Hello experts, nerds, geeks, enthusiasts, professionals, gamers, and any other monikers I may have forgotten that you would like applied to you. As the title states I am purchasing a new graphics card for my Dad (ok well, my family is all pitching in, but I'm picking it out). This is a present for his birthday (he's going to be half a century old, that's 50 for those of you bad at math) and I'm planning to purchase it this weekend.
I have found 3 good deals on Newegg but I'm not sure which one to get. So I decided to as the community which is the best deal. Now of course, in order to decide that you're all going to ask "Well, what does he play? What's his other system specs? What resolution screen does he have? What are his needs in the future going to be?" (did I forget anything?) So here are the answers to those questions:
1) What does he play?
He plays some old war games that run just fine right now. He also plays (and this is the reason he needs the upgrade) LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online). Not a very demanding game, but since he is using integrated graphics right now it runs ok on the low settings. He will likely play this game for years to come since he is the biggest LOTR fan I know...and I know a few. He doesn't usually play much else, but may want to try some of the newer games if he had a decent system. Which brings me to number 2.
2) What are his system specs?
He has a dell (or maybe its hp?) from about a year ago. It only has integrated graphics, but has an ok processor (a dual core, pentium (from the Core 2 line) something or other that runs in the 2-3ghz range). He DOES have a pcie slot. The only thing I'm not sure of is what his power supply is...its no more than 500w (if its less than that, I have a 500w extra from an old build so advise as if it were that).
3) What resolution screen does he play on?
He has a CRT monitor...if that doesn't tell you the resolution you obviously haven't been into computers long. It is 1024x768. I know, pretty much any graphics card should be able to handle this resolution, but this is likely the next part that gets replaced. if/when he gets a new screen it will probably be a mid size LCD, resolution 1440x900 or 1680x1050 at most.
4) Future needs?
Well aside from what was described above I don't think there are any...he's not likely going to need hdmi or any type of video out because he's not going to use his computer for media even if he gets an hdtv (still has Tube TV)
Considering what he has now, almost anything would be a significant step up. I would say that makes the best choice the one which is more likely to be able to handle whatever your father might end up doing, such as that HDMI out, more advanced games, or whatever. Especially since he will probably increase his resolution, the HD5750 is the best choice. If budget isn't a concern, even though it is overkill now, check out the HD5770. A quality 500W PSU will have no trouble with either of those.
Honestly I would take the 5750 over the other cards. I'm not a fan of Sparkle and that card just looks kind of cheap to me. If you get a GTS 250, I'd get an actual reference board. The 4860 is nice, but if he isn't going to upgrade much I'd go for the 5750 for the DX11, which he may never use, but you never know.
I don't think the 5750 will have any problem playing the games he needs. Especially coming from onboard graphics, its night and day.
5750 is what I was thinking too...I've never used a sparkle card, but decided to include that in case somebody had a good/bad experience with them. I'm trying to keep it about $130 so that 5750 is about as high as the price can go. The 4860 is a very nice card and on sale (also the first one I noticed) so decided to put it on the board as an option.
Main reason I wanted opinions was because according to Tom's Hardware Graphics Hierarchy Chart the GTS 250 and 5750 are on par...I wasn't so sure about that but haven't kept up on the graphics reviews (other than to know what's out there) since I'm waiting for Nvidia to release Fermi before upgrading myself (not that I'm going to get Fermi necessarily, but that's a topic for another thread).
Another vote for the HD5750- Lowest power consumption and heat output should prevent possible problems, especially if the system has limited airflow, which most OEM cases do and more than fair performance, even at 1680x1050.
The HD4860 is probably the fastest of the group listed, but it needs two 6 pin connectors and will produce the most heat while the GTS250 listed is loud according to the Newegg reviews.
Whichever you choose, check the PSU can drive the card selected, for the GTS250 or HD5750 a Dell 350W supply will suffice, but you'll need a larger unit with twin 6 pin PCI-E connectors for the HD4860.
The 5770 will get you better performance than the 5750 and for the resolution you mention the 512MB of Ram will be sufficient (normally I'd suggest 1GB models but for you 512 makes sense !) - and since the price is a better choice than the 3 you listed - since the 5770's are also very low power consumption cards it will be fine with the PSU you mention as well
In a HP / Dell case, I would not use a card that doesn't exhaust air outside the case. All of the cards you picked are way overpowered for his resolution as well as any of the future possibilities you listed.