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Dell Optiplex 960 Mini Tower: Upgrading GPU-- HD 7750 vs. 6860

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 23, 2012 3:01:08 PM

Hey everyone! This is my first post here but I've been reading and searching for quite a bit now. My experience in computers is minimal at best.

I was given a Dell Optiplex 960 ‘mini tower’ a few months ago as a gift and have been enjoying some more modern games with it (my last PC was a Gateway P6860 FX laptop—which I still have). Some of the games that I play are FIFA 2012, Medieval Total War II, Battlefield 2, Battlefield 2142 and I am DEFINITELY going to be buying the new Rome: Total War when it comes out next year.

The computer runs FIFA 12 just fine right now on very low settings, but my goals are to be able to play FIFA 13 and to be able to play the new Total War game, both on medium setting. While I know that the Optiplex is a decent system, I understand that it has limitations (as does my budget) and I’m not looking to make an amazing gaming rig out of it. I just want to be able to boost the graphics considerably.

In light of this, I’m coming to you all for some help with upgrading. I believe the Optiplex currently has:

GPU: ATI Radeon HD 3400
Memory: 4 GB DDR3 (not sure if it’s DDR3, assuming so).
Processor: E8400 @ 3.00 GHz
The PSU is rated at 305W

I’m looking to spend about $200 total.

I know that if I want to upgrade my GPU significantly, I will need the riser that will give me the second PCI slot ( link here: http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c...)

The bottom line is that I don’t want to spend $100 on a low profile card and get a marginal upgrade in my playability if I can spend $200 on the riser, PSU and a full video card and DRAMATICALLY increase my satisfaction. I wouldn’t mind spending $200 on a low profile card and a new PSU if the card could do what a midrange full-size card could.

Can an expensive low profile card match the performance of a full-size card?

Thank you all in advance for your help.
October 23, 2012 3:59:30 PM

What resolution are you gaming at?
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October 23, 2012 4:14:20 PM

Right now, somewhere in the 800 range (read: the lowest possible) in an effort to maximize frame rate.
October 23, 2012 4:32:53 PM

You said you have a mini tower? In which case a full height card should work. Dell tends to quote their PSUs on the mean (continuous) vs max load. Basically anything that does not require a 6-pin power will work.
October 23, 2012 4:55:32 PM

Yes, I have the mini tower. My reading has led me to believe that even in the mini tower there was only one PCIe slot. Hmmm, I think I see the issue-- I thought that 'low profile' meant that it only required one PCIe slot, and that full height cards needed 2 PCIe slots. I guess I was wrong and now I feel pretty newbish.

Here's what the Dell website says I have for slots:

Slot 1: 1 PCIe x16 full height graphics -(H: 4.376" X L: 7.400")/(111.15mm X 187.96mm)
Slot 2: 1 full height PCI -(H: 4.376" X L: 7.400")/(111.15mm X 187.96mm)
Slot 3: 1 full height PCI -(H: 4.376" X L: 6.600")/(111.15mm X 167.64mm)
Slot 4: 1 full height PCIe x1 -(H:4.376" x L: 6.600")/(111.15mm X 167.64mm)

Does this mean that I can take PCI Express 3.0 x16 or just PCI Express x16?

Now I have too many options! How do I narrow it down?

How does this look?

ASUS HD7750-1GD5-V2 Radeon HD 7750 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card (Link Here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...)
October 24, 2012 2:56:04 PM

What it means is that a double-slot card, such as the one you posted (Asus HD7750) will take up the slot allocated to the PCIe x16 and the one below it (IIRC, that is a PCI slot...I looked up the MB layout yesterday). Since few people use both PCI slots, this will be just fine.

PCIe 3.0 is backwards compatible. The primary improvement of 3.0 over 2.0 (and 2.0 over 1.0/1.1) is increased bandwidth. I think the 7750 will not be handicapped by an older PCIe slot as the Optiplex 960 has a PCIe x16 2.0 slot.

I think the second card you picked out would work fine. Don't pay extra for a single slot card.
October 24, 2012 2:59:17 PM

Just to add, a double-slot card uses two slots on the back of the computer (you have to take out two of the metal brackets on the back panel), but it uses only one PCIe slot on the motherboard. So the fact that you only have one PCIe slot does not matter. You would only need two PCIe slots if you were trying to add two graphics cards (SLI or Crossfire).
October 24, 2012 4:41:20 PM

Thank you so much for the reply. Now I'm stuck on what I want to do.

Spend ~$100 for a card that I can plug into my rig without upgrading the power supply

or

Spend ~$200 for a much heftier video card and a new power supply to run it.

Headroom is always good, I'm sure, when it comes to graphics cards. I'm not huge on shooters, but if I did want to play one it would probably be Battlefield 3. Like I said, though, I'm interested in being able to play FIFA 13 on medium settings at least and the new Rome: Total War when it comes out.

I'm trying to decide between sticking to a more modest budget with the 7750 and going for the whole nine with a 6860 or 6870.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on what they would do. The graphics card is probably all that I'll ever change on this bad boy, so if the performance of the 6860 isn't much better than the 7750, I'll probably stick with the 7750.
October 24, 2012 5:55:33 PM

What resolution would you LIKE to game at? If you are staying with the same resolution or close to it (<1080) then the 7750 might be good enough. Save the $100 for an ivy bridge/piledriver setup (depending on your other usage and budget). I have found the 4670 to play the games (mostly 2010 vintage) I like on high settings at 1080. So I spent my money on more RAM and an SSD...Neither helped with gaming much, but since I use it for productivity 90% of the time, it made a big difference.

According to benchmarks, the 7750 puts out 28fps in Crysis 2 at 1900x1200 with DX11 and the "high res texture pack". Don't know if that indicates the detail settings. It was a couple fps higher that the 6850.
October 24, 2012 6:15:55 PM

The Optiplex will be a gaming computer exclusively. I comparison shop on it maybe once or twice a month, but I don't even have the office suite on it.

I don't know much about resolution, but I'm not satisfied with the current amount of detail that I'm getting out of the graphics of my games. As such, I suppose I'd like to be right around 1080 if I can.

I don't want to spend $100 for 'might be good enough'. I want it to definitely be good enough for me to run a lot of games consistently.

Regarding the 7750 vs the 6850--does your final statement about the framerates of the 7750 being better than the 6850 imply that the 7750 is a better card? I was under the impression that it was the other way around.

Now I'm really confused. Would the 6870 be definitively better than the 7750 then?
!