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

OEM vs. Retail Cards

It seems to be routine practice for large system integrators--OEMs--to cut deals with video card manufacturers to purchase large quantities of lower-capability video cards for their systems. (This appears to happen with video cards more than most other components.) While the retail version of a particular card may have certain performance characteristics, the OEM version can have much worse performance for a number of reasons. I have personally heard of the following corners being cut on OEM video cards:

  • A lower frequency RAMDAC, that won't support refresh rates as high as the retail card.
  • Slower video memory being used.
  • Non-upgradable video memory; the retail card may be 2 MB upgradable to 4 MB, while the OEM card is 2 MB only.
  • Different (usually inferior or simply older) video BIOS code.

Warning: The difference in performance between a retail and OEM version of the same card can be substantial, although sometimes it is not. These OEM video cards are advertised using the full name of the video card and there is no way to tell that what you are getting is not identical to the full retail version unless you ask specifically when buying the system.

Next: Video Chipset / Acceleration Features


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