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Replacing Video Card on Dell XPS 720

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February 23, 2013 2:30:53 AM

I have a Dell XPS 720 which I use for some gaming and photo editing. Despite being 5 years old, it has held up fairly well, though I haven't tried throwing any of the recent really graphics-heavy games at it. I know most of the components are out classed by just about anything on the mI'd like to be able to keep up with games for at least another couple years if I can, even if I can't always have them on the highest settings.

Just in the past week, my graphics card died. It was the original GeForce 8800 GTX that came with the system and I had been thinking it was about time to upgrade it, so I'm not really broken up about it. It served me well. But now I need to figure out what to replace it with.

My specs:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 (dual core 2.66 GHz)
4MB DDR2 RAM (OEM)
750 Watt power supply (OEM)
320GB SATA HD (OEM)
2TB SATA HD (added about a year ago)

My initial thought was that I should upgrade to the best card I could afford and upgrade other components later as I was able. But then doing some research I figured out that my RAM is only upgradable to 8GB and the processor is pretty much stuck where it is since the Mobo is proprietary to Dell and they don't sell Socket 775 processors anymore (not that there is much room above that in that configuration anyway).

So how much horsepower in a graphics card is my computer going to be able to take advantage of? I was looking at the GeForce 660 Ti and thought that looked pretty good, but I'm wondering, considering the relative antiquity of the rest of my system, if that is just wasted money? Would I be better off going with something like the 650 (Ti) or even a 560 or 460 and saving the money to pt toward an eventual complete replacement?

I guess I just don't want to go off buying a Ferrari if I'm going to be stuck in the 30MPH zone. Any opinions would be appreciated.
February 23, 2013 2:50:50 AM

I'm running a HP XW4600 as a HTPC which has similar specs to your 720 and I run it with 8gb RAM/550ti. I am able to run Dead Space 3, BF3, Black Ops 2 on high settings. If you're running 64bit I'd suggest upgrading to 8GB RAM (if the current dimm's are non desirable, you may want to go with a whole new pair). Consider overclocking the CPU too, what CPU cooler is in there currently? A 660ti may be a bit much for your computer, you'll only be able to get so much out of the GPU with those specs before it's bottlenecked. Consider an AMD 6xxx series or nVidia 5xx series. You can definitely still get some more life out of your machine with a little money put it in though.
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February 23, 2013 7:47:03 PM

Thank for the perspective, Bull22. It is good to know that you are able to take advantage of a 550 Ti with a setup similar to mine. According to benchmark ratings on videobenchmark.net and nVidia's own site, it looks like the 550 Ti is really similar to the 650 in terms of performance, and the 650 Ti is running about the same price as a 550 Ti. For the modest premium of the Ti over the regular 650, I'm inclined to go that way even if I can't eek out everything it has to offer. I do agree that the 660 is probably more than my system can actually use. One of my other caveats is that I am planning to pay for it with some Amazon gift cards I have, and Amazon just doesn't have lot of options in the 500 and 400 series cards anymore. (nor do the ones they have run significantly cheaper).

I will definitely look at upgrading the memory at some point. I took a look inside my case and it looks like all DIMM slots are already taken up with 4x1GB cards, so getting up to 8GB is going to require a full a replacement. I am running Windows 7 64-bit now, though, so a RAM upgrade is something I can do.

Not sure what the cooling system is. It's whatever Dell put in there and is likely proprietary. Supposedly the XPS was designed with overclocking in mind, though, so this is something I will consider. The case is very large and spacious and some has pretty beefy-looking fans in it (the thing sounds kind of like a jet when you turn it on. I always thought it was kind of cool) so it could probably handle a bit of overclocking.

I am actually surprised at how well the machine has held up over the years. I love the thing and don't want to put it out to pasture just yet. I think it has a little bit of life left in it.
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February 23, 2013 9:02:37 PM

Yeah, I wouldn't expect Amazon to have much in the 5xx and 4xx series seeing as they don't really produce anything under the 560 anymore. If you've got gift cards then more power to ya. Just keep in mind that the 650 is not SLi capable, but with this system I really don't suggest doing any of that anyways. Seems like you're a fan of Nvidia, which I am too but I just ordered my first AMD card the other day. Their price vs. performance ratio is too nice to pass up right now. Not saying that you have to go with them but it's definitely something to consider and research before you make a final purchase. Here a few options 650ti price range @ Amazon (assuming you're considering this model http://www.amazon.com/EVGA-GeForce-Dual-Link-Graphics-0...):

http://www.amazon.com/Sapphire-Radeon-PCI-Express-Graph...
http://www.amazon.com/Sapphire-Vapor-X-PCI-Express-Grap...
http://www.amazon.com/MSI-Computer-Corp-PCI-Express-R77...

These are just a few options that you can consider while finding what's right for you. While saving a few bucks, you'll also be able to leave a bit more funds for a RAM upgrade. Looks like the MOBO only supports up to 800mhz DDR2 RAM. I do have to note that while having 2x4gb would be better than 4x2gb DIMMs, it's really not worth it to spend the kind of money needed for the minimal speed difference in an older machine like this. Consider a pair like this: http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-2x2GB-Desktop-Memory-VS4G...

All in all, you want to hold back on your spending as this PC will only get you so far. I'd save the big spending for when you want to build your own in the long run, which I highly suggest.
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February 23, 2013 10:37:59 PM

Thanks, Bull22. You've given me some things to think about. Not sure why I like the NVidia cards. I suppose since my previous card was NVidia and previous computers I have had have always had NVdia cards as I can recall (and I had 3Dfx cards before that, which was eventually acquired by NVidia) I have a slight bias. I did take a look at those Radeon cards you've posted, so thanks for the links. In the end, I think I'm still going to go with that 650 Ti, though. Ideed I am going with the EVGA card, though it is a slightly different model than the one you posted: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009KUT3UY/ref=oh_deta...

Pretty much the same card, but $10 cheaper. And for some reason seems to have a 1071 MHz clock speed instead of 928 MHz. And has a $15 mail-in rebate. Go figure. All in all, a good deal I think though.

Since I am spending less money than I originally planned, I do have some leftover for a RAM upgrade. I think I am going to wait just a little bit though until I get the new card in. One thing at a time. But then I will have to start saving my pennies for my next computer, which I think will be something I build myself.

Thanks for the help!
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February 24, 2013 2:03:33 AM

Best answer selected by MNGhost.
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June 17, 2013 2:19:03 PM

I had a similar situation a month ago: My Dell XPS 720 had two GeForce 8800 GT cards running in SLI. One card burned out, and the second one about two weeks later. I purchased an EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti at Fry's for ~ $150 and it can now do everything it used to do and then some. BTW - I maxed out the memory to 8 GB (4 x 2GB) and installed Win 7 Pro - not very expensive these days. So just like you, I'm trying to stretch some more life out of the old machine because when I bought it, it was top-of-the-line, it still looks awesome, and as an added bonus, you can warm your entire house in the winter with the heat coming off of that QX6850 CPU!
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