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Graphic card upgrade for 8yo boys PC

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June 21, 2007 5:31:34 PM

I've been browsing here for a couple of days and have discovered that I am clearly really out of touch on graphic card technology!

My son was recently given his grandmothers "old" PC (A Gateway 5200S - Pentium 4 - 2.8MHz - 512 MB RAM) and I would like to upgrade it a little so he can play some of his computer games. He is only 8 and isn't playing the latest, greatest stuff yet - but I am hoping that we can keep this machine going for him for a couple of years. I'm sure he'll need something more then, but it would be nice to have something that will "just work" for a while. The games he plays that seem to stress the graphics the most are Crazy Machines and Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (with Wild and Soaked). Most of his other games are still the young-kid educational stuff that run easily even on older computers. However, I am sure we'll be adding to the list soon since he loves RCT3 and wants more simulator type games.

I am looking at adding an ATI X1950Pro and some more RAM. I think I will also need to upgrade the PSU since the one in there is only 300W. Does anyone know if I should expect problems doing this to a Gateway? How proprietary is their stuff? Will a standard PSU be OK or do I have to get something proprietary from Gateway? The machine does have PCI-E slots, so my only real concern there is if the card will fit in the case - since it is a mid-tower and doesn't seem that tight I am hopeful that will be OK.... Of course, the memory upgrade is easy and I have done that before in Gateways so no concerns there.

Is there anything important I am missing here? I'm hoping to do this upgrade for $300 (or less) and would rather not get hit with a big surprise in the middle of the job!

Thank for any help,

pdarrah

More about : graphic card upgrade 8yo boys

June 21, 2007 6:16:54 PM

For $300 you could set up a BRAND new computer and it'd be a lot better than trying to upgrade that gateway.

My girlfriend plays similar games (Roller Coaster Tycoon, Sims 2, Zoo Tycoon etc etc) and this is the system I set up for her:

Rosewill ATX Mid Black Steel Case = $17.99

FSP Group 400W PSU = $39.99

BIOSTAR AM2 Motherboard = $49.99

AMD 64 Sempron 1.6GHz AM2 = $28.99

GeForce 7300LE 256MB GDDR2 = $43.99

G.Skill 1GB 240pin DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) = $44.99

Western Digital 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s = $41.99

CD/DVD Drive from LITE-ON = $17.99

All that comes to about $280 or so before shipping... and that would be A LOT better in my opinion than just upgrading the old Gateway... AND it has a nice upgrade path for as your son grows up... as he gets into newer, more demanding games you have the option of a faster video card or cpu, or adding more memory.

I hope this helps you out, you mentioned a budget of roughly $300 so I jumped at the opportunity to share what I've learned.

Best of luck to you either way (=
June 21, 2007 9:06:30 PM

Well, we had considered building a PC for him - but I just don't have the spare time for it. I was hoping to just throw in a graphic card and a power supply (and if I could avoid the PSU I would!) and be done with it for a year or two. It should only take a couple hours (max) to do the upgrade and since I haven't built a PC in years I think that would take me a full day or more. Unfortunately, I just don't have that full day available right now ...

Thanks for the suggestions. Do you think I could get away with a lower end graphics card and not have to upgrade the PSU? THe card you recommended is definitely cheaper than the X1950Pro.

pdarrah
June 21, 2007 10:30:21 PM

with your son being very young i dont see why you honestly need anythn more than a 7600GT kind of gfx card then depending on the quailtiy on the psu u may not even need that
June 21, 2007 11:06:42 PM

You really need to make sure that it does have an available PCI-E slot because Gateway's information is a bit misleading. According to the info the machine only has 2 PCI slots available for expansion. Yet according to this the board does have a PCI-E slot. OEMs are notorious for having boards come with headers on the board, but no slot. If it has one, it should look like this. If it has that then you're set for a PCI-E GPU. Otherwise you're in a bit of a bind because the PCI GPUs available, while still better than onboard, are nothing stellar.

Hard to tell about the PSU. Chances are it's a regular ATX and the limited info I could find suggests that it is so you should probably be able to drop in any ATX unit.

Worse comes to worst, a 7600GT would probably be a good low-power alternative that will work with the existing unit while still adding some gaming pep to the old machine.
a b U Graphics card
June 21, 2007 11:30:19 PM

OK, look here's the thing, you want a long term card that doesn't have a ton of grit, just good longevity, good abilities and a reasonable price and power draw, so I will go outside my usual UBER-recommendations and go for what IMO is the best option for you.

First I personally think the X1950Pro is one of the best values out there... but for you two drawbacks, A) power draw is going to be a question mark for your computer, and while the performance is awesome, if it's unstable then you're in trouble and it's a waste. B) it's biggest benefits, raw performance are going to be wasted short term on the audience involved, and so it will suffer from lacking features more than lacking performance for your 8 year old (who isn't looking to PWN the neighbourhood yet [maybe in 2 years])

Now lucky you you have a PCIe slot on that oldthing, SWEET better options (although my favourite plays both sides, but you have to wait for it).

First, my recommendation for you would be to wait for the HD2600 to arrive and get the best fit for your games/situation between it and the GF8600.

I think that while the X1950Pro is a better overall gamer, it also draws significantly more power than the other two, and while right now just about any situation favours an X1950Pro, the other two will be 'playable' just not cranking the resolution or AA, which is unlikely the goal for your kids versus pllayability.

Second, long term for those two cards they will do a bunch of things better, like remaining useful and playable, show your kids the new features even if slower or even uplayable (you can always drop the settings to DX9 and your kids should be alble to figure that out by the time it matters for them [heck they'll likely move to something newer by then]), get the better driver attention for bug fixes etc, be perfect candidates to movng to a home theatre PC later once they've outgrown it, and also keep their resale value longer should you wish to sell them in a year and a bit because they are DX10 and better HD-DVD / BR playback.

I think if you need something now, get the best price GF8600GTS/GT otherwise if you can wait a week or so, see what the HD2600XTs bring to the table and pick the better of the two. Both will be less of a power strain on your older system (which may handle the X1950Pro, but why hassle if it's not fox max framerate and uber AA?).

Usually I'd recommend an X1950Pro or X1950XT for any 'gamer' here, but considering your target for the card and the system you're putting it in I think the mid-range DX10 options will be your best choice. I would just recommend waiting forthe HD2600 to launch to see which of the two is best at the start.

To understand some of my reasoning see this thread (where I link to ignore the RIAA RAT above it) and see my statements about the GF8600 as recomendation for a somewhat similar situation. I think they apply to your situation too, where you're not looking for the uber card/deal, but a good fit;

http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/modules.php?nam...

I think much of the same reasoning there will work for your situation.
June 22, 2007 2:04:32 AM

Thanks to all for all the great info!

I have double-checked and there is definitely a free PCI-e slot. There is a card in the PCI slot next to it, but I can move that if needed. The cooling fins for the processor are just to the side of it, so that might limit an oversized card that takes 2 slots space (but it would be OK if the extra were on the other side...)

So far, 4 cards have been recommended - 7300LE, 7600GT, 8600GT and HD2600 (available soon). It looks like even the lowest end of these would run RCT3. Is it likely that any or all of these would work with my wimpy 300W PSU? The PC itself probably isn't using that much - its certainly not a high powered chip it doesn't have that many extra features (DVD drive, 160GB HD, FD, card reader and some USB ports) and none of the USB ports are being used. The only card in it is a basic network card (the onboard networking was flakey)

If I can find a solution that lets me leave the PSU alone, that would be ideal. I like the idea of using the 8600GT or HD2600 and later moving it to a media setup. We'll probably be setting up a computer for media about the same time my son would be outgrowing this PC (a couple years). I'd love to do it sooner, but we are in the midst of a big remodel on the house and there isn't any point setting up until all that is done!

pdarrah
a b U Graphics card
June 22, 2007 2:20:59 AM

The GF7600GT, GF8600GT and HD2600XT should all be in the same power range, which is low power draw (under 50W), and all should be fine with your 300W PSU.in a PC that likely anticipated at least an X800XL/GF6800GS/GF7900GS type power draw coming from that slot with your configuration all of which are more than those above.

So IMO You should be fine on all 3. But like so many things, you'll never know until they are in there, but they'll be much lower draw than most other, and are very efficient, giving good performance for what little wattage they do consume, and if they wouldn't work, then the GF7900GS and X1950Pro wouldn't work at all.

The GF7300LE is a horrible card and only barely a step up from intergrated graphics, forget it all together.
June 22, 2007 8:21:02 PM

Thank you for all the information! I know that Gateway had an optional X800XL for the 5200 series, so that makes me pretty hopeful that one of these cards will work. My son will be out of town for the next couple weeks with Grandma and Grandpa, so maybe I'll hold off a little and see if the HD2600XT is released soon and what the first reviews look like.

THanks,

pdarrah
a c 130 U Graphics card
June 22, 2007 9:35:58 PM

HD2600xt is a brilliant call(The ape does it again )i was thinking 7600 series when i started reading the post but he`s right it would be a great card for what you want. The power wont be a problem either i have run a x800xl before and they easily need more power than the HD uses.
Saves you the hastle of swaping it out as well :lol: 

Mactronix
June 22, 2007 9:48:42 PM

The 7600 or 8600 would probably be about what you are looking for. Even a 1600ATI would be fine as long as it doesnt have a giant cooler on it.I was looking at some today for around 70$ on Newegg.Ape is right though the 7300 isn't worth it.
June 22, 2007 10:20:53 PM

Buy 2 1gig sticks of ram,and buy the x1950pro.Although you could consider going for the newer cheap DX10 cards.But I would not worry bout it at this time.It will be some time before you see DX10 games flood the market.And even then,they'll have backwards support for DX9.So go with the X1950pro,and build a system in a couple years.You can worry more about newer and better then.Goodluck.

Dahak

AMD X2 5600+ @ 2.8ghz(stock)
M2N32-SLI DELUXE MB
2 GIGS DDR2 800 RAM
THERMALTAKE 850WATT PSU
7950GT KO(WAITING FOR MY OTHER TO COME BACK FROM RMA)
ACER 22IN. LCD
SMILIDON RAIDMAX GAMING CASE
80GIG/250gig SATA2 HD's
XP MCE
June 23, 2007 12:00:34 AM

I would agree on more ram. At least 1 gig.However I wouldn't think that kids games for the near future will require a 1950 to run.Also he would need a better PSU.So the money saved could go toward a new rig in the future when he can appreciate it more.
June 23, 2007 11:06:50 AM

I'm not so sure about the game thing there friend.My 9yr old daughter plays a game that requires full DX9.0C compliency.I originally ran the game with a 9600pro 256,and although it would play the game,it would only play to a certian point and then the game would promptly crash.After several driver re-installs and patches.I concluded the card was the problem as it only had full support forDX9.0B,and not C.So I bought a 6600 and installed it,and suddenly there were no more crashes.My daughter was able to play the game all the way through.My point is,that if the newer kids games out right now require a 6600 or ATI equivolent,what are tomorrows games going to require???Hardware technology is advancing very quickly right now and software has no choice but to move forward with it or be left behind.Kind of like us humans.LOL.Just my take on things though,and your point is vatid at the moment,I just look to the future as that is where it's at.Later.

Dahak
June 23, 2007 12:49:58 PM

I agree with Ape's suggestions. This mindset some people have that an 8yr old plays old titles is so wrong. I have an 8 yr old son and I know that the second he sees a game on my computer I have two choices; relinquish my seat or install it on another machine.
If you buy a new dx9 card now you may find in a couple of years that there are titles that are not supported. As good as the 1950's are on price performance I just don't see the point in buying a new card that doesn't support the newest standard.
Plus it is fun to be able to play new stuff on the network with my sons and friends.
June 23, 2007 1:27:32 PM

I see your point but come on this machine is a Gateway P-4.By the time developers are makingfull Dx10 games for kids,junior will be about 10 and it will be time for a whole new rig.It's not like everybody is going to ditch thier Dx9 stuff for one or two titles that are going to be Dx9 compatible anyway for some time.Most kids I know that are that age get the old hand -me- down or cheap POS DEll and only have integrated graphics.This I would suspect makes up 90% of that age group.
June 24, 2007 2:00:56 PM

I see you're point that an old single core p4 is on it's last legs but an 8600 or 2600 doesn't necessarily have to see the end of life in that machine. Plus I like the suggestion because as Ape pointed out it wouldn't necessitate a psu upgrade. That money would be better spent on some more ram for the Gateway.
My third oldest machine right now is a p4 @2.6 with 1gig of ram and a 6800gt. That machine does all right in many games at a modest 1024*768. It joins in lan bf2 and other games just fine.
The problem with handing down equipment is that every standard has changed. My old P4 has obsolete memory, agp, cpu socket, heck I wouldn't even re-use the ide hd. In this case the OP can buy a new dx10 card that can still go to another machine in the future.
June 24, 2007 2:47:19 PM

IMHO
1950 pro is a good card, but to maximize it's potential, your P4 should at least be 3.4g up, and your power supply should be about 550 watt. Otherwise the improvement would be only a little bit better as compared to a 7600gt or 1650xt.
A 7600gt, 8600gt, 1650xt, or 2600xt would be fine, plus you don't have to change your power supply.
And don't forget to add 1 gig of ram. Good luck!
a c 130 U Graphics card
June 24, 2007 5:17:17 PM

I seriously doubt if the x1650xt will run on a 300watt power supply but apart from that i agree
Mactronix
June 24, 2007 8:25:02 PM

I believe the Geforce 7600 GS is a low wattage card.
June 24, 2007 9:02:27 PM

$75 7600GS (or $95 GT for more performance). either will provide plenty of h.p. for your apps, and are easy on the wallet, too

add one or two 512K Ram sticks, try to match what's in the machine so you don't waste $ on performance you don't need
June 28, 2007 4:48:56 PM

With some of the first 2600 XT reviews appearing now, I wanted to find out if anyone had a strong opinion between the 2600 XT and 8600 GT. I like the idea of NOT upgrading the PSU on this PC - it just doesn't seem woth the effort. So that means I really need to watchout for the power. and probably cannot handle anything that needs an extra power input.

However, I liked the idea that this card might be able to be put into a media PC in a couple years and be used for movies and such then. I can't imagine that we're going to be giving our son the latest/greatest DX10 games in the next year or two - he only just turned 8. There isn't much chance he's going to want what we are playing since we don't really game very much and are pretty happy with the same stuff he is playing (Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, etc.)

So given this case, is the 8600GT or 2600XT the better option?

Thanks for all help,
pdarrah
a b U Graphics card
June 28, 2007 5:51:30 PM

For the HTPC benefit the HD2600 is better, for gaming they are about tied.

Really either/or will do as they all fit the bill, but neither has particularly stellar performance. Saying one is better than the other is like saying acid burns are better than electrical burns, they still suck.

for gaming these won't be stellar for high end gamers, but for an 8year old looking for Roller Coaster Tycoon, and then things like driving games and such the HD260 and GF8600 will be ok.

Since neither does what you want better/worse to matter too much (even the areas they are better worse is a minor difference) my suggestiong would be to get the best priced solution from the GF8600GT/GTS and HD2600Pro/XT.
July 24, 2007 6:48:23 PM

I decided to just coast for a few weeks before making a decision. Now that more reviews are out on the HD2600XT, is this still probably the best choice for our situation. I haven't seen much about the power requirements, but the little I've seen sound good.

Basically, we are looking for something that will keep our son going for a couple years (just turned 8) with games like RCT3, Sims, etc. If later, we can repurpose the card into an HTPC that would be great.

Thanks for any additional thoughts before I bite the bullet and buy one of these!
a b U Graphics card
July 24, 2007 11:21:45 PM

Yesh the HD2600XT and GF8600GT are about the same for power consumption. I've seen figures showing both higher and lower than each other, so I split the difference and call it even.

Their performance is pretty similar, especially for the titles we're talking about. And as for the future potential HTPC use the HD2600 is still the route to go IMO.

Main thing is to get a good price, some regional shortages have caused some weird prices, but if they're both the same then I'd say go with HD2600.
December 12, 2008 6:31:26 PM

Hi Guys. I'm in the same position as pdarrah. I have the exact same computer and want to upgrade it. I already ordered two 1 gig ram cards so I'll have a total of 2.5. I'm really just learning about all this computer upgrading stuff. I've been a console gamer only since I was young. Anyway, to get to the point...I was reading all the responses here and the 8600gt seems like the best option for me if I don't wanna replace the power supply. If I did change the power supply could I use this card? http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

I also found this site with a power supply that is compatible with my gateway 5200s. Here: http://www.atxpowersupplies.com/400-watt-power-supply-F...

Is it difficult to replace the power supply? It looks simple enough. I already had taken the mother board out of my computer to clean all the dust out from the heatsink and it doesn't seem like much more work to change the power supply...any info is appreciated.
!