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Dell StudioXPS 8100 GPU Upgrade

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May 21, 2012 11:11:18 AM

Hi All

I need some help.

I have a Dell StudioXPS 8100 which was bought just under two years ago (it'll be two years next exactly next week actually).

GPU
It has a Nvidia GTS 240 GPU (OEM) which doesnt have an HDMI port. The motherboards in-built HDMI is not an option as it appears to be "disconnected" (even if was was connected, it's wouldnt be the preferred option anyway as it would undoubtedly be worse performing than the dedicated GTS 240.

Anyway, the fact that the GTS 240 GPU has no HDMI is going to be a bit of a problem. I'm looking at getting a 3D TV which will double as a monitor for my PC, but in order to get audio AND video to the TV via one cable, I need HDMI!

So, I'm looking to upgrade.

I'm thinking of replacing my Nvidia GTS 240 with a HDMI supported GPU (maybe even better spec?) card so that I can use it on my TV and have audio passed through to the TV. As mentioned, the TV will be 3D (LG passive "Cinema3D") but from what I read Nvidia's 3D Vision GPUs don't yet support the passive 3D TVs, so this won't be a requirement (but wouldnt mind it as a "bonus".

I do some gaming, and also do HD video editing using software like Serif MoviePlus and photo editing in things like Photoshop, but my current card manages these fine so anything that at least matches the GTS 240 spec should be OK.

Could you advise? Ive not bought my own components (apart from RAM & old PCI [yes, not even PCI-E] GPU) so have no idea about pricing.

Sound Card
My system also has some integrated 7.1 sound card, which is a pain in the ***. The terrible RealTek drivers are horrific.

I'm considering getting a proper/dedicated 7.1 sound card. Again, this is only a consideration as Ive never liked the RealTek Software/drivers and have found from my online features that MANY people are having problems with it.

One feature i would like is the ability to artificially convert Stereo audio into a 5.1/7.1 signal, which can then either be played out via 5.1/7.1 PC speakers are passed-through to the TV (which in future may be connected to a full 5.1/7.1 kit) via HDMI. My current Logitech speakers 5.1 have a "Matrix" option which works great, but has to be manually (de)activated. Surely there must be something a dedicated soundcard that can do this? And, before you say pseudo-surround isnt ideal, I'm aware of this. This is mainly to get a full "room-filling" effect from Stereo sources on the PC (such as music), I still want the native multichannel audio to be used if its available (a film/Blu-ray).
The problem with the matrix mode on my current speakers is I cant change it when not at my desk. I'm Physically disabled so often sit on/in bed using PC (watching films/tv listening to music) and therefore cant switch it if a change my source of content (from listening to music to watching a 5.1 film for example).
Surely a card must be out there that can do this?

Could you provide any recommendations? Id prefer a card from a reputable/well known company rather than going the cheaper route.

EDIT: I currently have a set of Logitech X540 speakers, although as i said am looking to get it replaced by a full 5.1 system which will connect via the TV.


BD-RW
this one is of even less importance, but is something i'm also considering.

I don't think it'd be much of a problem choosing a optical drive for use in my system. My main question is is regarding how the drive will open once inserted into my desktop case. The StudioXPS has (what I consider) a fancy "door" which covers the optical drive bays. when the optical drive opens in "pushes" this cover out. That wouldn't be a problem I dont think. What im wondering is how you'd open the drive? The current BD/DVD+/-RW combo drive has a "button" on the side of the optical drive area (as opposed to the button included on the door of the drive itself), which when pressed triggers the drive to open. How would this work with another drive? Is there anything special to look out for when purchasing a drive? i'd prefer not to remove the current Blu-ray/DVD combo.

HDD
I may also look into getting another internal Hard Drive for my system. My main question would be, apart from the physical size of the drive, and the correct SATA connector (which according to the Specsheet is SATA-II not SATA-III which appears to be sold now now), is there anything else to look for?would I need a SATA-II or SATA-III or SATA-what drive?
I'm VERY new to the whole HDD area, so any help would be appreciated.


VERY Newb Question
Is there a way, without opening the case, to find out what PCI/PCI-E slots are used, what is using them and how many are free? I also see from the Specsheet that it the StudioXPS 8100 has Gen2 x1; Gen2 x16 PCI-E slots AND PCI. This would obviously determine my upgrading options (see above). This is why I'd like to know what is being used and what is free (the GTS 240 is obviously using one of these slots). Also, does "Gen2 x1" & "Gen2 x16" mean anything when choosing PCI-E cards? Ive not seen any mention of Gen2 or "x.." when i've done my initial price checks.



The above listed upgrades are listed in order of priority, with the most important listed first. I currently still have 4xx days left on my next day Dell Service warranty, but from passed experience with Dell (and after explicitly confirming with them prior to upgrading to extended warranty) we can make upgrades ourselves without voiding the warranty provided we call them and the "instruct" us on the installation over the phone.

Thanks in advance for your help.
a c 164 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 11:45:02 AM

you have a PCI-E x16 2.0 slot which will work with any card on the market today (PCI-E is backwards compatible)

you don't post a budget but if you don't want to upgrade your PSU (you have a 350w PSU), I would suggest the AMD 7750. it gets all its power from the PCI-E slot, no need for external power from the PSU. your PSU is more then capable of running the card. it offers HDMI out, is a solid gaming card for the occasional gamer, and will handle all your video editing with ease.

review of the HIS 7750 as one example of the card

http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/HIS/HD_7750_iCooler/
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 11:47:26 AM

Salem874 said:
Also, does "Gen2 x1" & "Gen2 x16" mean anything when choosing PCI-E cards?
The x# in PCI-Express slots is the number of transmit/receive lanes for that particular slot.
x16 PCI-E slot will be the video card slot. Your PCI-E slot is here.
x1 PCI-E slot could be a sound card or other add-on card slot.

Sounds cards come in PCI or PCI-e x1 versions.


As far as I can tell only your PCI-e x16 slot is in use by the video card.
x16 is long black slot on the right side with two x1 slots and 1 white PCI slot at the right edge.

Related resources
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 12:20:48 PM

Do you have any idea on the TV make/model you'd get?
May 21, 2012 2:14:35 PM

ct1615 said:
you have a PCI-E x16 2.0 slot which will work with any card on the market today


Thanks, thats good to know

ct1615 said:
PCI-E is backwards compatible


So, any version of PCI-E is compatible with each other?

Just wanted to confirm that the above doesn't mean PCI-E slots can also fit/accept PCI cards (which is my understanding?

ct1615 said:
you don't post a budget but if you don't want to upgrade your PSU (you have a 350w PSU), I would suggest the AMD 7750. it gets all its power from the PCI-E slot, no need for external power from the PSU. your PSU is more then capable of running the card. it offers HDMI out, is a solid gaming card for the occasional gamer, and will handle all your video editing with ease.

review of the HIS 7750 as one example of the card

http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/HIS/HD_7750_iCooler/


As for cost...as my main purpose for the upgrade is to get the HDMI port, I'd be fairly happy with a card that is of at least the same spec as the GTS 240 so wasnt planning on upgrading my PSU.

So you'd suggest any PCI-E GPU that uses the power from the PCI-E would be fine?

WR2 said:
The x# in PCI-Express slots is the number of transmit/receive lanes for that particular slot.
x16 PCI-E slot will be the video card slot. Your PCI-E slot is here.
x1 PCI-E slot could be a sound card or other add-on card slot.


Thanks for the explanation? Am I correct in thinking all GPUs are x16? Or would I need to look at the GPU spec to determine its compatibility/suitability with my x16 slot?

WR2 said:
Sounds cards come in PCI or PCI-e x1 versions.


Thanks for the cconfirmation. I did notice they come in both. I'm assuming its only really the higher quality (thus more expensive ones that are PCI-E?

WR2 said:
As far as I can tell only your PCI-e x16 slot is in use by the video card.
x16 is long black slot on the right side with two x1 slots and 1 white PCI slot at the right edge.
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/OTk4WDE2MDA=/$(KGrHqN,!lkE8HPTf!mIBPPJS4jPf!~~60_57.JPG


Thanks again. So is they no software based method of checking PCI/PCI-E slot availability/usage?

My StudioXPS 8100 also has WiFi & Bluetooth, so suspect this may also use a slot (cant think of any other add-ons thatd use PCI(-E)), but would like know exactly what they use so I dont end up buying the wrong components. I'd guess the Wifi/Bluetooth would use PCI and not PCI-E (thats if theyre separate cards and not integrated). Could you advise on this? i'm sure Bluetooth would be separate, but would Wifi & bluetooth be on card card (as theyre often on one chip in mobile phones) or could wifi be integrated? I hope theyre not two separate cards, as that'd mean I have no spare slots left.

WR2 said:
Do you have any idea on the TV make/model you'd get?


I'm thinking of getting an LG Cinema 3D set. Still trying to decide exactly which one, but am aiming/hoping to have it in the next two months.

Are there any GPUs that support LG's Passive (FPR) 3D (branded as Cinema3D?




a c 164 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 6:06:00 PM

PCI and PCI-E are two separate slots. my backwards compatible example is more in line of using a card PCI-E 3.0 card with a 2.0 slot.

you said you gamed some, that is why recommended the AMD 7750. if all you want is an HDMI port to run to a TV and do some video editing, a card like the $50 AMD 6570 will do it with no problem.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 7:02:44 PM

Salem874 said:
Just wanted to confirm that the above doesn't mean PCI-E slots can also fit/accept PCI cards (which is my understanding)?
No, not physically possible. See the picture above PCI is the white slot.

Am I correct in thinking all GPUs are x16?No. There are x1, PCI and AGP slot GPUs but they are rare. x16 is far and away the most common.
-> You'll want to get an x16 model and a single slot width model at that.
A double wide model would block the 1st PCI-e x1 slot.

I'm assuming its only really the higher quality (sound cards) thus more expensive ones that are PCI-E? Not necessarily. Features on the card determine the cost more than the type of slot it fits.


Speccy System Information app should give you a pretty good look at what's installed in your system.
http://www.piriform.com/speccy


a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 7:16:29 PM

A visual inspection of the backside of the case should let you know how many, and which expansion slots you have vacant.
The Dell XPS 8100 this example has a video card in the top slot (x16), what looks like networking card in the 1st x1 slot, a TV tuner card in 2nd x1 slot and the PCI slot vacant.

a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 7:22:03 PM

Are there any GPUs that support LG's Passive (FPR) 3D (branded as Cinema3D?
Still looking around at that.

My StudioXPS 8100 also has WiFi & Bluetooth
I can't tell if WiFi / Bluetooth use an expansion card slot or a dongle type USB part.
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 8:07:24 PM

HDD
I may also look into getting another internal Hard Drive for my system. My main question would be, apart from the physical size of the drive, and the correct SATA connector (which according to the Specsheet is SATA-II not SATA-III which appears to be sold now now), is there anything else to look for?would I need a SATA-II or SATA-III or SATA-what drive?


Any standard 3.5" SATA HDD will work in your SATA II motherboard ports.
7200rpm versions are favored over the slower 5400rpm models.
If you order a bare drive (OEM) you might need to order a SATA cable if your Dell doesn't have a spare.

Sound Card
It's probably a good idea to wait on choosing a sound card till you have picked out the speakers and TV you plan to buy. That way you can make sure everything has the right connectors and will work nicely together.

a c 139 ) Power supply
May 21, 2012 8:42:12 PM

Salem874 said:
As for cost...as my main purpose for the upgrade is to get the HDMI port, I'd be fairly happy with a card that is of at least the same spec as the GTS 240 so wasnt planning on upgrading my PSU.
What resolution are you currently using for your "some gaming"?
If you're upgrading to a higher resolution like 1920x1080 a similar spec'd graphics card might not be satisfactory.


LG's Passive (FPR) 3D
I can find no brand preference between AMD & Nvidia mentioned in any LG literature or in reviews of LG's Passive (FPR) 3D products.
May 22, 2012 9:07:45 AM

ct1615 said:
PCI and PCI-E are two separate slots. my backwards compatible example is more in line of using a card PCI-E 3.0 card with a 2.0 slot.


Ah, thanks. That was what I'd originally thought, just wanted to make sure as I didnt wanna buy something only to find its unsuitable.

ct1615 said:
you said you gamed some, that is why recommended the AMD 7750. if all you want is an HDMI port to run to a TV and do some video editing, a card like the $50 AMD 6570 will do it with no problem.

WR2 said:
No, not physically possible. See the picture above PCI is the white slot.


Yes, I do some gaming as well as 1080p video editing of home videos.

I dont mind getting the AMD 7750, it looks pretty good. Th only reason I mentioned that my main reason for upgrade was HDMI was that I don't see the need (didn't plan/expect) to upgrade PSU at accommodate the new GPU.

WR2 said:
Am I correct in thinking all GPUs are x16?No. There are x1, PCI and AGP slot GPUs but they are rare. x16 is far and away the most common.
-> You'll want to get an x16 model and a single slot width model at that.
A double wide model would block the 1st PCI-e x1 slot.


I'll have a look at online atsome items to check this out. I'm assuming online retailers should specify if a GPU has double/single width?

WR2 said:
What resolution are you currently using for your "some gaming"?
If you're upgrading to a higher resolution like 1920x1080 a similar spec'd graphics card might not be satisfactory.


Yes, i generally run my system at 1080p (1920x1080). But like i said, I dont mind upgrading to a better spec'd GPU. I just dont see the need/cant justify getting one which needs a new PSU. If the AMD 7750 will be find with my current system I'll probably go with that.

Are there any (similar) Nvidia's you could recommend, just so I can look at both brands. I've never had AMD cards in the passed, always Nvidia so dont know how performance compares between similar products. Could you advise on this as well?

WR2 said:
LG's Passive (FPR) 3D
I can find no brand preference between AMD & Nvidia mentioned in any LG literature or in reviews of LG's Passive (FPR) 3D products.


Thats disappointing :( 


WR2 said:
I'm assuming its only really the higher quality (sound cards) thus more expensive ones that are PCI-E? Not necessarily. Features on the card determine the cost more than the type of slot it fits.


Well, yeah i understand that. I meant that surely the need for PCI-E on a Sound card indicates more/bett features/performance thus increasing price.

WR2 said:
Speccy System Information app should give you a pretty good look at what's installed in your system.
http://www.piriform.com/speccy


Thanks, i'll give speccy a try when I get home this evening
WR2 said:
My StudioXPS 8100 also has WiFi & Bluetooth
I can't tell if WiFi / Bluetooth use an expansion card slot or a dongle type USB part.
http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/33-156-054-TS?$S125W$ http://images17.newegg.com/is/image/newegg/33-162-037-TS?$S125W$


Theyre not USB dongles, its integrated. Im just wondering if they'll be in one card (taking up one slot) or two separate ones

WR2 said:
Sound Card
It's probably a good idea to wait on choosing a sound card till you have picked out the speakers and TV you plan to buy. That way you can make sure everything has the right connectors and will work nicely together.


Good idea! I'll definitely keep that in mind. Although, i'm pretty certain which type/manufacturer of TV i wanna get, it's just the specific model I'm trying to decide on (see above)


Could anyone advise on my query regarding a BD-RW drive (see my Original post).

Salem874 said:
BD-RW
this one is of even less importance, but is something i'm also considering.

I don't think it'd be much of a problem choosing a optical drive for use in my system. My main question is is regarding how the drive will open once inserted into my desktop case. The StudioXPS has (what I consider) a fancy "door" which covers the optical drive bays. when the optical drive opens in "pushes" this cover out. That wouldn't be a problem I dont think. What im wondering is how you'd open the drive? The current BD/DVD+/-RW combo drive has a "button" on the side of the optical drive area (as opposed to the button included on the door of the drive itself), which when pressed triggers the drive to open. How would this work with another drive? Is there anything special to look out for when purchasing a drive? i'd prefer not to remove the current Blu-ray/DVD combo.
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 22, 2012 9:30:38 AM

Salem874 said:
Im just wondering if they'll be in one card (taking up one slot) or two separate ones

Could anyone advise on my query regarding a BD-RW drive (see my Original post).
A visual inspection will answer that question.

If your case does not have the same type button along side the 2nd optical drive bay that your first optical drive has you may need to leave the fancy door cover off so you can reach the button on the drive.
Besides the mechanical button it will also be under the control of software just like your current optical drive.
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 22, 2012 9:40:52 AM

Salem874 said:
Is there anything special to look out for when purchasing a drive? i'd prefer not to remove the current Blu-ray/DVD combo.

HDD
would I need a SATA-II or SATA-III or SATA-what drive?
SATA-II or SATA-III would work even though you only have SATA II connectors on the motherboard.

Your motherboard has four SATA ports/connectors (11,12,14 & 17 on the MB diagram).
Right now you have 1 in use for the current HDD and 1 for the current Blu-Ray ROM drive.
Adding a 2nd HDD and a 2nd Blu-Ray burner will use up the remaining two SATA ports.


a c 139 ) Power supply
May 22, 2012 10:38:34 AM

Salem874 said:
I'm assuming online retailers should specify if a GPU has double/single width?

If the AMD 7750 will be find with my current system I'll probably go with that.

Are there any (similar) Nvidia's you could recommend, just so I can look at both brands. I've never had AMD cards in the passed, always Nvidia so dont know how performance compares between similar products. Could you advise on this as well?
Not always. Retailers might or might not specify. And it's not always possible to tell from photos on a retailers website. If in doubt use other resources like the manufactures website.
#1 obviously a dual slot video card. #2 appears it might be single slot card but the GPU cooler intrudes into the next PCI-e slots 'airspace'.



The only single slot HD 7750 video card on a UK site I'd found so far is this
PowerColor HD7750 model AX7750
XFX FX-775A-ZNP4 Radeon HD 7750 is another single slot model.


At the moment the Nvidia card closest in performance to the HD 6670 is the Geforce GT 545.
ZOTAC GeForce GT 545 Video Card
It is a single slot card as the visual inspection shows. (aka as Geforce GT 440)

Asus AMD Radeon HD6670 EAH6670/G/DI/1GD3
XFX HD-667X-ZHF3 Radeon HD 6670 is also a single slot HD 6670
May 24, 2012 3:22:54 PM

Ive given Speccy a try, and it looks like I have TWO free PCI slots,

1x PCI
1x PCI-E

PLUS the 16x PCI-E thats used by the NVidia GTS 240. So I could add both a new GPU AND a new Sound card.

Also, when using Speccy, i noticed my 2TB HDD (which ive partitioned) comes up as array 0 & array 1. whats this? Are these two drives combined to create the 2TB (and thus using two SATA-II connections), or what? can someone explain please?

Actually, i was thinking about the suggestion to wait on the sound card until I know what speakers/surround equipment i'll use, don't dedicated multichannels cards also have an optical connection? My plan was.
- While i wait on the surround system, use current PC 5.1 speakers (Logitech X540), with sound card connected to GPU HDMI. Plug HDMI into TV to use TV a monitor and get PC sound.
- When i have surround system, i can either use optical to connect from PC to system or use optical from TV to surround system.
So I dont forsee an issue, or am i missing something?

Staying on the sound card thing...Are any/all dedicated multichannel sound cards able to do the kind of pseudo-surround thing on stereo as I described above? If not, what would you recommend?
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 24, 2012 5:32:19 PM

Salem874 said:
TWO free PCI slots, 1x PCI 1x PCI-E

Also, when using Speccy, i noticed my 2TB HDD (which ive partitioned) comes up as array 0 & array 1. whats this? Are these two drives combined to create the 2TB (and thus using two SATA-II connections), or what? can someone explain please?
Which means you have 1x PCI-e slot in use - probably for Wireless network connections.

You don't have a 2GB HDD. You have 2x 1TB HDDs in a RAID array. So you have 3 of 4 SATA ports in use. 1x for your Optical drive and 2x for your HDDs.


a c 139 ) Power supply
May 24, 2012 6:12:50 PM

I think your sound card upgrade plan is complex enough to warrant it's own topic.
May 25, 2012 8:57:31 AM

WR2 said:
Which means you have 1x PCI-e slot in use - probably for Wireless network connections.

You don't have a 2GB HDD. You have 2x 1TB HDDs in a RAID array. So you have 3 of 4 SATA ports in use. 1x for your Optical drive and 2x for your HDDs.


As i suspected, thanks for the confirmation.

So i can either get

1 extra HDD or 1 BD-RW not both

WR2 said:
I think your sound card upgrade plan is complex enough to warrant it's own topic


Ohh, is it big a topic?

Here's the new thread
a c 139 ) Power supply
May 25, 2012 2:16:17 PM

Salem874 said:
So i can either get
1 extra HDD or 1 BD-RW not both
That would be correct, using the internal ports.

There are a few more options for expanding storage.
External drives attached by USB 2.0, eSATA, or Ethernet network connection.

Seagate Expansion 2TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive
http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HD...

a c 139 ) Power supply
May 25, 2012 2:22:58 PM

Salem874 said:
Ohh, is it big a topic?
Not huge. But having a few extra people taking a look can't hurt.
And this topic is approaching the 'wall of text' length that is a lot of ask people to read through.

The 'pseudo-surround by sound card' option for your speakers is always going to have a limit in that it only has input for left/right/center channels. No matter what, the speakers will have to do the surround mix.

June 6, 2012 9:20:23 AM

hi

Sorry for not posting sooner, been quite busy.

WR2 said:
Not huge. But having a few extra people taking a look can't hurt.
And this topic is approaching the 'wall of text' length that is a lot of ask people to read through.


No worries, yeah i see this has turned into a really long thread

WR2 said:
The 'pseudo-surround by sound card' option for your speakers is always going to have a limit in that it only has input for left/right/center channels. No matter what, the speakers will have to do the surround mix.


Id post this in the separate thread for my soundcard query, but i've not had any replies on it yet... :( 

Sorry i'm not sure what you mean? Are you implying that there are no soundcards that do pseudo-surround and that i'm stuck with it being done on the speakers? Im sure if a cheap set of speakers can do it a soundcard (with better on-board processors than a set of speakers will have) should be able to?

!