Graphics cards

Detailing how 3D graphics works is an entire guide in itself, but the digest version is that there are two main tasks to be completed. The first is lighting and geometry, the second is rendering.

For the first, think of the 'wireframe' 3D images you've seen in documentaries and the like. These wireframes define the shape of the objects in the scene. This is the geometry of an image, and has to be calculated based on what the viewer can and can't see of the objects, the positioning, camera angles and the like. Lighting - figuring out where the light sources are and what effect they have on the objects also happens in this phase.

The second phase of drawing a 3D scene is the rendering -- that is, the painting of the wireframe. Textures are applied to surfaces, and modified according to light and other factors.

At one time, 3D graphics cards did not do any geometry processing, leaving that entirely to the computer's main CPU. Since the introduction of the Nvidia GeForce however, consumer graphics cards have possessed considerable geometry processing power - it was with the introduction of this chip that we first saw the term "graphics processing unit" (GPU) appear.

An Nvidia GPU

The GPU is a small microchip present on most modern graphics cards. They are specially geared towards processing complex, graphical algorithms that previously fell to the CPU. Thus, they both take the strain off the main CPU, and process information faster thanks to specialised design.

In addition to the raw ability to draw the wireframes, animate and paint them 60 or more times per second, graphics cards also have a large set of other 3D features designed to make scenes look good. Graphics cards can be differentiated by their ability to calculate shadows quickly, eliminate pixilation, render distant objects at low resolution, modify surface textures on the fly and a host of other capabilities.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?