Generating realistic 3D graphics—particularly in real-time, as needed for 3D games—requires enormous computational effort. Characteristics that must be computed include a 2D image based on the 3D object, shadows, lighting effects, texture effects, reflections, transparency effects, and haze or fog effects.
The more of these effects that a given 3D chipset supports, and the better or faster a chipset implements these effects, the more realistic the resultant images or the faster they can be moved on screen. When a video card's chipset doesn't support a given 3D effect, either the software must implement the feature or it must be done without. If it's implemented in software, the computational costs on the computer can be burdensome, and can result in a degradation to overall system performance.
Most video cards sold today support at least minimal 3D operations. If you have an older card that doesn't support 3D features, and if you want these features, you can either replace the video card with a new one or add an expansion card. Most video cards manufactured in the past decade include an expansion connector (shown in Figure 12.1). You can attach a dedicated 3D graphics card to this connector. The dedicated card then handles 3D functionality, leaving normal 2D operations to the original card.
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