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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Video Cards | Video Card Overview ]

The Video Chipset

Virtually all modern video cards are accelerators, which perform various video calculation functions in addition to just providing the output signal to the monitor. The capabilities of the video card are a function of the internal processor on the card that does the calculating functions (as well as the more mundane tasks that every video card must perform). The logic circuit that controls the video card is referred to as the video chipset. It is sometimes also called an accelerator or video coprocessor.

Normally the word "chipset" refers to the system chipset that controls the motherboard. The video chipset performs an analogous function for the video card. Motherboards perform various functions that once required a myriad of individual chips; in later years these functions were integrated into a small set of chips and called the "chipset". The same thing has occurred with video cards. In fact, many (if not most) video chipsets are actually a single chip.

There are two different approaches taken in the industry by video card makers. Some manufacture their own video cards in their entirety, including designing the chipset logic themselves. For example, Matrox designs their own cards from the ground up, which gives them more control over the design and better ability to write efficient BIOSes and software drivers. Other major card makers use third-party chipsets that they incorporate into cards of their own design. For example, Diamond Multimedia uses chipsets made by other companies such as S3. You can use this procedure to find out the exact name and version of your video chipset.

Next: The Video BIOS

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