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x1950 XT upgrade questions...

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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January 15, 2007 11:40:05 AM

Hi all... this website is a great resource and I only just discovered it! Thanks in advance for any help anyone may have to offer.

I recently decided that I just can't take life with my Radeon X300 video card anymore. It shipped w/ my Dell when I purchased it in '05 and even then it was a little short on the gaming love. After exhaustive Internet research, I finally narrowed it down to one card, the Radeon X1950 XT. It fits perfectly within my price range and it seems to be the best offering on the market right now. I figure I won't need a dx10 card until I get a new system entirely, and that one will probably ship with such a card.

Anyway, here's my problem. The last time I switched graphics cards without switching to a new PC entirely was when I jumped up from EGA to VGA graphics. You can probably see my dilemma already. I know my computer has a PCI-E x16 slot and I THINK the X1950 XT will physically fit inside of it (I may have to remove the dial-up modem, but oh well). But nowadays putting a card in and installing the drivers doesn't seem to be enough. There are multiple manufacturers on the same card and I see a lot of talk about power supplies. So, my questions for y'all are:

1 - Which X1950 XT manufacturer should I go with? Sapphire and HIS seem to be the popular ones - is there any significant difference between the two?

2 - What kind of power supply am I going to need, if I need one at all? I'm completely new to this, so recommendations on specific units would be VERY welcome.

Here are my specs:

Dell Dimension 8400
Intel Pentium 4 540 Prescott 3.2GHz
1GB DDR2 RAM
80GB Serial ATA HD
Phillips DVD+/-RW 16x

I also have a Dell Wireless Adapter attached via USB and an external LaCie HD (though I think that isn't necessary info since it has its own power supply). I've never upgraded the power supply that came with the system. According to Dell's website, the replacement part for my PC would be a "350-Watt Redundant Non-PFC Dual Serial ATA power supply."

I think that about covers it. Let me know if any other info is needed. Once again, any help is very much appreciated. Thanks!
January 15, 2007 11:56:45 AM

Performance wise, they will be identical (if they have the same clock speed). So get the cheaper one, or the one with a better bundle (any games included?), or the one with the better warranty...

I would definitly recommend upgrading your PS as well, get something 400W or more from a reputable manufacturer (Antec, Enermax, Seasonic, etc...). If you want to be able to use the PS in your next system as well, plan ahead and get one with at least 600W.

One other idea to save money...if you have an open 5 1/4" bay, you could get a dedicated graphics PSU like this Thermaltake W0099RU.
January 15, 2007 12:04:41 PM

Wow... thanks for the quick response!

My next PC upgrade (or gfx card upgrade for that matter) is at least a year away - probably more - following this upgrade and I'm a poor student, so as much as I can see the wisdom in planning for the future I think I need to just buy for the now. I'm not sure if I have an open 5 1/4" bay (or even where I would find it - is that where the PCI cards go?), but I suppose I'm looking to spend as little money on top of the card as possible without getting something that's going to give me poor performance. Are power supplies difficult to install? Do I need to check anything for them fitting into my machine? I see people talking about rails and such in the forums and I don't understand any of it. Thanks again for the help... your expertise is very much appreciated.
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January 15, 2007 12:19:30 PM

Quote:
I'm not sure if I have an open 5 1/4" bay (or even where I would find it...


It's where CD-ROMs get installed, in the front of your case.

Quote:
Are power supplies difficult to install? Do I need to check anything for them fitting into my machine? I see people talking about rails and such in the forums and I don't understand any of it.


They are somewhat difficult to install, only because routing wires neatly is a pain in the A$$. Just make sure you plug everything in. Ignore the "rails" info, not important for the laymen, just know, more are better. (Although not always neccessary). Size...most are comply with the "ATX" standard.
January 15, 2007 12:20:08 PM

Ive never owned a Dell, but Ive read that their psu's are propietary, meaning that they are of special design and may cause problems for replacement. There is a manufacturer that makes replacement ones on the cheap, but I dont know what theyre called. The add in psu mentioned above may be a good choice, they fit in an extra drive bay (for another cd drive if you choose to use two) I currently own a 1900 xt 512 mb and love it. Im sure youll like the one youre after. If you cant find a proper psu for your Dell, post in the psu section for a replacement , someone there should know who to use
January 15, 2007 12:29:52 PM

Ahhh... I see. I think I'm going to go for the dedicated gfx power supply. I have a free drive bay and that seems to be one of the more cost-effective options. Plus, it seems like it's probably a work-around on the whole Dell proprietary PSU issue. That Thermaltake unit will be enough though? I thought the X1950XT needed something approaching 400W. Then again, I know very little. Thank you all... I may actually be able to figure all of this out now!
January 15, 2007 12:30:19 PM

May be true, I've worked on a lot of newer Dells, and they're mostly standard sizes now. But most older ones were proprietary. Good call.
January 15, 2007 12:37:59 PM

Quote:
Ahhh... I see. I think I'm going to go for the dedicated gfx power supply. I have a free drive bay and that seems to be one of the more cost-effective options. Plus, it seems like it's probably a work-around on the whole Dell proprietary PSU issue. That Thermaltake unit will be enough though? I thought the X1950XT needed something approaching 400W. Then again, I know very little. Thank you all... I may actually be able to figure all of this out now!
The 400 watts is considered total system draw, so the addition of another psu would be sufficient
January 15, 2007 12:54:49 PM

Okay... I see. Thanks again to everyone for all the help. Time to finally play some Company of Heroes!
January 15, 2007 12:55:50 PM

The thermaltake aux-psu will definatly do the job, and as far as I am aware, all the X1950XTs are identical, except the HIS version( ice-Q cooler ) , and possibly the Club3D version, which is shown on tekheads as having the same cooler as the reference X1950XT-X

I have a connect3D X1950XT which i got from eBuyer for £160 inc VAT. It really is an awesome card for the money, It runs ES4:o blivion and RB6:Vegas with all settings maxed. However, the 8800GTS can be had for an extra £90 now. So if you are planning to upgrade again next year anyway It would make sense to spend the extra and get the GTS.

But the X1950XT definatly won't dissapoint.
January 15, 2007 2:11:16 PM

Hi, and welcome.

Something else you may want to consider is a x1950pro. The reason I say this is because it uses the newer 80nm core and is less demanding powerwise. It may work better with your older/smaller power supply.
They are less expensive and still offer respectable performance. They were rated best buy in the ~$200 range. I believe they can be had for less now.

Uh, hold on.. one more thing, with either of these cards, your power supply will need a six pin plug to power them.

As far as brands go, prices will vary depending on bundeled software, factory overclocks(HIS has a 620mhz one), pcie vs agp, cooling system, ram amount and speed, vivo ports. I am not particular to any one brand but warranties are another good thing to watch.
January 15, 2007 2:48:32 PM

A couple questions re: the need for my PS to have a 6-pin plug. Is there any way I can find out without opening up the CPU? Where do I look if I do open it up? And lastly, if I get the secondary PS, the one that slips into my drive bay and powers the graphics card exclusively, will my Dell PS still need to have a 6-pin plug? Thanks!
January 15, 2007 2:50:39 PM

yes, just to back up what most have been saying:

dell uses proprietary psu's... they LOOK like a standard atx, but the wiring is different. You can get adapters online (somewhere...?) that will allow an atx psu to work on a dell mobo but it is a hassle.

The seperate psu is probably the easiest fix, and it seems you are doing that so all is good. :) 

Personally, when selecting a card brand I go for warranty first, then cooling/oc'ing, then "other stuff"... (software bundles). Powercolor has lifetime warranties, and last I checked they are the only ati card maker that does. Saphire is the biggest ati maker, and even makes "made by ati" brand cards too, they are a good company. HiS usually has the better cooling systems like the IceQ. Just my 2 bits.

Game On.
January 15, 2007 4:49:38 PM

I have one last question to bother you all with (unless I should take it over to the PS forum). Once I have my Thermaltake PS and my X1950XT, do I simply leave the Thermaltake on at all times when my computer is on (which is pretty much continuously)? Thanks again all... I can't wait to get back into PC gaming (bye bye Xbox).
January 15, 2007 7:16:15 PM

If your comp is on then that thermaltake psu should be on as well. While the video card does not use the power when on a 2D desktop, it has checks internally to ensure enough power on the rails coming into it. I am certain of that for startup, and can only guess that it would error out horribly during operation if the psu was shut down while all else is running. 8)

game on man.
February 2, 2007 1:35:01 PM

Hey all... just wanted to thank everyone here for the help. I got my X1950XT the other day, as well as the Thermaltake dedicated gfx PSU, and it's all working wonderfully. I'm now trying to work around issues with my monitor and resolutions, but the one rez I can use makes everything look awesome.

How does Toshiba sell a 32" HD-ready MONITOR and then not support PC/DVI-to-HDMI connections?

Anyway... thanks again for helping me with my first-ever GPU upgrade. There's a marked difference between the X1950XT and my old X300. BIG difference.
!