What are the differences between sound card and graphics card? Both of these components in the title are very useful and relevant for content creators, directors, gamers and other professionals that are engaged in the audio-visual industry.
While each has a task of its own, a final output cannot be created without the use of either of these.
While a sound card can still function without a dedicated graphics card in certain scenarios, a graphics card will require an audio interface of some sort in every situation where audio is involved.
Without the presence of the sound or graphics cards, your PC wouldn’t be able to produce the sounds or visuals respectively.
This, in turn, will hinder the basic functionalities of the PC, while also slowing down your productivity or overall experience.
While a basic audio and video chip is provided in every computer, those who need better performance opt for external adapters.
For those of you who have no idea what these are, make sure to check our dedicated articles on the topics. But still, we have a short definition coming right up.
- What is a sound card?
A sound card/adapter is a component that enhances the audio capability of a PC. It has a sound processing unit on it, along with other small parts and input and output ports.
But the main work it does is relays audio signals to and from various input and output devices connected with the PC and transforms digital signals to analog signals.
The analog signals are what we as humans understand, while the digital signal is what the computer reads (in 0s and 1s).
Sound cards are mostly used by professionals for better audio output, amplification, and other such reasons, in a recording studio for example.
However, in modern times the use of sound cards as such has reduced considerably because the motherboards already come with a good sound arrangement.
These have got so improved over the years that they are now placed in a separate portion of the motherboard, thus free from any sort of electrical interference.
Thus, these have now been replaced with external audio interfaces that do the same work but are easier to set up.
Also, processors are now capable of doing the extra work of processing audio without having to slow down other tasks.
- What is a graphics card?
A graphics card is a component that stores the GPU or Graphics Processing Unit. This is one of the basic upgrades that people do on their PCs so that the video or gaming quality of the PC is increased.
A GPU can be utilized in multiple ways other than just increasing the graphical capability, and this is why it is a well-known term.
Graphics cards are also of two types: prebuilt and dedicated. Prebuilt cards are soldered directly on the motherboard, just like audio cards, and have very little capacity regarding graphics.
Dedicated GPUs are multiple times powerful, and can provide you with a whole new level of visual experience no matter what you do on the computer.
Differences between Sound Card and Graphics Card
While there can be a wide range of prices in which both of these are available, sound cards tend to be much cheaper than the video cards in general. The most expensive sound card today would not be more than $300.
Graphics cards, on the other hand, are a lot more costly. Depending on what brand you choose, there can be cards as low as $100, while you can also choose the latest NVIDIA RTX 3090 cards that would be as expensive as $1500.
Default graphics aren’t that costly and in the majority of the times, one doesn’t have to pay anything extra for onboard graphics. There are however some CPUs that do not come with graphics, and you would have to buy a dedicated GPU anyway.
There is very little scope of doing any sort of customization on an audio card since it doesn’t have much hardware attached to it. Surely some are available in a colorful case and some RGB might just be added, but that’s the end of it.
GPUs are customizable, and hence are much more attractive. Not only the casing, but the cooling fan’s and other parts can also be customized with RGB that gives it a whole new look.
3. System Requirement
You just need to have a place to connect it. Another advantage with sound cards is that they can be connected with different types of slots like USB, PCI (now replaced with PCIe), and so on. That said, you won’t require as many PCIe lanes either.
Graphics cards are much sophisticated and depending upon what GPU you choose, a minimum system requirement must be met. NVIDIA GTX cards can be used with lower systems, but a high-end GPU like the RTX 2070 super when running on an i3 processor would lead to a CPU bottleneck.
This bottleneck will hinder performance and you might even experience a system crash. Moreover, modern graphics cards only work on x8 and x16 PCIe, which means there must be enough PCIe slots on the motherboard.
If you consider using more than a single GPU, more PCIe slots would be required.
A sound card doesn’t require additional RAM to function. It only requires some spare system RAM and that too by a limited amount. The chances are, you wouldn’t even have to make a RAM upgrade to install a sound card unless you have a very low amount of RAM on your PC.
The GPU, on the other hand, requires a faster VRAM that also has greater bandwidth than the typical DDR3 or DDR4 memory you might be having. Since graphics processing is much more intensive, the graphics coprocessor requires some better RAM of its own.
The CPU and GPU can thus work independently. However, this was the case for dedicated GPUs, and onboard graphics or APUs still use system RAM.
5. Cooling Fans
Audio cards surely do an important job, but they aren’t so hardworking. This is why they don’t require additional cooling fans. In fact, with enough airflow inside the PC’s chassis and other cooling available, you never need to worry about keeping the sound card cool individually.
The scenario is just the opposite when video cards are concerned. Every video card, no matter if it’s a base level card or a premium one, requires cooling fans.
Some even require two of them, while the 3rd party vendor might even add one more, just for the sake of marketing. Also, some GPUs work better if liquid cooling is installed alongside it.
A sound card basically has the following uses:
- Better Audio Quality
- Professional Audio editing and engineering
- Input and output ports for microphones, headphones, and speakers
- Any sort of audio and input and output like voice recognition, watching movies, and playing music
A graphics card has a similar type of usage, but related to graphics as follows:
- Better graphics quality in gaming and VR entertainment
- 3D modeling and rendering, 4K projects
- Adding more displays through ports like HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA
- Bitcoin mining
- In certain applications in which a GPU works in place of a CPU where the more cores of a GPU can be utilized
This was all regarding the topic, and we hope we have taken all the major differences into account. An average user won’t need either a dedicated sound card or a graphics card since his/her needs would be met by the default arrangements already present.
Adding any of these is much easier on a desktop than on a laptop for obvious reasons, and this must be kept in mind before you make a choice.