Graphics Card Specs: The Basics

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we talk a lot about graphics cards on

this channel because most of the time it

is the most exciting part of a gaming PC

and the biggest contributor to your rigs

gaming performance but that means we're

talking a lot about technical terms like

core clock gddr5 cuda cores our Opie's

and so on if you know what all those

terms mean good for you

gold star but for those of you who don't

know for the laymen out there this video

should help you understand the basics of

what they mean and whether you should be

actually paying attention to those when

shopping for a new GPU or graphics card

the GPU is the actual chip but sometimes

we say that it's C this is why we're


let's actually start there the terms

graphics card video card and GPU are all

used to refer to one of these but the

term GPU or graphics processing unit

actually only literally means the

physical chip on the cards PCB now see I

told you this was the basics

the reason this distinction is important

is that different graphics cards can be

based off the same GPU for example the

two largest desktop GPU makers AMD and

NVIDIA will release a reference version

of a new graphics card like the Radeon

our X 480 or GeForce GTX 1080 then

vendors like MSI asu's gigabyte and so

on often sell that reference design but

they also designed custom versions with

unique coolers IO ports and sometimes a

higher clock speed but all those unique

versions actually have the same chip at

their core so they're not really that

unique are they now it's also possible

to have two GPUs on one graphics card

like AMD's r9 295x2 Radeon Pro duo or

Nvidia's Titan Z those can get you

tremendous amounts of graphics

horsepower but since you're technically

running two GPUs the card's performance

and games will depend on how well those

games support multi GPU performance

Nvidia is named for their multi-gpu

connection is SLI and AMD's is crossfire

sometimes like in the case of invidious

70 and 80 cards like the GTX 970 980

1070 and 1080 2 graphics cards at

different tiers will have the same chip

I'll be it with some modifications the

GTX 970 and 980 are both based off the

Maxwell GM 204 GPU while the 1070 and

1080 are based off the Pascal GP 104 now

speaking of Maxwell and Pascal you might

be aware that those terms refer to the

GPU architecture but what is that a GPUs

architecture is the platform or

technology it's built on new graphics

architectures are developed by AMD and

NVIDIA around every one to two years and

they often shrink the size of the

physical components of the processor

which allows them to fit more features

and transistors onto the GPU die-die

meaning the actual silicon in the chip

architecture changes can also reduce the

amount of power required to run cards

for this reason it becomes problematic

to come

hair different generations of graphics

cards based on certain specs alone as

separate architectures use the resources

available to them differently speaking

of those certain specs let's look at the

first one memory video memory or video

RAM serves the same function as system

RAM and that it holds whatever data is

currently being accessed by the GPU

these are the textures and images that

make up what is displayed to you on your

screen Veeran becomes especially

important when running at higher

resolutions if you want to know more

about how much vram you might need in

the graphics card I wrote an entire

video for Linus actually so you can

click here for that video for this video

we just want to know a couple things

having more vram won't automatically get

you more frames per second but having

not enough could cause textures in game

to pop in and out right now it seems

like four gigs of V Rams kind of sweet

spot for around 1080p with 2 gigs being

found on lower end cards that would run

with some settings turns down and six to

eight gigs allowing the Headroom that's

needed for 1440p and 4k again though

that's assuming the card has the raw

power necessary to run those resolutions

in the first place and games will differ

from each other in requirements as well

some games are super needy and some will

take whatever you've got just like

people one of the indicators of that raw

power I mentioned earlier is the core

clock this refers to the frequency at

which the GPU is running measured in

hertz while this can be used as a

general measure to compare the power of

different GPUs in one generation it

can't reliably be used for comparison

between different generations as

developments in architecture as we

discussed earlier render those

comparisons moot graphics cards will

often have a boost clock which is what

speed the card can boost itself to under

a heavy processing load like a video

game however that speed will drop back

down if it gets too hot which is called

thermal throttling and it's also why you

want a good cooler on your GPU

similarly the video memory runs at a

certain speed called the memory clock

this is one of a few specs that helps us

determine the memory bandwidth the

others our memory bus width which is how

many bits can travel to and from the

vram each clock cycle and the type of

memory used in the GPU either gddr5

gddr5 X or HP M which is vertically

stacked Ram that we've only seen in

AMD's fiji GPU so far memory bandwidth

is measured

gigabits per second think of it as a

tube connecting the GPU to its VRAM the

bigger that tube is the more effectively

your GPU can use its vram having tons

and tons of memory won't do any good if

the bandwidth is too small to use all of

it at once you can't squeeze an elephant

through a tube sock not without some

excellent engineering alright it's time

to speed this up we're going to go down

a typical spec list and give quick

definitions for each CUDA cores CUDA

stands for compute unified device

architecture it's in videos custom

programming language CUDA cores are the

physical cores in an NVIDIA GPU in AMD

GPUs these cores are called stream

processors and use the OpenCL

programming language we don't compare

these across generations and

architectures for the same reason we

don't do it for core clocks transistor

count is another spec that is just what

it sounds like the number of transistors

in the GPU and you don't need to worry

about it except as a fancy high number

now these next specs really don't matter

unless you're going to do an in-depth

technical analysis of a graphics card

texture units basically assist in

applying textures to 3d models ro peas

or raster output pipelines or render

operations units it doesn't matter

they're involved in the final process of

outputting pixels to the display or

rendering they also deal heavily with

anti-aliasing TDP stands for thermal

design power and it's the maximum amount

of heat the GPU is specified to produce

when running normal applications which

is weird because it's measured in watts

this doesn't correlate directly to the

actual amount of power consumed though

so don't worry too much about its

specific value unless you're doing some

in-depth testing in which case you

probably wouldn't be watching this video

anyways manufacturing process of a GPU

refers to the 1/2 pitch of a memory cell

in a processor or half the distance

between identical features it's measured

in nanometers and a new process is

developed every 2 to 3 years

AMD's rx 480 is made on a 40 nanometer

process and Nvidia Sten series GPUs are

made on a 16 nanometer process which is

why this generation of GPUs has a pretty

big performance leap over last gens 22

nanometer processors alright so that's

it for the rundown for specs if all

these different specs don't really help

you when you're looking to buy a GPU

what should you look for

benchmarks the only real way to know how

a card is going to run is to run it

specs can give a general idea of how a

card might perform relative to one

another but there's no way to know for

sure until you actually put it to the


so before you purchase a graphics card

do your research

read and watch reviews of that card

compared to other cards and then you can

make an informed decision well I think

that's about enough of that hopefully

for the uninformed out there this video

helped clear things up a bit

if you want to see more you can click

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all of these back in their boxes so I

don't ruin