If 2 cards are equally priced, but one has a higher end GPU but say 256mb ram. While the other has a slightly lower GPU(keep in mind slightly), but 512mb ram. Which is the way to go, more ram or better GPU?
It depends on the specific GPU's you are talking about. Also the game and settings. An example is the 9600GT is slower than an 8800GT, but the 256MB 8800GT really takes a hurting often at 12x10 with fsaa and above, so in that case the 9600GT (with 512MB) is better overall than an 8800GT with 256MB. . In slower gpu's, like 256MB HD2600XT vs 512MB HD2600 pro, then the 256MB XT is better in probably every playable setting.
Well, in AGP you will be very limited in options. You can't grab the clear leader (HD3850) for that price, nor should you unless you have a a top notch AGP mobo/cpu combo. The X1950XT 256MB is gone and a bad buy now if you find one. The X1950 pro 512MB is hard to find but would be nice for under $150.
Really, you are looking at the HD2600XT 512MB, HD2600XT 256MB or possible X1950GT for that price range. Still not easy to find all of those. IMO now that the $100 256MB version is gone, this $120 512MB HD2600XT is the best you will do for your budget and the best bang for buck if you are running a decent CPU to pair with it. It's often going to be a waste to pair this high a card with an Athlon XP for instance. I am finding mine to be dreadfully hurting in many of the newer games. But no use buying a slower card like the 7600GT for about the same price either.
before buying you may want to run the system specs by us including CPU, mobo, ram, and power supply. And also mention the games you play and the resolution you play at. That way you would get the best advice to help you be satisfied with your purchase.
Unfortunately I can't comment on everquest or HG:london. But Supreme Commander is massivley CPU dependant. It even shows big gains with Quad core CPU's over Dual core. And then you need a pretty hefty GPU on top of that to increase detail levels. And while 1GB ram is decent it does benefit from 2GB too. So I wouldn't expect great performance/smoothness out of that game no matter what GPU you buy. But I wouldn't let that stop you from upgrading from a 9800XT for other games.
Your power supply may or may not be up to the task. How many amps are on the 12v rail? DO you have the exact make & model?
I like the HD2600XT tops for your machine. You would want at least an X1650 pro 128-bit to even consider upgrading from your card. Even that may no be a big enough boost to justify. So you are looking in the $60-120 range anyway. Unfortunately, most of the cards that fall between the HD2600XT and X1650 pro are quite expensive. 7600GT, 7800GS, X1650XT are all too expensive for their price tags so you may as well do the
faster 2600XT. The HD2600 pro is an option too if it's a good savings($40) over the XT.
For any of these, you need to check that power supplies 12v though. A 420W with a single 17 amp 12v rail isn't going to cut it IMO. But if it's got 22 amps or above it should probably power any of these cards. 26 amps or above you are all set.
My suggestions depending on what you want to spend (best to worst)
Ouch I was trying to play HGL on my old A64 +3400 and 9800Pro, that was the turning point that made me get a new system. I think even with the new card your system itself would bottleneck it. Of course this should extend the life of your computer a little bit more.
Oh, and in contrast, look at the Antec Earthwatts 430W PSU with dual 17 amp 12v rails and a combined max 12 volt of 360W or /12v = 30 amps. That's why it's not enough to specify just 420W. If you need a PSU, this Antec on sale for $50 shipped is great for the price.
Did that Turbolink come in a Cheiftec case by chance? Just curious. Glad it's worked for you up to this point anyway. But yeah, I wouldn't try running a hefty card on that PSU.
I forgot to mention, I actually did try that Turbolink but had compatibility/stability issues with the system from the start. Couldn't even install WIndows with it. Also the voltages were a little out of range if I recall. So I replaced it right away with an Enermax 350W and problems were solved. And it's just sat in a box for all these years. I figured it was still good, but never got around to testing/using it to find out. Actually just found it again recently, that's why I had it close to check the amps and snap that pic.
Its a Cyberpower case, not sure if that helps you any. As for the PS itself, I never had any problems with it. I have had this pc for about 4 years id say and the video card dying is the first thing that has gone wrong.