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What is a Dual Graphics Card?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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A dual graphics card setup can be useful for improving performance in gaming or other intense video applications. It typically involves two cards with similar chipsets that are interconnected and able to work in concert. Each chip manufacturer has their own standard for this set up, so there is typically a limitation on which cards may be used in dual settings. The cards typically must use graphics processing unit (GPU) chipsets from the same manufacturer and also be listed as compatible. Some games and other applications do not run well using a dual graphics card system, so it may be necessary to enable only one card at a time.

Computer graphics cards can handle a number of video related instructions and calculations so that the central processing unit (CPU) does not have to. Many motherboards come equipped with an on board graphics chip, though these integrated units typically do not perform as well as discrete video graphics cards. A number of other factors may influence the performance of a graphics card, including processor clock speed as well as both the size and bandwidth of the memory.

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There are only a handful of GPU producers, each of which has their own proprietary chipsets. Each GPU manufacturer also has its own dual graphics card system to go with these unique GPU chipsets. GPU producers may sell cards directly to consumers or only offer their processors to third parties. The third party companies can then create graphics cards that are more or less interchangeable at a GPU level, including the ability to use the same drivers. Two graphics cards may have different brand names and still use the same GPU and dual graphics card technology.

Dual graphics card systems can take advantage of parallel processing to create a single video output with two GPUs. The increased processing power this offers may result in better quality graphics and higher frame rates. Graphics that are visually attractive and have smoother frame rates are often desirable in gaming and similar applications. There are often competitive advantages in gaming that can be associated with smoother, higher resolutions.

In some cases, two GPUs may be contained on a single board, creating a dual graphics card that takes up only one expansion slot. A more common configuration can involve two discrete cards that are connected by a wire. Other less common setups may entail three or four linked graphics cards, though these configurations typically only offer improved graphics and frame rates at substantially high video resolutions.

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