As streaming video and computer graphics have improved dramatically in recent years, computer graphics cards have changed significantly as well. As with most computer technologies, a graphics card that was top of the line a few months ago may be entirely outdated today. However, that is not to say that your graphics card must be state of the art in order to adequately handle streaming video and other graphics requirements. If you are selecting a graphics card for streaming video capabilities, it helps to understand the requirements and specifications of your computer, as well as what is necessary for the functions that you hope to complete. You may find that your needs can be met by a cheaper graphics card.
Determining Your Computer's Capabilities
Graphics cards are not compatible across all computers. It is certainly possible to overload your computer with an inappropriate graphics card, or to purchase an expensive card that you are unable to install because it isn't designed for your make or model of computer.
To assess your computer's capabilities, first look to the owner's manual and the motherboard itself. The two primary types of graphics card types are AGP and ECI. Some computers can process both, while others may only be equipped to install one or the other. If you have trouble locating the information on the motherboard itself or in the manual for your computer, visit the manufacturer's website for more information.
Selecting the Graphics Card
Before you purchase a card, evaluate your needs and goals. If you are only interested in your computer being able to process streaming video, you may be able to find a cheaper (though more limited) graphics card. If, on the other hand, you plan to use your graphics card for games, video editing or other processes, you may wish to invest in a more powerful graphics card.
Having determined your requirements in a card and the capability of your computer, begin researching appropriate graphics cards. Online review sites like CNet (www.cnet.com) can be very helpful, as can online stores that allow for customer reviews and feedback. You may also wish to visit an electronics or computer store to consult with a specialist. Evaluate the experiences of customers before you order to determine whether the graphics card in question operates well and is a good value. This may also be a good way of comparing prices between stores, as the same graphics card may be available at different prices.
Once you have purchased and installed the card according to the instructions, evaluate its functionality for yourself. If you are unhappy with your graphics card's performance, contact the seller for information about returning or trading the card. You may also wish to post your own review of the card on customer review websites as well.