Here's our Hardware Tip for.. July 23, 1999
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Graphics Adapters
Graphics adapters (or as they're sometimes called, accelerators) are video cards that connect computers to monitors and other displays, with their own processing chips designed to speed the display of complex images. With the right one, you can speed up 2D (two-dimensional) graphics such as desktop publishing (DTP) or business charts, 3D (three-dimensional) data such as architectural renderings or 3D games, and compressed digital video data such as MPEG movies (such as used on DVD discs). Many boards these days support a combination of all three.

When it comes to card slot types, you're basically limited to two, PCI and the newer AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port).

For non-AGP equipped PCs, PCI still supports a competitive array of boards. Also, certain cards are currently offered only in a PCI configuration, or don't fully utilize AGPs feature set. PCI has a large, established user base and is still the predominant peripheral interface method on non-Pentium mother boards. If you plan to buy an AMD or Cyrix system, PCI is the only way to go.

AGP boasts faster transfer rates than PCI and lets a graphics board use the computer's main memory to store textures. Theoretically, this allows for a board with less memory to display images with larger textures, and to redraw them more quickly. However, the first generation of AGP cards yielded little or no improvement over similarly-configured PCI cards in this department. This was due mainly to the fact that most software didn't take full advantage of AGP's ability to access system memory. Now, however, we're on to AGP 2X and 4X. Also, more designers are supporting AGP's feature set. If you are working with almost any new Intel based computer there is little reason not to go with an AGP based card. As AGP also leaves a valuable PCI slot free for other tech toys, it becomes even more attractive. Finally, as the technology matures and more software packages begin to take advantage of its core features, future implementations will show greater improvements in speed and image detail.

Note: Windows 98 now fully supports the new AGP standard.