Upgrade plan, smooth GTA IV goal, approve?

Hi folks. I'd like to have some fun with GTAIV, although I'll need to upgrade my computer, I'm pretty sure.

Current rig:

PSU: Rosewill 550V
CPU: AMD 64 X2 2.6 GHz
2x1 GB DDR2 SDRAM 800
Motherboard: ASUS M2A-VM
Video: Gigabyte Radeon HD 2600XT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3
250 GB HDD for data
80 GB HDD for OS etc.

Now, I've been told that I'll want to upgrade the CPU to a quadcore, but I'm loathe to do this right now. I wasn't the smartest buyer when it came to my motherboard [it was my first build, but I bought a micro-ATX MB for a mid-tower...needed to pay more attention :-p] or the CPU cooler [big and clunky, needs backplate, so swapping out chip would mean disassembling pretty much the whole damn thing], but everything works well there, and I want to avoid major surgery to those bits if I can for a couple of years, when the motherboard and chip really will be dated, and quadcores will be cheaper. I hear the game can be played with a dual core, so let's try to avoid touching that part. :)

Anyway, the plan is to swap out the 80 GB with a 1TB ($99) [cycling OS to the 250 and data to the 1TB] and add another 2 GB of DDR2 800 ($29). Should 4 GB total be adequate? And then there's the video card, hmm.

I've made 4 selections, but it's in a field where I'm relatively ignorant. Two are Radeon and two are GeForce, so this is sure to get some dueling fanboys in town. :-0

- Sapphire Radeon HD4870 1 GB 256-bit PCI-e - $179.99
- XFX Radeon HD4850 1 GB 256-bit PCI-e - $119.99
- EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS 512 MB 256-bit PCI-e - $109.99
- EVGA Geforce 9800 GT 1 GB 256-bit PCI-e - $134.99

As price/performance goes, I would think the best choice is either the HD4850 and the Geforce 9800 GT...but then I need to consider the clunkiness of the HD4850, and whether I'll have adequate space on my small motherboard. Leaning, then, towards the 9800 GT.

So to summarize: Should an extra TB of hard disk, an extra 2 GB of RAM and a GeForce 9800 GT be enough to get a playable GTAIV experience? Playable's relative, I suppose. Put it this way; I don't mind occasional, moderate framerate drops, I don't mind medium settings [probably mind it even less]. If I could get GTAIV to astonish me as well as my current rig astonishes me playing Assassin's Creed, I'll consider it a good setup. If it doesn't quite get there, I'm probably not willing to spend too much more to get it there.

Other questions, should my rig be able to handle the upgrade? Is 550V adequate power? How about cooling? I currently have two 120mm case fans, a 120mm fan on the CPU/mobo, with room for another next to it, and a rather enormous side fan. Do I need an extra fan for RAM or for the hard drive? I'm thinking not as I think my cooling's probably overkill already. :-p

Shanks for all your help!
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More about upgrade plan smooth goal approve
  1. Bump.

    I've done some further research. A friend tells me that the 9800 GT is, for whatever bizarre reason, *NVIDIA*, inferior to the 8800 GT.

    So I'm now looking at this:
    XFX GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB

    I'm told this would be an adequate card...and of course, it would be refurbished, which I'm usually hesitant to try. In y'alls experience, is a refurbished video card - where the only moving part is the fan - a wise purchase? The 8800 GT seems to be extinct otherwise - NVIDIA probably pushed 'em all out the door as fast as they could since nobody's buying the 9800s?

    In a rare occurance, I've actually got the money to make this upgrade happen WAY soon, maybe next week. Heading to a brick&mortar store, so help appreciated ASAP. :)
  2. Hdd will not make difference to gameplay only might improve load times a bit. While GTA IV is playable with dual core it will strugle with 2.6 Athlon x2. Ram will come in usefull, for video card I would look at 8800 GTS 512 MB as minimum. HD 4850/4870 with 1GB or GTS 260 would be good choice. GTAIV needs lots of video ram if You want to crank up settings also loves quad cores.

    I have Q6600 @3.2GHz 6GB RAM, GTS 512MB and I am far from getting settings to max due to low video memory. All 4CPU cores run around 80% and Ram usage goes over 5GB, GTAIV alone sometimes use around 4GB RAM.
  3. In game benchmark results at highest settings I can get:

    Average FPS: 41.35
    Duration: 37.17 sec
    CPU Usage: 78%
    System memory usage: 54%
    Video memory usage: 98%

    Graphics Settings
    Video Mode: 1280 x 1024 (60 Hz)
    Texture Quality: Medium
    Render Quality: Highest
    View Distance: 60
    Detail Distance: 100

    Microsoft® Windows Vista" Ultimate
    Service Pack 2
    Video Adapter: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512
    Video Driver version: 186.08
    Audio Adapter: Speakers (Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio (Vista))
    Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q6600 @ 3.20GHz
  4. GTA IV tends to be heavy on the CPU, so that will likely become the bottleneck on fps unless you go for a quad-core. That said, I still get reasonable frame rates on my Core 2 Duo E8400.

    Of course, you will also need a beefy graphics card, but the options you are considering should do fine, though out of those options I would be leaning more towards ATI's offerings. If that won't fit, the GeForce GTS 250 might be a good choice, which is effectively an overclocked GeForce 9800 GT. I'm using a GeForce GTX 260 (Core 192) and it runs quite well on here. The bottleneck with this is the video memory really, but it still looks good at my 1680x1050 resolution.

    And lastly, the extra RAM should come in handy, as GTA IV can eat up quite a lot of it. I would say about 3 GB at least would be enough for it to perform optimally.
  5. Hey guys, thanks for your input.

    I bought an EVGA Geforce GTS 250 with 1GB RAM, as well as 4 GB 800 DDR2 RAM to bring it up to a total of 6 GB. However, running XP 32-bit, I can only utilize 4 [nominally I mean, it's more like 3.25].

    Also bought me some GTA IV, but ugh.

    Installed everything on a fresh install of Windows XP, have SP3, .NET framework 3.5 SP 1, and the very latest drivers [as of last night] for the video card from the EVGA website.

    Installed it and was up until 2 trying to get it to play to no avail.

    Now, I don't think it's a hardware thing. I could get it to load up to the start screen, mess around with video options and run a benchmark test. At max settings, the benchmark was at a...playable...26ish FPS, and presumably will run excellently if I just lower the draw distance and automobile count.

    I click start, it starts to load, prompts me to login to Live. I was having troubles with that, so I declined . One sees the scrolling cartoon loady-bit a few times (sometimes with music, sometimes without), then a load screen, the "The Cousins Bellic" load screen and then...darkness.

    I've taken a shower, got dressed and brushed my teeth and it was still darkness. I've rebooted more times than I can count and still...darkness. WTF.

    The strongest possibility is that I've forgotten something on the XP software bit. Keep in mind it's a fresh install. Should I have to set up any virtual memory? Other than that, it may be that I need to make the logins work in order for it to play, but I doubt it. Suggestions? Very frustrated here. >_<
  6. Argh...Problem solved, I've been too busy playing it to tell you about it. :-p

    for all those who might be having the same problem as I was, let's not forget about the AUDIO drivers!

    It was odd, as every other application was playing sound just fine. I had just reinstalled XP, and happened to install the A/V drivers while I was looking for that damn WEP key. :-p I should've noticed that there was no audio in the benchmark, but I assumed that was so it could focus solely on the video aspects. Durrrrr.

    It plays *preeeeeeeetty well* on my rig. Frame rate's quite acceptable with only occasional slowdown/lockups, though I've got to play it at the next lower resolution from my monitor's native 1600x900 (1440x900) and move the shadow quality down to Medium...I'm having a hard time finding the right balance between performance and prettiness, as the cross-hatchy shadows are kind of distracting.
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