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Upgrading to an HDMI graphics card

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
September 20, 2012 7:10:27 PM


I could do with some advice, please. I recently bought a Lenovo M57e 9487 Dual Core pc to use with my TV. Its a small form factor and black so it sits below the black TV and black TIVO, dvd, etc. Its sort of fulfills the function of a WiFi bridge and a NAS drive. I download TV programmes and at the moment I put them on a stick and plug them into the USB on the TV. I want to use the Lenovo to watch them without that hassle.

So I'm thinking of adding an HDMI port. It seemed really straightforward when I started out. But the more I've read the more confused I've become! There are some graphics cards on eBay in the region of £25.00 but I read that a XP Pro pc with a Pentium Dual Core might struggle and be jerky, and that my power supply might not be up to the job.

So, the questions:

The Lenovo has an integrated graphics card and free PCI and a PCIe slots. Could I upgrade to a graphics card with an HDMI port?

Would it make a different? Or would it be just as easy to use the VGA port and an audio lead? My normal pc has a great sharp image on a 20" monitor and it has a Pentium D processor (as you can see I'm far to tight to buy new computers).

What would I need to spend? The eBay cards are for eg ATI Radeon HD 4650 or Sapphire 11166-01-20R HD 5450. I'm guessing they are coming out of older computers.

Is my power supply up to it? And how do I find out what the power requirements of a card are?

And is there anything else I should be thinking about?

The Spec:
Pentium Dual E2140 @ 1.60 GHz
2Gb RAM (upgradeable to 4Gb)
160GB SATA drive
Intergrated graphics.
XP pro SP3
Lenovo are a bit unclear, Everest can't read it and I can't see it!
Power supply Delta Electronics DBS 280G Max Output 280W

Lots of questions. But basically, can I do it and would it be worth it?

a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 7:36:10 PM

Why on Earth did you buy that for what you want to do, obviously you bought it used right?

The Pentium E2140 been discontinued for a few years now, it's way underpowered, short on ram, the hd is too small and no built in HDMI, so basically it's not what you need.

Can you return it, or sell it and buy what you need? I mean what you need should cost no more than about $300 (without monitor or OS)

September 20, 2012 9:06:28 PM

He he. No, I bought it new. We're a little behind the times over here. Of course I bought it second hand! That's the fun of these projects.

But, you have to play the game. You can't really answer a question by saying it's the wrong question. I'm asking for some technical help here. I know it's a slow old machine. I work in a computer store. But the cheapest I can buy a pc that will cope with the job easily is £300, which is about $450 and I don't want to spend that on a pc that will sit under my TV for it@s lifetime.

So if anyone can help with question please feel free to contribute.
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a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 9:15:45 PM

Yea its a bit of a misfit processor, I would think it could handle HD video but may be borderline.... you might see some choppiness depending on the codec.

A 5450 will work and probably aid you in some ways + give you the ability to use HDMI as an output.
a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 9:25:56 PM

I built a 300 (~£230 or so) G530 + H61 PC that is fully loaded for playback and would slaughter than Lenovo. Return it or sell it and build yourself a tiny HTPC playback box. I seriously doubt your system has the balls for anything beyond 1 or 2CD XviD rips.
a c 101 U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 9:35:21 PM

If your TV has VGA + audio, I would start with trying that. Why buys something new if you can get by with what you have. I do not think you will loose much noticeable quality.

As for video play back it depends on what you are looking for.

If you want HD, a video card(With HDMI) to do the havly lifting would go a long way.

If you are on SD video for the time, I would just load up VLC and see how it goes.

Your power supply will keep you in the lower end of the video card(7750 at the top end of it, but over budget) spectrum, but HD playback should be ok for many low end cards as long as the playback software uses hardware acceleration on the video card.
September 20, 2012 10:02:16 PM

Thanks chaps. Very helpful. Am I right that if the monitor (TV in this case) is plugged into the graphics card it will override the onboard one or do I have to tell the BIOS?
a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 10:08:20 PM

nukemaster said:
If your TV has VGA + audio, I would start with trying that. Why buys something new if you can get by with what you have. I do not think you will loose much noticeable quality.

As for video play back it depends on what you are looking for.

If you want HD, a video card(With HDMI) to do the havly lifting would go a long way.

If you are on SD video for the time, I would just load up VLC and see how it goes.

Your power supply will keep you in the lower end of the video card(7750 at the top end of it, but over budget) spectrum, but HD playback should be ok for many low end cards as long as the playback software uses hardware acceleration on the video card.

You will lose a stack of quality. VGA is blurry and crap blown up to 1080p, especially on a modern TV.
a b U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 10:17:28 PM

Just rip to a format handled in hardware by the video card you get and you shouldn't really have a problem. My old laptop is not much more than what you have and it handled HD video just fine with the intgrated GMA X4500 gpu.
a c 101 U Graphics card
September 20, 2012 10:22:09 PM

henzerani, Some systems will auto disable onboard while others will not, You will find out when the time comes :) 


Then modern TV have crap ADCs. That would be strange as TV's generally have very good scaling engines to handle the various input resolutions(480i, de-interlace + scale | 720i, de-interlace + scale | 720P, scale | 1080i deinterlace | 1080p, do nothing)

I have a 1920 x 1200 screen with HDMI/VGA/DVI/Component/Composite/Svid ect

Guess what with the difference to a slight color difference in the reds(most likley due to the video cards DAC) the blurriness is not actually even that bad at all(I would go as far to say that 1 in every 100 may be able to notice or guess about it.).

Please explain this blown up to thing you speak of? Are you saying VGA is incapable of that screen resolution?(did you have a cable from the dollar store by any chance?) This is not S-Vid/Composite we are talking about.
September 21, 2012 7:54:21 AM

Thanks Paddy and Popatim. Nukemaster, you seem to be saying what always seems to happen in practice. I may do what you expect and it may not! So I'll worry about disabling the onboard graphics if it happens. Actually, I should try it through VGA. I was so focused on sorting out the sound.

Nukemaster, I was thinking that when Geekapproved was commenting on my sysyem. TVs are sophiticated things these days and they should have the processing power to compensate for imput.

So, has anybody got any ideas about which card would do the job?

Best solution

a c 101 U Graphics card
September 21, 2012 3:47:56 PM

Any modern low end card will take the load off for HD video, but some just do it better.

For instance a 4350/4550 will do the job but lack the power for most of the video enhancements(edge enhance/de-pixelate/full range[0-255] to make the blacks black as they can be and not a greyish color) offered by faster cards. All you get on that care is flesh tone correction and color vibrance.

If all you are watching is BD moves, those features are not "Needed", but for some DVD's they are nice to have.

If you are watching stuff off the net, you still get lots of SD and 720p stuff. Most[but you may still run into some stuff that does not play smoothly] of it should play on cpu power alone.

5570 (15 watts on bluray/38 on games) lesss performance
GTS 430(10 watts bluray) or 7750[if you plan to game,this is faster](22 watts bluray) if you have the power(12 volt rail) for it. Both game in the in the 40 wattarea for the most part, but can get a bit higher if pushed.
September 22, 2012 7:29:47 PM

Thanks nukemaster. I've run up against the power supply problem. I can get a 5450 from £20 ($30) but most recommend 400W PSUs. I'm now considering whether it is worth upgrading the PSU. Don't know much about them. Prices start from £15 ($20) for 400W but I'm guessing that won't be great.

I should probably ring up one of the component companies and ask.
a c 101 U Graphics card
September 22, 2012 9:51:05 PM

A 5450 takes at MOST 15 watts(if you overclocked it and all). So no way in hell it needs a 400 watt power supply unless it was a 5$ power supply. 20$ 400 watt power supplies tend not to be that good.

All this is to compensate for real bad power supplies on the market, but 400 watts for that card is just being way to overcautious.

A 4550 is not going to be any faster then a 4350(ok, just slightly), so for the most part, don't game on it and do not expect too much in the way of video enhancements.
September 24, 2012 7:40:17 PM

Thanks Nukemaster. Good of you to spare the time. I felt like I knew quite a lot about computers!

I just phone a store and they told me nothing would work with that power supply. Feeling nervous. Do you reckon it's worth a shot? Also, I've come up with a Geforce GT610 which has a recommended 300W. What about that?

What is the issue with the power supply? I understood that Wattage was cumulative (ie the motherboard PLUS processor plus hard drive plus the disk drive, etc)? I'm thinking that playing a dvd or an .avi file is not going to call on much power, is it.

Next up is the PCIe 2.1 and 2.0 issue that seems to be well covered on the forum. I guess life is one big challenge.

a c 101 U Graphics card
September 24, 2012 10:33:28 PM

for about 99% of users PCI-E compatibility will not be an issue. It is rare to have an issue with this kind of thing.

I have never even seen a 610 in action, but it sure is a low power card(30 watts or so), I will give it that much.

I would count gaming out for sure.

Please get a model number of even a picture of your power supply if you can. It is important to know just how much 12 volt current you have to play with.

If I listened to the box, I would not be running a 5770 on a 300 watt power supply :) . This is not a hey you go do that type thing. It as you say is about how much power everything in the system needs. In my case, the 5770 fit right in :) 

Yes that does give you some strange looks when people ask about the power supply on a i5 750 + 5770 + 2 hard drive system :) .

I would call that as FAR as I would ever go on that system even with the power supply not pulling over 180 at the highest loads I could generate because I do want it to at least last and this system was built with low power in mind.
September 25, 2012 4:36:31 PM

Thanks Nukemaster

I can't work out how to upload an image.

The model is Delta Electronics DPS-280JB A

Input: 100-127v~/8A, 200-240v~/4A 50-60Hz
LENOVO(I) P/N:41A9718 CRU NO:41A9717 EC NO:L10644
LENOVO(C) P/N: 36001471
OUTPUT =12V / 17.0A, -12V /0.5A, +5V /14.0A, +5VAUX /2.0A, +3.3V /18.0A
MAX 280W


On the output there are some symbols that look like "approximately equal to"

Does this mean anything?

a c 101 U Graphics card
September 26, 2012 3:59:01 AM

Ok well the important number is the 12 volt current as that is what most of the system uses.

So you have 204 watt(17a x 12v = 204w) MAX to play with.

You have a CPU rated at 65 watts, but chances are it does not use nearly that much as higher end parts from the Core2 Duo days had the same rating.

Tom's hardware puts your cpu under 45 watts max load.

Tomshardware had a system(your cpu) with a 3850(75-90 watt card if pushed hard enough) video card running under 200 watts.

Now the lower the better. and realize you have to push a system hard to max out its power use.

This should leave most video cards without a power connector(75 watts and under) as usable on your system.

Remember to get the best for your use. So passive if you want quiet, low profile if needed ect. but remember those are not gaming cards.
September 26, 2012 7:01:20 PM

Thanks yet again. This pc is going to sit underneath the main TV set so even if I was a gamer I'd be in deep, deep trouble if I tried to play anything. So it really is a way of watching films and shows. And also, quite importantly, for me to learn and play about. If this works I can think about building my own home media system and maybe even trying to do what Sonos do with wireless speakers. And despite being older this pc is actually quite a lot better than my Dad's Packard Bell pc so it might make an interesting Christmas present!

So what about something like this? These 5450 cards seem to be recommended for media and home theatre systems. They're silent and low profile.,2549...

Sorry to keep asking questions but does it matter who makes the card? Asus are a well known brand and we stock their laptops as a mid to high end. Interestingly Asus say in their spec section that this card is suitable for most processors.
a c 101 U Graphics card
September 26, 2012 7:24:47 PM

The Asus card you link is not low profile, but if you do not need low profile it should work fine. Many of the low profile cards are also thicker(2 slots).

That said, I have a 4350(Asus) that was picked up for media center use, it works, but does not move the media center interface too nice(slow downs), but the video playback is ok(with the exception to no full range so blacks are dark grey). I used a 5770 after that for more power and gaming.

I later swapped back to the 4350 because its silent and i was not playing games on that system any more and the 5770 was better suited to replace a 4870 in another system.

While I call the 4350 acceptable, a bit more power would be nice. I am not sure how much faster the 5450 is, but as long as its is slightly faster, it should help with video.

Again, make sure your video player can use the card.
October 3, 2012 6:52:56 AM

Best answer selected by henzerani.
a c 101 U Graphics card
October 3, 2012 1:14:32 PM

So, I take it you have everything all setup and running now? Hows the video testing go?
October 7, 2012 4:30:51 PM

Hi Nukemaster

Big thank you for talking me through this. I didn't know which of your answers helped the most so I've just selected one of the many. I've been offline for a while as I upgraded to a new router. I managed to unintentionally score a free upgrade to a 30MB/ 300Mbs connection whilst looking into speeding up my home network. I connect through the UK's only cable company and whilst they have way by the fastest broadband they have rubbish backup and the new connection failed to work. Still, all fixed now.

I went for the Asus in the end and it had a low profile bracket enclosed. Annoyingly it was the wrong way round for the slots. I had two spare slots, one over a PCI and the other over the PCIe. I nearly got it fitted but the hard drive wouldn't quite fit back in so I've had to order a single bracket off eBay. In the meantime I've fitted it without a bracket which is not ideal at it is just supported by the connection! I'm not going to be able to use the VGA as it is on the wrong side, but I've had to connect it through VGA to install the drivers.

So far all has gone well. The drivers have installed and the system rebooted. I'm just about to set it up via HDMI and try to play something. Fingers crossed!

On a separate point I've just posted a question about an error message. You wouldn't know why I get a "A: Drive Error" message? I'm guessing it has something to do with the hard drive, which doesn't look like the original one.
a c 101 U Graphics card
October 7, 2012 4:41:03 PM

a: is normally a floppy, do you have one installed, maybe not plugged back in. If you plug it backwards the light will stay on forever on it.

I would just cut the damn bracket in half and toss the VGA side if you are not using it, it should unplug from the card.

I am using VGA :)  (HDMI overscan on this screen sucks(and can not be adjusted to look nice) and DVI is taken, all other connections are far worse.)Sure it requires "work" to get BD to play....
October 7, 2012 6:54:16 PM

Well it worked . . . sort of!

The sound is coming out of the desktop speaker. I can't get it to change to the TV. I've been through the options on the Control panel and I looked through the ATI settings. I tried plugging the audio cable between the devices which cuts the sound from the desktop but doesn't move it to the TV. Any ideas?

Actually, I sorted it. Just need to close the video clip while making the alterations!!!
a c 101 U Graphics card
October 7, 2012 7:24:13 PM

Once you set the default audio, it should work from then on.