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Any suggestions for a video card replacement?

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December 22, 2008 3:16:11 PM

Good day. I seem to be having a problem with my xfx geforce 7600GT XXX edition video card while playing World of Warcraft. From what I have read, the latest expansion in the series is a bit more demanding on one's video card than what it previously was. I have done the typical perusing of selections to replace it, since I had a completely black and sometimes flickering screen. I have several questions about a 'future' choice, but before I ask, I should give the specifications of my computer build. They are as follows:

1. Motherboard: ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe
2. 2GB Corsair DDR2 800 MHZ Memory (2X1024MB)
3. AMD Athlon X2 4200+ (2.2 GHZ) 65W (Windsor Core)
4. Creative X-Fi Elite Pro Soundcard.
5. Seagate Barracuda SATA II 320 GB hard drive
6. Samsung 18X Dual DVD with Lightscribe
7. One 'generic' (Think it's under the name Hitachi) CDRW/DVD ROM drive
8. OCZ Gamestream 700w PSU
9. Case: Apevia X-Cruiser (Black)

I am running Microsoft Windows XP Professional SP3 for reference on an OS.

My questions are the following:

1. What type of card could I get with this build that would be capable of at least keeping WoW playable, within decent framerates, say about 30ish? (I know I don't have the benefit of PCI-E 2.0 in this motherboard, nor am I sure of the experience I would have with a newer video card of getting the desired result)

2. Would this video card consideration require a new CPU or even an increase in RAM in order to keep up with everything?

3. I believe my PSU can handle at least one GPU with a six-pin connection, (been very lucky so far not to have an additional source to run on the current video card I have) but does the possibility exist that I would have to upgrade that as well?

I sort of would like to stick with an Nvidia based solution for this, but I am open to suggestions from all of you. (Hopefully it doesn't mean complete internal replacement of components...) Thank you for reading.
a b U Graphics card
December 22, 2008 3:41:59 PM

What is your budget and what resolution are you playing at?

If you do not have to much to spend and play at moderate to lower resolutions, look into a 4670 for $55 after MIR.
If you have a little more look into a 4830 for $85 after MIR or a 4850 for $120 after MIR.

The nVidia alternatives are as follows.
The 9600GT will be a little faster than a 4670 but also costs more at $75 after MIR.
The 9800GT directly compets with the 4830 but is a little slower and costs more at $95 after MIR.
The 9800GTX+ is roughly equal to a 4850, just a touch slower in most games, but runs $135 after MIR.

1) Do not worry about the lack of PCIe 2.0 on your motherboard, you will see no difference in performance.

2) Do not worry to much about your CPU holding you back.
Even if it does, your gaming experience will be much better with any of these GPU's than with what you have now.
As DDR2 is dirt cheap right now, it would not hurt to add a few extra gigs to your system.
You can get 4Gb (2x2Gb) of DDR2 800 for $17.99 after MIR.

3) Your PSU will have no issues at all running any of these cards.
Related resources
December 22, 2008 4:18:42 PM

Go for 9800GTX+.
If you like to have something more...then get two 9800GTX+ and do SLi... Not any nVidia 200 series could beat that......
As you have 700W SMPS, it would be o.k...... and also 9800GTX+ could work in power saver mode in Vista... that is it could automatically disable any one of the two cards when no 3D application is in progress.....
December 22, 2008 4:41:23 PM

Using the video card hierarchy found at:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-geforce-grap...

You'll see your video card has a "rank" of 15.

1. I would not recommend the XFX 9600 GSO that IH8U mentioned due to 2 things:
a. It uses DDR2 memory instead of DDR3.
b. It has 768 MB of ram. (You are using Win XP Pro SP3, and I am going to assume you are running 32 bit <as I am> instead of 64 bit.) The more ram your video card has, the less "system ram" the OS can allocate. (Due to Win XP 32 bit having a total 4 GB of allocatable "memory" to use. This includes system ram, video card ram, and other items such as hardware allocation data.)

2. A "rank 6" upgrade would be:

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

For $79.99 after rebate. (Free shipping, return for /replacement/ within a year.)

3. Another "rank 6," if you want to risk /1 year parts & labor warranty/ would be:

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

For $69.99 after rebate.

4. A "rank 5" with /2 year parts & labor warranty/ would be:

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

For $94.99 after rebate. (Free shipping) I recently upgraded my duel 8600 GT XXX SLI setup with this single card. <Note: A 8800 GT and 9800 GT are the exact same card.>

Anything above a 9800 GT (in the Nvidia camp) will be a: Overkill for WOW & b: Too much video card for your processor to properly handle.

If someone with more knowledge with the ATI camp would provide additional info, would be beneficial for comparison. (With my MB being a <Nvidia> XFX 680i LT, I only have Nvidia as an option due to no Crossfire support. So, I only know the Nvidia camp atm.)
December 22, 2008 4:51:37 PM

Vicsable,

WoW isn't a highly graphics intensive game. It stresses your CPU more than anything else, especially if you play at any resolution under and including 1680 X 1050, your CPU is your bottleneck.

Sure, the 7600 is an old card, and a video card upgrade would improve your framerates a little if you play at 1680 X 1050 but if you game at lower resolutions, you'll notice less of an improvement.

I'm guessing by the looks of the parts, this machine is coming up on 2, maybe 3 years old. You might want to consider holding off as long as you can and upgrading to a core 2 duo or i7.
December 22, 2008 5:03:24 PM

I just want to point out that the 8800GT and 9800GT are different. OpenGL 2.0 & OpenGL 2.1 for example.
December 22, 2008 5:15:46 PM

Nvidia reference specs:

http://www.nvidia.com/object/product_geforce_9800gt_us....

http://www.nvidia.com/object/product_geforce_8800_gt_us...

Reference OpenGL on both is 2.1. The only difference is with complete PhysX support (early 8800 GTs don't have it), Hybridpower support (not an issue), and the type of supplementary power connections.

Edit: A more comprehensive search of this issue found another difference, one related to the Hybridpower support. The early 9800 GTs were indentical to 8800 GTs, but the early 9800 GTs also didn't support Hybridpower. This is because card manufacturers simply re bios-flashed the 8800 GTs into 9800 GTs. (They were indentical at that time.) However, the newer 9800 GTs are made with a different fabrication method, enabling Hybridpower support, causing them to generally run cooler, and use less power. So, a newly purchase 9800 GT will not be the same as a "newly purchased" 8800 GT (if one could be found.) The difference, to reiterate, can be found in regard to whether the cards support Hybridpower or not. (The Evga $95 card referenced by outlw6669 and I is of the newer variety.)

The Evga card I referenced earlier is an updated design that only needs 1 6 pin power instead of 2. So, that isn't an issue (in this case, make sure to check the card prior to purchase if you choose a different 9800 GT).

However, it is mostly moot anyway. It is difficult to find 8800 GTs anymore.
December 22, 2008 5:18:28 PM

got it these are both PCI-E 2.0
December 22, 2008 6:11:55 PM

According to Asus your M2N-SLI is capable of am2 ??, cpu's,,so upgrade your cpu,,according to an article I read here on Tom's a while ago you would need at least a 2.6 cpu to adequately run any video card above the 8800 gt without bottlenecking.. :) 
December 22, 2008 6:13:55 PM

As serpent1202 mentioned, WOW (at least before the expansion, I don't know now..but probably hasn't changed) is a cpu hungry application. As a result, based upon your MB specs:

http://www.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=101&l3=301&mo...

You can easily upgrade your cpu to a much better cpu as part of this process as well. (If you are comfortable with that, anyway.) Someone from the AMD processor camp may want to give you more information on this (since I am from the Intel camp), but the link below was the search I would use on Newegg for a processor upgrade.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

(Duel core, Hyper transport 2k) All of the processors seem to be compatible with your MB. (And, someone else would have to tell you info on a price to performance increase ratio for a processor upgrade from your current one.)

Also, another 2GB of ram would be a good idea. In that regard, the questions to ask...

1. Are you going to change from Windows XP to Vista or 7.0? (I don't plan to myself.)

If not, I would not put more than 4 GB of total ram in your system. As a result, I would recommend finding a nice pair of 1 GB sticks to fill your other 2 ram slots. Best could find quickly:

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

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

Both would be $9.99 after rebate. (However, read the reviews and check for compatibility with your MB.)

You could also (with ram being so cheap these days) upgrade to faster DDR2 ram (1066, 1150, etc.). However, as also mentioned, the performance increase in speed is marginal. (But, if a good price was to be found...) In this case, you could get 2 (2x1 GB) packages.

If you want to upgrade OS's in the future (including the move to 64 bit), you may want to look into getting 8 GB of ram total in the your system instead. But, that is jumping ahead of the answer to the initial question. :) 
December 22, 2008 6:30:45 PM

dokk2 said:
According to Asus your M2N-SLI is capable of am2 ??, cpu's,,so upgrade your cpu,,according to an article I read here on Tom's a while ago you would need at least a 2.6 cpu to adequately run any video card above the 8800 gt without bottlenecking.. :) 


That was why I said anything over the 9800 GT (the same as a 8800 GT) would be too much for the processor. (I just didn't remember the cpu clock.) One of the important things to note is that the currently installed cpu is only a single core, not duel.

But, the deeper this gets...the first question by outlw6669 applies.

<What is your budget and what resolution are you playing at?>

With (my) these assumptions:

~$200 US dollar budget
1680x1050 widescreen resolution

You could easily spend the $9.99 on 2 sticks of 1 GB ram, $94.99 on the 9800 GT, and have plenty leftover for any AMD processor upgrade. (As long as the stock cooler was ok.) And, if the stock cooler wasn't ok, (and we want to get into the poor overclocking history AMD has right now) then you could lower the processor cost and buy a separate cooler.
December 23, 2008 11:00:03 PM

Well, to answer a few questions, I normally play at a 1280x1024 pixel setting. Not very high. I also failed to mention I have a Samsung 931c monitor and I don't have anything typically going to a widescreen format. I suppose what I am thinking is this. If 'bottenecking' would be proven correct in this case, I would be looking at a processor upgrade, increased RAM (no big deal on either), and the actual video card. Sadly, it seems as though the alleged 'EZ BIOS' flash that Asus provided with this model of board is not possible through the Internet. I believe I am beyond the '0307' version of my BIOS, but I also believe to do any video card true justice, would involve flashing to the latest BIOS to affirm CPU support. I attempted to update the bios using this feature, but I believe I am going to have to do this the 'old fashioned' way using a floppy. That's a bit risky, but I don't think I would be too awful bad. Otherwise, it would look as though a virtual 'gutting' of my components, replacement of a motherboard with an intel processor and possibly enter the world of 'DDR3' RAM. Maybe the dreaded Vista upgrade as well. I believe I had a good idea on this first build of mine, but looks like most of everything is quickly becoming 'yesterday's news'. The video card choices are great and there really is little justification of going anything 'Geforce 8'. Thank you again for all of your replies.
December 23, 2008 11:34:21 PM

Oh, btw, to add to terr281's reply, that would be a great challenge to get all of those components into a $200 price tag. Thanks for the idea.
December 24, 2008 4:19:25 AM

One thing you should consider is a triple or quad core. If your motherboard revision supports an 8750, a 9650 or a 9750, then that's an option. You'll probably need to flash your bios (if you don't have a floppy drive, you might be able to use a USB).

If WoW Wrath of the Lich King supports more cores and is CPU intensive, that could be a relatively inexpensive boost to alleviate any CPU bottlenecking at your gaming resolutions.

So, check your motherboard's CPU support list and let us know how it works out.
December 24, 2008 2:26:05 PM

One thing to remember on resolution, is that widescreen versus non-widescreen isn't the issue. (The total number of pixels is.) The less pixels the video card(s) have to draw, the less work the video card does. (And, the higher you frames per second.)

At 1280x1024, you have 34.5% less pixels than at 1680x1050. Thus, the cpu bottleneck of your pc becomes an even stronger factor in this equation.

As for the flashing bios, I ALWAYS do it by burned cdrom instead of online...when it is an option (That way, you have a physical copy of the new bios to try again.)

Updating the bios, if you haven't done it since MB purchase, would be a good idea.

Since you like the idea of the $200 price tag, then I would recommend the following:

1. Upgrade your processor with the fastest one that your motherboard supports. (Call their technical support line if you can't find the documentation and no AMD camp people can tell you.) You play games at a low resolution (by today's standards), and you primarily play Wow (a cpu intensive game.) With AMD processor prices, this shouldn't be difficult. to fit into the price range. Use my AMD processor upgrade link from an earlier post from newegg...

2. Buy the $9.99 ram, and don't worry about the Vista upgrade. Sure, you'll probably only end up with 2.75 or 3 GB of system ram usable (I only have 2.75 reporting in Windows XP 32 bit in my system, despite having 4 1 GB sticks installed), but that is another 3/4 of a GB. (And, it is $10 dollars.)

3. Spend the rest on a video card. I would stick with Nvidia due to having a SLI motherboard. But, since your motherboard only supports 8X PCI-E 1.x lanes in SLI mode (instead of 16x PCI-E 2.0), then "today's very best video cards" /may/ need too much bandwidth. (The 9800GX2 versus a 280....I don't know.) Plus, you want to stay in the ~$200 price range.

But, you may want to think about the potential of buying another video card for SLI mode in ~1 year to futher extend your system's life. So, look for a card that should be around then as well as now. (9800GTX+ or a 260 core 216) Due to the budget, the 9800 GTX+ would be the best option.

$164.99 after rebate, free shipping, only 1 6 pin power needed, and a game

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
-----
So, total:

Video card: $164.99
Ram: $9.99
Processor: $52.99-$94.99 (retail, so you get the stock cooler)
January 17, 2009 1:05:07 PM

Sorry for the delay in posting something. Been rather busy with outside life itself as of late. Mulling over choice after choice of what to do, I am almost ready to all but abandon the AMD platform altogether and start with an Intel type. I have done a bit of research on what would be a reasonable solution for this, given all the bottleneck possibilities with what I currently have. I am trying for something that will remain cool and hopefully support my current OCZ Gamestream 700w power supply. (oh, btw, the desktop has somehow come back to life, but I don't really have the courage to do any gaming on it at the moment). Here are the options I have come up with:

AMD (upgrade solution)
1. Athlon X2 6000 (3.0 ghz) or 6400 (3.2 ghz) (Windsors) BIOS flash is possible, even if there is a consideration for the Brisbane series.
2. 2 GB additional Corsair DDR2 memory (PC6400) 800mhz
3. Some non-humongous aftermarket cooling solution for my Apevia X-Cruiser case so it will not run into the side exhaust port or place structural stress on the motherboard.
4. At minimum a GeForce 9800GT 512mb video card (EVGA or XFX)
5. Making the leap into a Vista OS from XP Pro SP3 that is compatible. (not sure about the 64 bit series, not reading very good results from this)

Intel (Consideration)
1. Either the Intel C2D E8400 Wolfdale 3.0ghz 6mb cache (65w) or the C2Q Kentsfield 2.4ghz with 8mb cache (95w)
2. Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P
3. Again, the aftermarket cooling solution issue.
4. I believe the Corsair memory I have would work fine and could add the two as in the AMD solution, but could upgrade to 2x2gb of ddr2 1066.
5. Graphics solution at a minimum of 9800 GT (Have looked at a couple of ATI series of cards for their wattage and temperatures: The Sapphire 'Toxic' HD 4850 and the XFX HD 4850)

In conclusion, I suppose it now comes down to rails of the power supply, as some video cards I have looked at require adequate amperes. The PSU I have isn't quite two years old and there may be some 'aging' involved, although I don't overclock or have had a lot of stress on it from this older build. My goal is to come up with a system that is reasonably cool (my case temperature doesn't go past 30c (86f). These are the specs on the back of the power supply I have:
http://www.geek.com/xyzimages/stories/reviewimages/ocz_...

I once again wish to thank everyone that has taken the time to read my dilemma and thank you again for reading.
a b U Graphics card
January 17, 2009 4:20:09 PM

If it were my system i'd probably go with the AMD 64x2 5400, 5600 or 6000. Upgrade the graphic card to a 9800GT or HD4830 and RAM either 2x2 GB or add 2x1 GB. Should run right around your earlier budget of $200. A similar system i worked on a couple weeks back gives 60fps in most areas of WoW, dropping to 30FPS in high demand areas like flying, Dalaran, PvP and 25 man raids.
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