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Completely lost and confused about graphics cards.

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 24, 2008 7:28:21 PM

Hello everyone at Tom's Hardware! I have been looking over this site and forums for quite a while, looking at reviews and computer information. I thought it was about time I posted here.

I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to graphics cards. I know there are different kinds that can go into different PCI slots (I have an x16), that many require certain power requirements, etc, but in general my mind is hazy about them.

I plan on buying a new graphics card [probably with a new power supply] very soon, seeing as my computer is a little on the old side:

http://www.superwarehouse.com/Sony_VAIO_RB40/VGCRB40/ps...

What I want is enough power and graphics performance on my computer to run games with a Source engine, such as TF2, Garry's Mod, Half-Life 2, etc. I would also like it to be slightly up-to-date for future game releases.

I would like a 512MB kind of card, maybe leaning on the Radeon HD 4850 [or 4830] kind of side.

What would be the best kind of card for a computer like mine? I know the watt requirement for the power supply is around 450, while my power supply itself is around only 300 watts.

If my new graphics card needs a different power supply to run it, what would be the most bang-for-the-buck one around 500 watts? Is it easy to install?

All of these questions would be great if they were answered. Looking over the community and pages on this site, I'm sure I will get many awesome answers to my questions. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

Please excuse me for any typos.
a b U Graphics card
November 24, 2008 7:53:33 PM

Hmm...at 300Watts, the 4850 is pushing i think. I think a 4370 would suffice though...
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November 24, 2008 8:12:54 PM

You're going to want a new power supply to be honest. Chances are, at 300w, you'll be maxing out with any current gen card. That's gonna cause you headaches, and isn't worth it at all. AS for power supplies, bigger is always better. A supply from Enermax, Pc Power and Cooling, or even Coolmax (my PSU is a CUG-950b, love it and was only $120.00 delivered from newegg). A 4850 is a great choice, while a GTX260 will be just a little more horsepower. Both cards will last you for a while, but it all really depends on what resolution you'll be playing at. You can scale either way depending what resolution you're at. Hope this helps!
November 24, 2008 8:14:18 PM

+1 for boulard83. He's right about the CPU bottleneck. You can always get more card now though, and move it to a new comp when you get around to it.
November 24, 2008 8:16:13 PM

boulard83 said:
at my opinion you need a whole new computer.

whit this one. i would buy a hd3850 for 75$

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and the PSU this OCZ 500w for 50$

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


i dont really want you to spend more then taht on this CPU !


I don't see why I would really need a new one right now, and I think I can make do with this one until I head off to college in three years. Not to mention I also have a laptop [though, that computer sucks too].

So no computer buying for me right now. Upgrading should do for a little while longer. I actually share this computer with my family, and will consider carefully what computer I should get for college.
November 24, 2008 8:17:43 PM

For the Install its quite EZ.

UNPLUG power cord, disconnect every cable coming from your old PSU (not everyone that are connected) and remove the old PSU. Its normaly screwed whit 4 screw in the back.

Put new one in. Replug every unpluged connector. and ET VOILA !

For the GPU. you can uninstall it when you PSU is out too, you have lil more room cause a less cable in the case !.

BE SURE TO HAVE NO POWER CORD PLUGGED WHEN REMOVING PARTS FROM THE MAINBOARD.

the pci slot have a lil retention bracket in the front, just PRY it to the top and remove your old GPU that may be screwed whit one screw in the back of the Case that may be removed first.

Put other one in, make sure its Nice sitted in the slot. put screw back ! and here we go, you can plug power cord back and boot it !
November 24, 2008 8:19:51 PM

the part i just listed you are cheap and GOOD. youll be able to play HL2 whit high setting but your CPU-RAM is the bottleneck

a 125$ upgrade for a PSU+GPU is quite cheap ! and an hd3850 512mb can run everything that your CPU-RAM can ... sry but its this world we live in !
November 24, 2008 8:23:26 PM

Oh, and thanks boulard for the steps. Surprisingly, I didn't get completely lost with what you said, seeing as I've actually opened it up a few times to peek around and remove dust.

And triddle, I think I might actually head to Best Buy [or Radioshack] this weekend to buy a new one. I'm still sticking with the 500w one. Though how will a 500w power supply cope with cards next year, for example?
November 24, 2008 8:27:00 PM

boulard83 said:
the part i just listed you are cheap and GOOD. youll be able to play HL2 whit high setting but your CPU-RAM is the bottleneck

a 125$ upgrade for a PSU+GPU is quite cheap ! and an hd3850 512mb can run everything that your CPU-RAM can ... sry but its this world we live in !


Eh. I know my computer RAM isn't very high, but what's wrong with me getting a 4830 card instead? I don't see how the RAM would interfere.

Sorry if I say anything stupid. I'm not the most computer savvy person on the planet. ;) 
November 24, 2008 8:30:35 PM

your better to get this OCZ psu..

Radioshack, as far as i know, only have NONAME psu ... Psu(and mobo) are the base of a computer ...
a c 376 U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 8:31:30 PM

I don't know why anyone is suggesting anything else but what you want is an HD4670. It will probably work with your current PSU and anything more powerful would be a total waste with that CPU.
The CPU will still limit that card but your system should be able to play most games acceptably outside of perhaps Crysis and whatnot. Might want to look into if a worthwhile CPU upgrade would work with your motherboard but I doubt you will be able to upgrade to where something better than the 4670 makes sense.
November 24, 2008 8:32:39 PM

I don't know if it's been suggested yet, but how about a Radeon HD 4670? It doesn't need a seperate power connector; it might even work on the stock power supply.
a c 376 U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 8:34:28 PM

Oh yeah, if your system still has 512 megs of ram like that link says don't even bother with a video card unless you install another gig of ram.
November 24, 2008 8:38:19 PM

Thank you jyjjy and angry_ducky for the information.

So if I did go with the HD 4670, it would run on my stock power supply, and not be a complete waste of money like you said the others were?

So right now, should I be aiming for a RAM and graphics card [HD 4670] upgrade instead of a graphics card and power supply upgrade?
a b U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 8:38:32 PM

There's nothing wrong with the 4830, its just a little overkill for your computer. It also was a little overpriced, but hopefully the price has come down some. It's up to you, but it is very likely that the 3850 mentioned before will perform the same as the 4830 since they won't be the slowest component.

And just FYI, the low ram is an issue because if you don't have enough the computer must draw from the hard drive (which is much slower) and thus the Graphics card will not perform to its potential since it is waiting for the HD.
a c 376 U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 8:43:08 PM

Why do people keep mentioning the 3850? 4670 is the same price, newer, smaller, just as powerful and more power efficient while probably not requiring a new psu.
3850 or the 4830 are simply not what this guy should be looking at. I'm surprised to see such bad advice here really.
November 24, 2008 8:44:20 PM

Why get more than a 4670 when a 3850 256 mb can run Half Life 2 Episode 2 on all high settings, 2x aa, and 1920x1200! There would be no reason to get a monster like a GTX 260!
a b U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 8:49:01 PM

Sorry, I started writing my response before someone suggested the 4670. It is the best choice, my main point was that the 4830 was overkill for his application.
a c 376 U Graphics card
a b ) Power supply
November 24, 2008 9:01:20 PM

It's very likely the HD4670 will be fine with your current PSU but not definite. I don't know the exact specs of the PSU but I doubt they could be trusted anyway.
Honestly the HD4670 is still a bit of overkill for that cpu. You could go with a HD4650 which will almost definitely work with your PSU instead and save a little money without losing much in terms of performance. If you can upgrade the CPU some or might put the card in a better system in the future I'd stick with the HD4670 as it is significantly better for not much more.
November 24, 2008 9:08:34 PM

So, if I get the HD4670, it would run OK with a 305 watt PSU? If that is true, it would be like a miracle since I've been researching this for a while.

I take it that you guys were talking about this HD4670, since there seemed to be more than one result when I searched it on newegg:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Thanks for the advice so far. It is superior to that of the previous two forums I've been to.

edit - I'm also looking up the HD4650 right now.
November 24, 2008 9:34:08 PM

Look at these system requirements:

http://ati.amd.com/products/Radeonhd4600/requirements.h...

If I hook up a 4670 or 4650 with my computer and add 1GB of RAM, will my computer be good to go for say, a good Team Fortress 2 match? What about CoD4?

edit - checking out the chart

edit 2 - I don't really mind how loud the card is, as long as it doesn't sound like it isn't going to explode, so keep that in mind.
November 25, 2008 6:44:37 PM

It should be fine. I ran a Q6600 with a 3850 with everything but textures on extra at 1920x1200 in CoD4, so you should be fine.

A 305 PSU is normally a dell, if you have a dell, can you tell me what model. This will help everyone.
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