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Upgrading Graphics Card for High Settings Games

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 1, 2012 7:26:23 AM

Hello all,

I want to play games like Starcraft 2 in the best possible quality. And currently my graphics card just cant get the job done. My budget is really just anything under $500 but im looking for a solid deal. I understand I don't need a $1000 card to run these settings. My current build is as follows:


Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 quad core

Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 645 @ 3.10 GHz

2GB DDR3 Ram

Current Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6450 1 GB

The PSU is 480 Watts.


I think I have enough CPU power for the settings but as you can see my graphics card is lacking. Any suggestions on cards would be appreciated. I am also going to be adding 2 more GB of RAM this holiday season. Maybe even my PSU if the wattage isn't high enough.
a c 79 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 8:37:08 AM

Upgrade ram to 4 GB, it's cheap. CPU may hold you back a little, not sure.

Other than that people will need to know your screen resolution and your actual PSU as "480W" could be anything from 280-500W depending in the manufacturer. Really about anything will be a massive upgrade over the 6450 as it was never meant for gaming. If probably say a 7850 would do wonders for you
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a c 106 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 9:03:07 AM

operating system and 32 or 64bit/monitor and resolution ?
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November 1, 2012 11:11:14 AM

My OS is Windows 7 64 bit. Screen resolution is 1680 x 1050 VGA.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 11:23:43 AM

Zachm90 said:
Hello all,

I want to play games like Starcraft 2 in the best possible quality. And currently my graphics card just cant get the job done. My budget is really just anything under $500 but im looking for a solid deal. I understand I don't need a $1000 card to run these settings. My current build is as follows:


Motherboard: ASUS M5A97 quad core

Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 645 @ 3.10 GHz

2GB DDR3 Ram

Current Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6450 1 GB

The PSU is 480 Watts.


I think I have enough CPU power for the settings but as you can see my graphics card is lacking. Any suggestions on cards would be appreciated. I am also going to be adding 2 more GB of RAM this holiday season. Maybe even my PSU if the wattage isn't high enough.


As far as I am aware SC2 is mostly CPU dependent. Pulled from this link... http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a8-3500m-llano-apu,...

"StarCraft 2 is a benchmark we want to run because it’s very CPU-intensive"

So you might want to look into getting a better CPU. Or you could overclock that CPU some, you will want an aftermarket cooler if you plan on doing that.

Plus Blizzards engine favors Intel CPU, and nvidia gpus perform better in WoW and SC2.
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a c 106 U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 11:38:51 AM

here's a couple of cards. I think the 660 is a better card. true the processor could be better but overall the graphics upgrade is the smarter choice right now.

get 2 - 2gig sticks of ram. the same stuff. don't try and mix and match what you have now. if your board supports 1600 get 1600 not 1333. Your lack of adequate ram has been holding you back a little. you'll realize that when you add more.

you didn't say what 480watt PS you had but not sure right now if you even need to upgrade that or not.

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

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 12:33:03 PM

Hey there Zach,

To clear up the above - there are two separate ways in which SCII can lag.

CPU: In large games with thousands of units in play the CPU can slow down because of the burden of calculating all the units. Even I, with a high end processor and internet encounter this sometimes.

GPU: This is just the ability to run the game on ultra with all the bells and whistles turned on. The number of units on the field will still matter, because the challenge is rendering each one individually, however this can be improved a lot with an upgraded graphic card.

Since you are running at a relatively low 1680 x 1050 VGA, you don't need a hugely expensive video card. {EDIT: I mean to match the performance of your processor and balance the machine well} A $150 card should do fine. You should post your full PSU specs. Once we have that cleared up, Tom's best GPU for the money articles are helpful: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...

Now, if you really have $500 to blow right now ... I might consider getting a 1920x1080 monitor and a $250 video card to run with it ... Monitor size/quality can make a big difference in gaming. Ultra settings on SC won't be as pretty on a small monitor as they will on a large one.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 12:39:18 PM

You need a new desktop, simple as that. Your ram sucks, your cpu sucks and your upgrading capabilities are small because of the old MOBO.
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November 1, 2012 1:01:05 PM

You need to upgrade the RAM, CPU, and mobo. Then look into getting a AMD 7850 or GTX 650.
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 1:10:28 PM

You guys are giving bad advice. He doesn't have the money for a complete rebuild - told us $500. While its true that the X4 645 is a mid to low-end processor, its also a relatively new one, meaning that this level is what he can afford.

Yes, it should be upgraded eventually, but that is MUCH less urgent than the low-end non-gaming GPU he is running.

Upgrade priority is the GPU and PSU. The CPU/RAM/MOBO can come later whenever he saves up the money to do it.
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November 1, 2012 1:22:31 PM

deadlockedworld said:
You guys are giving bad advice. He doesn't have the money for a complete rebuild - told us $500. While its true that the X4 645 is a mid to low-end processor, its also a relatively new one, meaning that this level is what he can afford.

Yes, it should be upgraded eventually, but that is MUCH less urgent than the low-end non-gaming GPU he is running.

Upgrade priority is the GPU and PSU. The CPU/RAM/MOBO can come later whenever he saves up the money to do it.

I didn't know it was for the whole build that 500 dollars. I thought that was just for the gpu. That makes more sense now. Yeah he should focus on upgrading the gpu and the psu. Also Ram if he can.
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November 1, 2012 1:48:49 PM

With 500 you could buy a high end card (say 7950), 4 gb cheap ram (2x2) and a new PSU from a respected brand. Wait for next intel socket and then upgrade cpu, mobo...
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a b U Graphics card
November 1, 2012 2:06:00 PM

Caspase said:
With 500 you could buy a high end card (say 7950), 4 gb cheap ram (2x2) and a new PSU from a respected brand. Wait for next intel socket and then upgrade cpu, mobo...


This is what I would do too. I usually alternate upgrades between graphics/ssd/case and core system parts to spread out the cost.
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November 2, 2012 7:00:15 AM

What kind of CPU should I be looking at then? The PSU I have is pretty cheap it doesn't have any labeling just a couple of numbers.
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a b U Graphics card
November 2, 2012 11:45:47 AM

... so how much are you looking to spend on your PC in total? We kind of pushed you into the idea of multiple spending steps, so I want to make sure we don't overshoot what you really need for this.

I think the best value in building a PC would likely be approximately a $200 processor, $100 motherboard, $200 video card, $60 memory, $70 power supply + anything else you don't already have. In addition, most builds like this would have a 23-24" 1920x1080 monitor (something else you should consider when you can).

I'd say the power supply and the 7850 / GTX 660 suggested above would be a great start. The current processor choice in the 200 range would be a i5 3570, but that may change by the time you get around to upgrading it.

There are lots of PSU sales to watch, but this is a good place to start: (Seasonic, Corsair, Antec, Enermax, PC Power, XFX, and some other companies are known for PSUs)
SeaSonic M12II 520 Bronze 520W SLI Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE - $69
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(the 620w + modular versions are a few $ more)
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a b U Graphics card
November 2, 2012 3:27:13 PM

We don't say he should buy it right now, but he should save his Money instead of wasting them right away.
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