Budget graphics cards are more capable today than they have ever been. Apart from games, an entry-level graphics card can handle tasks that make the CPU's work easier. For instance, all current generation GPUs can decode high-definition videos, provided you use a player that utilizes them efficiently. The new killer application is GPU-based processing in software such as video encoders and image editing programs. The massive parallelism afforded by the raging battalion of stream processors in a GPU can make a PC with a weak CPU work five times faster than one with a quad-core CPU and integrated graphics. If that's the power of an entry-level GPU, you can guess the immense processing power of the high-end ones.

Although these cards do not churn out exceptional frame rates or offer stellar game play, they fare well in most of the latest games at decent resolutions. Even ultra-budget cards priced under Rs 3,500 can play titles such as Left 4 Dead and even Crysis Warhead at 1440×900 with medium settings on. And by adding just an additional Rs 1,000 for a better card, you can play Crysis Warhead at full HD resolution in Performance mode. Most cards ranging from Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 can play games at resolutions of up to 1680×1050.

So, gamers with a low budget can rejoice. Cards in this category offer just as many video output options as high-end ones, including dual-link DVI ports for a dual-monitor setup, D-sub ports for backward compatibility, and even the new DisplayPort. Some have HDMI ports, so an HTPC enthusiast can connect his HDTV or monitor and watch movies via his computer. For an HTPC setup, this type of a rig is more powerful than any other standalone HD movie playback device available today. A new feature in the latest-generation of graphics cards is an on-board audio processor that can stream multi- channel audio via HDMI. While gaming or playing movies, these cards emit the least amount of sound, or none at all, thanks to the completely passive cooling solutions that some of them use. These cards do not require fans, and remain cool due to their leaner fabrication process; 40 nm currently being the lowest. This also means that such cards consume less power, so there’s no need for extra power connectors or upgrading your computer’s power supply.

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