Best ATI card I can use? Model numbers don't make sense.

I've gotten to the point where I can't figure out what ATI card is best, because it seems that their model numbers jump all over the place. I used to have an x1600 AGP8 card in my old P4 and it was great, when I upgraded to a 64 bit processor with only a PCIe on the new mobo, I was given an ATI x300, which feels comparable, but is baseline and I need something better... I've looked through the ATI cards, and I would like to think that the higher the number the better the card, but I've heard this isn't always the case.
I'm thinking of going with an HD 4870 because it's the highest number I can find that says it is compatible with my AMD Athlon64 4000+ single core. My mobo only supports PCIe 16x 1.0a. What is the best I can use?
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  1. Graphics cards are backwards compatible so even if a card is PCI-E 2.0 it will still work on your PCI-E 1.0 motherboard
    What you heard aboiut ATi's number's does hold some truth in that the higher number isn't always the best card, but generally speaking the higher the better.

    Your processor will bottleneck most cards to be honest, and will certainly hold back the performance of a HD4870

    What games do you play and what resolution do you play them at?
  2. If you think ATI model numbers are confusing, then don't even attempt to look at nVidia cards...

    Give us a budget and the resolution you wanna play at.
  3. Within a series(HD3xxx, HD4xxx, HD5xxx, ect) the higher number does mean better with only rare exceptions(HD4770>HD4830.) PCIe 2.0 cards are backward compatible so that isn't an issue.
    The problem is your CPU which is very poor by today's standards. I would recommend an HD4650 or at max an HD4670. This is a good choice and good deal;
    Ordinarily it would allow for all games to be played at reasonable settings at low resolutions but your processor will limit you from playing the more cpu intensive current games.
    If you can afford $200-250 you can replace the motherboard/cpu/ram with something about 4x as powerful and get a better card than that one.
  4. For what purpose? For gaming a single core CPU is going to struggle, whatever graphics card you install.
    Do you have further upgrade plans for this system?
    While the X300 draws very little power the HD4870 draws a lot and will require a minumum 450 Watt powersupply with two 6 pin PCI-E leads.
    The maximum I would recommend is the HD4650 the next best (4670/5570) would be savagely held back by the single core CPU. For HD playback or normal tasks the HD4550/5450 will give a good boost without breaking the bank and the HD5450 offers superior sound output- good if you have a big set of 7.1 speakers!
  5. Well... I've considered upgrading my CPU to an Opteron 180 or an A64 X2 4800+... at least it'd be dual core... but I'm on socket 939, so I think that's the best I can do before I upgrade my mobo... would that at least be a step in the right direction? I'm just trying to play a few of the newer pixel shader 3 games that are out, even if they're at lower quality graphics. Specifically, I borrowed Mass Effect from a friend, but it wouldn't run on my system because my x300 only supports shader 2. I'm willing to drop a couple hundred dollars upgrading a little, but right now I just don't want to drop the 4 to 5 hundred dollars I plan to spend eventually building a nice intel quad with all new ram and sata ii. When I do, though, it'd be nice to have a card that could go to the new system and still be adequate for a while.

    Oh, and btw, my PSU is a 550w with one 6-pin PCIe plug.
  6. Well, like I said it doesn't need to cost that much. If you want to go as cheap as possible something like this would be worlds better than just getting an HD4650 for your current system;
    Athlon II X2 240 - $58
    ASUS M2N68-AM Motherboard - $53
    WINTEC AMPX 2GB DDR2 800 - $43
    Total - $154

    Or for not much more you can get a quad core with a real AM3 motherboard/DDR3 ram;
    BIOSTAR TA785G3HD AM3 785G Motherboard + AMD Athlon II X4 620 - $151
    CORSAIR 2GB DDR3 1333 - $55
    Total - $206

    For either set up a nice card that isn't too expensive is this HD4850 for $107;
    It's a good card for resolutions up to 1680x1050 and great below that. I would recommend adding another 2 gigs of ram when you can afford it. The rest of the system(case, drives, PSU) should be recyclable from your old system.
  7. @ Nabby: Switching to a dual or quad will be a useful upgrade, more games are making use of multiple cores.
    One question is cost, socket 939 has been out of production for a while and new parts tend to be both hard to find and expensive. The used option is available but comes with the obvious risks and I for one would strongly advise against taking this route unless you trust the source.
    The card found by Jyjjy seems like a good idea: Fast enough to play most titles well up to 1680x1050 at medium/high settings, not too expensive and requires just one power connector.
    Given that you intend to swap this card into a new build later (my trick :) ) I would look at something more powerful, though. The HD5770 would be a good choice here as would the older HD4870. Both have their merits: The HD4870 is a bit faster and might be cheaper while the HD5770 only needs one power lead, runs cooler and can run DX11 games-provided you are using either Vista or Win 7, DX10/11 is not available for XP.
  8. Wow, jyjjy, I'm glad you pointed out that Biosar mobo and processor, I had been considering an MSI AM2+ board that would take the Athalon II X4 620, but it would only be $10 cheaper and that board would only take DDR2. I had a Biostar mobo in my old P4 that ran great for many years.. I like 'em.
  9. This the slowest GPU you could buy and be able to carry on to a new build without getting bad fps.
  10. Nabby said:
    Wow, jyjjy, I'm glad you pointed out that Biosar mobo and processor, I had been considering an MSI AM2+ board that would take the Athalon II X4 620, but it would only be $10 cheaper and that board would only take DDR2. I had a Biostar mobo in my old P4 that ran great for many years.. I like 'em.

    Yeah, I've used them a few times as well and have had no problems. The only thing I don't like about that board is no crossfire but on a budget it's a very nice deal.
    One thing to keep in mind with this and most newer boards is that they only have 1 IDE port so if you have old IDE drives you plan to use you'll only be able to use 2 of them. I believe there are IDE/SATA adapters if necessary however.
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