Will new HTPC benefit from GPU upgrade?


I am selling my old system and it needs a graphics card to speed things up. I need to know whether I would see any significant benefit if I upgrade my new system and swap the current GPU out, or should I just buy a very small video card for the old system? I never game - I watch and transcode movies while recording TV and Office apps.

Old system: Radeon 5450 1Gb DDR3 $29

New system: Radeon 7750 1Gb Gddr5 $109

Current GPU: Nvidia GT-430 1Gb DDR3 Works very well in the old system. Speeds things up a lot with Hardware acceleration.

Old System Specs:

* Dell Vostro 200 (2008) and Case (mid-ATX)
* CPU: Core 2 Duo 1.67 Ghz, 1M L2, 65nm, 65w
* Motherboard: LGA 775 G33M02 microATX
* Ram: 3Gb DDR2 PC2-5300
* PSU - 300w Dell original 12v-18a 5v-22a
* HDD - 1 250Gb 7200rpm

New System Specs:

* Intel G860 3Ghz, 2xCore
* Nvidia GT430 1Gb
* Asus P8Z68-V LE
* 8Gb DDR3 1333
* Rosewill Redbone U3 case (mid-ATX)
* Antec 430w 80plus Bronze
* 2x 1TB HDD - Hitachi Desktars 7200rpm
* Toshiba 32inch HDTV
* TV Card - PCTV 800e USB
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  1. If your current system is handling the video applications that you do use it for without any sort of issue with the quality you see produced, I would stick with what you have. A gaming-oriented graphics card on a HTPC is just a bit of a waste, honestly. I have a HD 6670 in mine (a step below the HD 7750), and it's just noisy overkill. I would have opted for the HD 6450 with passive heatsink design if I didn't have the 6670 laying around unused. Also, while you have a fairly solid quality PSU, it is still only rated at 430w. No doubt you could make it all fit with some overhead left, but why add the most power hungry component into a currently quite energy efficient (and thus I would imagine quuiet) system?

    BTW, the old system you are selling is supposed to have onboard graphics with that mobo. Don't know if there is a reason you aren't just letting the buyer decide how to approach the graphics situation as it fits their needs, but at this point I wouldn't add any money I didn't absolutely need to that setup. I have an Acer laptop with nearly the same processor and memory specs, and I realized long ago that having a system that was entry-level for the time it was purchased has produced a machine roughly comparable to a hybrid word processor and Kindle Fire in terms of performance. If you can get video from an onboard output on the old machine, I'd be content to leave it at that......
  2. Thanks for the advice. Agreed on the new system. Probably stick to the current Gt 430 then.

    On the old system, taking the GT 430 out made such a huge difference in overall speed of applications that use hardware acceleration (Firefox etc.) that I don't have the heart to sell it to my friend like that. It may also be that I am just now "feeling" its true slowness since building my new system, but it really gives me "road rage" when I use it without the video card now.

    In addition my friend needs the HDMI, and this is a backup computer for his animation drawing. I told him it will be slow but the animations will at least run with that 5450 card. (Truth: I broke the last 4350 I had in it.) I am selling it for $100 to replace his single core Dell with an old S-video card in it. He has an i7 laptop and just needs backup.

    Could he do better for $100? If so I'll sell it on Craigslist as-is like you say.
  3. Another question while I've got your attention: I got the new 430w PSU on advice from this forum. I am planning to get an i5 or i7 in a few months (it's a build in progress.) Did I screw up? Will the 430w be OK if I keep the GT 430 in it and upgrade the cpu?

    For further information: I'm also planning on getting another dual tuner TV card -- making 3 tuners running at once. The other guy, and the PSU test website seemed to think I'd be fine.
  4. The PSU question really can only be answered as "it depends"- I don't know what your plan is for the final system configuration or purpose. Generally, I would imagine if you are looking at i5 or i7 chips, you would want to then really consider upgrading the GPu. I would also imagine you would want the option to at least be able to safely overclock. If you really were just swapping the CPU and adding the TV tuner, you would more than likely be just fine. However, I don't encourage the idea of running the power supply at nearly full capacity just to have the computer perform basic tasks. Not only does efficency go way down when you get near the top of the output capacity, but noise and ripple in the power distribution are going to be more prevalent most of the time.

    Before I go off and suggest a specific handful of PSU's though, I am curious if there is a reason you aren't just looking at a more affordable i3 CPU if this will remain a HTPC-purpose rig? Just the noise from cooling a higher-end chip will sort of defeat the concept of an entertainment system. I am actually thinking about going down from my Athlon X3 455 to a Athlon X2 270 simply to save the 30w in power consumption and let me install quieter cooling solutions.

    As for your friends situation- it's hard to find a decent case and entry level mobo for under $100, so he is getting a deal if there is any improvement from his present system's speed. I would highly suggest he consider trying Lubuntu instead of Windows though- even if he needs to install them side-by-side so he can opt for the Windows OS if specific MS applications are important to him. I would say it improved the speed of my Core 2 Duo laptop by at least 50%. The entire OS is only around 800mb but still feels as well developed as Win 7.
  5. Ended up getting another GT 430 for $35 for the old computer (since I know it works well and it's cheap.)

    I will put XP on it for him because he knows it well, it's fast and he needs to get on it without fooling around in emergencies. He also has specific applications he needs on Windows.

    About PSU's for the i5 or i3: The new system is in a big case in which I've spent a log of time modding for airflow and dust protection. I've never heard the fans change speed. This is my full-time computer as well as an HTPC. I don't have a "plan" for the system other than upgrading when something annoys me. Just figured 3 background recordings plus my usual 100+ tabs in Firefox would be that annoyance-trigger. :-) I bought the mobo and case with many years in mind because I treat my machines like pampered pets. Never killed one yet!

    But I was just thinking ahead. What I really want to spend money on in the near future is a new sound system. THAT is what is annoying me now.
  6. Ah, all makes good sense now. I forget there are people with *one?!* system and not a half-dozen ongoing projects. :D

    In regards to the PSU, I would simply suggest that you consider swapping it out for a good Seasonic unit with a higher power rating whenever you decide it's time to upgrade the PSU or graphics card to a more powerful (and power-hungry) component. The only reason to change now would be if you are still in the time window of being able to exchange the unit you selected and are running now. There are good black Friday sales on PSU's today, but they seem to either be the units rated around the same as yours, or the super high-end units that are amazing deals to only be $99 instead of $200 today. Not much to jump at in the way of 500-600w mid-tier units I've seen.
  7. Dho! I really hope I didn't screw up with this PSU. A guy here that had impressive knowledge of cpu/mobo combos off the top of his head recommended it. I did not intend to upgrade it again for a long time. He understood that I was going to upgrade the cpu before I do much else. I also added every thinkable gadget to the PSU calculator before I bought it. When I do it now with i5 2500, ATI 7750 video, a Blu Ray, 20% aging and a bunch of extra PCI crap for good measure I get 426w recommended. This is extreme and I will never have all these things connected.

    I never overclock. Fried parts are inconvenient. :-)

    In the past I have only taxed my PSU (on that old system) when I had 3 hard drives connected plus and extra Wlan card on the PCI slot. When I tried to play a DVD it wouldn't play. Disconnected one HDD and the Wlan, and Voila! -- working DVD player. Mouse stopped its skipping too. Even then I suspect it was the age of that PSU.

    Never had those problems on this system and I'll be upset if I do.
  8. Nah, you didn't screw up with the PSU choice. The person who suggested it was actually quite well informed to have picked the unit he did. I am assuming that you have the Earthwatts 430w (green case)? That supply is actually manufactured by Seasonic for Antec, so you have a really high quality supply that should give good, clean power with low noise/ripple. It just is a bit lower in output than I would generally feel comfortable with, but then again, I usually have overclocked every component possible before I even install the operating system on my rigs, so I've grown the habit of feeling lots of headroom is an absolute requirement. ;)

    In your case, the PSU is more than you could ever need as the system sits now, and will still be safe for stock voltages if you don't go any further with the upgrades than everything you listed. Just an FYI too, the odds are that something else was causing the issue with the previous system and the DVD/HDDs/Wlan functionality. The most a typical desktop hard disk requires is around 10w, and I can't imagine a PCI network card being more than a few watts at most.

    Lots of rambling- bottom line is I think that I may have scared you quite a bit more than was needed

  9. Oh! About quieting your system for HTPC use: I did some extremely cheap mods to my fans and now HDD clicks are the loudest thing I hear. (I like it that way, though, because it alerts me to new, sneaky background tasks.)

    First, after investigation, I found that my side-panel-fan was vibrating the case. After flipping it over I now suspect the blade was grazing the side -- the noise-difference was that big! By trial-and-error I found I needed to flip the front and back panel fans as well, to make the air flow ratio kosher, thus the coolest temperature.

    Second, I wrapped my fans tight in $1 black pantyhose (the knee-highs) for dust protection. I covered everything except the CPU and PSU fans.

    I also stretched a piece of pantyhose across my side-panel vent-holes. This I attached with 4 spare nuts & bolts I had. i painted the bolt-heads with black nail polish (gggirlgeek)! (You can also use picture-hanging putty in places where it doesn't show. The idea is to have filters that are easy to replace when the dust collects. (I stuffed an old fabric softener into the front panel of the Dell when all else failed.)

    The pantyhose mod is going to provide a bit of vibration protection since there will be a very thin layer screwed between the case and the fans or psu. That's why I mentioned it. You may not need the next step.

    I cut small pieces of rubber out of a $1, black pair of work gloves from the Dollar Tree. (Kitchen gloves work fine but black looks nicer.) Then, I screwed these in between my case and my wrapped fans.

    For the hard drives, I screwed pieces of the pantyhose between the HDDs and the rack. You can even double it up. The rubber is too thick for those tiny screws but you can try. Might work for the fans too.

    Last, since I have such a roomy case, with 5 fans, I don't need to worry about cooling as much as the noise amplified in this metal echo chamber. So I stuck a folded piece of packing foam in one of the empty 5.25" racks. Note that the stuffed rack is well above any possible air flow across the motherboard, and it's above my DVD drive too, with space in between. I figured that's better than no air getting to it at all. Saw no rise in temps.

    In one system the metal side panels were the problem. Once I screwed them on tight the vibrating quieted. However, I'll be investigating to find the source, and applying the mods above before I sell it to my friend.
  10. Thanks for the reassurance on the PSU. That's exactly what I thought when I bought it. I'm not going to worry about it when I upgrade the cpu unless its old.

    As for the old system, I tried EVERYTHING to get the DVD working before suspecting the PSU. The unreliable mouse is what tipped me off. So I disconnected all but the essentials and found out it worked as long as less was plugged in.

    This is the system my friend is buying. He's a good friend. Should I worry? I don't think it's worth the extra $80 to replace the psu now, but selling him a lemon is not an option. The system works great when I fire it up now.

    ....I guess I'll prep it for him and then test his animation software on it myself. (I'm popping his old hard drive in it anyway, so I'll be able to test his true configuration.) That sounds like the best way to go. Some would say I should benchmark it but, along with overclocking, these are the 2 things I stay away from. I've actually smelled smoke when a friend killed his system while benchmarking. All of my systems were in great condition upon retirement after 7+ years so I'm doing something right. :-)
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