sends to the computer operating system. This software, called the graphics driver, is usually built into the graphic card processor. Additional software applications installed onto the computer might enhance performance and allow the computer user to make customized settings for superior execution.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- that's not always true. Most graphics intensive games come with an option to decrease the quality of the graphics specifically so that people with integrated and lower end graphics displays can play games just fine. You won't get the detail of the guy down the street with his fancy pants graphics card, but you will probably get by just fine.

Meanwhile, there are some gaming laptops made that have very good integrated graphics chips. They cost more than the average laptop but they are worth it if you want to play games.

Oh, and keep in mind that it might be more cost effective to buy a computer specifically set up for gaming performance if you are in the market for a new system. That might be cheaper than buying a new computer and then adding a graphics card later.


If you are going to get serious about computer gaming, you will need a higher end video graphics card or you will be frustrated. The integrated graphics chips in computers simply don't have the horsepower to handle most games.

Keep in mind that you can have fastest CPU on the planet, but that won't matter much in terms of game performance if your graphics card isn't up to the task. A good graphics card is not cheap, but you will need it if you want to get serious about computer gaming.

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    • A video graphics card.
      By: vetkit
      A video graphics card.
    • A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.
      By: nikkytok
      A graphics card may be used to improve gaming performance.