Working from home - Choosing a PC part 2 - Displays

Graphics Cards

When choosing a PC careful consideration should be given to the graphics system as this can seriously affect performance, especially if you are intending using the PC for graphic design or gaming of any kind.

Quite often you will see the phrase "internal graphics card' or 'on-board graphics card.' A simple machine used only for e-mail and internet use should be fine with on-board graphics but if you are planning on using your PC for graphic design, or even as a hard-working application PC, then you should consider having an external graphics card.

Internal graphics cards tend to be of a lower specification so where possible look for a PC with a separate AGP graphics card or an AGP slot that would allow the addition of a more powerful graphics card. If this second option is available, you will be able to turn off the onboard graphics card in your computers BIOS settings helping to free up resources for the rest of the PC.

Graphics cards are usually classified by the amount of memory they have on them. This memory is the same as the memory we discussed in the previous article and, like system memory, the more you have on your graphics card the better it will perform. A decent graphics card should have 128MB of RAM on board with higher end cards having 256 or even 512MB.

A new type of graphics card, the PCI Express format, was launched relatively recently and, due to the higher performance capabilities of these cards (the way they interface with the motherboard is an improvement on the AGP system), we will gradually see AGP cards moving out of fashion. For now though, while PCI Express is still a relatively new technology, you may find that these cards are more prone to bugs and oddities than AGP cards and may also be slightly more expensive.

The type of card (AGP or PCI Express) that you get for your computer is determined by the motherboard. Very few motherboards support both types of graphic card so make sure you know which format your motherboard will take before ordering a new card.

Monitor Types

Over the past few years liquid crystal diode (LCD) monitors have become the dominant monitor type. Due to this the old style cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors can be picked up incredibly cheaply so if you are on a tight budget and have the extra desk space needed for one of these monitors then you can kit yourself out with a screen for your PC very cheaply.

Monitor Sizes and Multi Screen set-ups

If you run many applications then a great way to improve productivity is to make the amount of working space available to you as large as possible so that you can work with multiple applications without having to minimise and maximise as you switch between them.

The size of your monitor (usually stated in inches) and the power of your graphics card dictate the resolution that you can set your display to. This measurement details the height and width of the display in pixels, a pixel is the smallest unit from which your monitor display is made, these are square units and the more of these units the more information can be displayed on your monitor.

Hedley Thomas

Further reading:

Choosing a PC Part 1

Choosing a PC Part 3

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