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Choose your monitor


Which graphics card to choose and which connectors are needed for photo editing? - 5/8

Published on April 16, 2016  |  Updated on November 27, 2019


It is impossible not to talk about graphics cards, connectors and cables when you give advice on buying your photo or video editing screen. Which graphics card should I buy to display the colors correctly? Which card and connectors should I buy to display the 4K? Are all cables equal? Is it better to use an HDMI or Display Port cable? Let's look at it together....

The first thing we ask a graphics card to do is to display our beautiful photos and videos correctly. That's the minimum! The choice should therefore be simple. A card with 1 or 2 GB of RAM will suffice - even for 4K on a single screen - and so we have the impression, real, of having a lot of choice, but that would then be forgetting what is not at all a detail: its connectivity! How to choose between a graphics card with DVI, HDMI (1.4 and 2.0) or DisplayPort (1.2 and 1.3) plug but of the same power?



The graphics card: only a matter of display?

NVidia Quadro graphics cardLet's start with the most important thing! Many of you are asking me for advice about your future graphics card and whether the graphics card has an influence on the quality of the display of photos, colors? 

Essential! The quality of the color display does not depend on the quality of the graphics card but only on the quality of the display and the ICC profile you have created.

An RGB signal always has the same values regardless of the quality of the graphics card. So on what criteria should you choose your graphics card? Let's see them now together because they are still not insignificant and more numerous than we might think...

The power of the graphics card and its amount of RAM

To display a picture on a basic screen in 2019 therefore displaying full HD (1920 x 1200 pixels) or QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) it is not necessary to have a powerful graphics card (I mean trendy because all the cards of 2019 are powerful). A graphics card with 1 GB of RAM at less than $50 is more than enough. I have three displays each displaying 1920 x 1200 pixels and my "old" ATI Radeon 5770 graphics card with 1GB RAM on my old Mac Pro was enough.
That said, when I work on astronomical multical images, I saw the limits while with a card with 2 GB of RAM more recent everything goes back to normal and then disappear slow progressive loading as we knew in the 2000s...  


Essential! To simply display our photos in Photoshop, zoom in, rotate them, even in gigapixels, it is not necessary to have a state-of-the-art and ultra-powerful graphics card. A card with 1 or better 2 GB of RAM is more than enough in 2019. Worse, if we stick to a display function in Photoshop and for everyday use of your computer, a powerful card will do exactly the same job as a first price card and you will not feel the difference in the fluidity of movements or zooms.
The situation is quite different if you play recent video games or if you do video editing, of course. Just to say that it is not automatically necessary to invest large amounts of money in graphics cards to simply do Photoshop editing. With one exception for advanced users, which we will discuss below with the hardware acceleration...

What about 4K screen?

In this case, you will need necessarily recent graphics cards even if you do not buy the most powerful and best RAM-provided cards. Indeed, with 1 GB of RAM you can already manage a 4K screen.

Good news! All recent graphics cards now display the 4K but only on a single screen and "only" in 3840 x 2160 px and not the "real" 4K i. e. 4096 x 2160 px. As most 4K displays are 3840 x 2160 this will not be a problem in practice.

On the other hand, I really draw your attention to their connectivity because to connect your screen - even if it is still a point rarely discussed - they can seriously restrict your display. How? By reducing the refresh rate to 30 Hz. This is the second essential point discussed below when it comes to 4K compatible hardware...

Display refresh rate: 30 or 60 Hz?

In recent years no one paid any attention to it anymore! What should we be aware of? Well, precisely at this rate of image refresh. For a photo, therefore a static image, to be displayed correctly on a screen, it does not need to be refreshed. On the other hand, and we no longer pay any attention to it at all, but in order for our mouse movement, the movement of an enlarged photo in Photoshop and obviously in order for a video not to be jerky, it is then imperative that the image be renewed - or refreshed - at a certain frequency. Well, this comfort is only obtained from 60 Hz:


Refresh rate at 60 Hz of the monitors


This rate has become so common that 2019 equipment - AND ONLY with the exception of the 4K - is designed and manufactured to refresh any non-4K computer monitor at this sensitive frequency. Still on my old and "old" 2010 ATI Radeon card, a 5770 with 1GB of RAM, I could connect three Full HD displays while maintaining a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

In fact, the 4K's "greedy bandwidth" makes us return to times that we thought were over (early 2000s) when indeed, only the most recent and powerful maps of the time allowed us to reach this rate on one or more screens... simultaneously!!!!

We are now facing progress - the advent of the 4K and its magnificent display quality - that can take us back to the Stone Age - I exaggerate! - the smooth display of mouse movements, stupidly! You can imagine the surprise if you are not warned...

Be careful about the power of the graphics card! The power alone of a graphics card is therefore not the only important point to display our photos. The refresh rate is just as important if you want to keep a comfortable display with moving images, even if only with our mouse.

Quadro NVidia graphics cards

My recommendation: If you simply want to buy a 4K display without changing the graphics card - or simply because you haven't thought about it - it's likely that if it's not too old it will be able to display the 4K. This will still raise the question of the 60 Hz refresh, which may be blocked at 30 Hz. If you have several displays including your new 4K, then you will probably need to consider a new graphics card. However, we cannot talk about graphic cards, their power, without mentioning another fundamental point as well: connectivity!  



The importance of connectivity: HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort?

HDMI, DVI, MiniDsiplayPort and VGA connections.Behind every connection standard is not a display quality - once again supposed to be more or less better! - but only a more or less important channel through which billions of pieces of information will pass in a second ( in short). This is why the 10-bit display is not compatible with DVI or VGA jacks (Read my specific page on 10-bit display ).

Essential! So the display quality of your colors will be the same in HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort, but the refresh rate will not be the same! If you can't watch your videos in 60 Hz, look also at the connector side! Similarly, at equal quality the HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort jacks will display the same image quality but their manufacturing quality is fundamental if you do not want to have any display problems. He's going to spend so much information in it every second that I advise you to buy a good cable. I can assure you that I receive a lot of emails from readers thinking that if they changed their connectivity their problem would be solved while the simple replacement with a better quality cable systematically fixes their display problems.

Examples of bandwidths:

HDMI 1.4 = maximum data rate 3.40 Gbit/s, i.e. a 4K stream at 30 Hz.
HDMI 2.0 = maximum data rate 6 Gbit/s, i.e. a 4K stream at 60 Hz.
DisplayPort 1.2
= 21.6 Gbit/s or a 4K stream at 60 Hz.
DisplayPort 1.3
= 32.4 Gbit/s or two 4K streams at 60 Hz.
DisplayPort 1.4
= 32.4 Gbit/s or two 4K streams at 60 Hz + other options.
= 40 Gbit/s or two 4K streams at 60 Hz.

As you can see, you absolutely need a DisplayPort1.2 or MiniDisplayPort 1.2 socket to be able to display the 4K at 60 Hz! What about the interest of DP 1.3, 1.4 or USB-C? Below...

But why would you need to run 2 4K streams on a single MiniDisplayPort 1.3, 1.4 or even USB-C port? For example, on a laptop computer: more and more laptops, initiated by Apple, now have only one MiniDisplayPort port or only one USB-C socket to connect secondary screens (or even Thunderbolt or USB-C hard drives because it is the same socket). The advantage of these technologies is that it is possible to link several devices one after the other (displays or others that have the same connectivity, of course). It is therefore possible to link two secondary screens and have only one yarn on the leg! If you want to use 4K displays at 60 Hz, you will absolutely need a DisplayPort 1.3, 1.4 or USB-C connection on your laptop! And we could very well connect a 4K screen and then an external SSD hard disk, so it also requires a lot of bandwidth with this solution.

A laptop computer connected to two monitors


My purchasing advice! So when you check the power of your current graphics card or better when you buy a new one, be careful with the connectors on the back of them. The cheapest graphics cards - at equal power - have less "high-end" and therefore more "restrictive" connections. If it won't bother my mother and her poor 15-year-old screen, it will surely limit you if you want to enjoy ultra-high definition in comfort!

Next pages...

7 / 8 - Hardware acceleration and Look Up Table?

8 / 8 - What is the purpose of 10-bit display?



Through these 8 pages I will share with you my advices to choose your photo editing or video editing monitor...
- Generic advice
- Which monitor size to choose?
- Switch to 4K... or not yet?
- Panel technology : IPS, TN, VA, OLED?
- Panel luminosity, HDR or not, sRGB or wide gamut?

- Which graphics card and connector? 5/7
  - Graphics card and display quality?
- Watch out for the connectors!

- Hardware acceleration and Look Up Table?
- What is the purpose of the 10-bit display?


- 2020 monitors buying guide
- How to calibrate your monitor?
- My 35 full monitor reviews!


Calibrate your monitor with the best
colorimeter: X-Rite i1Display Pro !

Read my full review...


Calibrate your photo printer with the
best value for money: X-Rite i1 Studio !

Read my full review...  










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