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Would a GPU Upgrade Help My Aging Desktop PC?

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December 30, 2009 4:34:37 PM

Hello,

I've been contemplating upgrading the GPU in my five-year old Dell desktop PC. While I recognize that my system is now relatively old, it performs well enough (and money is tight enough) that I'm not inclined to buy a brand new system just yet.

My motivation to upgrade the GPU is that I now perform some home video editing and transcoding, which can be quite time consuming and hog system/CPU resources. In addition, I regularly stream video content (local files as well as Hulu, Netflix, etc. via PlayOn) along my home network to my PS3 and would like to improve that performance. While I recognize that home networking introduces many other factors unrelated to the GPU to the equation, I'd like to know if a newer/better GPU could generally help the video streaming situation. I assume a newer GPU would help with the transcoding. Of course, if I am wrong there, please tell me.

If a new GPU would help, can you recommend one in the $50-75 price range?

The following are my system specs:

Dell Dimension 8400
CPU: P4 3.4GHz
RAM: 3GB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce 6800
PSU: 350W
OS: XP Pro

Manual located here:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/dim8400/e...

Thanks in advance for sharing your advice.
December 30, 2009 4:42:23 PM

You can definitely upgrade the graphics to improve performance.

The only problem I see is that the geForce 6800 is an AGP graphics card, and seeing that your computer is 5 years old it makes sense.

Now a days most if not all of the cards you would want to upgrade with are PCI Express 2.0, which means that if you want to upgrade you need an open PCI Express 2.0 slot.

Here are some decent cards for that price range:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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

a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:12:05 PM

Hmm, according to the manual, your machine does have a PCIe x16 slot. That makes you pretty lucky for a machine that old.

Yes, an upgrade definitely will help.

For about $55, you could get a 4670 with DDR3:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Or if you're willing to go up to $75, even a 9600 GT, which is even one step better.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

At this point, though, your CPU is the limiting factor, and you're probably not going to notice a big performance increase over the first card. I'd just get the 4670 as the cheapest card with DDR3 and call it a day.

Related resources
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:14:25 PM

First off, if the computer is using an AGP card that almost definitely means it does not have a PCI-e x16 slot so those recommendations would be useless and even if they weren't the 9500GT is only modestly more powerful. Secondly there definitely were PCI-e 6800s as I used to own one although that doesn't mean that the one in this computer isn't AGP. Third and most importantly a 6800 should be more than fine for any sort of non-gaming applications so an upgrade will not help at all for video playback or streaming.
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:16:11 PM

capt_taco said:
I'd just get the 4670 as the cheapest card with DDR3 and call it a day.

That would be a fine recommendation if they were gaming but the upgrade is pointless otherwise.
a c 168 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:17:42 PM

@ Plinkoblinko: The 6800 was a changeover card and came in both AGP and PCI-E flavours.
@ Irm_02446: The 'slow' P4 will hold back a fast card but the system does have a
PCI-E X16 slot so you have the pick of them rather than the more expensive AGP versions.
Check your software for updates, some can use the GPU to accelerate them, others cannot.
Just for video work the HD4550 or HD4650 would be less expensive choices than the 9500s' listed by Plinkoblinko and both offload a great deal of the video decode work from the CPU.
All of the cards so far mentioned will work in your system-the PCI-E version is not importaint unless we are dealing with very fast cards that need the extra speed of PCI-E 2.0, which we are not.
All of the cards mentioned will work with your existing PSU, they are all efficient, low power units.
According to Dell, it does have the PCI-E slot:

http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/dim8400/S...
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:22:38 PM

capt_taco said:
Hmm, according to the manual, your machine does have a PCIe x16 slot. That makes you pretty lucky for a machine that old.

Yes, an upgrade definitely will help.

For about $55, you could get a 4670 with DDR3:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Or if you're willing to go up to $75, even a 9600 GT, which is even one step better.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

At this point, though, your CPU is the limiting factor, and you're probably not going to notice a big performance increase over the first card. I'd just get the 4670 as the cheapest card with DDR3 and call it a day.


Nay, from the reviews I've seen the 9600GT isn't worth $20 over a 4670.
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:25:52 PM

Why are you all recommending gaming cards to someone who never mentioned gaming? Am I missing something here?
a c 168 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 5:37:11 PM

This should do nicely: All the connections you could want at a paltry price:

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

Yes, it is, technically a low-end gaming card, but it's only about a tenner more than the less capable 4550/43XX series and AFAIK is better at HD decode than the Nvidia 9400/9500 series.
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:02:44 PM

jyjjy said:
First off, if the computer is using an AGP card that almost definitely means it does not have a PCI-e x16 slot so those recommendations would be useless and even if they weren't the 9500GT is only modestly more powerful. Secondly there definitely were PCI-e 6800s as I used to own one although that doesn't mean that the one in this computer isn't AGP. Third and most importantly a 6800 should be more than fine for any sort of non-gaming applications so an upgrade will not help at all for video playback or streaming.


Well, the manual he posted the link to says the machine has a PCIe x16 slot, not an AGP slot, so that's what I'm basing that off of.

I guess if the ONLY usage is for video it doesn't really matter. I tend to think along the lines of "OK, assuming this is the guy's main machine, maybe video is just the most important out of several things, so what's going to make the best machine relatively cheaply."
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:05:43 PM

I was actually responding to the post before yours. Still don't see the point in replacing the card unless he is gaming though.
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:05:52 PM

If OP doesn't game why is there a 6800? I would have guessed a 6200LE or at most a 6600GT.
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:07:01 PM

I was assuming it came with the system
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:10:28 PM

That's exactly my guess, but for the day it would have been like buying the 8800GTS or 8800GTX when the 8-series just came out.

Either way, not many applications support using the GPU for transcoding/editing.
Most free software don't, so you could tell us what apps your using.

a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:19:31 PM

jyjjy said:
I was actually responding to the post before yours. Still don't see the point in replacing the card unless he is gaming though.


... and now that I look back at it, I missed the "if" in the third word you wrote, which completely changes the meaning of you post, and means we're talking about the same thing on the AGP front. Doh. This is apparently not my best day for attention to detail.

You're probably right about this being a needless upgrade for non-gaming. I guess I just have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of someone who would NOT want to at least pick up the occasional game. Even if I said my computer was for something else, I'd never be able to resist.
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:24:02 PM

They might not have any games other than Solitare/Minesweeper/Pinball.
a c 106 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 6:30:22 PM

For your needs a cheap radeon 4550 would probably be fine

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

The newest drivers and flash player do provide hardware acceleration for the 4 and 5 series, but of course it may be a step down in the gaming department ^_^. If you want to use a full 1080p resolution or higher then you may want to go with a 4670 instead as previously suggested. You should consider though that such acceleration may not work with sites that use their own plugin, like FOX, and thus you would likely see little to no improvement there. A faster CPU would most certainly help.
December 30, 2009 7:23:18 PM

plinkoblinko said:
You can definitely upgrade the graphics to improve performance.

The only problem I see is that the geForce 6800 is an AGP graphics card, and seeing that your computer is 5 years old it makes sense.

Now a days most if not all of the cards you would want to upgrade with are PCI Express 2.0, which means that if you want to upgrade you need an open PCI Express 2.0 slot.

Here are some decent cards for that price range:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

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



As many of you have guessed, my current GPU is of the PCI Express variety although it was first generation. This is how Dell described it way back when: "256MB PCI Express™ x16 (DVI/VGA/TV-out) nVidia GeForce 6800."
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 7:35:49 PM

ATI Radeon HD 5970, it'll fit in the Dell no problem and i'm sure the power supply has the connectors/wattage needed.

Just Kidding, i agree, upgrading from the 6800 will probably not benefit you much, if that is an LGA 775 motherboard, you may be able to upgrade the CPU on that to perhaps a pentium dual core or a Core 2 Duo, that would be a HUGE help.
December 30, 2009 7:43:39 PM

sabot00 said:
That's exactly my guess, but for the day it would have been like buying the 8800GTS or 8800GTX when the 8-series just came out.

Either way, not many applications support using the GPU for transcoding/editing.
Most free software don't, so you could tell us what apps your using.


No, I don't use my PC for gaming. Just my PS3. As for video editing, I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio, as well as a few other more basic editors like Windows Movie Maker, FlipShare, etc. For transcoding, I most often use Avidemux.

For streaming video content to my PS3, I most often use PS3 Media Server (local files) and PlayOn (online content such as Hulu), as well as an occasional local share from WMP.

There seems to be three opinions expressed in response to my post:
(1) don't upgrade the GPU because the CPU is the bottleneck;
(2) don't upgrade if you're not interested in gaming; and
(3) upgrade, but only minimally if not interested in gaming.

Can we resolve whether the CPU is the limiting factor here? How about whether the GPU will benefit non-gaming applications? Will it have any impact on streaming?

Thanks again for your generous responses. I appreciate your guidance.
December 30, 2009 7:59:16 PM

depeding on ur upgrade, cpu may or may not be a limiting factor... but it may not matter because no gaming is done...

Best solution

a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 8:11:04 PM
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irm_02446 said:
No, I don't use my PC for gaming. Just my PS3. As for video editing, I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio, as well as a few other more basic editors like Windows Movie Maker, FlipShare, etc. For transcoding, I most often use Avidemux.

For streaming video content to my PS3, I most often use PS3 Media Server (local files) and PlayOn (online content such as Hulu), as well as an occasional local share from WMP.

There seems to be three opinions expressed in response to my post:
(1) don't upgrade the GPU because the CPU is the bottleneck;
(2) don't upgrade if you're not interested in gaming; and
(3) upgrade, but only minimally if not interested in gaming.

Can we resolve whether the CPU is the limiting factor here? How about whether the GPU will benefit non-gaming applications? Will it have any impact on streaming?

Thanks again for your generous responses. I appreciate your guidance.


A Pentium 4 or Pentium D will bottle neck anything stronger than a Radeon HD 4550 so yes your cpu is the main limiting factor. And the gpu upgrade will help with watching HD videos on the computer it is installed on but not with streaming.
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 8:33:21 PM

Cpu "bottlenecking" a GPU pretty much only applies to gaming. His current card is stronger for gaming than an HD4550 in any case if that mattered. A cpu upgrade would definitely help a ton for with video editing and transcoding but your motherboard is likely limited to processors that aren't much better than what you have now.
a b U Graphics card
December 30, 2009 8:42:33 PM

jyjjy said:
His current card is stronger for gaming than an HD4550 in any case if that mattered.


I beg to differ. A Radeon HD 4550 is a lot faster than any of the Geforce 6800 series.
Look at this chart if you don't believe me: http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-char...[2255]=on&prod[2110]=on

And that is from when the 4550 was still relatively new and drivers were still improving.

PS. For some reason in that comparison the 4550's name is covered up but you can go look at the Q3 2008 graphics chart if you want proof.
a b U Graphics card
December 31, 2009 2:53:35 PM

Quote:
get a HD 4650 and torrent Windows 7. XP is far to old.


There are so many things wrong with that.
1. Pirating Windows = BAD and ILLEGAL
2. Windows 7 should not be installed on a system as ancient as this. The single core Pentium 4 wouldn't be able to handle it.
3. A Radeon HD 4550 is most suitable for this user, especially since he won't be gaming anyway.
a b U Graphics card
December 31, 2009 5:36:52 PM

You can't talk sense into the nVidiot.
a c 376 U Graphics card
December 31, 2009 6:28:54 PM

Has anyone even suggest an Nvidia card in this thread?
a c 271 U Graphics card
February 23, 2012 2:06:58 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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