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HELP! I'm new to graphics cards.

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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April 26, 2006 2:52:26 PM

I was looking for a little help in the graphics card area. I know a fairly decent amount about computer but I have always had a laptop where upgrading wasn't really a concern. Now I have an HP a1330n and I am looking to support dual LCD monitors. I am trying to find a graphics card on a budget since the monitor is around $250 (I'd like to stay under $50 if at all possible). I know that both monitors will be VGA so I was wondering if someone could point out the benefits of having a card with 1VGA and 1DVI or if I should just stick with 1VGA that I need and save a lot of money. I am looking to make the purchase through Newegg (unless someone has a better suggestion). What I would really like your help with is the different things to look for in a graphics card and what does GPU, the core clock, pipelines, memory clock RAMDAC, all of that sort of stuff mean? A big question I have is Nvidia or ATI? Also, heatsink or fan and just those sorts of questions. I guess what I'm basically looking for is a crash course on graphics cards and help in selecting one on a budget from Neweg. Thank you so much to anyone that tackles this huge "question."

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April 26, 2006 3:34:34 PM

Okay, first things first. Will it be AGP, PCI or PCIx16? Also, what will you be using it for? Games? Movies? Encoding? Or is it just for general use?
April 26, 2006 3:39:48 PM

It will be PCI express and I'm not into gaming so it won't be for that but really just movies and general use of photoshop every now and then. Hope this helps.
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April 26, 2006 3:41:17 PM

According to Wal-Mart.com, that machine has an available PCIe x16 slot. You may want to check because you may have to disable the onboard video in order to use the PCIe slot for video. If that is the case, you will definitely need a graphics card with dual video to support two monitors. $50 won't get you much for a PCIe graphics card, but you could get an X600Pro used (or refurbished at NewEgg) for that. You could also go cheaper and get a 6200TC (with at least 128MB on board) or an X300 for less, but you won't get very good performance out of those. If you want to run recent graphic intensive games (or do fancy photoshop work), I don't think you will have much luck with a sub $100 video card.
As far as the DSUB vs. DVI, it usually is only a couple of bucks more to find the same card with dual video output, so I would always recommend getting that. In your price range, you probably won't see any dual DVI, so a card with a DSUB and a DVI is probably what you should look for.
April 26, 2006 3:51:31 PM

Thank you very much steckman. I won't be doing any gaming and as for photoshop I won't be doing anything intensive. Just some light work here and there. For everything I do right now, the onboard video is absolutely fine. I don't need anything big or fancy, just something that won't be worse than what I already have onboard. Thanks again steckman.

Also. What brands are good brands to buy. There are tons out there and I was wondering if someone could give me a quick rundown of some good brands and some brands to stay away from. Thanks!
April 26, 2006 5:19:00 PM

For ATI cards, I've had good luck with Sapphire and MSI. I've heard good things about Powercolor cards, but I've never used one.

For Nvidia cards, I've had good luck with Leadtek and BFG. I had one problem with an XFX card, but I think that was an anomaly and they had good customer service. I've heard good things about eVGA (and their upgrade program). I would absolutely avoid PNY as they gave one of our very large clients the runaround about a couple of defective 6800 Ultras. If they're going to give a branch of the military that buys 1000 video cards a year the run around, you can imagine what your service will be like.
April 26, 2006 5:28:07 PM

Quote:
You could also go cheaper and get a 6200TC (with at least 128MB on board) or an X300 for less, but you won't get very good performance out of those. If you want to run recent graphic intensive games (or do fancy photoshop work), I don't think you will have much luck with a sub $100 video card.


Photoshop doesn't care what videocard you have, cheap cards like the X300 have very good display quality.

If game's aren't a concern, an X300 is a great card.
April 26, 2006 5:54:13 PM

We do a lot of texture work for our simulations in-house and have had display issues with cheap graphics cards, especially trying to run dual monitors at high resolution. Some of them just don't seem to have enough fill rate to keep up. I don't think this will be an issue for Voelker though. I would agree with an X300 recommendation, although I would look for one that has 128MB of texture memory on board, with the possibility of it sharing another 128MB out of system memory for a total of 256MB.
April 26, 2006 6:09:01 PM

Stmulations & textures sounds like you're talking 3d apps, right? Then chipset would have a bearing, but not in Photoshop. In 3d apps you'd want at least a 256mb 6600 or something.

But Photoshop... I don't think I've ever seen Photoshop hiccup because of a descrete graphics card. As long as it has 64 megs of RAM (not shared) it should be fine and dandy. You're right though, to be on the safe side stay the hell away from Hypermemory & Turbocache, although I suspect they'd also be fine for photoshop, too.

Crikes, I handle massive images at work in Photoshop all the time, I have a 64mb Radeon 7500 (!) here. Works juuuust fine.
April 26, 2006 6:22:41 PM

I'm actually talking about just doing the texture work for the 3D models, so I'm really just talking about Photoshop. And I think you're right, the issue is more related to the amount of memory. If you have dual 1280x1024 displays, that's 20MB of texture memory used up just for the frame buffer (assuming it's double buffered). Now imagine working on a couple of 7MB textures that are loaded. If you are working with 32MB of texture memory, the machine is going to thrash as it swaps textures in and out of main memory. So as long as you have enough texture memory and the card supports the resolution you want, you should by okay in Photoshop.
April 26, 2006 6:32:09 PM

Ah, yes!

Photoshop loves system RAM. The more the better, especially if you're working with lots of images open at the same time, or even just a single large image.

Otherwise it starts caching to a swap file and your system melts into $hit...
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