If you are a gamer, designer or engineer, or if your work requires significant amounts of simulation-based study, you are likely to require a robust graphics processing unit (GPU) for your server. In fact, over the last few years, the importance of the GPU in terms of technical specifications of any system has grown to be very similar to that of the central processing unit (CPU). In common parlance, GPU is known as a graphics card, and the more powerful it is, the greater will be the capability of your system to show greater amounts of information on the screen, be it in the form of gaming graphics or simulation results.
GPUs are not only important for the user interface of the operating system that you are working on. The CPU is more than sufficient for those graphics. What the GPU helps with is displaying more complex graphics, as are commonly observed in video games these days. If your simulation requires running a number of tasks in parallel, it is more than likely that you will require a robust GPU to facilitate your task and reduce computation time.
The Importance of the GPU
Let’s take the most intense task that any common system is likely to perform – gaming. Modern games include high-end 3D graphics that are beyond the capability of a CPU of any capacity to process. A robust GPU doesn’t just help load such graphics but also contributes to the smooth running of the game by loading the graphics faster.
While choosing a GPU, the most important question that needs to be asked is what the use of the GPU is going to be. The one industry that has been a propellant for the improvement of GPUs across the world has been the gaming industry. There are over 2.5 billion gamers in the world – this means nearly 35% of the world’s population plays some form of video games. While the fraction of this number that plays high-end games requiring high capacity GPUs is probably lower, it is evident from recent trends in gaming that GPUs are the future of gaming. Going by the trend, while buying a GPU, you might want to ensure it doesn’t become outdated in a few months. It is therefore recommended that you buy the highest-end GPU you can afford, instead of going by the graphics requirements of the game you are looking to play.
Another important industry that forms the bedrock of GPU usage, alongside gaming, is the design and engineering industry. While design often requires the rendering of complex 3D models, engineering is fast veering toward becoming a simulation centred industry. The mean salary of a simulation engineer in the US is over USD 70,000, making it a lucrative position, and much in demand by the industry as well. As the demand and number of simulation engineers and designers increases, so will the size of the GPU market.
Integrated and Discrete Graphics
Integrated GPUs are built into the CPU itself. The most prevalent example of these is Apple laptops, which use Intel integrated graphics. Only a little more than 10% of all users use integrated graphics. This is because integrated graphics cards will use only between 1% and 5% of their memory on graphics, including the memory used for the system UI and other non-graphic-intensive applications. If your application is graphic intensive, you will do much better if you use a separate or discrete graphics card. While these are more expensive, they also perform much better under all conditions since they are meant separately for graphics only.
Laptop and Desktop
Laptop computers suffer from massive space constraints as compared to desktops. This contributes to the fact that the graphics performance of laptops is generally observed to be lower than that of desktops. Unless your laptop is solely gaming focussed with not much else required by way of application or features, desktop computers will generally be able to contain a much better configuration of a discrete graphics card. However, in the past few years, the difference between laptop and desktop graphics cards has only been decreasing. A number of laptops for gaming are now available with really high-end graphics cards which would put really expensive desktop computers to shame. While it is still recommended that a desktop workstation be used for high-intensity applications, laptops are slowly getting there too.
Nvidia and AMD
Nvidia and AMD are the two giants of the game when it comes to graphic cards. Nvidia has the greatest share of the graphics card market at 76% and growing while AMD is at 14%. Nvidia will generally give you a significantly greater number of options for your graphics card as compared to AMD, and it also has a greater number of high-end options. AMD’s Radeon series of processors is its flagship, and highest selling product. The new Radeon RX 6000 series of GPUs is likely to be a significant step for the AMD portfolio, with the company banking on it to increase its share of the market.
Hence, there are several considerations to be made when buying a graphics card for your requirement. With these factors in mind, you’re all set to get started!