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Help with BF's Birthday Gift

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November 7, 2006 4:06:53 PM

Hi everyone! :) 

I have been reading the forums and Tom's articles regarding video cards. I want to buy one for my boyfriend's birthday, along with Oblivion. I recently bought new computers for both of us with the following specs:

Intel Core2 Duo Processor E6400 (2.13GHz, 1066 FSB)
2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz- 2DIMMs
Running Windows XP
250GB Hard Drive
20" Widescreen Flat Panel 8)
but it came with 256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE TurboCache :cry: 

In trying to find out what to replace the video card with, I've run into a snag. The local computer stores here in Canada are out of the X1900 XT, and are saying it might be discontinued shortly? I was looking at the:

RADEON X1800 XT - 625MHz Core
512MB / 256MB of GDDR3 - 1500 MHz Memory
256-bit memory interface
16 Pixel Pipelines
PCI Express x16
RAMDAC - 2x400MHz
FullStream (Video-deblocking) - Real, divX, WM9
Single slot cooling solution
Maximum 3D Graphics Resolution of 2560x1600
Hydravision 3 Dual Display support

That one is $379 CAD, or this one:

Radeon X1800 GTO2
Video Interface - PCI Express
Video Memory - 512MB
Video Memory Technology - GDDR3
Graphics Processor Data Width - 256-bit
Features - Crossfire Compatible

That one is $299.99 CAD, and finally one more choice:

GeForceā„¢ 7950 GT
Video Memory - 512MB DDR3
Engine Clock - 550MHz
Memory Clock - 1.4GHz(700MHz DDR3)
Memory Interface - 256-bit
Max Resolution: 2048 X 1536
Bus Standard - PCI Express x16

The 7950 is confusing for price as there seems to be several models with no way for me to tell why some are higher priced than others. The one I described above is $319 CAD.

Please help me light my boyfriend's face up with joy when he opens his new video card. (yeah that was sappy) If you could help me choose between the above cards...or have another suggestion (besides the 1900XT) between the $300-375 CAD price tag, you would rock. That's $265-320 USD for you yanks. :wink:

Oh yeah, and newegg doesn't ship to Canada.
Thanks so much!
Reni

More about : birthday gift

a b U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 4:10:02 PM

GeForceā„¢ 7950 GT
Anonymous
a b U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 4:37:03 PM

Wow, a girlfriend posting on nerds forum for her BF, that's sweet, make sure he knows you did that! even better then the video card :D 

My GF just doesn't buy anything with electronics because she knows she can't get exactly what I want without 3 weeks of research hehe!.

Back to the topic,
X1800XT vs X1800GTO

(GTO2 is not there but I would'nt expect some magic, might be wrong)

X1800Xt VS 7950GT

The 7950 is the best choice IMO, for the price...
Related resources
November 7, 2006 4:38:00 PM

Yeah, that 7950GT looks like the best option between those. Do your Canadian stores have no more X1900XTs? As it runs faster in Oblivion than the 7950GT at 16x12, which is close to the standard 20" WS resolution of 1680x1050.

When you say "bought" a computer and it "came with a...", that means you did NOT build it right?

Well, there is an extremely good chance that the PSU inside there will be too weak to power most high-end GPUs, like all the ones you mentioned...I mean, you might get the computer to boot up, you might be able to start to play for a few seconds, but then crashing games and BSODs will be right around the corner. For all we know, the PSU might not even have a PCI-e power connector. I'm sorry, but I think it will be needing upgrading.

What brand it is, anyways? That will tell us if it is possible to upgrade the PSU, as some manufacturers *cough*Dell*cough* make it hard to get a new PSU.

~Ibrahim~
November 7, 2006 4:41:02 PM

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

Try this one. It's got the highest stock core clock speed at that price (300 US). One caveat, though: how particular is your bf about video games? I'm assuming your monitor has 1600x1200 native res... with graphics turned up, that's not going to get too many frames per second in Oblivion. I could play it and be happy, but really serious gamers would be frustrated out of their mind.

So, go ahead with the card I mentioned if and only if at least one of the following is true:

1) your monitor's native resolution is less than 1600x1200
2) you think he'll be happy playing with the graphics below maximum
3) you think he'll be happy playing if it's just a little slow

If all of those are false, you should reconsider your gift plan.
November 7, 2006 5:00:25 PM

Wow! Thanks for all the replies. As for him knowing I'm posting on a 'nerds' forum...maybe I'll tell him after he gets the gift. :wink: Otherwise it would ruin the surprise. Funny thing is...I have been researching for about 3 weeks. I'm seeing benchmark charts in my sleep! :lol: 

Quote:
When you say "bought" a computer and it "came with a...", that means you did NOT build it right?


Yes, and I don't want to say what brand it is. Ok, stop twisting my arm...and first let me say our other two computers were custom built. It's a Dell. :oops:  It was just too expensive to get near what we wanted in a custom built...but now that I know how crappy the video card was, maybe I made a mistake. Plus the boyfriend didn't want to let me custom build it--not even with the handy dandy guides here at Toms. I mean it couldn't be much harder than rewiring a car stereo...but he failed to see the comparison. :lol: 

According to the manual: the wattage is 375W, 90 to 135V and 180 to 265V @ 50/60 Hz. I think from what I was reading the 7950GT requires 400W? Not sure if I read that correctly.

Quote:
So, go ahead with the card I mentioned if and only if at least one of the following is true:

1) your monitor's native resolution is less than 1600x1200
2) you think he'll be happy playing with the graphics below maximum
3) you think he'll be happy playing if it's just a little slow

If all of those are false, you should reconsider your gift plan.


They are all false, but I'm not sure about native resolution. To be honest I've never heard that expression before. I know I run my computer and games at 1680 x 1050 screen resolution. I think he does too.

Excuse me while I rob a bank to get a decent video card now. Or alternatively, I'll jump out the window since I've realized I may have wasted hours of research on this.

Thanks for all the replies,
Reni
November 7, 2006 5:18:38 PM

Quote:
Well, there is an extremely good chance that the PSU inside there will be too weak to power most high-end GPUs, like all the ones you mentioned...


I second the concern about the underpowered PSU. Any information you could give about the Amperage ratings (particularly on the +12V rail) would be very helpful in determining if the power supply could handle the increased load. If you are not sure about power supplies in general check out the power supply guide here on TG.

As for which card, I could not say for sure. Have you looked into the X1950 Pro that is (correct me if I'm wrong) suppose to replace the X1900 XT. I don't know about availability in Canada.

Good luck with making your decision.

-Alex
November 7, 2006 5:27:20 PM

Ouch, I totally overlooked the widescreen bit. Widescreen resolutions, as a rule, run a bit slower than comparable 4:3.

The power supply worries are completely valid. 375 MIGHT have enough juice to run a 7950, but that depends on several things:
1) The quality of the PSU... in a mass-retailer box, this doesn't look good.
2) the number of devices you're powering. one hard drive, or three? one optical drive, or two? Do you keep 4 USB-powered devices hooked up all the time?
3) Is that CPU overclocked? If it is, it's drawing more power.
4) Do you have the necessary pci-e connector, as mentioned above?

All in all, I don't think this is going to work out for you. You will almost definitely need a new power supply (at least 50 bucks, and up to 300... plus, installing a new power supply in a mass-retail system is going to be a pain.) Also, if you want to run at native res (native res, by the way, is the resolution that matches the actual number of pixels on your LCD panel. If you run at any resolution other than the native one, things look like crap.), even the 7950 isn't going to give you exceptional frame rates in Oblivion outdoors with graphics turned up, and it may even be noticably choppy near oblivion gates.

You're looking at about a 400 dollar US + 1-5 hours of frustration upgrade, just to have Oblivion run fast and plain, or pretty and slow. =( Sorry.

On the upside, you may be able to get a nice 7950GT pretty cheap in the next couple of weeks. Watch refurbs coming from retailers. With the 8800GTX coming out, I suspect a lot of folks will be trading in their less-new cards for brand-new ones... and even if not, price drops are probably on the way for 7000-generation cards. If you can get a 7950GT for 200-250, that leaves room in your budget for the power supply, and this becomes doable.

Also, please take care to note that Oblivion "fast and plain" on a 7950GT is still going to look as good or better than Oblivion on an xbox 360, AND it will be moddable.
November 7, 2006 5:29:05 PM

Hi Alex & thanks for your reply.

According to the manual it says this about the power supply: the wattage is 375W, 90 to 135V and 180 to 265V @ 50/60 Hz.

Just recently in our area of Canada we have the X1950 Pro 256MB model, and I believe the 512MB has been around for awhile. The 512 sports a hefty price tag of around $480-500 CAD.

I thought that Oblivion needs a 512MB card at minimum?

-Reni
November 7, 2006 5:32:58 PM

Ouch. I'm sorry, didn't mean to offend you or anything...

Benchmarks in your sleep? Yeah, that can happen. Best to get that checked out. Survival rates are much higher when caught in the earlier stages.

Well, all is not lost. The PSU can be upgraded, but it may require a bit of modding. Try googling your Model Number, like E521 and then upgrade power supply. Like this: "Dell E521 Upgrade Power Supply". Some of the newer ones accept retail PSUs (I think), which would make it a heck lot easier.

375W is a maximum output, meaning under extreme stress it will push out 375W for about 10 minutes before dying or something like that. Don't mean to scare you, usually it won't die, just turn off the computer or have a BSOD.

You could bump down to like a 7600GT which should not take nearly as much power as those cards, but still have some reasonable performance. Then again, it might not. Personally, I wouldn't feel safe with a Dell PSU and a mainstream/high-end GPU in the same computer case.

Rewiring a car stereo? Possible, I've actually never done that. A weekend project perhaps. Building a computer only requires two bits of knowledge: 1) You know all your parts are compatible. 2) You know where everything plugs in.

Those are basic, there are many more.

Back to the issue: We need to check the amps of the PSU first. Open up the case. Somewhere on the side of the PSU there'll be a chart like this one:



What does yours say under the 12V+ one? Yours may not have two rails, like that particular model. It may just have one.

If it isn't high enough, we might need a new one. Then we can search to see if anyone has attempted this before and their results. Then we can find one within the budget range, pick a GPU, and deliver the present. Do we have a time frame, btw?

~Ibrahim~
November 7, 2006 5:33:58 PM

Quote:
I thought that Oblivion needs a 512MB card at minimum?


No, I used to run Oblivion on a GeForce 6200 w/ 256 megs of RAM. It was very painful, slow, and ugly, but it worked. Still, I don't recommend less than 512. A gig is delicious, but then we're moving swiftly out of your price range.
November 7, 2006 5:46:57 PM

If you really wanna see his face light up with joy go out and get yourself some nice Lingerie =). I know id much rather see that from my GF than a video card anyday.
November 7, 2006 5:52:03 PM

If I were you, I would at least wait for all these new dx10 cards to come out so you can get the best price
a c 358 U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 5:58:03 PM

Quote:

According to the manual: the wattage is 375W, 90 to 135V and 180 to 265V @ 50/60 Hz. I think from what I was reading the 7950GT requires 400W? Not sure if I read that correctly.



You'll have enough spare power even for the X1900XT 512MB which consumes about 109w. However, you should take a peak at the Dell's PSU sticker (yeah, you have to open the case), and read how many amps are on the 12 rail.

The following is a total breakdown of your PC's power consumption if every component was stressed to the max:

E6400 CPU...............................50w CPU Power Consumption Chart
2 Sticks of 1GB RAM..................20w (This estimate is from Power PC & Cooling one of the most respect PSU manufacturer)
250GB Hard Drive......................25w (Approx. 20w from on the 12v rail and 5v from the 5v rail)
DVD Burner...............................19w (Approx. 14w from on the 12v rail and 5v from the 5v rail)
2 120mm Fans............................12w
Floppy Drive.................................5w
Basic motherboard......................35w

Total Power Consumption............166w (Assuming 100% load)

Of that total, 96w is being drawn from the 12v rail; the most important rail. That's from the CPU, Hard Drive, DVD DRive and fans. That works out to 8 amps on the 12v rail (96w / 12 volts).

Since your PSU is able to provide 375w of power that leaves you with 209w left. Subtract 75w as a "buffer" 'cause it's not a good idea to stress the PSU at 100% for a very long time. Also for any gross miscalculations. That leaves you with 134w for a video card.

Below is a link to an xbitslabs.com GPU power consumption chart:

http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/power-no...

This page is for High-End GPU. There also a page for Premium PSU, but they are expensive. Unfortunately the X1950Pro came out after the article was written, but I would guess it's power consumption is in the same ballpark as the X1900GT, about 80w. At worse it will consume the same amout of power as the X1900XT (109w), but I doubt that.

Basically, the X1950Pro competes against the 7900GS. Traditionally nVidia GPUs requires less power than ATI's GPUs. But ATI cards can handle Oblivion better.
a c 358 U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 6:07:15 PM

Quote:
If I were you, I would at least wait for all these new dx10 cards to come out so you can get the best price


I don't expect to see much of a price decrease since these cards are expected to be in the $600+ range. But tomorrow is November 8th, and isn't that the date the 8800 series is supposed to be omn sale?
November 7, 2006 6:12:24 PM

Ibrahim, no offense taken...was feeling a bit discouraged, tis all.

Ok, cracked open the case. Of course it didn't have a handy chart like yours.

Model #N375P -00

Input 100-120V 11.4A
Input 200-240V 6.1A
(50-60 Hz)

Output 375W
5V-12
12VA - 18.0A + 3.3 17.0A
12VB 18.0A

Combined +5 & 3.3 is 150W

Ok, that is my best translation from all that text crammed into one spot. In retrospect I should have just taken a pic with the camera, but I think it's buried under the Dell Boxes still sitting in our Living Room. :lol: 

I'm hoping to give him the upgrade this weekend. His birthday is November 11th.

Quote:
Ouch, I totally overlooked the widescreen bit. Widescreen resolutions, as a rule, run a bit slower than comparable 4:3.


As far as the Widescreen monitor goes, I've found this info:
Response Time: 5 ms
Image Contrast Ratio - 800:1
Max Resolution: 1680x1050 Pixels
Max Sync Rate: 76 Hz x 83 kHz

Still didn't see anything about native resolution, though.

Quote:
1) The quality of the PSU... in a mass-retailer box, this doesn't look good.
2) the number of devices you're powering. one hard drive, or three? one optical drive, or two? Do you keep 4 USB-powered devices hooked up all the time?
3) Is that CPU overclocked? If it is, it's drawing more power.
4) Do you have the necessary pci-e connector, as mentioned above?


1) Agree
2) One hard drive, Two optical drives, USB (hmm?) - I think just the mouse and keyboard. My speakers are plugged in the black hole where the sound card is. That's all the devices for the CPU.
3)No, but I was hoping to do so in a few months. :p 
4) Not really sure what the pci-e connector is.


Quote:
If you really wanna see his face light up with joy go out and get yourself some nice Lingerie =). I know id much rather see that from my GF than a video card anyday.


How do you know that isn't in the works? :wink:

Quote:
If I were you, I would at least wait for all these new dx10 cards to come out so you can get the best price


First I've heard of new cards...how long before they come out? I hate to wait, because I feel guilty for buying him a gimpy PC. :( 

Thanks again everyone for all the help!

-Reni
November 7, 2006 6:20:52 PM

PC Power & Cooling makes Dell-compatible PSUs that are more robust w/more watts. I don't know if they ship to Canada, and they are a bit expensive.

http://www.pcpower.com/products/power_supplies/dell/

When you click a PSU model you can check the compatibility list to see if it will work with your Dell model. Some Dells come with standardized power connectors now. If you give us the model of your Dell we can check the Dell website for a pin-out of the PSU and see if you can buy any old PSU or if you have to stick with a PC Power & Cooling model.
November 7, 2006 6:21:38 PM

Out of the cards you listed the 7950gt is the best. If your main game, or BFs, is Oblivion then you might want to see if you can get a ATI 1900XT as its better in Oblivion and most other benchmarks as well. With the games seeming to be heading more towards shaders being more effective then the 1900XT would likely last longer before another upgrade is needed as well.
November 7, 2006 6:22:21 PM

That is a lot of info, and most of it went over my head. I hope the 18Amps (I think that is what the sticker meant) will be sufficient to run a decent card.

If I could find a X1900XT I'd go for it, but the X1950 Pro (512MB) is out of my price range. Both of my stores here, Infonec and PcCanada, have the X1900XT out of stock and back ordered with no ETA for new shipments.

If anyone else is in Canada and knows of another retailer for Graphics cards, I'll gladly check out any suggestions. :) 

-Reni
a c 358 U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 6:24:57 PM

Quote:

12VB 18.0A


That's all I needed to know.

Based on my calc, without a GPU at worse your system should be drawing 96w or 8 amps. That leaves you with 120w or 10 amps to play with. You can drop the X1950pro into your system or the 7900GT/GS if you prefer.
November 7, 2006 6:27:37 PM

Thanks so much. That's such a load off my mind.

:) 

Reni
a c 358 U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 6:47:49 PM

Quote:
That is a lot of info, and most of it went over my head. I hope the 18Amps (I think that is what the sticker meant) will be sufficient to run a decent card.


Sorry about that. Usually when I try to estimate how much power a PC consumes I try to break it piece by piece rather than simply give one number.

Basically what I'm saying is that out of your 375w PSU, the PC is only using 166w (excluding the GPU). That leaves 209w on tap. It's a vague number though because power comes off of different lines (rails) from the PSU.

The most important line is the 12v rail where all the power hungry parts draws power from. 18 amps is pretty decent for a 375w PSU. Since I estimated a maximum load of 96w on the 12v rail that translates to 8 amps being used under the worse possible conditions. Maximum load means that the CPU is being fully occupied, your hard drive is spinning at full speed constantly and so is your DVD drive.

Having said that, you have 10 amps left on the 12v rail or 120w (10 amps x 12v). With that amount of power left you should be able to a drop in a power video card.

As I stated, I cannot find an actual power measurement of the X1950Pro, but I suspect it uses about the same amount of power as the X1900GT video card; about 80w.

If you want a powerful card that doesn't draw a lot of power, then you can look at a 7900GT which consumes about 49w. Or you can choose it's little brother, the 7900GS which should consume less power since it is less powerful.
November 7, 2006 7:07:47 PM

18A, that is good! I was scared of like 12A or something...Nice one, jaguar. All in all, you should be OK.

I believe most the higher-end X1K cards from ATI do consume a good bit more power than their nVidia counterparts, anyways...And I believe the 7900GS is offered through Dell in plenty of their mainstream desktops, so that card should work great. The 7900GT/7950GT cards are good, too, then.

Quick question, did it have two +12V numbers or just one? I see a 12A and a 12B, with identical rails. Identical rails are common in dual-rail PSUs...If it has two rails, then rest-assured the 7950GT will work perfectly. Even with one +12V rail, you should be OK.

I also forgot about those GPU PSUs. If the worst comes to worst and the PSU won't work (small chance, thanks to jaguar!), there are some power supplies that you can put in a spare 5.25" bay that provide power only to the GPU. No need to upgrade a PSU and guaranteed to work. But this is a last resort and your current PSU should OK. (Just in case!)

~Ibrahim~
Anonymous
a b U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 7:15:23 PM

Dont forget to clean up your browser history. Best way to find out what my Gf will get me :lol: 

I think the 7950 will be a descent card, wont play Oblivion at the native resolution(1680..)native means that each pixel on the screan output as pixel sent by the video card.

So if you run in 1280X1024, you will have one and a half physical pixel showing a 'logical' pixel, that will make the image blurry... You can always play with smaller resolution with part of your screan being black so it's no big deal.
November 7, 2006 7:21:14 PM

The PSU is sufficient. OEMs like Dell and HP don't normally list the PSU's MAX rating on them. They list a sustainable rating. You have Dual 18A 12V rails. You'll be fine
November 7, 2006 7:32:54 PM

Quote:
Dont forget to clean up your browser history. Best way to find out what my Gf will get me


He touches my PC and he loses a limb. :wink:

And guess what....
...nope, guess again...

I found a 1900XT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <--(yes I know excessive use of punctuation is a sign of a weak mind) :roll: I found it by clicking the links on the Asus website. Only one left too....the dude is holding it for me now to go pick up. Now I just wonder if I can sweet talk him into finding one for me! :lol: 

But I have to say...wow, you guys (and maybe gals as well) were so extremely helpful.
Thanks with all my heart. :) 

And I'm hoping the screen resolution can be fixed by editing the graphics code...like I do for my Sims 2. (don't judge me!) :mrgreen:

I think Oblivion has a wide screen mode, but I printed off an article from widescreengamer.com that will hopefully help him make it all crispy and such.

You guys rock!

-Reni
Anonymous
a b U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 7:35:38 PM

Quote:
And guess what....
...nope, guess again...


ummmmmmmmmmm, guessed to much! 8O

Gj on the X190XT, no gals, just you... :cry: 
November 7, 2006 7:58:49 PM

Cant believe this post. Wish my GF knew what a Watt was. I was all excited with my first OC, pumping my baby up to the max, and all I got when I explained it to her, was the blank look for death. :roll:

Awesome post. There is hope.
November 7, 2006 8:21:01 PM

That's nice of ya, I'm used to basically getting gifts I've no need for, and having to pretend like they rock, so I'm sure your bf will be genuinely happy :) 

As for your videocard selection, x1800's are known to run a little hotter in general (resulting in beefy coolers that make lots of noise).

There are some sweet spots in the midrange-highend market right now, notably the x1950Pro (performance better than a x1900gt) and the 7900GTO (almost as good as a GTX) that can be had in the 250-300 CDN range.

I've noticed that even after USD-CDN conversion, US stores offer generally better deals. Even so, consider these :

http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item...

This same card is sold for 165US$ on the american site, making this deal seem rather pale, but still good value I think ... A 7900G is a very slight downgrade from a 7900GT.

With DX10 coming out soon, I think it's not unreasonable to get a slightly less powerful card now and use the money saved (2x in your case) to upgrade to the much faster DX10 cards sooner rather than later.

Since one of your choices was a 7950gt (good card btw), the only decent deal I could find from canadian retailers was

http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item...

At 340$ CDN I wouldn't call this a steal, but if your mind is set on a 7950GT, EVGA is one of the better manufacturer (lifetime warranty not voided by OC'ing).

One last option I would recommend is to scout around for a 7900GTO, I managed to snipe one at 259$ CDN 2 weeks ago (I think tigerdirect.ca accidentally used a US price for the canadian site :)  ) and now it's running at 7900GTX speeds. IF you manage to find that card around 300-330CDN, it would probably be better value than a 7950GT at current prices.


CHeers
a b U Graphics card
November 7, 2006 9:16:12 PM

Too bad I didn't see this earlyier, but yeah you got some pretty good advice sofar, and Waylander provided you with the good links, although depending on where you are in the country, there's other sites to consider;

www.shoprbc.com
www.anitec.ca

Also TigerDirect actually has a store in Markham just north of Toronto/T.O.

Don't know if you mentioned location, but more info would help if you're not rushed.

Anyways, good luck. Kinda like shoping for perfume for women, ifyou don't know for sure it can be daunting, but it looks like you got some good info.

BTW, Oblivion will not take more advanatge of a 512MB card, but it is nice to have the extra as long as it doesn't cost much more.

Also consider the X1950Pro if you want to save some coin and have availability issues with other cards.

Just some thoughts. Gotta run Flames game to go get ready for.
!