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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Can Some Explain Graphics Cards?
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05/21/2010 09:01:34 AM · #1
I just bought a Dell Inspiron 560 machine w/ 6GB RAM, Windows 7.
I don't really know much about graphics cards. How integral are they for Photoshop work? I've never really had them before, so I probably am not missing much.

If I want to do games like Diablo 3 or Starcraft 2 coming out soon would I need to upgrade?
05/21/2010 09:06:57 AM · #2
Just some chips that know how to do graphics faster then the main computer (lying for simplicity but close enough for your question). Photoshop and other things will make more use of GP's going forward - especially for video stuff. For games, your probably going to want faster not slower :-)
05/21/2010 09:19:39 AM · #3
For photo editing, it does not really take a lot to push those mostly static pixels onto the screen. Any modern video card is more than enough. Recent software is starting to make better use of the video card's processing power to offload tasks from the main CPU. Resolution and color are more important.

I'm not a gamer, so I don't know what those games require, but gaming and video editing are the tasks that put the most strain on a video card, so for that usage, more is better.
05/21/2010 02:24:04 PM · #4
I take it that the configuration that you bought relies on motherboard-based graphics? If so, then be aware that part of your system RAM is used for the graphics. Add-in graphics cards have their own memory, however on 32-bit versions of the Windows OS, a part of the main memory address space is reserved for graphics, so RAM above about 3.5GB is unusable. If you have 6GB, I surely hope that you have the 64-bit version of Win7 installed, or you won't be using all of it.
As previously posted, photo editing does not challenge the graphics subsystem greatly for the most part, however if you have a graphics card for which Ps can utilize the GPU (check the Adobe site for the list of compatible cards) you *will* see a big benefit in performance for some operations. It's most noticeable when working with large files.
Mainstream graphics cards are all optimized for gaming. There is another class of card that is optimized for workstations; an example is the nVidia QuadroFX series. Sales volumes of these cards are lower, and therefore costs are higher, but they bring several benefits:
- Much lower power consumption (mine draws 38 watts, compared to several hundred watts for gaming cards
- Great compatibility with high-resolution displays; mine can drive two displays each at 2560x1920 (not that I use all of that capability!)
- More attention to output image quality
- Stable drivers, rather than the flaky, buggy drivers often shipped with gaming cards
Workstation graphics cards are typically used by professionals in the CAD, graphic design and engineering disciplines. They can be *very* expensive, but they need not break the bank.
05/21/2010 02:46:58 PM · #5
On the other hand, most of the Nvidia / PNY Quadro FX cards detailed as optimized for CS5 on the Adobe site are way expensive... sad to say. Kirbic details all being correct.
05/21/2010 04:33:28 PM · #6
Originally posted by pineapple:

On the other hand, most of the Nvidia / PNY Quadro FX cards detailed as optimized for CS5 on the Adobe site are way expensive... sad to say. Kirbic details all being correct.


Yes, compared to lower-end mainstream cards for sure. Compared to current "gaming" cards, The lower end of the QuadroFX line is competitive in cost, though vastly different in a lot of other regards.
I went with the 570, which is currently in roughly the $150 range. Not cheap, but not horrendously expensive either. Bear in mind that product lifetimes are much longer in this market segment as well. I bought mine in mid-2008 and it is still a current model.
05/21/2010 05:17:48 PM · #7
Originally posted by tpbremer:

I just bought a Dell Inspiron 560 machine w/ 6GB RAM, Windows 7.
I don't really know much about graphics cards. How integral are they for Photoshop work? I've never really had them before, so I probably am not missing much.

If I want to do games like Diablo 3 or Starcraft 2 coming out soon would I need to upgrade?


In short graphic cards are many core processing system.

What is many core system??

In many core system you have lots of processors and they can act on shared memory in very efficient manner. But they are different than normal parallel systems in a way that while in normal parallel systems some of the cores could be doing entirely different things than others or not doing anything at all. Here every one will be doing exactly same thing. (in laymans terms, in reality things a bit more different).

What does it mean to you?

It means that any process that has fine grained parallelism (small and similar tasks could be independently done) could benefit hugely from it.

So not all the algorithms can benefit from it. Plus a software or prgram has to be modified to take advantage of this.

Note: this is important because it means that just buying graphics card won't make any difference to sotware. The software has to be written to take advantage of it.

Note2: We are still at infancy of this type of parallelism , so not many programs are mature enough to take full advantages of graphics cards.

PS: On side note i have GTS240 on my machine and i never play any video games or do any photo video related processing on it.

I have been drooling over tesla c1060 and my wife has given green signal so as soon as possible :-D.

05/22/2010 09:52:52 AM · #8
Nice to hear about the 570. I was going to ask here about which of those FX cards might be useful for my coming upgraded home-built machine... I saw a couple of Quadro FX 4500 cards on Craigslist yesterday and was wondering if they might work too? Any advice?
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