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What is a Card

A "card" is the most common term you'll hear to describe a printed circuit board of the type that you install into your computer as an add-on. These upgrade cards can add extra features to your computer, such as enhanced graphics or sound. Cards are installed into sockets on the motherboard and they provide a user-friendly way of upgrading your computer or adding new functionality. Installing a card is usually simply a matter of taking your computer's case cover off, placing the card into a compatible slot on the motherboard and then installing the drivers for your new hardware.

The most common type of add-in card is a graphics card. Most desktop computers have dedicated graphics cards, whereas budget systems and most laptop computers have graphics chips integrated into the motherboard. Regardless, graphics cards or integrated chips are responsible for rendering what you see on the screen. Gamers use dedicated graphics cards for rendering 3D scenes in modern video games, something which is very limited using integrated solutions. Graphics cards these days come in the PCI-Express variety and every modern motherboard provides one PCI-Express socket specifically for installing a graphics card.

Other add-in cards which you'll often hear about are sound cards, TV cards and controller cards. Sound cards, as you'd expect from their name, enhance and add to the sound-related features of your computer. While almost all computers provide integrated sound, audio enthusiasts often prefer to install a dedicated sound card to enjoy greater audio quality and more features such as immersive, multichannel sound.

TV cards, as the name suggests, add television functionality to your computer. They allow you to watch and record television broadcasts complete with a remote control. These days, however, many television tuners come in the form of small USB devices which look rather like USB pen drives.

Controller cards add extra connectivity to a computer. For example, if you're running out of available USB ports, you can buy an add-in card which provides more ports. There are controller cards available for many interface types, such as SATA for installing extra hard disks and optical drives or FireWire ports for devices which use them.


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