Computers as we know today are quite different to what they were when first launched. There has been an immense change in personal computers in the past two decades. From big bulk boxes to beautifully designed mini HTPCs for the lounge. This advancement in technology is thanks to the gaming industry.
In the early days of computers, no one had an idea of dedicated graphics cards but now they are everywhere. A big name in the industry at the time was 3dfx Interactive with its Voodoo 1. People are familiar with AMD and NVIDIA now, but 3dfx Interactive was the company that started the graphics revolution in the computer industry. Its immense popular Voodoo 1 was used to play games like Doom on Intel powered computers. With just 4 MB of GPU memory, it felt light years ahead but then competition came with the likes of GeForce 256, NVIDIA’s first entry into the graphics market in 1999. This marked the gaming revolution as we know today.
It was the first card to be called a GPU and had 32MB of memory. Also noticeable was the GeForce 8800 GTX with 768MB memory.
Post 90s era, we started seeing all sorts of graphics card entering the market and people were fascinated by the graphics improvement they brought with them. ATi entered the market with its OpenGL graphics cards. By this time, VooDoo was out of the competition and only ATi and NVIDIA remained. One of the most popular NVIDIA graphics card was the 8800 series while ATi’s X1900 series was its main competitor.
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The big two
Both companies went head to head in the graphics industry making giant leaps in terms of advancements. This competition was a win-win situation for the end consumer because not only they were getting amazing graphics cards, they were also getting them at a very good price: performance ratio because of the competition.
Office PC can become a gaming computer
The main differentiator between desktop and gaming computers is the graphics cards. In the present era, a lot of components are tailored made for gaming such as gaming motherboards, gaming memory, gaming peripherals, gaming monitors and so on.
A desktop computer for office use contains value components with high endurance and reliability minus the extra features such as overclocking. A desktop computer needs to serve the purpose of everyday tasks without any breakdowns where as a gaming computer focuses on performance with the potential of unlocking more performance with some tweaks. The main performance unlocker is overclocking. Gamers can change voltage and speed of their processors and graphics card to make them perform even better. Overclocking requires adequate cooling, high performance parts and reduces the life of the hardware.
Does having a graphics card helps perform tasks quicker? Yes, because graphics processors are much faster than processors. Although processors have a built-in graphics processor but its not powerful enough to compete against dedicated graphics cards. A processor can do the same job but much slower. As a result, a modern processor has a few GPU cores, but a dedicated graphics card has thousands of cores. Now graphics cards take most of the image processing on itself rather than letting processor do it. Graphics cards can perform a task 100 times faster than a processor which has made them become a necessity.
So called integrated graphics
What about today’s situation with integrated graphics. Today popular Intel i3, i5 and i7 processors have integrated graphics in the chip. This makes those computers as we say business, work or entertainment computers. Some games will work with these computers but some games that have realistic graphics will not work or will have very low frame rate (how fast the image refreshes on the screen). Intel and AMD processors in general have limited support of OpenGL and DirectX. Those two are fully supported on modern graphics cards.
What is DirectX? DirectX and why we need it in our gaming graphics card? DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces for handling tasks related to multimedia on Windows. There are two sets of applications, DirectX and OpenGL which are utilized by games. Modern applications such as 3D softwares, Adobe applications and other softwares also utilized these technologies. This is the reason why professionals also use graphics cards to make photo and video editing smoother.
A desktop computer can be turned into a gaming computer by simply adding a graphics card while rest of the components remain the same. The only thing which needs to be taken into consideration is the power supply. Graphics cards draw a lot of more power and require a higher wattage power supply to run. In the early days, graphics cards used AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) but now they use PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express Port). So, in the early days, one had to make sure that the motherboard supported the graphics cards but now it’s the same standard everywhere.
As mentioned above, gaming computers are not just limited to gamers. Many professionals in the field of architecture, design, automotive industry and many other industries make use of graphics cards. A lot of software programs utilize graphics power to make the experience smoother. Even web browsers such as Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome use the computer’s graphics power to make the user experience better. This has enabled CPU manufacturers Intel and AMD to add more powerful GPU cores in their processors. They have gone as far as partnering up together to introduce processors with graphics processors in a CPU as powerful as a dedicated graphics cards. The latest 8th generation Intel Core processors come with AMD powered Radeon Vega MX GPUs inside. They are capable enough to run modern games and applications smoothly.
Desktop computers are great for media consumption and office work such as Microsoft Office, web browsing and so on, but gaming computers are more multi-purpose. With a gaming computer, you can play games, edit pictures and videos, make 3D drawings, mine crypto currency and much more. It opens a lot more opportunities and delivers the true experience of technology.
The latest advancement in computer technology is virtual reality and augmented reality. They can only be experienced with a gaming computer. Desktop computers do not have the power to run VR and AR applications. Virtual Reality is a whole new dimension, consumers are lost in another virtual world. The technology is relatively new, but it is becoming mainstream slowly.
Both desktop and gaming computers serve a purpose in today’s world. Both have their pros and cons. The main differentiator between the two is the graphics card but as we see the advancement in technology such as the latest 8th generation Intel processors, the gap between the two is being slowly reduced. Some graphics components such as expensive Quadro graphics processors will still be ahead because they are used to make millions of calculations in science and research industries. On the consumer end, the gap is shrinking, and a time will come when both desktop and gaming computers can be considered one.