I refined my question/desires so I am re-posting with a different angle.
My integrated Intel GMA 4500HD isn't all that sharp with text so I wish
to buy an ATI lowprofile card that displays very sharp text to replace it.
My Slim PC only accepts low-profile cards.
A fanless (silent) card is highly desirable to me.
I don't game and just need a super snappy XP/Windows 7 desktop experience.
ATI Low-Profile options are:
ATI 4350, 4550, 4650 (that's it for lowprofile)
1) Will an ATI 4350 card be as fast or faster than the Intel GMA 4500HD?
(There is a fanless ASUS 4350 on newegg. ASUS doesn't seem to make
anything faster in a "fanless" design. Saphire makes a fanless 4550 but
I read the text isn't as sharp with the Saphire brand and that's my issue
with the GMA 4500HD)
2) If I went to a fan-cooled ASUS 4550 would I notice a snappier XP/Windows 7
3) If I went to a fan-cooled PowerColor 4650 would I notice a snappier XP/Windows 7
1) Probably** (although, I don't care for fanless cards)
2) Yes** (try to get the GDDR3 model)
**Almost any dedicated graphics card will be much better than onboard graphics. But you may not notice it unless you use it. It should help make the desktop snappier, but your processor also matters. As far as text clarity goes, your monitor also makes a big difference.
AFAIK the only real issue with getting clearer text is the monitor and the use of VGA. DVI will send a much better signal and I have noticed great differences in the same monitor and computer (text-wise) just by using DVI instead of VGA.
Moot point for you, though, as you probably only have VGA out so in order to get DVI you will need a new card anyway. Just make sure your new card has DVI and your monitor can support DVI. Otherwise I fear you will be wasting your money.
I don't get into ATI cards so I can't tell you what's what...
Oh, check ClearType which makes fonts look much smoother in many cases.
Using the same monitor and cable (LCD is VGA only) on my old Dell with integrated
Nvidia graphics yields much sharper text then my new Dell with GMA 4500HD. Fact.
No amount of adjusting of the monitor itself or the intel video control panel fixes
the text quality to equal the Nvidia in my old Dell.
I am just trying to get the same level of quality text as I had before with this
same monitor. The Intel GMA 4500HD is a really disappointment with text
ok.. Maybe I won't go fanless if it's a bad idea..
How about PowerColor? Does PowerColor have a decent reputation?
Is there any reason I shouldn't buy a PowerColor 4650 or the ASUS 4550?
(The only reason I'd buy the ASUS would be that ASUS is such a high quality brand)
It really is now your choice, mate but try checking the Newegg reviews of the Powercolor and asus cards in normal profile form before making the choice.
There is no reason not to get the HD4650 apart from price, either card will do what you want but the 4650 will do some light gaming as well.
We have a fleet of mostly low-profile PCs from Dell and HP at work, and I've eventually settled on the ASUS cards as being my favourite. Their single-piece back bracket and overall build quality are pretty good. Some, such as PowerColor and Sapphire, are good quality cards but a real pain to install in a low-profile case.
I have the 4350 Silent and the 4550 active-cooled sitting on my desk right now. The Silent models don't have too much trouble with heat, but you should know that the heatsink on them is HUGE with a capital HUGE. If you have a northbridge cooler or hard drive mount in that general area on your PC, you can forget fitting the SILENT in there.
The ASUS 4550 has a pretty good heat-sink with a tiny, metal mounted fan. I'd still prefer this to the reference cooler; the plastic fan mounts had a tendency to melt into a puddle on some of our machines that get used 24/7 - I'm sure they'd have been fine in an environment that isn't running them at full pelt all day, but on a few of our radiology (non-diagnostic) workstations they were rendering images around the clock.
Anyway, I'd have to admit ASUS are the best option if you're stuck with a low-profile box.