What Kind of Adapter Cards Should I Buy (Video Graphics, Multimedia Sound, TV, I/O)?

Posted on January 27, 2010. Filed under: The Best Adapter Cards For You |

An adapter card (expansion card) is a small circuitboard card you install into a computer to increase the capabilities of your computer.

Before you can buy any new cards you need to know what kind of expansion slots your motherboard has.

This is because your card needs to be compatible with your expansion slots. For example, you can only install a PCI network card into a PCI expansion slot.

Your motherboards documentation (online or in print) will tell you what kind of slots you have, or you can open your computer and look for yourself.

You can also download CPUZ: http://www.cpuid.com/cpuz.php . CPUZ is a small utility which gives information about your CPU (Processor), Cache, Mainboard, Memory, SPD etc.

These are the type of expansion slots you might find inside your computer:

The PCI slot is short (3 in.) and white .  A 32-bit card works fine in a 64 bit slot but it will work at a 32-bit capacity (slower).

The AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port)  is supposed to be faster than the PCI, but in truth it is almost the same. It is usually brown and shorter than the neighboring PCI slots. However, be careful here- an older AGP card may not work in a new AGP expansion slot.

The PCIe (PCI Express) slot is faster than AGP.   The PCIe is replacing AGP and PCI. The fastest possible multimedia card requirements would be a PCIe  3.0 version x32.

You can google PCI, PCIe (express) and AGP in the search engine under images. This will show you a picture of what they look like.

Tip for gamers: if you have an SLI-ready mother board you can link together (preferably) identical  PCIe cards (also called graphic adapters) using a bridge to create the best results. You need to use NVIDIA’s Scalable Link Interface or something similar. You can combine up to four PCIe graphic adapters together to pool their power to a single monitor attached to the SLI master adapter. This creates the best graphics.

Video adapter (video card or graphics card) allows your monitor to display graphics. Most operating systems come with default graphics mode which is usually  subpar to the ones you can purchase separately.

Sound cards are usually a huge improvement on the default sound mode on your computer. They usually come with  small, round jacks for microphones, headphones, and speakers as well as other sound equipment. It might come with an S/PDIF port (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) that allows you to transmit excellent audio in digital clarity.

Video Capture card is often used to save a video stream to the computer for later editing. This is useful with video sharing sites on the Internet.

TV Tuner card combines internal and external devices so you can connect to a TV signal or cable TV. They come in analog, digital and hybrid. They may also include the capabilities of a video capture card.

I/O card is any adapter card that adds more ports to your computer. It could add serial ports or USB ports or parallerl ports or Sata ports or a FireWire port or a game port, etc.

There are also Network Interface Cards to help you connect to the Internet, but I will discuss those in a later port.

Adapter Card Speeeds (FYI):

PCI cards operate at (most commonly) 33MHz clock = 133MBps data rate or 66MHz clock = 266 MBps data rate using a 32-bit slot or (less commonly )a 64 bit slot which doubles the data rate).
AGP 1x operates at 66 MHz clock = 266.67 MBps data rate using a 32-bit slot, so AGP 2x, 4x and 8x cards multiplies the data rate by that number).
PCIe (express) can be anywhere from x1 to x32, with the higher number being  the faster card, but a slower card can work inside a slot for faster cards, although it won’t work any faster. The PCIe comes in 3 versions (1.x, 2.0 and 3.0) A 1.1 x1 card will produce a data rate of 250 MBps, a 2.0×1 card will produce a data rate of 500 MBps and a 3.0 MBps x1 will produce a data rate of 1GBps. However, a 1.1×16 card (in a x16 card slot) will produce a data rate x16 which is 4GBps.

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One Response to “What Kind of Adapter Cards Should I Buy (Video Graphics, Multimedia Sound, TV, I/O)?”

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[…] Expansion slots are long plastic slots for cards of various functions. You will see the slots for your memory cards (RAM) and other adapter card (expansion card) slots (PCI, ISA). For your video graphics you may have PCI slots and AGP slots, or if your computer is newer you will have the PCIe (PCI Express) slots which have replaced the other two (if you still have the old ISA slots it might be time to get a new computer). Read more about expansion cards and slots here. […]

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