Best graphics card for an older mother board/setup?

my setup is about 4 years old, and wasn't exactly top of the line then, but I'm hoping to upgrade to stretch it for a little bit longer.

I'm interesting in gaming, but obviously not super high end, just the most I can squeeze out of this rig for the least cash to make a couple games a bit more playable.
I'm looking to upgrade the graphics card, and possibly the processor, but I don't want to blow the bank on high end hardware my system can't effectively take advantage of because the bottle neck lies somewhere else in the system. Honestly I don't begin to know what its best to upgrade to see the best performance jump.


gigabyte GA-K8N Pro-SLI motherboard.
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor
(2 x 1GB) Dual channel DDR400

running windows XP media center (in think that's 32bit?)

your thoughts? is it worth it to go to a full 4gb of ram, or to up the processor to an Athalon 64 X2 or 64 FX?

what's the best video card I can actually take of advantage of and not just end up with a ferrari parked in the garage?

My PSU is only 350w, but it seems like I can pick up something around 500w fairly cheaply.
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  1. I see two things truly limiting the upgradeability of your system:
    1. Socket 939
    2. The PCI-Express x16 interface (as opposed to PCI-Express 2.0 x16)

    Socket 939 CPUs are becoming increasing harder to find, and their prices are pretty ridiculous in comparison to their newer siblings. But, as someone else said in another post, you can't blame the merchant for trying to max out his profit on the last 3 939 CPUs he's got.

    PCI-E x16 cards are still out there, but you're looking at 2-year old (or greater) technology, such as an ATI 2600XT or nVIDIA 9500GT or 8600GTS. You can SLI nVIDIA cards to increase performance, but you're pretty much stuck with using mid-range cards for it. What it boils down to is what video card(s) you're using right now. Take a look at the comparison chart here:,2218-6.html
    Find your current GPU, then search for GPUs two or three steps higher, as they are the ones that should provide noticeable improvement over your current GPU. Once you've got an idea what GPUs would give you at least some improvement, check out some online retailers and see what they have to offer. Just remember, you need a PCI-E x16 version, not PCI-E 2.0 x16. Most cards on the market today are of the 2.0 variety.

    I wouldn't worry about the RAM at all. 2GB is fine for WinXP-32 systems.

    Good luck.
  2. PCIE 2.0 works just fine on an x16 board. I am running a 4870 1GB on my 939 board and it kicks ass.

    Pick up a 9800GT or 4850 and a new PSU.
    Your ram is fine.

    Keep your eye out for 939 dual core chips that are cheap. 4200+x2 or grater would make a noticeable difference in your system performance.

    This article shows what kind of performance ceiling you will hit with out going dual core.,2054.html

    I am able to run the crysis demo in DX10 mode, texures and models set to ultra and everything else set to high at 1680x1050 and get about 30FPS.

    My Specs:
    ASUS A8N-E nForce4 Ultra
    Athlon64 X2 4200+ @2.42GHz
    2GB DDR400
    4870 1GB
  3. ^+1 for what ravenware said.

    -1 to Razberybandit on the PCI-E 1.0 vs 2.0 comments
  4. Thanks RazberyBandit and ravenware. This gives me a good place to start, hopefully I can pick up an x2 939 proc on e-bay on the cheap. The prices for tech that old are freaking ridiculous.

    At some of the prices I've seen it would actually be cheaper to by a whole new mobo with an AM2 socket and a proc for that, and then transfer over the rest of my hardware. Which I may end up doing.

    and thanks for the graphics card advice! now to shop.

    Thanks again everyone.
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