As I seem to be getting closer to choosing a new computer, it seems Im going to need a new graphics card. Such is life, but I will finally be able to play WoW again.
Right now, I’m looking at a 2.6 ghx 6 gig ram machine. It’s a Gateway, which is definitely not ideal, but I’ll take what I can get right now.
So, my question is, what kind of graphics cards are practical and what can I practically benefit from? I mostly want to play things like Elder Scrolls and so forth rather than the latest rip off of Doom. The upside is that the graphics needed to play isn’t as high, and I think my Ram is more likely to be of use in a game like that.
So what’s your advice. I’m happy to buy OEM if I can save a few bucks that way, and I’m realy wanting to avoid buying anything from Best Buy anyway. Id prefer to spend less than 100 dollars, which seems practical nowadays.
Tom’s Hardware seems to skew towards ATI of late, ignoring some of the better priced (and comparably performing) Nvidia cards. Such as the $75 Nvidia 9800GT (great if you want a cooler, lower power card), or the $100 Nvidia GTS 250.
Here’s a few other things to consider - many of the newer, faster video cards have requirements that may make them incompatible with your system.
The first issue is form factor - many high-end cards take up 2 slots. You need a system with a slot with the correct connector (generally PCI Express x16, these days) and an adjacent empty slot. Some bulk PCs (Dell Optiplex, for example) only have a single slot with that connector, and no empty slot above it. Additionally, if your motherboard has any parts that protrude into that area, even a single-slot card may have problems, due to the trend toward flashy, unnecessarily-large coolers. Most ATI Radeon 5xxx cards won’t fit in the aforementioned Dell systems because the video card cooler and the CPU heat sink want to occupy the same space.
The second issue is power. High-end cards these days use one or more auxiliary power connectors. Your power supply may or may not have a matching connector available. Some cards ship with an adapter to convert a normal HDD power connector to one that will fit the card, while for other cards it is an extra-cost option.
Since ATI stopped making cards themselves (they now provide a reference design which other manufacturers can choose to modify) there are many, many flavors of each model. Powercolor (one manufacturer) has thirteen different models of HD 5700 alone.
I recently got an Nvidia GTX 285, which is near the top of the line, to replace the G100 that came with my system, and the difference is incredible! I can play almost any game at 1920x1080 resolution with all the settings turned up to the maximum.
In order to upgrade, however, I did need to upgrade the power supply in my computer. This card requires at least a 575 W power supply; I got a Corsair 650 W to make sure I had enough.
It is also big, taking up two slots in width and long enough that I actually had to move my hard drive’s connector to another plug on the motherboard to make it fit.
The real downside, though, is the price. Even on eBay, it cost $290 for an open-box item, plus $75 for the power supply. If you bought them at a retail store, it would be $400 for the card and $100 for the power supply.
My computer is a quad-core with 6 GB of RAM; anything less than that is probably not going to be able to take full advantage of this kind of graphics power. But if you want to play Grand Theft Auto IV at 1920x1080, there’s really no other way.
And now I’m having to choose ebtween a 500 dollar computer and a 600 dollar one. The upgrade (the $100) is very cost-efficient, but it’s a painful thought. I don’t really want to spend to money, even for an additional .3 ghz and 2 Gig RAM.
Just a note: Processor speed is a mostly meaningless measure of performance nowadays. It’s only relevant when you’re comparing two chips of the same basic design by the same manufacturer. Otherwise you’re liable to think that a 3.8GHz Pentium4 from 5 years ago can somehow compete with a new 3.2GHz i7, when the latter is probably 10x faster.