A Graphics Card may not be an essential component for normal computer users. But for high-end users, gamers and graphics designers, a graphics card is among the most essential components. A graphics card has many different components, RAM is among these components. There are many versions of graphics cards. You might have heard about DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 graphics cards. What is the difference among these generations of graphics cards? This is what we will discuss in this article.
What is a Graphics Card?
A graphics card is a hardware component of a computer system used to boost its video memory and display quality. A graphics card makes a computer system more powerful so that it can handle high-level works efficiently. The image and video quality that you view in your computer system depends on the type of graphics card you are using. When it comes to gaming and video editing tasks, the graphics card has the primary role. Every game needs a graphics card. The type of graphics card depends on the quality of graphics used in that game.
What are the Components of a Graphics Card?
Before we start our discussion on the different types of graphics cards, it is essential to understand the different components of a graphics card. We are listing below some graphics cards’ components.
GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
A Graphics Processing Unit is the main component of the graphics card where all the graphics calculations take place. Hence, we can say that GPU is the heart of the graphics card. The GPU has hundreds to thousands of cores, whereas, CPU has only 2 to 16 cores. These small cores help GPU perform complex graphics calculations.
If you are a gamer, you are well-versed with the names, Nvidia and AMD. These are the two popular companies that manufacture graphics cards. Nvidia called the graphics card cores or processors the Cuda Cores or Shaders, whereas, AMD called them Stream Processors. Because Nvidia and AMD are the two different companies that manufacture graphics cards, the architecture of their graphics cards is also not the same. Hence, we cannot say that the Cuda Cores = Stream Processors. Due to the difference in their architecture, the performance of these two graphics cards is also not the same.
Let’s see the two terms related to the GPU:
- GPU Clock: It is the speed at which GPU runs.
- Shaders Clock or Frequency: It is the speed at which the Cuda Cores and Shaders run. It remains in synchronization with the GPU clock.
Memory is the component that stores all the information. GPU fetches the textures stored in a memory and sends them back to RAM after processing the information. After this step, it sends the processed information to the RAMDAC from where it is sent to the LCD screen or monitor of the user. RAMDAC is the Random Access Memory Digital to Analog Converter. It converts the image into an analog signal before transmitting it to the monitor screen.
Graphics Cards use different types of RAM. The most commonly used RAM in today’s graphics cards is GDDR3 and GDDR5, where G means Graphics and DDR means Double Data Rate. We will discuss DDR later in this article.
Heat Sink and Fan
When you run a graphics card, heat is generated. Uncontrolled temperatures can damage the graphics card. Therefore, all the graphics cards come with a heat sink and fan. Heat sink and fan lower down the RAM and GPU temperature so that the graphics card can perform effectively for longer durations.
What is RAM?
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is a volatile memory which means all the stored information is erased automatically once the power supply is terminated. During data processing, the information is transferred between CPU and RAM. Hence, how fast the CPU can process the information also depends on the data transmission rate of RAM.
What is DDR?
DDR stands for Double Data Rate. DDR is used to indicate the rate of data transmission between RAM and CPU. Double Data Rate means that the data is transferred at both high and low edges of a signal. Now you can understand why DDR RAM is faster than non-DDR RAM. DDR1, 2, 3, etc., are the generations of DDR RAM.
DDR3 vs DDR4 vs DDR5 Graphics Card
Now, you have understood that the word DDR in a graphics card refers to the RAM embedded in it. It’s time to compare the different generations of graphics cards, i.e., DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5 RAM graphics cards. We will take here different parameters for comparison.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data or information moved to and from a particular destination. In simple words, RAM bandwidth represents the rate of data transfer between itself and the CPU. Bytes/second is the unit of bandwidth. Newer generation RAM always has a higher bandwidth than its previous version. That’s why DDR4 RAM is faster than DDR3 RAM. But you also have to consider the capacity of the RAM while purchasing a graphics card. Heavy graphics require more space on RAM. Therefore, if your work requires running multiple heavy-duty applications, you should consider purchasing a graphics card with more RAM.
High voltage means high power consumption. And high power consumption means more heat generation. If you play ultra-high-definition games on your PC, it puts more load on the card, which means high heat generation. This can cause the graphics card to overheat. If you compare the specifications of the different generations of the graphics cards, you will see that the newer generations of graphics cards have less voltage rating and high bandwidth. This means that they can handle multiple heavy-duty tasks with low voltage consumption. That’s why DDR5 graphics cards are better than DDR4 and lower versions.
You might have heard about prefetch. What is it? It is the amount of data transferred in one pass. It also determines how fast RAM is. For example, DDR2 RAM has a prefetch rate of 4n and both DDR3 and DDR4 RAM have the same prefetch rate of 8n. It means that the DDR2 and DDR3 RAM can process 4 units and 8 units of data in one pass respectively. The DDR5 RAM graphics card has a prefetch rate of 16n which is double the rate of DDR3 and DDR4 RAM graphics cards.
Some more types of Graphics Cards
If you are a gamer, you might have heard about GDDR graphics cards. What are they? Are they different from the DDR graphics cards that we have discussed above in this blog? The answer is yes. Letter G in the GDDR graphics card stands for Graphics. Like DDR, GDDR is also a type of RAM that is used in graphics cards. The difference between a DDR graphics card and a GDDR graphics card is that the latter one is more advanced and is made for high-end gaming applications.
GDDR memories have higher clock frequencies and larger bandwidth as compared to DDR memories. GDDR RAM is also called VRAM or Video RAM. Let’s have a bird’s eye view on GDDR3, GDDR4, and GDDR5 graphics cards.
- GDDR3 RAM: It is faster than DDR3 RAM and is manufactured for low to mid-range of graphics cards and gaming consoles. Examples of gaming consoles that use GDDR3 RAM include Xbox 360 and PS3.
- GDDR4 RAM: This RAM is not very popular. Hence, it is used in fewer graphics cards. Today, no company manufactures GDDR4 graphics cards, as the higher versions have replaced them.
- GDDR5 RAM: It is the fastest RAM as of now and is used in today’s mid to high-range graphics cards. You will find GDDR5 RAM graphics cards in the top gaming consoles like PlayStation 4. GDDR5 RAM can attain a speed of 5GHz and more. If you compare it with GDDR3 RAM, you will find it 2.5 to 3 times faster. Due to this, GDDR5 graphics cards most expensive.
Which is the best DDR Graphics Card for Gaming?
Most of you buy a graphics card to play high-definition games on your PC. Graphics card plays an important role when it comes to high-end gaming applications. Above we have explained the different types of graphics cards including DDR3, DDR4, and DDR5. If you have to select between DDR3 and DDR4 RAM, the two things that you consider the most are cost and performance. You will not notice the difference between these two graphics cards unless you play high-end games. DDR4 is better than DDR3 graphics card in many aspects. Therefore, if cost is not your main concern, you should go with the DDR4 graphics card. Similarly, the DDR5 graphics card is superior to all the past generations.
Read: How to find out Computer RAM, Graphics Card/Video memory of your PC.
If you are a high-end gamer and want to enjoy the latest games in the highest resolution along with some other functionalities like live streaming, you should invest in the newer generations graphics cards like DDR5. But if you are not much interested in gaming but require a graphics card for other tasks like graphics designing, you may go with the lower versions, like DDR4 and DDR3.