Is my graphics card hopeless? Or: what does 'minimum' really mean?

Well, a couple of questions. I managed to get picked for a beta test of a game but discovered that the game’s minimum requirements include the following:

nVidia GeForce 6600GT / ATI Radeon X1600 or higher (256 Mo video memory minimum)

My card, alas, is an ATI Radeon X1300PRO w/256MB. So looks like I’m screwed here, right? The game won’t run with my lameo beginner’s card?

This sucks as I really wanted to test this software. :frowning: So what inexpensive options would you guys recommend for a not-hugely-active gamer who wants to be able to play some newer products but doesn’t need the latest, blazingest, most fabulous card on the market by any stretch of the imagination? How much should I expect to pay (in the US)?

If it helps, my system is a Dell Dimension E521 AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 4400+ 2.3 GHz with 4GB RAM and Vista 32-bit. (Which means the 4GB is actually slightly less, I know.)

Do you know what kind of video card slot it has?
ie. (AGP 8X,PCI express(also PCI-E X16) PCI-E 2.0)?

Thanks for replying, wolfman.

It has a single PCIe x16 slot. Sorry, I should’ve included that info before but I didn’t think of it. (I’ve never upgraded a video card before … at least, not since my old Emerson antique back in '93 or so!)

I know this is kind of an older computer – I got it in 2007 – but it still feels new and zippy to me. So I’m not nearly ready to upgrade to a new system yet. If I can manage with a video card upgrade I’d be quite happy.

Well the basic process is to figure out what you would like to spend on your system for a new card. Two years is pretty old for a game system, And you don’t want to go investing money that will be wasted if you do get a new system, but ultimately if you are good with it for what you need it for, then figure an appropriate ammount for you.
Here is a chart from Tom’s hardware, which is very respectable in my opinion. There are never are totally objective ways of comparing which card is better in all situations, but Tom’s 3D benchmarks are a damn good baseline.,794.html

This is from late 2008, and as you can see your card is pretty much the bottom for that time, and as you know is nearly obsolete now. That chart gives you a decent Idea of how much better some of the options you have are.

And here is the list of pci-E x16 cards from One thing you should decide is if you need directX 10. If the particular game you are talking about has a minium of x1600PRO, then it almost positively doesn’t require Directx10. But it may not be a bad thing if you are thinking you may use it for other stuff for a few months.

This for example looks pretty good, a much better performer than your current one and a good rebate to make it cheep, but there are a few caveats.

First is space. Dell are kind of notorious for customizing cases for what ever they had decided on previously. You should look at your current card, measure it, and check that the dimensions in the spec of any new one will fit in the allowed space. And be realistic. If it looks like a total cram job on the bottom that is no good. It will need some decent space off the fan to blow air to cool, better cards make more heat, and you need to allow for cooling.

Second caveat is power. Better cards draw more power. That card says you need a power supply of minimum 350 watts. If you can look through everything you have about your computer to see if it does have a 350 watt power supply. Now I would be really surprised if your Power supply is too small. 350 has been one of the smallest you can get for years, and dell does over build on that part, but I would suggest doing what you can to find out for sure on yours. You should also take a look at your card to see how it hooks up to the power. If it already hooks up by a 6 pin(maybe .5 inch by .66 inch plug with a 3X2 arrangement), then that would work no problem. but if your power supply doesn’t have a six pin, then you need to make sure you have 2 4 pin power plugs(normal translucent white 1.25 by .25 )open for power.
You don’t have to fall in love with that card, if it seems like it wont work. There are many cards on that page better than yours, with fewer requirements, but it looks like a good place to start for me.
Hope this helps, and others can give some input if I missed anything.

Probably the best bangs for the buck at the moment are the ATI Radeon 4850 and the NVidia Geforce 260-216.

I’ll second Wolfman’s cautions about checking the power and the dimensions, although the E521 is a tower and so should be okay. You can get an add-in PSU which sits in a 5.25" bay.

Upgrading the card is easy: uninstall the driver, reboot to VGA, close down, remove card, insert new card, boot up, install driver.

Yowsa, that’s a lot of useful information to digest, wolfman! Thank you very much to you and Quartz for taking so much time to advise me.

To my utter lack of surprise, my PSU is 305 W, which is below the minimum you mention. So I’ve got a real lame-ass system apparently. I guess it’s not worth upgrading this thing. I’d probably be too intimdated to try it anyway. Upgrading a video card is one thing, but a power supply seems way more hardcore.

That’s sad. I know this baby wasn’t top of the line back in 2007, but it wasn’t an utter dud, either. Man, how often do real gamers buy new computers? It’s only been two years!

Does your power supply list the amount of Amps on the +12V rail?
How many extra devices (CD/DVD burners, hard discs, etc.) does your computer have?

I wouldn’t despair too much over the 305W power supply you have, especially if it’s a decent one and you’re not loaded with peripherals already. Here’s a chart showing complete system power draw depending on a few different videocards. You’ll see that all of them are under 305W.

You might want to look at the HD4770 (if you can find it). It’s still a pretty decent performer, and the power draw is relatively small. The HD4850 is probably a better deal right now, but it’s not as efficient.

But is that really worth the price to run at PCI-E 1.0 speeds?

I doubt either card is going to be hitting the bandwith cap of PCI-E 1.0 x16. Do you have reason to believe otherwise?

Another good suggestion if the OP wants to be extra sure about power requirements is the newer 59watt version of the 9600GT. $90 at Newegg

I’ve just had bad luck putting 2.0 cards in 1.0 slots and getting anything near normal performance. Although I guess that be because of CPU bottlenecks rather than bus throughput

I dunno. Here’s a performance chart from TomsHardware, note that the videocards (at least some of which are PCIe 2.0 cards) perform pretty much exactly the same whether or not they’re in a 1.0 slot or a 2.0 slot. Heck, there isn’t really much of a performance hit going from 2.0x16 to 1.0x8