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 PC World 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

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?