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Computer Expansion Cards


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An expansion card, sometimes known as a PCI (peripheral component interconnect) card, is a circuit board that connects devices such as network interface cards, graphic cards, sound cards, and modems. Continue reading to learn more!

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Computer Expansion Cards

  2. 2. What is an Expansion Card? An expansion card, sometimes known as a PCI (peripheral component interconnect) card, is a circuit board that connects devices such as network interface cards, graphic cards, sound cards, and modems. Expansion cards fit into slots on the motherboard called expansion slots. Expansion slots are used to connect an expansion card to the primary components of the computer. Some computers do not require expansion cards to work. However, adding an expansion card can improve the performance of a computer or update an older computer’s performance. Before we get into the types of expansion cards we’ll talk about the types of expansion slots. There are three types of expansions slots that show up on most modern computers, including: Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI), Industry Standard Architecture (ISA0, and Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI). These slots differ primarily in the speed at which they transfer information between the expansion board and the microprocessor.
  3. 3. PCI - Peripheral Component Interconnect:  This expansion slot is the most commonly found on newer computers. It is found on both Windows and Macintosh computers. PCI slots offer a high-speed path of data between peripheral devices that connect to the expansion cards and the computer.  There are many different forms of expansion cards available for PCI slots. These include, but are not limited to, graphics cards, sound cards, network interface cards, modem cards, and cards that expand the number of ports on a computer.  Computers generally have between two and four PCI slots available on a motherboard.
  4. 4. ISA - Industry Standard Architecture:  These types of slots are only found on Windows computers. These slots operate at a slower speed than PCI. Most ISA cards work with devices that are slower such as modems.  Most PC’s have a mix of ISA and PCI slots. However, ISA slots are being phased out and will most likely be eliminated from computers soon.
  5. 5. AGP – Accelerated Graphics Port:  (AGP) is a slot that is used for a video or graphics card. These slots are found in both Macintosh and Windows based computers.  AGP works at a faster speed than PCI. Only one AGP slot is offered on motherboards that are equipped for AGP.
  6. 6. Types of Expansion Cards  1-Sound Card: A sound card, or audio card, facilitates the output and input of audio signals between a computer and audio device. Sound cards are used to provide audio for multimedia applications such as video and audio editing, presentations, music composition, entertainment, education, and video projection. A sound card is outfitted with audio jacks or audio ports. When the card is placed in the motherboard the audio ports come out of the back of the computer.
  7. 7. The ports and their markings are as follows:  Digital Out – (Yellow or White and features the words “Digital Out” or “Digital”). This is used for loudspeakers or surround sounds.  Line-In or Sound-In (Blue and features an arrow that points into waves) – This port connects external sources of audio to the computer such as an MP3 player, CD player, tape recorder, or record player.  Microphone (Pink and displays a microphone) – Headphones or a microphone can be connected to this port  Line-in or Sound-in (Green and has waves with an arrow pointing out of them) – This is the main connection for headphones or speakers. Some sound cards have multiple ports with different colored connectors (usually orange or black)  Firewire (Optional) – Not all soundcards have a firewire port. They are usually seen on higher quality cars. They are used for digital camera and other devices.  MIDI (yellow connector with 15 pins) – This port connects a joystick or MIDI keyboard to the motherboard. It’s mostly outfitted on older sound cards.
  8. 8. 2-Graphics Cards:  Graphics cards, or video cards, are used to play high performance PC games, use image and video editing software, play hi-definition movies and more.  Your computer’s video capability out of the box will probably not feature support for high- performance applications so an expansion graphics card is needed. A video card controls the processing of 3d graphics and other task so that your CPU can work on other tasks.  A graphics contains Random Access Memory, or RAM, so that your computer’s RAM is not used for video tasks. Video memory plays a major role in the number of colors and the screen resolution that can be displayed on another monitor.  A video card has three video ports, or three connections, that are on the back of the card.  VGA Connection (Blue, 15 holes) – The Video Graphics Array (VGA) is a standard display technology that is popular with computer monitors. It connects visual displays like monitors and TV’s to your computer and transfers data between the two. However, most displays featuring flat panels use an HDMI connector (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) or DVI connector (Digital Visual Interface).
  9. 9. HDMI Connector – The High-Definition Multimedia Interface connection transmits uncompressed video and uncompressed digital audio from a display controller to a video projector, computer monitor, digital audio device, digital television, or other HDMI compatible device. DVI Connector (White, 28 holes) – The Digital Visual Interface port is used to display video content at higher resolutions, usually up to 2560 x 1600. Projectors and computer monitors use this connection. S-Video Connector (Super Video, round 8 holes) - This connector transmits chrominance © and luminance (Y) signals separately. This generates a far more enhanced picture when compared alongside composite video.
  10. 10. 3-Network Cards:  The network interface card, or network interface controller (network card) connects your computer to a computer network. In other words, network cards can be used to connect a computer to a Local Area Network (LAN) or the internet.  A network card connects to networks either through a wired connection via Ethernet or through a wireless, Wi-Fi, connection. A lot of motherboards have network connections that are built in and an expansion slot for a higher quality network card.
  11. 11. Recommended Cards for Enhancing Your PC  Your computer will only have a few expansion slots so you want to make the right decision when it comes to what cards you want to use to update your system. The best option would be to determine which enhanced capabilities you need out of your computer. If you do a lot of video editing or watch high-definition videos on your computer, you’ll want an enhanced video card. If you want high-performance audio or edit music, you’ll want an audio card.  Most people don’t use their computers for high-performance audio or video but just about everyone uses their computer to access the internet. If you’re upgrading your computer, most likely the best option is to choose a network card that will offer you a faster internet connection.  A hardwired connection that uses an Ethernet cable will always be the fastest option. However, if you need flexibility and portability you’ll want to choose a network card with high-speed Wi-Fi capability.