Can my computer handle this card?

Hello, I have absolutely zero experience dealing with computer hardware. I've never built my own PC, and I've never so much as opened my PC to increase the RAM.

What I am wanting to do, is upgrade my video card, so I can play Far Cry 2, Crysis, and Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, and eventually other games that come out.

I have a Dell Dimension E521, and my video card is the one that I chose when I bought it, and came pre-installed. (Radeon X1300 Pro)
I'm not looking for top-of-the-line, and I don't want to pay too much for it. I don't mind turning the graphics down, having inferior lighting and shadows doesn't bother me at all, but I want to play these games at my monitor's native resolution! (1280 by 800)

So, to cut to the chase, I want a Radeon HD 4830 512 MB, or perhaps a Radeon HD 4850 512 MB. The HD 4870 is a little too high above a price I'd feel comfortable with.

I am not a hardware hobbyist so I will not be buying a new videocard in a year or two, so if I get a new card, I want it to last until this computer can no longer serve it's purpose.

Here are my computer's current hardware: (If I missed something, let me know)

Dimension E521

Processor: AMD Athlon(tm) 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4600+
Graphic Card: Radeon X1300 Pro (Radeon X1300/X1550 Series)
Hard disk: 288GB Total

I use Windows Vista 32 bit and once more, I'm trying to run Far Cry 2 and similar games, at a decent framerate at 1280x800 resolution. I don't mind lowering the shadows and other settings, but I don't want to run the game at a lower resolution than the monitor's native res, because it's such a weird ratio, any other resolution stretches and looks really weird, becoming almost unplayable.

Can my computer run a Radeon HD 4830 512 MB or Radeon HD 4850 512 MB without any other hardware upgrades? How easy is it to swap them out, for someone who's never done it before? How much better is the HD 4850 over the HD 4830, for someone who's not a hardcore gamer, and doesn't care about running things at max settings? Is it worth the extra $30-50, or are they about the same?

Is my video card not what's slowing down my games? Vista seems to thing it has something to do with my memory:

However, I think it means the memory on the video card itself, but I'm not certain...

To clarify my questions:
1) Do you think the HD 4850 is worth the extra $50 over the HD 4830?
2) Should I even be looking at video cards, or is another part of my computer needing more attention?
3) Can my current hardware run a HD 4830 or HD 4850, without needing to upgrade anything else other than the card?
4) Do you think I'd be able to swap out the cards on my own, never having done it before?

Once more, I'm unfamiliar with computer hardware. Any assistance you can offer me, would be very appreciated. Thank you in advance.
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  1. ^ You can't get the 4830 or 4850 because the E520/E521 comes with a 305 watt PSU with only 22amps.
    If you want to get the 4830/4850, get a better PSU first and make sure it fits in your Dell BTX case.

    Otherwise, your best option for a low-power GPU is a 9600GT or 4670.

    I had a e520 myself and I got a cheap 4650.
  2. Thank you for the quick response. :)

    The 4670 looks like it'd do enough for me; I just want to play the games at the native resolution without less than 30 FPS.

    I have a few questions though:

    Going over my current hardware, are you sure I don't need anything else to run the Radeon HD 4670?

    Most people seem to like Newegg for their hardware purchases, so I was planning on ordering through them, since they have such a good reputation. Anyway, searching 'Radeon HD 4670' gives numerous results from many 3rd party manufacturers. Which do you recommend I get?

    I notice some are 512 MB, and some 1 GB. I'm willing to pay the extra $30 to get 1 GB assuming it actually makes a difference, but I'd rather not pay extra money just to be able to claim to have a 1GB video card, but it doesn't actually run games any better. If it actually helps, I'll definitely buy the 1 GB, especially since I'd like the card, and this computer, to last me a number of years.

    I am looking at this one, at the moment. $85 and with 1 GB, has a native AVI plug like my monitor uses. But other than liking the price, and the 1GB memory as opposed to 512*, all the other data they are giving me, I don't understand, and I'm not sure whether being $30-50 dollars less than some of the other 1GB ones, is because it's a crummy card or not. What do you think?

    *My current card is even worse; a X1300 Pro with 256 MB, the one I'm looking at will have 4 times more RAM for graphics. =)

    Also, since these are all 3rd party manufacturers, but they are using ATI's design, do I still get my graphic drivers from ATI?

    I'm sorry for all the questions! Eventually, I hope to learn how to make my own computer from pieces, but for now, I'm staying away from learning computer hardware, and instead am focusing on learning to program computer software.
  3. 4670 won't drive the 1GB Graphic memory to it's maximum power, if u're playing on resolution like 1920x1080/1200, your GPU can't handle it even if you got 1GB of graphic ram, so go with 4670/512
    1GB ram for 4670 can be a waste
  4. Thanks xyzionz, that saves me $30 right there.

    It appears some of the 1GB cards are equal price to the 512 MB cards. Would having 1GB actually mess things up, or would it just not be any better than the 512?

    Honestly, I know so little about this stuff, here's the cards (I'd like to keep it under $100, but slightly over is fine), somebody tell me what you would buy, if you had my hardware, and I'll trust your advice on it. I'd really appreciate it, because for me trying to decide which of the cards to buy, when I don't understand what half the numbers mean, makes things a bit difficult for me. I presume most people on these forums are a great deal more familiar with this kind of thing, and I haven't got half a clue which of these many 3rd party suppliers have good reputations or not.
  5. I had a Dell e521 once, although it was a 4200+ processor. ;)

    The 512mb 4670 will do you fine. If you buy the 1gb version you will probably have some memory issues with only 2gb RAM, so yes go for the 512mb to be safe.
  6. jennyh said:

    If you buy the 1gb version you will probably have some memory issues with only 2gb RAM.

    Huh ?
  7. delluser1 said:
    Huh ?

    The high memory area is adversely affected in 32-bit operating systems I believe. Don't quote me on that, I just read it somewhere. :p
  8. A 32 bit OS can address 4 gigs of memory, because some hardware (such as video cards) is memory mapped, some of that address space will be taken, but I've never heard of any adverse memory reactions due to having a 1 gig video card in a sytem with a 32 bit OS.
  9. You should go with the 4850 but, with any graphics card that will run the games you want, you'll also need a new power supply to run the card. Get a 600 watt power supply and have a great time with your new games.
  10. Yeah the 4670 will be good for your system. You really need a better PSU to use a 4850, and such a card would be limited by your CPU, especially since you can't really overclock it without hacking the BIOS.
  11. delluser1 said:
    A 32 bit OS can address 4 gigs of memory, because some hardware (such as video cards) is memory mapped, some of that address space will be taken, but I've never heard of any adverse memory reactions due to having a 1 gig video card in a sytem with a 32 bit OS.

    I've never had a 1gb card so I can't say for sure, but I'd be surprised if it didn't drag down vista 32-bit if the system only had 2gb of RAM. Like I said, it was just something I had read elsewhere.

    On the topic, the OP will be more than good with a 4670 512mb. Given the choice of 512mb and 1gb 4670s, I'd take the 512mb. I doubt there will be much difference between them but personally I'd take the 512mb even at the same price.
  12. Any of the HD4670 512 MB graphic cards would be a good choice for you. This review of the Sapphire 4670 with DDR4 memory says it gives slightly better performance at your resolution at about the same cost.
  13. Alrighty, thanks guys!

    I'll go with the 4670 and I'll get the 512MB, since xyzionz said my GPU wouldn't make much use of it.

    Any suggested manufacturers? Or rather, anything wrong with this card? (Is a 'overclocked' version any risk or danger to my PC? Should I get the non-overclocked version just to be safe?)

    If this card will work with my current hardware (shown on the original post), and you think this is a good card for me and can't recommend anything instead of it, I'll see if I can get it ordered tomorrow.

    I really appreciate all of your help! This is why I love the internet; we can instantly fine people who are hobbyists or specialists in almost any field, and receive help from them.

    [Edit:] Missed your post, dirtmountain. I've now bookmarked that one, and, if no one sees any problems with it, I'll order it instead. Oh, and thank you especially much for linking to a tutorial on how to install it as well.

    [Switching from naive hardware noob, to slightly-less-naive software programmer]

    About the Vista 32 bit, and not being able to handle 4 GBs of RAM, that is because of the pointer size used by the OS. A 32 bit pointer has a maximum range of 2^32 minus one, which is 4,294,967,295. A 32 bit operating system uses a 32 bit pointer to access the RAM, and so a 32 bit operating system's pointer can't access anymore than 4 GB. (4 GB = 4,294,967,295 / (1024mb x 1024kb x 1024b))

    With the harddrive, they use a larger pointer (I hear it's a 48 bit pointer, which means 262,144 GB max), so we don't have the same limit with the harddrive as we do with RAM.

    However, video card RAM doesn't just add that RAM on top of the computer's RAM, it has its own pointer to access it. This means, when it comes to software, with a video card with more than 4 GB, the computer can't access anything above the first 4 GB of the video card's RAM. With normal RAM, the computer can't access anything more than 4 GB of normal RAM. But the video card's RAM and the normal RAM don't interfere with each other. You could have up to 4 GB of normal RAM, and a 4 GB video card, without running into any (software!) problems related to pointer size.

    This is, again, with a 32 bit OS. The new 64 bit OSes should be able to handle up to... uh... 17,179,869,184 GBs of RAM. (The 4GB we currently have, times the extra 2^32 a 64 bit OS has over a 32 bit OS) So when it comes to software, we wont reach any artificial RAM limit on the new 64 bit OSes for probably 10 or 20 years. (But that's not counting hardware limitations, only software limitations)

    I may be mistaken, but that's what I was told, when it came to software limitations of 32 bit OSes.
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