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Since my fancy video card have gone south, I've been using the motherboard integrated one (some Intel with 256mb)

I do not really see any difference with the old one.

I don't do games or video editing in the PC and now I'm wondering if buying a new video card is a smart choice.

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How much memory does your system have? Which OS are you using? –  Isxek Apr 7 '10 at 15:04
    
Win 7 Ultimate. 4 gigs of ram. Core Duo 2 @ 1.86mhz –  Eduardo Molteni Apr 7 '10 at 21:25

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you don't see any difference and don't use any applications that need a powerful video card, then there is no reason to buy one.

What could be an issue depending on what you need is it's ability to run with higher resolutions and multiple video outputs (for example if you want to run with more than one screen and with high resolutions). But yeah, if it works for you, it works for you :)

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For everyday applications (word processing, browsing the internet) then the integrated graphics on your motherboard is probably good enough.

Where you will see a difference is if:

  • You are doing image or video processing. These take advantage of graphics card processors and memory
  • You want to run at very high resolutions. The onboard graphics probably won't support the highest resolutions (or refresh rates if you're still using a CRT).
  • You run 3D applications or games. These won't run very well (or even at all) without a separate video card.
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At the end of the day, unless you are doing graphically demanding applications, you should not see any difference.

That being said, I have no proof to back it up, but - I think it really depends on the motherboard and chipset or integrated graphics used.

I have noticed on several machines that had integrated graphics (in particular Intel integrated) by upgrading to the cheapest graphics card that cost ~£20, I noticed a small increase in performance of general computing - starting up and launching other application.

I personally attributed this to offloading the graphics processing from the chipset - again, this is just personal experience, I have no proof or benchmarking to back it up.

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Video cards off board graphics processing from the main CPU/memory to a set designated and specially designed for video processing.

If you don't use the features of a video card, then it generally won't have an effect on your system performance.

Since you don't run games or the alike, you'll likely not notice a difference. Where you might notice a difference is that certain features of certain programs won't run. Since computers are so powerful now, many software products employ eye candy to make the UI look better.

An example of this is Windows Vista Aero. It is my understanding that you need a capable video card to run the Aero effects. It is certainly possible that the integrated video card can support this but the processing load would be put on your main processor. This would have an effect on your computer performance, however most of the time your processor is likely not utilized anyway. So, it will appear to have no affect.

Ultimately, if your computer is working to your satisfaction, I'd not bother updating it. I still believe that most people will find more bang-for-their-buck in maxing out their system memory over other upgrades.

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AFAIK this isn't accurate. The integrated graphics chip might share memory, but it does not share the CPU. If it used the CPU at all it would be called Software Rendering, which is very slow. Having an integrated graphics chip just means that the graphics processor chip is on the motherboard instead of on a separate card. –  Svish Apr 7 '10 at 20:56
    
Svish: so, you are saying that basically there is no way the PC will be slower. The only possibility is that some game or program might drop some frames? –  Eduardo Molteni Apr 7 '10 at 21:12
    
I'm confident I'm correct here. But I'm not refering to simple thing like drawing Window's windows, the build in "processor" of the built-in video card will handle it. I am referring to when you run a game (or other software) that utilizes DirectX/OpenGL -- Normally, these would utilize the video card's processor but with out that, it falls back on to the main processor. –  Frank V Apr 7 '10 at 21:27
    
If this wasn't true, I don't see how a game like Quake could ever run on a machine without a video card... But it does... because the computer handles the graphical processing load. –  Frank V Apr 7 '10 at 21:34

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