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Enforced upgrade - what should I do?

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September 19, 2006 11:34:05 AM

I have a complicated decision to make, and despite a lot of research am struggling to reach a clear conclusion.

Current system (:D  Yes, I know it's old, but I'm happy with it):
Pentium 4 2.4GHz 800FSB 512KB cache
2 x 256MB PC3200
Asus P4S800 board (no SATA)
40GB Seagate 7200rpm UDMA100 ATA
Soundblaster Live PCI card
Compro TV PCI card
USB/Firewire PCI card
Akasa 400W power supply

Akasa Evo120 CPU cooler
Akasa 80mm intake fan
Akasa 120mm exhaust fan

Windows XP SP2, hyperthreading enabled.

Want I want from my PC (in order of preference)
Stable and reliable; very quiet; able to play games well at 1280 x 1024 resolution (17" TFT native-res); quick when loading and using applications.

The PC's mainly used for word-processing, plot-intensive spreadsheets, web-browsing and C/LaTeX compiling. It's used intermittently for games, but when it is it needs to be able to cope with 1280 x 1024 and high/full detail without lag. The most currently asked of it is Far Cry, all details on high, and it's unlikely to be stretched much more than that over the coming year.

Originally this had a Gigabyte X800XL 256MB Silent-pipe AGPX8 installed which was fast enough and silent and I was perfectly happy. Recently though this card failed within the warranty period, hasn't been repaired and is discontinued, so it looks like I'm just getting back my money on it: £182 (US$340). As a stop-gap Im using a Radeon 7000 32MB AGP that I had lying around, but this is inadequate for any 3D. My question is, what do I do now? Have spent nearly a month reading around this and have narrowed it down to the following:

An AMD/PCI-E upgrade
AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice
Asus A8N-SLi Premium
Gigabyte or MSI 7600GT 256MB PCI-E (silent)
Cost: £245 (US$460)
An Intel/PCI-E dual-core upgrade
Pentium D 820 Dual Core 2x1MB 2.8 GHz FSB800
Asus P5LD2 SE i945P
Gigabyte or MSI 7600GT 256MB PCI-E (silent)
Cost: £263 (US$495)
An AGP-only upgrade
Keep the current system and get a Gainward 7800GS+ 512MB AGP card for £233 ($US440)

The AGP-only route is attractive because of the minimal amount of work involved (although there might be issues with my Asus SiS board apparently) and the rest can then be left alone until a major upgrade in early 2008. The other two possibilities will be hassle but give me better future upgradability, though I'm unlikely to do much over the coming year. Note that I'm limited to Skt939 or 775 so I can keep my whisper-quiet Evo120 fan, I have to be quite budget-conscious and that the graphics card has to be silent or whisper-quiet at low load.

I guess the main question is: Would I be happier with a newer CPU and 7600GT or my old CPU and a 7900GS+?

All help gratefully received.

More about : enforced upgrade

September 19, 2006 12:19:38 PM

I'm not sure, but you should check to see if your sus p4s800 supports overclocking. Maybe you could get another 20% out of it with a new heat sink.

The video card will really help alot in games, and another 512 ram will round you out to 1 Gb which should help your multitasking.

Is your motherboard a socket 478?

Take a look at ebay, for some used processors, you may be able to get a 3.2 ghz prescott revision F which may speed it up alot, I'm not sure the o/c potential but it may have some too.
September 19, 2006 1:08:21 PM

The P4S800 (yeah, it's Skt 478) definitely supports overclocking, I've just never bothered with it. I wouldn't want to change the heatsink since the one I have is so quiet - a big must for me - but I probably wouldn't need to change it either: Currently the P4 runs at ~5C above ambient at idle, <10C above ambient at fill-load - it's a very good heatskink. P4 2.4Cs are good overclockers I've heard, so I guess upping it is a possibility to eke out another year of life, but not sure just how much real-life improvement I'd see for a 200-400MHz gain. Stability is a must (till the GPU died, this machine has never crashed on me).

Getting another Skt 478 processor on top of the 7800GS+, even off eBay, is a bit too much layout for me. (I'm sure I've looked before now and they're not super-cheap.)

512MB in six months or so is a possiblity (since it's reuseable, unlike another Skt 478 processor) but it's also worth mentioning that the P4S800 is single-channel memory only.
Related resources
September 19, 2006 1:29:23 PM

Quote:
I have a complicated decision to make, and despite a lot of research am struggling to reach a clear conclusion.

Current system (:D  Yes, I know it's old, but I'm happy with it):
Pentium 4 2.4GHz 800FSB 512KB cache
2 x 256MB PC3200
Asus P4S800 board (no SATA)
40GB Seagate 7200rpm UDMA100 ATA
Soundblaster Live PCI card
Compro TV PCI card
USB/Firewire PCI card
Akasa 400W power supply

Akasa Evo120 CPU cooler
Akasa 80mm intake fan
Akasa 120mm exhaust fan

Windows XP SP2, hyperthreading enabled.

Want I want from my PC (in order of preference)
Stable and reliable; very quiet; able to play games well at 1280 x 1024 resolution (17" TFT native-res); quick when loading and using applications.

The PC's mainly used for word-processing, plot-intensive spreadsheets, web-browsing and C/LaTeX compiling. It's used intermittently for games, but when it is it needs to be able to cope with 1280 x 1024 and high/full detail without lag. The most currently asked of it is Far Cry, all details on high, and it's unlikely to be stretched much more than that over the coming year.

Originally this had a Gigabyte X800XL 256MB Silent-pipe AGPX8 installed which was fast enough and silent and I was perfectly happy. Recently though this card failed within the warranty period, hasn't been repaired and is discontinued, so it looks like I'm just getting back my money on it: £182 (US$340). As a stop-gap Im using a Radeon 7000 32MB AGP that I had lying around, but this is inadequate for any 3D. My question is, what do I do now? Have spent nearly a month reading around this and have narrowed it down to the following:

An AMD/PCI-E upgrade
AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice
Asus A8N-SLi Premium
Gigabyte or MSI 7600GT 256MB PCI-E (silent)
Cost: £245 (US$460)
An Intel/PCI-E dual-core upgrade
Pentium D 820 Dual Core 2x1MB 2.8 GHz FSB800
Asus P5LD2 SE i945P
Gigabyte or MSI 7600GT 256MB PCI-E (silent)
Cost: £263 (US$495)
An AGP-only upgrade
Keep the current system and get a Gainward 7800GS+ 512MB AGP card for £233 ($US440)

The AGP-only route is attractive because of the minimal amount of work involved (although there might be issues with my Asus SiS board apparently) and the rest can then be left alone until a major upgrade in early 2008. The other two possibilities will be hassle but give me better future upgradability, though I'm unlikely to do much over the coming year. Note that I'm limited to Skt939 or 775 so I can keep my whisper-quiet Evo120 fan, I have to be quite budget-conscious and that the graphics card has to be silent or whisper-quiet at low load.

I guess the main question is: Would I be happier with a newer CPU and 7600GT or my old CPU and a 7900GS+?

All help gratefully received.

if all you wanna play is far cry, i'd get a card like x850 something, 7600gs and i've seen 7600gt's on agp. the 7900gs would be overkill, and expensive. And get some more ram and you'd be good to go
September 19, 2006 1:35:11 PM

I would take the AMD route :-D

Another option is the ASRock 939Dual which has a real 8x AGP slot and a real PCI-E 16X slot.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...


Here's a previous post of mine:

This board has a REAL AGP 8x and a REAL PCI-E 16X so you can use either an AGP card or a PCI-E or BOTH at the same time if you wanted to



From LEFT to RIGHT

The yellow slot is a special AM2 upgrade slot for a daughtercard.

The long white slot is a 16X PCI-E slot

The short white slot is a 1X PCI-E slot

The brown slot is an 8X AGP slot

The 3 white slots are standard 32bit PCI slots


This board is relatively inexpensive @ 66.99 new or about $32 delivered open box ( just the bare board no other parts ).


So if you already have DDR2100/2700/3200 you can get this board + an inexpensive AMD64 939 for as low as $64 assuming your other parts are up to it.

For 66.99+6.13+64 you could upgrade to a very nice new box with a lot of upgrade potential ( assuming you have 184pin DDR and your PSU can handle it ).

For about $30 you could purchase the special daughtercard with allows you to upgrade to a new Socket AM2 ( 940pins ) AMD64 with DDR2 instead of DDR.
September 19, 2006 1:53:45 PM

Quote:
if all you wanna play is far cry, i'd get a card like x850 something, 7600gs and i've seen 7600gt's on agp. the 7900gs would be overkill, and expensive. And get some more ram and you'd be good to go

There are those cards out there on AGP, but they've got loud coolers mounted on them which rules them out. I could mess around with aftermarket cooling but that's easier said than done. The 7900GS+ has a fan, but is billed as 'silent' so I'm expecting quiet operation for non-gaming tasks, otherwise it'll go back. It's expensive, but in another sense it'll only cost me £50 when I get my money back for the other card. As for overkill, I'm happier with that than lower performance than an X800XL, which all other 'quiet' AGP cards seem to have.

Quote:
I would take the AMD route :-D

Another option is the ASRock 939Dual which has a real 8x AGP slot and a real PCI-E 16X slot.

I've considered this, but still too much expense (board+ processor) on top of a 7900GS+ for me. And as my only other card is a Radeon 7000 the AGP's redundant really so I may as well stick with a PCI-E only. (The ASRock Dual takes a slight PCI-E performance hit to incorporate the AGP.) I'm only interested in the 700GS+ as an AGP card for my current system.

Interested to hear the reasons for choosing the AMD option over the other two though!
September 19, 2006 2:00:32 PM

well, most 7600GS's are passively cooled, if it interests you.

if you want to change your motherboard and cpu, considering the options you gave, i'd get the amd system too, mainly due to heat/noise issues.

or you can get a D915, which is 65nm and has eist.. would it be too expensive?
September 19, 2006 2:06:43 PM

I picked up 2 open box ASRock 939Dual boards for $32 each delivered from newegg the other day.

That's about 20 pounds!!

The 3000+ is only $64 delivered here in the US which is about 30 pounds.

The 3200+ is only a bit more.

I like nVidia cards but the 7900GS is a somewhat crippled 7900GT.

I'd go either for the 7600GT or the 7900GT I would pass on the 7900GS.

The ATI X850XT may be an option -- it sells for about $110 and performs reasonably well -- unfortunately it takes up 2 slots, is very loud @ 100% ( sounds like a Saturn V ), produces a ton of heat and consumes a lot of power. It does ok in Oblivion tho ;-)

GL :-D
September 19, 2006 2:12:42 PM

Right now, with the age of your current system, I would take the money you would spend on RAM and a halfway descent vid card and start saving. Especially since you won't be able to go to Vista when it eventually will force you to upgrade anyway. Save your bones for now and at the start of next year build a new system when the DX cards start coming out in force (despite that they are going to take 300 watts on their own...I will probably get a mid range card becuase of that).

My two cents
September 19, 2006 2:14:40 PM

DO NOT BUY ANY SYSTEM UPGRADES.......

DO NOT BUY THE 7800GS........

Point blank all you need to do is get a 7600gs or gt at the VERY MOST, an older 6600 / gt would do you perfectly and most of the 6600 series are available passively cooled like your old x800. I appreciate your requirements as Im currently running a 2.6c northwood s478 rig that I use speedfan on and have near silence from. On a side note yes the 2.4c p4 will easily hit 3ghz with minor tweaking and most likely little increase in temps - BUT - can equally undervolt significantly to around 1.1v low end (currently running mine here and it bearly gets over 35c total temp under 100% load).

Please do not listen to anyone saying anything other than the above advice unless you are buying a new system - you wont get what you want.

Ill say again the 6600 or 6600gt would be ideal for your system and WILL play games at good settings 1280 - I run a 6600 256mb std (only one I could find with a black pcb at the time - yes silly but I wont have a coloured pcb !) and it is fine for me at 1680*1050 widescreen res - NO AA or AS mind.

The 6600GT would be aprrox 30% faster and the 7600GT is as fast as the 7800 pile of crap whilst using less power and costing almost HALF. Seriously - check the benchmarks.

Hope Ive helped......remember no more than a 7600GT.....
September 19, 2006 3:54:03 PM

Quote:

Ill say again the 6600 or 6600gt would be ideal for your system


An AGP 7600 GS would be faster than a 6600, about as fast as a 6600 GT if not faster, and it would be passively cooled - totally quiet, which is what he's looking for.

If you're not upgrading your whole system, go for an AGP 7600 GS.


If you're upgrading your whole rig, go for the dual-core Pentium, but try to get a motherboard with a chipset that will handle conroes in the future... of course you'll need DDR2 RAM, but your upgrade path will be alot beter.
September 19, 2006 4:36:02 PM

Quote:
I would take the AMD route :-D

Another option is the ASRock 939Dual which has a real 8x AGP slot and a real PCI-E 16X slot.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
.


I agree with linux_0 on this. A migration to a socket 939 would be a big jump in performance for a minimal money outlay. From what you wrote, I take it that you don't have a lot of money to spend, so making the jump all the way to a Conroe or AM2 cpu, what with the added cost of ram and all, would be more money than you have available. As for Vista and DX10, a 939 system should be able to make that jump as well if you decide to do it.
September 19, 2006 5:30:36 PM

There is good merit for the platform upgrade for the £250 ish price point - but I believe what he really wants is to stick with what he has and knows for now as pointed out in the original post of a total system overhaul in 2008.

To this end I stand by my reccomedation to go for a passively cooled - or at least a quiet fan model - of either the 6600 or 7600 series.....after all a second hand 6600 would cost approx £60 on ebay tops and a NEW 7600gs would be about £110 with the 7600gt being £140. Im quoting £ prices that I have found on numerous uk sites as he listed £ before $ so I assume hes like me in the uk !.

ps www.overclockers.co.uk
September 19, 2006 6:33:01 PM

I'll say first off that all these posts are greatly appreciated. Forgive the length of this post, but all points made were deserving of replies. (What no 'Intel sux! No AMD suxs luzer!...? ;)  )

Quote:
well, most 7600GS's are passively cooled, if it interests you.

I considered those: can't seem to find one for AGP*, there are plenty of for PCI-E but then I also have the option of a 7600GT and it seemed to be worth the extra £30 (US$55) which gets to the limit of my budget, but I may well be wrong here.
Quote:
or you can get a D915, which is 65nm and has eist.. would it be too expensive?

An extra £15 (US$27) or so...kind of pushing it as the Intel set-up is already the most expensive, but if it's really worth it...

* Things changed as I was typing this...

Quote:
I picked up 2 open box ASRock 939Dual boards for $32 each delivered from newegg the other day.

:D  Unfortunately over here 939Duals retail more around the £35-£45 (US$65-US$85) mark, not far off the Asus board I had my eye one. The Dual939 was more likely to figure in a future upgrade should I get the 7900GS+ (if the Dual's still around...) An X850XT isn't really an option... ;) 

Quote:
Right now, with the age of your current system, I would take the money you would spend on RAM and a halfway descent vid card and start saving.

That's part of the problem though - there is [was] no halfway-decent AGP card I can find (not a quiet one, anyway). I only moved to XP a year ago, so Vista's not really a concern for me right now. ;) 

Quote:
A migration to a socket 939 would be a big jump in performance for a minimal money outlay.

I was kind of figuring that, especially over the Intel option, though I do have a preference for their chips (boo! hiss! ;)  ). Main problem is that a full overhaul of my system was something I was hoping to avoid, and now (see below) I might be able to...

Quote:
I believe what he really wants is to stick with what he has and knows for now as pointed out in the original post of a total system overhaul in 2008.

That's completely right. I overhauled this last a year ago, and could do without the hassle of doing it again for a little while yet...! Also, yes I am UK, and Overclockers only seem to have fan-cooled nVidia AGP cards.

Quote:
Point blank all you need to do is get a 7600gs or gt at the VERY MOST, an older 6600 / gt would do you perfectly and most of the 6600 series are available passively cooled like your old x800....I'll say again the 6600 or 6600gt would be ideal for your system and WILL play games at good settings 1280

Quote:
An AGP 7600 GS would be faster than a 6600, about as fast as a 6600 GT if not faster, and it would be passively cooled - totally quiet, which is what he's looking for. If you're not upgrading your whole system, go for an AGP 7600 GS.

6600 series I was kind of shying away from, since these were also considered when originally getting the X800XL and seemed to be poorer - the X800XL looked to be about 6800 level (which I can no longer find passively cooled). What I really don't want to do is get a card and reminisce about how much better things were with the X800XL...

An AGP 7600GS still looked like being too loud...except...after reading the above I tried scouring the websites again trying to see just what AGP 7600GS cards are out there, and actually found one sold by one solitary UK retailer for £82 (US$155)! This looks perfect - slots straight into my current system, no fiddly OS reinstall, quality at least as good as the X800XL (?) and £100 (US$180) in my back pocket, which is very welcome right now (first baby on the way and all). So provided no-one posts a good reason why I shouldn't do this, I'll order one tomorrow, and thank you all for the help - 1/2 a day to sort a problem that's been driving me mad for a month!
September 19, 2006 9:59:15 PM

Quote:
An AGP 7600GS... quality at least as good as the X800XL (?)


Sorry mate, the 7600 GS will have lower framerates than the X800 XL... probably in the range of 10% lower, maybe more at higher resolutions or with AA enabled.

If you want better than your X800 XL, you'll have to go at least 7600 GT.
September 20, 2006 4:25:55 AM

Also I would advise against an AGP card. AGP is considered obsolete.

A PCI-E card will be much better and usually cheaper too!
September 20, 2006 7:49:51 AM

Quote:
Sorry mate, the 7600 GS will have lower framerates than the X800 XL... probably in the range of 10% lower, maybe more at higher resolutions or with AA enabled. If you want better than your X800 XL, you'll have to go at least 7600 GT.

Buggeration. I definitely can't find a passive AGP 7600GT, so I guess the question is am I prepared to take that sort of hit for £100 and no hassle? One review I found suggests at least that it's pretty useable at 1280 x 1024 in Far Cry (other games I'm into currently are lower-spec), and there's scope for overclocking it even with the passive heatsink.

Quote:
Also I would advise against an AGP card. AGP is considered obsolete. A PCI-E card will be much better and usually cheaper too!

It's not obsolete until they stop making cards for it. ;)  This is to tide me over for a year or so more than anything, and PCI-E for me now won't be cheaper once I factor in a new motherboard and processor as well - even above a 7800GS+ (effectively a 7800GT) in AGP is cheaper than the PCI-E 7600GT systems, unless I try and go really budget on the motherboard, which can bring it's own problems at times.


Where I truly need to be honest with myself is, am I going to get the most out of a massively (from what I have now) upgraded machine that would still probably want upgrading somewhere along the line in a year, and I don't think I am. Which leaves sticking with the AGP, and if the 7800GS+ is overkill for what I want (which you call seem to think) then that only leaves the 7600GS as the next best thing (no real middle-ground in AGP). I'll have no hassle, I'll have £100 to soften the blow of lower frame-rates (effectively saving £150 compared to the alternatives listed in the first post), and I'll have a lot more scope for a complete overhaul in 2008 when I'll feel more flush and have more time to consider exactly what's needed instead of just what will do.

So guess the 7600GS it is - thanks though, this has at least helped me get it all finally clear in my head.
September 20, 2006 9:18:22 AM

I see where you're coming from but with a P4 2.4 and 512MB RAM your CPU and RAM will be the bottleneck.

Even if an nV 7900GTX or ATI X1900XTX existed in AGP your system would not be able to use it effectively.

The same is true for a 7XXXxx AGP or equivalent ATI card.
September 20, 2006 11:03:04 AM

Ah, but if the 7600GS is bottlenecked by my system, then the same was true for the X800XL and so the performance (which I was happy with) would be the same. It'd only be an issue if a 6600 (which seems to be the only other silent option at AGP) could give me virtually the same performance in this system.

'Bottlenecks' are often over-rated I often feel - a true bottleneck-free system would be one where upgrading any part would result in zero performance increase, and how many people have a system that finely tuned? So there'll always be a bottleneck somewhere, and therefore price/performance is what counts: If a 7600GS gives me a performance increase over a 6600 that's worth the money, I wouldn't care whether the 7600GS is hitting full potential or not. This was the reason I was even considering the 7900GS+, though on discussing it here it does seem that with my system it won't give me the extra £150 (US$280) performance over a 7600GS that it'd cost, so it's out of the running now.

In the same way, is the performance of a low-spec Athlon 64 and a 7600GT really going to be enough over a P4 2.4GHz and 7600GS to justify £165 (US$310) + the hassle of putting it together? I've not been convinced, especially when I'm unlikely to push it to its full potential over the coming year, and then probably re-gutting the system again anyway after that.
September 20, 2006 11:07:40 AM

Quote:
Ah, but if the 7600GS is bottlenecked by my system, then the same was true for the X800XL and so the performance (which I was happy with) would be the same. It'd only be an issue if a 6600 (which seems to be the only other silent option at AGP) could give me virtually the same performance in this system.

'Bottlenecks' are often over-rated I often feel - a true bottleneck-free system would be one where upgrading any part would result in zero performance increase, and how many people have a system that finely tuned? So there'll always be a bottleneck somewhere, and therefore price/performance is what counts: If a 7600GS gives me a performance increase over a 6600 that's worth the money, I wouldn't care whether the 7600GS is hitting full potential or not. This was the reason I was even considering the 7900GS+, though on discussing it here it does seem that with my system it won't give me the extra £150 (US$280) performance over a 7600GS that it'd cost, so it's out of the running now.

In the same way, is the performance of a low-spec Athlon 64 and a 7600GT really going to be enough over a P4 2.4GHz and 7600GS to justify £165 (US$310) + the hassle of putting it together? I've not been convinced, especially when I'm unlikely to push it to its full potential over the coming year, and then probably re-gutting the system again anyway after that.

totally agree.
and even if the 7600GS is bottlenecked by the cpu (which i think it's improbable), that means you have a margin for a future cpu upgrade. Then the card will be the bottleneck, then you upgrade the card, and so on... like you said, there's no perfect bottleneck-free system.
September 20, 2006 12:54:16 PM

Hi again, just thougth Id throw some REAL benchmark numbers at you to hopefully clear all this up in your mind from my 2.6 p4 agp rig.

6600st 5.0k and 12k
6600gt 8.0k and 15k
7600gs 8.5k and 16k
7600gt 10k and 17k (estimate based on weighted scores)

ATI Equivelents

9600xt 3.5k and 13k
9800xt 5.0k and 15k
x800xl 9.0k and 18k

These are TESTED scores on my own system to give you an idea - obv your 2.4ghs p4 will be slightly lower but not by a massive ammount - couple hundred points at top end. Also these are rounded every so slightly as no rig will give exactly 5000 points etc but these are geniune.

For the sake of it the radeon 9600xt is the card I use most due to it being the least power hungry - best quality 2d output by MILES over the nv cards and a lot better filtering quality in games - very very noticable since I got my lcd. I dont want to put you off the 7600gs but bear in mind you will HAVE to turn off nvidias optimisations and loose about 15% performance to have equal quality to ati on the picture. Ok I admit Im very fussy and do notice fine details in all audio / visual equipment, I could bore you to tears with my hifi setup specs but I want you to be fully aware of your options and if at all possible urge you to consder a second hand x800 again off ebay perhaps. The pro model is the equal of your old xl but ISNT bridged with the rialto chip so consumes a few watts less power.

Sorry for the long post but the idea that you are going to regret a purchase irks me a little based on your original very simple request for ideas....

EDIT ** Thught Id better quickly add this before the fanboys get going on my pro ati stance - 2D quality is based on my PERSONAL experience with the one of the worlds best CRT screens being the P1130 22" - When using ANY card on an LCD screen however you will be very hard pressed to see any minute difference at all - assuming same cable and screen. As for the filtering comments on nv cards - it is well known in enthusiasts circles that you MUST set the driver to HIGH quality to disable the "optimisations" that I mention and otherwise it is a night and day difference. PPS the 9600xt plays all my games fine at 1650*1050 res but not the very latest of course.........
September 20, 2006 1:54:21 PM

:D  A little late as I put the order in for the 7600GS at lunchtime (though there's always the distance-selling cooling off period...), but still worthy of comment.

On the benchmarks, it looks to me that the 7600GS isn't going to be a huge drop compared to the X800XL, which in itself is reassuring. The 6600GT isn't far behind either but I've still had trouble finding a passive one over here. I may test out some minor overclocking on the GPU and/or the CPU anyway to see if it's worth it without a stability/noise hit.

2D quality was something admittedly I thought was no longer an issue between ATI and nVidia. From your post I guess it's down to individual judgement, and it seems like with the 17" TFT I'm using I'll be hard-pressed to notice a major difference. I'll have the Radeon 7000 to compare to at least! As for 3D, never having used nVidia before I didn't know about the 'lose optimisations' thing so handy to know - I tend to go for full quality over speed in driver settings anyway and tone down the details within the game, if that makes sense.

I decided against second-hand cards of all types, simply because I want something to last me at least a year and there's always the danger of getting a 2nd-hand lemon that fails me after three months, putting me back to square one yet with no come-back. The X800XL was brand-new and meant to last me two years, and look where I am now...

When I've got the card, assuming it works I'll try some first impressions/benchmarks when I get time and post an update here. It's important to remember that this is ideally just something to tide me over the next year and a bit. Unless the 2D's really cack, the only other things that would really cause regret would be unplayable frame-rates or a loud fan (a lot of effort went into making the machine near-silent). And at least I'll get a year's experience of an nVidia card, which can only help when considering the next major upgrade.
September 20, 2006 2:11:02 PM

Hi again, I thought you had - just had a feeling !....Im not saying you will be disapointed with the Nv card - but - you will have to set the driver to highest quality to make sure the output is at least close to the ATI you were used to.

Also the 2d image will be duller and less saturated but this is remedied by using the Digital Vibrance setting to level 1 again in the driver and then it will be pretty close if not the same as you had on the same TFT.

Please bear in mind that this isnt an anti NV rant or series of postings as I do own and run their cards but Nvidia cards are always lower output quality than ATI because of cheaper output filter circuits and this has ALWAYS been the case for some reason. I cant quite believe nv specify board partners to do this so it must be a cost issue on the manufacturers part - perhaps nv really do charge more for their parts than ati. Still just be prepared to tweak the thing a bit as stated. I do appreciate you stance on 2nd hand but Ive had more bad luck with new stuff - much like you have with the x800xl !. I usually look at 2nd hand equipment as tried and tested but sometimes you get the liar trying it on - esp on ebay !.

Anyway - all the best and keep us informed - ps did you buy the gigabyte from from scan ?.
September 20, 2006 2:50:11 PM

Yes I did - I think I missed it first time around because they didn't have a little photo of it on the list page - I was looking through those and discounting anything with a fan.
September 20, 2006 3:08:55 PM

You can always overclock the 7600 GS. Then you should at least get back your X800XL performance. :) 
September 20, 2006 3:10:47 PM

Hi again - yes the gigabyte on scan was the only passive one I could find in the uk - I will recommend you fit a fan to it at 5v though as passive is never good enough for high end gaming. 2d itll be fine but Ive seen systems with problems with FX5200 and 6200 passive cards with heat !.

Anyway let us all know how it goes....
a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2006 4:56:32 PM

Quote:
pretty useable at 1280 x 1024 in Far Cry

But an X800XL can max out farcry at 1280x1024 with 4Xaa and 16XAF.
http://www.ixbt.com/video2/r430-2-d.shtml#p18
http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/digest3d/0705/itogi...

That's something the 7600GS is not going to do:
http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/digest3d/0806/itogi...

BTW, ignore the 6800GS and 6800XT scores in the last link. they are higher clocked PCI-e versions and not at all representative of a reference AGP version. The 6800XT isn't even close as the one they used is a beast with it's clock speeds, but the 6800GS AGP is identical to the 350/1000 6800 in that second link above.
September 20, 2006 5:43:20 PM

Quote:
I will recommend you fit a fan to it at 5v though as passive is never good enough for high end gaming.

I'll keep an eye on the temperatures (I assume RivaTuner or something similar will do that? Used ATI tool for the X800XL) - the X800XL had a low-speed 80mm fan pointed at it to help keep the temperatures down (blu-tacked to the Evo120, believe it or not) so there'll be that option, especially if I try tweaking it up a bit
Quote:
But an X800XL can max out farcry at 1280x1024 with 4Xaa and 16XAF. That's something the 7600GS is not going to do.

I guess not, but the trouble is I don't have an option of an X800XL now, so I'll need to use less than 4xAA/16xAF for a year or so. That I'll have £100 that I didn't have before softens the blow, believe me. ;) 
September 25, 2006 7:25:38 AM

Got the card Friday, and thought it worth posting here what I thought of it for those interested.

First impressions
A lot smaller and lighter than the X800XL in there originally, in fact not much bigger than the Radeon 7000 that was serving as a temporary replacement. No fancy heatpipes on the AGP version, just a great big heatsink. Slotted in, booted up and installed drivers with no problems.

2D quality looked perfectly okay to me on my 17" TFT, no obvious difference I'd be able to put my finger on. A few hours of using it and it didn't feel any different to before. (To the Radeon 7000 anyway, it's been months since I've used the X800XL.) Some fancy settings such as transparent windows that I haven't messed about with yet.

3D quality
Didn't have a lot of time, so just played through the first level a little to get a feel for it. Driver set to high-quality, all settings in Far Cry to high-quality, 1280 x 1024, 2xAA and 2xAF.

As far as quality goes, hard to put my finger on but it didn't look quite as good as I seem to remember with the X800XL. Somehow it just seemed slightly more cartoony than before. Quite an obvious one as well is the blocky shadows on weapons when in foliage, though I know this is an issue with Far Cry and nVidia vs ATI. On the other hand some things looked a lot better, like sun-glare through the leaves, for instance.

3D speed
Slightly less fluid than the X800XL which is to be expected, but completely playable I found. Didn't bother benchmarking a demo or anything as I was only interested in real playing. Using FRAPS indoors was in the region of 70fps, outdoors varied between 25-40fps depending on the action. Never noticed it drop out of the 20s.

Overclocking
Factory settings were 400/400. Gigabyte VTuner auto-optimisation recommended 415/435, which were used above. I also tried overclocking it to 450/450 and the PC to 216/36 FSB/PCI (for 2.6 GHz) and running through the first level again with FRAPS reporting what I guessed to be about 20% more frames outside. Didn't actually feel that different to play though, so I'll leave it at 415/435 (and 2.4GHz) until I feel the need to boost it.

Temperatures
The position of the heatsink and direction of the fins made mounting an extra 80mm fan near the card too difficult to attempt right now. Core temperature was about 50-55 degrees idle, 70-80 under full load (using either rthb-thingy, with the spinning balls, or ATITool to stress it). Didn't monitor temperature during Far Cry as I didn't want to impact on framerates in the short time I had to test, but it was around 70C on exit (even when overclocked) so probably not getting exceptionally high, but will monitor this properly later.

Overall
Everything else performs as well as you'd hope a card of this generation would, and Far Cry is playable without having to tone everything down. Although I've yet to push it in some of the other levels, there's clearly scope for overclocking it without killing the card too early. Given my other choices were to fork out a load of money on an AGP card that might not have been as quiet as billed and could've been redundant in a year, or spent a lot of time and money on a compromise upgrade to the internals that I'd only want to redo again in a year, I'm pretty happy with what I've got. Thanks all.
September 25, 2006 3:50:18 PM

Good to hear!
!