Cards with reference design and cards with custom design
As I said earlier, there are two GPU manufacturers, AMD and nVidia, but they are not the ones who put the cards together. When a new best graphics cards for gaming is presented, it is presented in a so-called “reference” design. This design is designed by nVidia or AMD. It has a cooling system and a reference PCB. The reference maps bring together in a way the minimum characteristics of the map (frequencies, quantity of memory, power supply, etc.).
After that, the partners of both GPU manufacturers make special versions with different cooling systems, often more efficient than the reference model. These cards, called “Custom”, sometimes have a partially or completely revised PCB. They can contain more RAM, more stages of supply, more bios … These cards can also be overclocked compared to the reference versions.
Reference versions are often quite noisy and moderately effective. However, AMD and nVidia seem to have understood that offering a poor quality cooling system was not necessarily very wise, especially in the high end. This is how nVidia uses since the release of the first Titan of the name in 2013 a very interesting standard cooling system on its high-end GeForce and, more recently, Quadro. As for AMD, it has decided to design a very efficient reference cooling system for these new Fury.
Custom versions often allow for greater performance, but also reduce ventilation noise. These cards are more expensive and usually come out several weeks after the reference version.
Whether reference or custom, the manufacture and sale of best graphics cards for gaming almost inevitably pass through one of the partners (with the exception of pre-production models and models “press”). Thus, it is impossible to buy a nVidia Geforce GTX 980 “any short”, you have to buy nVidia Geforce GTX 980 Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA, MSI, PNY …
The role of graphics cards
The graphics card is an essential component in any personal computer, almost as important as the processor. Its main role is, as the name suggests, managing the display on the screen (or screens). However, for several years, the functionality of this component has diversified well.
The graphics card has been around since computers were used … but they really began to evolve when computing went from a “character line” display to a graphical display. The first consumer computer to have a graphical interface was the first Mac of 1984. From that moment, the display became dynamic in real time, ie it was necessary to recalculate the display in continuous, and not only when the user entered a new character. The increases in the number of pixels and the ever-increasing number of animations have gradually made the best graphics cards for gaming an essential element of personal computers.
Nowadays, a good best graphics cards for gaming is essential in the use of certain software (games, photo editing, video editing …). These applications indeed require a large number of calculations to generate the shapes, colors, light, shadows, textures … and preferably quickly to have enough images per second so that the eye has a impression of fluidity.
The graphics cards can also perform calculations unrelated to the display, which is GPGPU (General Purpose Processing on Graphics Processing Units). Unlike processors, which perform mainly serial calculations, one after the other, GPUs have massively parallel compute units. Thus, the current processors have between 1 and 18 “big” hearts, where the GPUs have hundreds or even thousands of hearts much smaller, but more suitable for the realization of small and repetitive small calculations. There are now specialized technologies in this kind of calculations like, for example, CUDA (proprietary nVidia technology) or OpenCL (Open Source technology), supported in particular by AMD).
The final word
As you will understand, the graphics card is a more complex component than it looks. It is an increasingly useful component, the upgrade of which can sometimes speed up some applications. This component, like many others, should not be overlooked when setting up a computer, even if it is not intended to be a gaming computer.