Confused on Graphics Cards

I'm finally getting to upgrade my PC. The primary function for my computer is gaming. I fool around with other things, such as graphics editing, but this if very little and the primary use is still gaming. Online, offline, you name it.

Problem is, games are getting newer and newer, but my PC is getting older and older. Right now I play games like Half-Life 2, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142, and a few others. I have to keep them at medium or less graphics because of my system.

Currently I have this in my system:

Motherboard: ASUS K8V SE Deluxe (that's what it says on the box)
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9800 Pro All in Wonder 128mb AGP
Processor: Athlon 64 3400+ 2.4GHz
Memory: Corsair XMS 512mb (one stick) I'm unsure of the rest of the stuff, like DDR2, PC3200, etc.
OP System: Windows XP Home

I hope that does it for the system info. If I forgot something that would help you guys help me, please let me know! I built this computer with a little help, but that was a few years ago, so I'm not sure of the exact things about memory and graphics (other than what I listed above)

Anyway, down to my question. I'm looking to update my graphics card and memory. The memory is the easy part, so I mainly just need help with the graphics.

I read the gaming buyers guide on Tom's, but I'm still majorly confused. I'm wanting to update this so I can run current and future games with little to no lag. But, my budget is most likely $200 or less (I say most likely, because it may or may not go higher :) ).

After my experience with my Radeon, I would love dearly to stay away from ATI cards. My Radeon gives me lots of grief, everything from driver installation down to crashing games now and then. It just doesn't work (I had better luck with my old FX5200).

So, I'm looking mainly at Nvidia's. I would like to move straight to the 512mb version cards. They are the future, so it will keep me updated a little longer.

After seeing the game Crysis, this is the type of game I would like to be able to play well after upgrading :) Now, whether this is even possible or not with my graphics card budget, I don't know. But I would at least like to run the current games on ultra high without problems (games such as Oblivion, BF2 and 2142, all that).

A couple things I don't understand though are AGP vs PCI, AGP x-, basically anything. What do I need to look at? Any tips? To reiterate, the primary function of this PC is gaming. So what are things I should look for in a good gaming card?

I know this post might be a little confusing, and I apologize if it is hard to read. If I left out any information that you need, please let me know and I will do my best to fix it :) I want to make it easy for you guys to help me out, since I know what it's like to get the old, "w0t am b3st..." line.

Thanks a lot guys! Please bear with me while I ask my noobish questions :D
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  1. As i understand, you wouldn't change your mainboard which means that you are looking for an AGP card.
    So the exact choice under 200$ and staying away the ATI is the 7600GT or GS. For their performance differences, i think 7600GS is better if i'm not wrong.
  2. More memory does not equal longevity.

    A 256mb 7600 GT will last much longer than, say, a 512mb 7600 GS.

    You do need 1 GB of RAM though, to have a decent gaming machine.
  3. PCI was the old bus standard for video cards. Then came AGP and AGP Pro, though the Pro wasn't really used for video cards. PCI-Express is the new standard. PCI-Express cards are not compatible with AGP slots and vice versa.

    I'd try and find a used 7600GT or X800 or X850 series cards for your computer. I have a 6600GT and play NWN2. I have to play it on lowest setting and it still slows down to unplayable frame rates when too much stuff is going on.

    A new 7600GT is a waste. If you have the money, a 7800GS is a better option but still rediculous in cost. AGP cards vs. their PCI-Express brethren are around 50% more in cost. Business' way to force people over to PCI-Express. Oh well, nature of the beast.

    If you can get a 6600GT for under 50 bucks, then it'd be worth it as it'd be better than the 9800 Pro that you have.

    I'm positive you have DDR 400 (PC3200). Get yourself another 512MB of RAM. It will significantly speed up your system.

    Btw, what's your upgrade budget?
  4. Quote:
    More memory does not equal longevity.

    A 256mb 7600 GT will last much longer than, say, a 512mb 7600 GS.

    Could you explain the difference then between 256mb and 512mb, and why I should go with one over the other?

    Also, I should explain about the budget deal. I don't know. My parents are wanting to take my 9800 Pro for my sister (who does everything with graphics editing). Consequently (benefitially :D ), I get a new card.

    The less than $200 is just a guess. Personally, since they are buying, I'd head straight to the new-fangled 8800 series. But I don't think my parents are ready to spend $500 on a new graphics card for me :)

    So I guess with the budget thing, keep it below $250 or $300. I hadn't thought about it before, but I'm willing to front the extra cost :)

    So, with that new price tag in mind, what would get a good, solid option? The main thing I want is longevity, so I can run future games with semi-decent graphics.

    Oh, and yes, I do need memory. I've been wanting more for a long time, but I'm just too lazy to search for it :P I'll probably be asking a question about that in another thread later.
  5. One thing to point out as I mentioned above. You can't take a PCI-Express card and pop it in an AGP slot.

    The 8800 series cards are strictly PCI-Express. It will not fit in your system. The best AGP card out there is the X1950Pro which I've only seen at BestBuy so far. It's $299 which is way overpriced.
  6. Respect the people who spend their times to answer your questions by not being LAZY !!! That's how to stay in the forums.
  7. Quote:

    Could you explain the difference then between 256mb and 512mb, and why I should go with one over the other?

    The difference is 256mb. haha.

    But seriously, there's nothing wrong with more memory. It's just that it does very little in the way of performance compared to, say, chipsets and clockspeeds.


    A 7600 GT 256mb will always be better than a 7600 GS 512mb.
    Why? The GT has MUCH higher clockspeeds than the GS.

    More memory doesn't hurt anything, but it doesn't help as much as people assume and it takes the attention away from the specifications that really count.. clockspeeds, and chipsets.

    The bottom line is, a 128mb 9700 PRO will absolutely destroy a 512mb 9200 in every game imaginable.

    The buyer's guide is for fellows like you who don't really understand the technical aspects... I suggest you use it. :)
  8. To Slicessoul: If you read all of it, you would see that I was too lazy to look for memory, not graphics cards. I was out researching this graphics stuff until like 1 in the morning. I wonder if there may have been a bit of sarcasm in the lazy statement as well...

    Thanks to the people who have helped so far! I'll have to look at my motherboard again and make sure it's AGP only, but I'm sure you guys are right :) (I'm a double checker. After receiving false info on things over time, I've learned to take someones word and back it up by finding the answer as well :) So it's not that I don't trust you :D )

    It sounds like the 7600 is a good way to go for a decent price, so I start looking into those some more.

    Any more suggestions? If there is an ATI card that is better than the Nvidia's I can get, then I guess suggest it anyway and I'll look into it. However, I do still prefer Nvidia.

    Also, would someone mind explaining the AGP x4, x8, and all that stuff? I got lost on that one... (I read it elsewhere)

    EDIT: Didn't see the last post on here about the 512 vs 256 :) Thanks, that clears it up perfectly. Also, I checked the Tom's buyer's guide, but I didn't understand it. However, now that it's morning (I read it at like 12:30 last night lol) and I've got a couple more things to consider after this thread, I'll check through it again. Thanks! :D
  9. In your price range the best card you can probably get is the 7600 GS.

    Maybe a 7600 GT if you can find one for about $185, they're much better. But if you're spending $185, you might want to bump it up to a $240 X1950 PRO which is pretty much the best AGP card money can buy...

    Don't worry too much about AGP 4x vs 8x, it won't impact your gaming much. And if you have an Athlon64 I can guarantee you have an 8x board anyway.
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