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Best card for my P4?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 13, 2008 6:33:28 PM

I have a Dell P4 HT 3.06GHz (impressive, I know!) w/ 1GB ram. I need a new video card for 2 reasons. 1, to line out in HD to my television. 2, so my wife can play The Sims 3 when it comes out. I was looking at an 8800GTX on ebay, but I thought that would probably overwhelm my system, meaning that the GPU would be bottlenecked by my CPU/ram. Also, I realize I will need a new power supply, but can get one for about $30.

Should I save money and get something a little more lightweight? and will that be enough to play Sims 3 on low settings? I appreciate your response!

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a b U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 6:47:12 PM

First does your system use a AGP socket or a PCIex16 socket? That will determine what cards you can get. System model number or motherboard should tell you which one.
BTW the 8800GTX is way overkill
October 13, 2008 6:51:29 PM

It does have a CIex16 1.0 socket.
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October 13, 2008 7:02:59 PM

A faster Video card with a bottleneck, is still a faster video card.

You may not be getting 100% from your card due to CPU limitations but a 8800GTX with a old P4 will still perform significantly better than a 7699 without a bottleneck.

Alas, if your end goal is for your wife to play the Sims 3... you may be in for some bad news.

The Sims games are not all that graphically intensive, sluggish gameplay with the sims often comes down to under performing CPU and RAM.

That AI for all those characters at once stresses the CPU to no end, and poor load times come from the game having to handle and store massive amounts of data that can be changed on the fly.

Do not undermine your wifes Simmy addiction, let her play her game of choice with the quality she deserves, save up, spend a little extra and show her you care.

The Sims 3 is not slated for Pre-order until 2/20/2009, and it may be 2 or 3 months after that until the game is released. That's plenty of time to save up.
a c 266 U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 7:19:45 PM

The 8800GTX and similar cards are long. About 10.5". Check the fit in your case.
There is no negative to an overly strong vga card, but there will be more effective places to put your money.

First, I would upgrade to at least 2gb. 3gb or even 4gb would be better.

A mid-range vga card would serve you well. Something like the EVGA 9600GT @ $80:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Antec has a couple of $30 PSU's that would work. Do not buy a low quality PSU. Other good quality units come from Antec, Corsair, Seasonic, PC P&C. Fotron(FSP) is also a decent basic brand. Make certain that the psu will fit. Dell may have used a non-standard sized psu to cut costs. If you can't fit a new psu, you may have to back off on a vga card to one that does not require a 6 pin pci-e connector.
The Earthwatts380 would do the job, and is a more efficient 80+ certified.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
the 430w version is only $10 more.

October 13, 2008 7:20:27 PM

If the 8800 is overkill, what's something closer to my cutoff point? If I'm not getting any gain after, say, an 8400 or a Radeon 2600, there's no sense in spending the extra cash. What would you recommend?
October 13, 2008 7:23:14 PM

thanks to all who replied!
a c 130 U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 7:40:15 PM


First off which model exactly is it you have ? Dell PSU's are pretty good and i have seen plenty of people running 8800GT cards on them, but it does depend still on which one it is. Dell have this annoying habit of using non standard parts and a lot os seemingly the same systems came with differant power units installed.
What VoidNull said "A faster Video card with a bottleneck, is still a faster video card" is true up to a point but it is possable to get a card that is that far ahead of the CPU that it would acctually slow the CPU down. Most people think that the CPU will run to a certain point and stay steady at that rate and then the GPU gets restricted to that rate, there is however more to it than that and if it gets too many requests it all backs up and causes the CPU to slowdown. So overkill is possable.
ATI cards are better at offloading the CPU load as far as HD goes but i think your P4 may still struggle. What socket is your Motherboard ? its possable you could get a cheap core2 upgrade for it. Cardwise something like a 4670 would definatly work as it needs no extra power supply and performs similar to a 3850.
Here is a link to a review http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3405

Mactronix :) 
October 13, 2008 8:19:56 PM

If your MB uses PCI-E slot, I strongly recommend against getting a 8800GTX/GT or any card close to this level for your P4. It will take at least a Pentium 4 5.2g (if it exists) and 2GB of RAM to fully take advantage of the card and I assure you CPU does make a difference in most games.

Read the chart:
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-char...

I suggest you get something older (preferably with discount/rebate) such as the 8600GTS or 3650. Try not to spend more than 80$ on it. If you are lucky you can get them under 50$. I also recommend adding an additional 2GB ram, making it 3GB.
October 13, 2008 8:31:33 PM

craigmasbruch said:
If the 8800 is overkill, what's something closer to my cutoff point? If I'm not getting any gain after, say, an 8400 or a Radeon 2600, there's no sense in spending the extra cash. What would you recommend?


You will always get better performance with a higher end GPU (With that P4 of yours), you just wont get as much of a performance gain as someone with a higher quality CPU, but you will always get higher performance than you would with a lesser GPU.

A Ferrari will always beat a Subaru in performance regardless of what octane fuel the Ferrari uses.

While its true you can reach a point to which the card starts to have a detrimental hit to the CPU cycles used, a 8800GTX to a 3GHz P4 is a long way from that, certainly not optimum in any way shape or form, but your computer is not going to slow to a crawl.

Now if we were talking about the P3 or the P2 then that would be another matter.

Out of interest, why are you reluctant to upgrade to a better CPU, if you realize that the CPU is the weak link in your machine?
a c 187 U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 8:44:43 PM

Yes, go for the cheaper/less powerful option, in current tech the HD4670 looks good but some E-tailers are beginning to offload their older stock as newer cards become more available, so search the net and you could bag a bargain.
Yes an extra Gig of memory would be a good idea, but check your own specifications (MB and RAM) before ordering, not all RAM is equal and poorly matched memory will cause all sorts of problems.
October 13, 2008 8:57:19 PM

I would definitely consider upping my CPU if it's possible to go to a core2...i'm not sure what socket my MB is though. The model is a Dimension E520. The MB says "e210882"...it looks like LGA775 probably. I wanted to stay around $100 for the upgrade, but if I can slide a core2 in it, that would certainly lengthen the life of the computer and make it worth upgrading. So...core2 and an hd4670?
a c 106 U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 8:59:30 PM

Yeah, you'll really be CPU limited, so you're better off getting a lower end card. I'd say go with a Radeon 4670 and double your RAM. If you need a cheap PSU then don't get something less than an Antec Basiq series, or an Antec Earthwats 430W would be a good choice. I'm not too big on no name $30 power supplies.

The 9500GTs have also fallen in price recently, thanks to competition from the Radeon 4670s, so if you can get a 9500GT, or an 8600GT, for a pretty cheap price then go for it.
a c 130 U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 9:21:18 PM


That would be good but i think a core2 and a 4670 will come in at about $150. Im going on recent Newegg prices and some may know of cheaper options.
If you end up having to pick then its obvious that the GPU should be the first point of call, try and get a second gig of ram while you are at it and be carefull that it matches what you have as has already been said. You can always save up for the CPU latter.

Mactronix :) 
October 13, 2008 9:42:48 PM

For a LA775, the best value per $ has to be the E8400. It's a little pricey at $169 but your wife will be very grateful of that 6mb cache when it comes to the Sims, and if you can wait a little while, prices are soon to drop when intels latest offering finally hits the scene.

Also in 4 months time when we see the latest offering of nVidia and ATI cards over Xmas, the prices on current tech will drop even further and you will be able to pick up a 8800/9800 on the cheap, or if your feeling adventurous, you will be in a position to enter into mid/high range graphics performance when the time comes.

That E8400 could be your gateway to an entire new world.

:) 
a b U Graphics card
October 13, 2008 10:00:40 PM

Looking at a picture of your Dell E520 you might have to go with this HD4670 (powercolor $85) and not the HIS ICQ i linked earlier
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
tough to get measurements off the picture, but the fan looks like it will clear the CPU heatsink/fan.
Good news it that the E520 can use a core2 duo. Not sure if it'll take a wolfdale though.
October 15, 2008 10:57:47 AM

What year did you buy that Dell computer? I remember seeing 3.06GHz p4s several years ago before core duo was even out. I would find out if your motherboard can ever support any core duo, if not you will need to buy a new computer. Don't fear as core duo computers can be had under $500 used, I bought one cheap, way less than new. Any new video card is a complete waste in such a slow CPU that's behind an athlon XP, let alone an a64. Your cpu would lag in new games, the min fps would suck.
!