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Fastest Low Power Graphics Card - Holiday 2010 Update

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December 1, 2010 2:38:59 PM

Hey Everyone,

Earlier this year, I picked up a Zotac GeForce 9800GT Eco 1 GB DDR3 DVI/HDMI PCI-Express Video Card (ZT-98GEY3M-FSL) with the understanding that the 9800GT "Eco" version was the fastest available graphics processor that is able to be fully powered by the PCI Express bus (<= 75 watts). In other words, the video card does not require a supplimental 6-pin PCI-Express power connector.

Here's a link to the card that I bought:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002Q5KOCQ/ref=wms_ohs...

So my question is: does anyone know if there's anything faster/better out there yet? I like to stay as current as possible on this stuff. But my computer is a Dell Optiplex 960 small form factor corporate PC. I have a riser card installed so that I can do full-height PCI express, but I can't replace the power supply due to a nonstandard connector and size.

Thanks!
Frank
a c 206 U Graphics card
December 1, 2010 3:34:16 PM

What is the wattage of your PSU? That is going to be your limiting factor, as you know, aside from the low-profile requirement.

There are several ATI GPUs that fit your system as well (HD4550, HD4650, and some HD5XXX series as well). These don't require external power connectors and are powered by the PCI-E slot itself.
December 1, 2010 3:42:05 PM

As I mentioned, I have a riser card installed, so I can install a full-height PCI Express x16 card. So I don't have a requirement for half-height cards or anything like that.

That being said, my current video card is drawing close to the maximum 75W limit on my PCI Express x16 slot based on my testing, so I think it's pretty safe to assume that I have the full 75W PCI Express spec available for use. So pretty much any graphics card that doesn't require supplimental power is fair game. Any of the ones that you mentioned fit the bill and rated faster than a 9800GT?

Thanks,
Frank
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a c 206 U Graphics card
December 1, 2010 3:53:28 PM

Actually, you do need to have a sufficient PSU to handle to the power requirements of another card. It isn't just the amount provided at the PCI-E slot to the GPU. Dells are notorious for using weak PSUs (relative to other systems). For example, if your current PSU in only 300W and you install a GPU that requires a 400W PSU, the GPU may work okay under normal conditions, but if you were to operate for sustained periods of time at or near the max for the GPU (like during gaming), you might find that your PSU and/or GPU would have a shortened lifespan.

How much are you budgeting for a new GPU?

Sorry I missed the info on the riser card. That helps broaden your choices from a height viewpoint, but you still have limitations on the length of the card.

Here is a great ATI based GPU that could possibly meet your needs and is cheaper than the one you linked:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
December 1, 2010 4:25:32 PM

COLGeek said:
Actually, you do need to have a sufficient PSU to handle to the power requirements of another card. It isn't just the amount provided at the PCI-E slot to the GPU. Dells are notorious for using weak PSUs (relative to other systems). For example, if your current PSU in only 300W and you install a GPU that requires a 400W PSU, the GPU may work okay under normal conditions, but if you were to operate for sustained periods of time at or near the max for the GPU (like during gaming), you might find that your PSU and/or GPU would have a shortened lifespan.

How much are you budgeting for a new GPU?

Sorry I missed the info on the riser card. That helps broaden your choices from a height viewpoint, but you still have limitations on the length of the card.

Here is a great ATI based GPU that could possibly meet your needs and is cheaper than the one you linked:

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


You make an excellent point regarding the length of the card! I will have the measure the amount of space that I have available in my case. Ha, actually when I went to install the Zotac, I found that the proprietary Dell aluminum heatsink was in the way. (DISCLAIMER: This is very dangerous. Don't ever do what I'm about to describe because powdered aluminum can cause an explosion... http://web.mit.edu/machineshop/Grinder/aluminum.html) I actually ended up using an angle grinder with a special aluminum grinding wheel to grind down the aluminum heatsink enough to get the darn video card mounted. Was a big pain in the butt, especially since aluminum grinding wheels are difficult to come by.

Back to the card that you suggested... looks like a solid choice with about a 45% increase in performance compared to my 9800 GT. I'll have to see if I can located the physical dimensions of the card (can't seem to find them on Gigabyte's site, but I'll dig more later). Just to confirm, are you certain that this card doesn't require a PCI-Express power connector? I saw some 5760s that did require one, but the NewEgg reviews seem to indicate that it's not required. The pics and information on Gigabyte's site don't seem to say one way or the other.

Regarding my power supply, I'll have to double check the exact rating. But I can tell you that without a video card my system pulls about 60-70 watts at max. With my ~75W Zotac installed, it'll pull around 135-145 watts at max. And when I say "max", this is when running a graphically-intense video game or using Prime95 to stress the system. I'm pretty sure the PSU is around 250 watts or so, so I'm well covered. Assuming that the card that you mentioned doesn't require supplimental power via a PCI Express power connector and therefore is subject to the 75W limit on the PCI Express specification, I'm not sure that I understand how the power supply can be a limiting factor. I understand that graphic card manufacturers will state that you need a certain power supply wattage, but as far as I understand, those are basically just rules of thumb and are very conservative numbers. I've only ever paid attention to those numbers in the cases when I've needed to connect a PCI-Express power connector and needed to understand the specific power requirements on the 12V rail. But again, that doesn't apply in this case if the graphics card that you mentioned is exclusively powered by the PCI Express bus. Can you explain your concern in more detail? If it's simply stressing the life of the PSU... the Dell Optiplex PSUs are so cheap/commodity, I'll just buy a replacement if that's ever an issue (can get them for < $40)

In general, do you have a good source that you use to find the fastest video cards in this configuration? Just curious for future searching...

Thanks again!
Frank
a c 206 U Graphics card
December 1, 2010 4:36:42 PM

Tom's Hardware (on the home page) has some great comparison graphs for GPUs that get updated often. These are a great source for comparison.

Regarding the card I recommended, it does not have an external power connection, so it must draw all power from the PCI-E slot (note that you can rotate the picture on Newegg and view from all angles).

On PSU effectiveness/efficiency, a PSU that operates at or nearly 100% is less efficient. This is true primarily because of the heat generated by the PSU when operated this way. More heat, for sustained periods of time, means the PSU becomes (potentially) less stable and reliable. Trying to keep this simple, but you probably get the idea.

Regardless, I think you would be pleased with the HD5670. It will perform well and Gigabyte makes pretty good stuff. I am sure you saw the reviews for the card and the users seemed, overll, quite happy with the received bang for the buck.
December 1, 2010 5:30:38 PM

Awesome. Thanks again!
December 2, 2010 1:34:35 AM

I did a little more research on this topic. For people wondering about details on how to find these sort of cards, I used the newest "Gaming Graphics Chart" from Tom's Hardware. I started by looking at the 3D Power Draw chart and finding the 9800 GT. I did this because I know that the "eco" version of the 9800 GT is low power enough to not require the additional / external PCI Express power connector. So I considered that my high watermark baseline. I then went down the list (decending power consumption) and looked at each graphics processor type. Specifically I looked at the Sum of FPS Benchmarks 1900 x 1200 with anti aliasing, 8AA (High Quality) chart and compared the performance of that particular graphics card to the 9800 GT, which is the card that I already own. If the card was faster, I googled around to see if a low power version of the card existed (i.e. one that doesn't require a PCI Express power connector).

So, to follow up on COLGeek's post, I actually found that PowerColor makes a low power version of the HD5750 that doesn't require an additional power connector:
http://www.powercolor.com/us/products_features.asp?id=2...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Unfortunately for me, there is no way that this card, which appears to be the fastest graphics card as of today that doesn't require a PCI Express power adapter connection, will NOT fit in my Dell Optiplex 960 Desktop case.

So, the next best option seems to be the HD5670 that COLGeek suggested:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
At approximately 18 cm in length, I believe that this card will fit in my Optiplex 960 Desktop with the PCI Express Riser Card option installed.

Thanks again!
Frank
December 27, 2010 4:13:30 PM

As follow up, the HD5670 is working great in my Optiplex 960. Unfortunately for me, I tried to put my old Zotac into my Optiplex 745 "Desktop" form factor (with riser card), and I was surprised that it didn't fit. Who would have thought there was a big difference between the Optiplex 960 "desktop" and the Optiplex 745 "desktop"? Oh well :) 
!