hello, i need some advice for upgrading a dell inspiron 580 that came with intel hd graphics. i've been doing a lot of research on how to get better performance but i'm a little overwhelmed at all the mechanical stuff, so i thought i'd get some opinions from experts to point me in the right direction.
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: asap
BUDGET RANGE: ~ $150, variable (see below)
USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming
CURRENT GPU AND POWER SUPPLY: intel hd graphics, 300w
OTHER RELEVANT SYSTEM SPECS: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 550 @ 3.20GHz - 3.2 GHz Performance Rated at: 5.92 GHz - 6gb RAM - Windows 7 64-bit
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: amazon, but not important
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: n/a
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1080p native
the main reason for upgrading is to run world of warcraft at high settings without the framerate going down in high-traffic instances. but i'm also interested in how much performance i could get just by upgrading the GPU, and possibly the power supply. i'd like to run games like bf:bc2 and gta iv (with mods), and have them look better than on my 360, but if that's unrealistic for the rest of my system then i wont bother.
thanks for reading if you need any additional info let me know
my monitor is 1080p but i dont really have a target resolution, just looking for the best all-around performance that my cpu could muster with an upgraded gpu. with that setup, what kind of performance could I expect from gta iv? noticeably better than on my 360, in regard to detail and fps (lets say in 1280×720)? i understand it's fairly processor-intensive, so would my cpu be a limiting factor there?
i could also go as high as $250 or so if it can get respectable performance on gta iv and modern-ish shooters. but again, not sure if my processor is up to task
It really is best to aim for a setup that can use your monitor's native resolution. The native resolution represents the physical number of pixels making up the screen and using a lower resolution will introduce some pixel distortion.
In general a dual core at 3ghz or better will be fine for the vast majority of current games and you have one of the best available so don't worry about the processor much. I wouldn't bother pairing it with the current $300+ cards but a GTX 460 like the one I linked is a good match.
GTAIV is a unique case as it's a very poorly optimized port and is very cpu intensive and likes a lot of video memory to max out settings. That said your i3 should still handle the game pretty well. I played through the game on a slightly weaker processor and the performance was acceptable. Never played it on a 360 so I can't give a direct comparison but with a card like the GTX 460 you should be able to run the game at 1080p with rather high settings while the 360 renders the game at 720p at around what would be medium settings on the pc version. FYI in general raising resolution and graphical settings puts more stress on the GPU and not the CPU. So in games where the processor is the limiting factor you wont gain much by lowering res/settings.