This is potentially the most confusing aspect of your machine, yet also one of the most important, so give it some thought.
The SpaceCube has onboard graphics which are perfectly acceptable for web browsing,
word processing and the like. They use main system memory (16/32/64/128Mb) leaving
less room for other things, and a small hit on overall performance,
but unless you are comparing and contrasting, you probably wouldn't notice.
Adding an extra graphics card opens up a number of additional options, and removes
the overhead caused by the on-board graphics. This means that your whole system
will be faster. Of course, games and graphics/video/multimedia applications will
benefit most, but don't dismiss graphics cards as "just for games".
Non-gamers will probably not require anything more than the sub-100ukp cards, unless
they are interested in 3D graphics and modelling.
A common mistake is to judge graphics cards purely on the amount of memory they
offer - after all, a 64Mb card is clearly inferior to 128Mb, right? In many
cases the answer is "no" as such large sizes aren't made use of. In fact, it's
the chip at the heart of the card that determines how well the card performs,
and what features it offers. 128Mb on a slow chip will be slower than a good
chip with 64Mb.
Now, one thing that all our dedicated graphics boards offer is a DVI digital
output. This allows you to connect to DVI-equipped (good/pro) LCD screens and
maintain a digital signal throughout. This means sharper pictures, no geometrical
distortions, and purer colour rendering. Graphics cards also offer TV-out facilities
allowing you to display the picture on a TV set, perhaps for watching movies.
Our card lineup includes boards by both ATI and Nvidia. There is generally
little to choose between equivalent cards from these two giants of the graphics
card industry. ATI have traditionally had a reputation for better 2D image
quality, although Nvidia cards are the only ones to offer the maximum 2048x1536
under RISC OS. Not that such a resolution is likely to be relevant to 99%
of customers! These days, both Nvidia and ATI put out excellent products, so
we suggest users just pick a price-point.
Graphics card technology changes rapidly so the examples below will
almost certainly be "old news" by the time you are reading this.
You will notice that many pages do not quote exact model numbers for cards,
but rather give a price point. This is because whilst models come and go, the
prices tend to stay roughly the same.
The on-board Geforce4Mx provides adequate performance. It offers TV out.
The Radeon 9250 and Geforce FX5200 cards offer much better performance than the
onboard Geforce4Mx (about 25% faster) and also supports more advanced graphics
technologies for more special effects etc. They includes DVI output making
these the ideal cards for non-gamers/professional users. The cards are fanless
so there is no additional noise.
Both the Radeon 9800Pro and Geforce 6600 offer the latest DirectX9 hardware
feature support. They outperform the cheaper cards, and features like
"full scene antialiasing" perform speedily, smoothing out jagged edges on
3D scenes. These cards will handle pretty much anything you can throw at them
right now, and will give you a great all-round home system.
Beyond these cards lies ATI's x800 series. These are 3D powerhouse cards,
capable of handling pretty-much everything available today, and tomorrow too!
If you want the best for your machine, this is it, but for non-gamers this
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