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Upgrading Your PC's Graphics and Display

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Mark Soper tells you why a graphics and display upgrade could be one of the single best investments you can make in your system, and then shows you how to do it.

Whether your computer is so new that you still have the packing boxes stashed in your den or it's been around long enough that some of the manuals have run off with your missing socks, a graphics and display upgrade could be one of the single best investments you can make in your system.

A new video card can deliver better 3D gaming performance and better speed for all applications. It also can provide features such as a TV-out port, video capture, support for pure digital LCD panels, and, if you have the desk space, support for a second monitor. Although these features have been around for awhile, system manufacturers often install low-end cards with outdated 3D chipsets that also lack support for advanced monitor features such as dual displays.

Ever since I switched to a dual-monitor/one-card setup in my office, my productivity has soared. Even if you don't do any work at home, a dual-display setup can do wonders for relaxation at the keyboard. You can surf twice as many web sites at one time, play a game and keep an eye on your email at the same time, and have more chat windows open at one time with more desktop space when you use two monitors. Whether you have room for just one monitor or are making the move to dual displays, today's monitors have larger displays, higher resolution, and better screen clarity than ever before.

It's a great time to upgrade your display and video card, and in this chapter, you learn how to upgrade both components as well as select the best combination of features for your needs. This chapter also helps you discover which computers block your move to better video and what you can do about them.

Ten Reasons to Upgrade Your Graphics and Display

Upgrading your graphics card requires a bit more work than other upgrades; after all, you need to make sure your system has an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) connector that supports the card of your dreams before you buy it. In addition, bringing home a big display can be a bit of trouble, especially if you have a small car. (The only way I was able to manage to squeeze my 19-inch monitor into my Ford Escort was to take it out of the box!) So, it might be tempting to skip these upgrades. However, if you find yourself nodding in familiarity as you read my top-ten list of reasons to upgrade, it's time to take the plunge.

  1. You're tired of your current video's card support for high speed with low visual quality or low speed with high visual quality.

  2. You already have a dual-display video card with nothing connected to the second display.

  3. Whenever the kids use the computer, your monitor's so small that when they crank up the resolution the icons seem to disappear.

  4. You bought a new digital LCD, but you need to use a clunky digital-to-analog adapter to plug it into your current graphics card.

  5. Your monitor's highest resolution setting is so fuzzy you can't use it.

  6. You'd like to have some room on your desk for something besides the monitor.

  7. Your monitor is so dark when you play some DVDs that you're still not sure how the movie ended.

  8. Your monitor is so dark when you play some games that you're always losing to the sniper/ninja/spy in the corner.

  9. You're tired of slow frame rates that make your 3D game look like a cheaply made cartoon.

  10. Your monitor's so small that when you watch a DVD, you have more letterbox border than movie.

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