7 Differences Between 128 Bit and 256 Bit Graphics Card

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What are the differences between 128 Bit and 256 Bit Graphics Card? It is not an easy task to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a Graphics Processing Unit or a GPU.

There are lots of things to consider for this such as:

  • The type of the Graphical Processing Unit itself
  • The stream processors
  • The memory and other parts.

And, yes, there is the bit rate or data transfer rate of the bus to consider which typically connects the memory to the processor.

When it comes to bit rate, when you consider all other factors, you will find that higher bit rate does not necessarily mean higher performance.

Therefore, in that sense, there is not much difference between a 128 Bit graphics card and a 256 Bit graphics card, no matter how counterintuitive these terminologies may seem to be.

Here is an article that will establish this fact for you so that you are no more confused about the bit rate of a graphics card.

Through this article you will know about the little differences that a 128 Bit GPU and a 256 Bit GPU have as well as other important facts in the ‘Which is better’ section. So, read on.

The 7 Differences Between 128 Bit and 256 Bit Graphics Card

Differences Between 128 Bit and 256 Bit Graphics Card

1. Number of Reads

In all reality, the higher the number of bits is, the better it is.

Therefore, a 256 Bit graphics card will be able to read a higher number of binary digits in each line of the Instruction Set Architecture or ISA of the machine in comparison to a 128 Bit graphics card.

2. Graphics Works

Based on graphics works, a 128 Bit graphics card will be more helpful to a user engaged with 2D graphics designing.

A low-tier 256 Bit graphics card will also be equally good and useful for that matter.

On the other hand, for video editing or streaming live screens or games on social media, then a 256 Bit graphics card will be more useful though a high-end 128 Bit graphics card may also do the job.

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3. Amount of Data handled

If the properties are identical, a 128 Bit graphics card may run into some problems while handling large amounts of data when it reaches the processor.

On the other hand, a 256 Bit graphics card will be able to push a much higher amount of data through the pipeline to the processor.

4. Available Lanes

A 128 Bit graphics card will have less number of lanes for the information to travel through.

On the other hand, the higher bit rate of a 256 Bit graphics card will enable the graphics card and memory to talk to each other faster due to more lanes available for the information to travel.

5. Speed

Typically, the performance speed of a 256 Bit graphics card will be higher in comparison to that of the 128 Bit graphics card, if all other specs other than the bit rate remain the same.

6. Bandwidth

A 128 Bit graphics card will typically have lower bandwidth. The amount of data moved between the graphics card and the RAM will be low for each clock cycle and it will draw to the screen slowly.

On the other hand, due to the higher bandwidth, a 256 Bit graphics card will do it more quickly.

Therefore, the resolutions will be better which will result in smoother images of higher quality.

7. Overclocking

The bit rate of the graphics card is actually restricted by the amount of pins in the processor.

Based on this fact, the RAM of a 128 Bit graphics card can never be overclocked to increase its throughput unless it is 256 Bits.

On the other hand, overclocking the RAM is usually more effective in graphics cards with higher bit rates.

Therefore, overclocking the RAM by 128 MHz on a 128 Bit graphics card will produce an extra 2.048 GB/s of output while that of a 256 Bit graphics card will be double than that being up to 4.096 GB/s.

Which is Better to Use – 128 Bit or 256 Bit Graphics Card?

This is a very complicated question to answer. In fact, it cannot be answered!

If you put it simply, you cannot make a general comparison between a 128 bit graphics card and a 256 Bit graphics card and say that one is better than the other.

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It majorly depends on the type of cards you are comparing.

For example, a 128 bit 5770 will be much faster in comparison to a 256 bit 4850.

Or, a 448 Bit GTX 260 will offer the same performance as a 5770 but will be much slower in performance when compared with a 256 Bit 5870.

Therefore, you can see that it all depends on the specific types of cards you are comparing.

This is primarily because different graphics card manufacturing companies follow different processes and GPU architectures.

So, an NVIDIA processing core will not perform at the same level as the AMD stream processors.

It may seem apparent that a 128 Bit graphics card is weaker in comparison to a 256 Bit graphics card but it can handle heavy tasks quite efficiently being reasonably powerful.

It is for this particular reason you will find that the 128 Bit graphics cards are quite favored by the PC users even today.

The bit rate of a graphics card actually determines the bandwidth which is the combination of the frequency of the RAM and bit rate of the bus of the card.

This determines its performance level, usually measured in gigabytes per second and not in bits, and is calculated in the following way:

  • The bit rate is divided by 8 to convert it to bytes and
  • The quotient arrived is multiplied by the frequency of the Random Access Memory in megahertz.

For example, if the frequency of the RAM of a 128 Bit graphics card is 3,000-MHz, the bandwidth of it will be 48 GB/s, and, if all other things remain unchanged, that of a 256 Bit graphics card will be 96 GB/s, which is double that amount.

Well, even if the 256 it graphics card will offer double the memory bandwidth of a 128 Bit graphics card, a common misconception is that these two are different.

However, it is not the case because the cards are typically not differentiated based on the bus size only.

There are other factors that are equally important and are considered as well such as:

  • The amount of RAM
  • The frequency of the RAM and more.

That is why it is said that two graphics cards should be compared always based on their memory bandwidth overall and not on their bit rate.

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Therefore, it can be said that both 128 Bit and 256 Bit graphics cards are useful for a variety of users and will be more than enough to handle tasks including:

  • Basic computing
  • Budget gaming and
  • Basic 3D graphics packages such as Maya and 3ds Max.

In fact, all enthusiast-level graphics cards are usually 256 Bit and it is only the more expensive and most powerful ones that are rated higher such as 320 Bit, 384 Bit, and in a few cases, 512 Bit.

With all that said, it can be concluded that a graphics card with 128 Bit but with a high speed Double Data Rate 5 or DDR5 RAM may be faster than a 256 bit bus card that has a slower DDR3 RAM.

But, since the 256 Bit graphics card can handle double the info per cycle as compared to a 128 Bit bus, it will be better.

However, when it comes to the overall performance, you should also consider all other factors and combination of specs to find the total memory output because it is not based on the bit rate of the graphics card.

More often, the performance is usually at the mercy of the GPU architecture.

In short, if your graphics card can use a 128 Bit bus, there is no need to use a 256 Bit bus.

In such situations, as said earlier, a high-end 128 Bit graphics card can even be more powerful in comparison to a low-end 256 Bit graphics card and vice versa.

This is because it all depends on the bandwidth.

Conclusion

Therefore, now you know that there is not much difference between a 128 Bit and a 256 Bit Graphics Processing unit.

If you are concerned with the performance, there is no need to focus on the bit rate of a graphics card since it depends on mostly other specs.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin