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Need advice on low-$$ graphics card
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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
Posts: 10372
Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:24 am    Post subject: Need advice on low-$$ graphics card Reply with quote


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I should have posted my request here instead of in the Source Devices forum... oops, moving it here now.

My kid is ready to bust because he can't play his new Spore game. I'm not much of a gamer, so I haven't kept up with the hardware. My kids have a Wii but they haven't played games on their PC for a while.

My 11-yr-old has been going nuts over Spore ever since he first read about it more than a year ago. He saved up his money and we just picked him up a copy yesterday. We installed it, and I discovered their old game PC doesn't have the mojo to run it.

Spore requires support for "Pixel Shader 2.0" which, from my digging, appears to be a hardware capability supported by some graphics cards. But it's damn difficult to find out what cards support it. The Spore site lists some cards, but like most descriptive/reviewing sites, they list the GPU instead of the actual cards you can buy. So I'm still looking.

The kids' game PC is an old Dell Dimension 2400. Other than the graphics card it just barely meets the requirements for Spore. But since it's an old system, it doesn't have AGP or PCI-x, which limits my choices. FYI here's the layout of the mobo:
http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/dim2400/en/F75560LRs.pdf

So I need a Pixel Shader 2.0-compliant, 256MB or greater, PCI card, as cheap as possible. It looks like one can be gotten for $50 or less. (Right?)

...but my question is, does it make sense to put $50 into an old box, or would it be smarter to upgrade? (New mobo? New PC?) We're trying to keep the $$ outlay on this to a minimum, but we don't want to throw money down the drain on an obsolete box and low-end card that might just barely run Spore but probably won't run the next fancy game. My wife won't allow the kids to play any FPS or overt killing-people games, so we don't have to support COD4 or other PC-killers, but this kind of photo-realism is getting more common in non-FPS games too.

I'd also like some help understanding how to pick an appropriate card, since this Pixel Shader is not well documented or advertised. Is a DirectX 9 or 10 card going to support PS2.0 or better? Or is there some other kind of "this well-known feature means it supports PS2.0" ?

Anybody wanna unload a card that's "old tech" for you but would be great for us?? Smile

Thanks for any suggestions!
Gary
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AnalogRocks
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PostLink    Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Go for a mother board, chip, 1gb ram power supply AND a low mid end graphics card in PCIe. That machine must be at least 4 years old yes?

A friend of mine calle dme last week from the Tiger direct store. He has a 2004 PC. He wanted to play HellGate London. He had a choice of a $200 Geforce card, $50 ATi 2400 card or a $60 ATi 1650(? iirc). I told him to look at it this way. For $200 he could have a new mother board, chip and ram, the ATi2400 isn't a gaming card it's for HD video sso I told him to throw the $60 at the box and call it a day. When he got to the cash he was handed a $20 mail in rebate so he didn't do too bad.

IF you got a PCI card for free then I would say upgrade this BUT since you don't have AGP or PCIe a rregular PCI card really won't be able to keep up with the new stuff.

Throw a little more cash at the box and change out the guts.

My 2.34 C ( canadian with the exchange rate ) Very Happy

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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
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Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The PCI cards I linked to won't do the job with the old mobo?

Hmm, supposedly the Dell takes a Micro-ATX mobo (though some claim the Dell XP won't run on non-Dell mobos). Looks like I can get a micro-ATX with 1GB RAM and a 2.4 GHz dual-core pentium, AND a GEforce 7050 chipset, for about $150. See e.g. http://www.mwave.com/mwave/viewspec.hmx?scriteria=BA24552. Is that the kind of thing you're suggesting? No wait, GEforce 7050 isn't on the Spore "approved" list.

It seems like most of the "built into the mobo" graphics adapters (e.g. GEforce 7050, 6150, 8200, etc) don't support what I need, except the Intel chipsets. How about a mobo with integrated Intel GMA 950, X3000, or X3100 graphics? Or is an Intel integrated graphics chip going to be too wimpy? Do I need a separate graphics card to get what I want? Should I get a mobo with PCI-e and then get a GEforce 8400 card for $50 or so?
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AnalogRocks
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Gary, I just noticed my post and all the typo's. No I'm not THAT bad. It's my wireless keyboard. At times it just likes to type random repeated characters.


Most of the built in video cards aren't super high quality. I had a Geforce 6150 onboard with my current HTPC. It coulnd't do 1080P and even stuttered at 720P a little bit. Wasn't very good for games at all.

The 8200 may do it for you. Like this one:
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4222211&Sku=MBM-GF8200-5800

Funny they DON'T include a cooling fan!! Get a cooling fan, add 2GB ram to that and you'd have a decent little system. Don't forget the power supply. It's the backbone of a stable system. I'd sugest a minimum of a 450 watt.
The nice thing about this particular system is it has a PCIe slot so you can add a faster video card later.

Hmmm doesn't have IDE on it though.

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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
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Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 8200 isn't on the Spore approved list. The Nvidia site says the 8200 supports DirectX10, but it doesn't say anything about what level (if any) of Pixel Shader it supports. Like I said, nobody (not even Nvidia!!) documents this Pixel Shader support very well. grumble
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AnalogRocks
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ahhh the shader support doesn't start 'till the 8400 series. Dam! How about a middle of the road card then?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102725

It's a 3650 with DDR3 and is on the list. There's a $15.00 mail in rebate. So this upgrade will cost you a bit but I personaly think it's better than throwing $50 at the old system to find out it's still not fast enough.

You might get away with not changing the power supply if the curent ( no pun ) one in the PC is fairly powerfull.

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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
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Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's PCI-e x16. I only have vanilla PCI in the old box. I'd need a new mobo too, though that may be a good idea anyway. According to the D2400 manual the power supply is only 200 or 250 W, so no way will that handle a new mobo AND a current-sucking graphics card. Sounds like all I'd be able to re-use is the box and disk/CD drives. Sad So either I keep it cheep and get a low-end PCI card for $50, or I pitch the Dell and buy an entire new PC, probably with a graphics card in addition, for at least $300 or so. **SIGH**
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Z-Photo



Joined: 07 Mar 2006
Posts: 2753
Location: Huntsville - Alabama


PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huge increase between PCI and PCI-e.

If you are going to swap out the MB - go for a PCI-e 2.0 slot board. It will work with the newer PCI-e 2.0 Graphic cards as well as the 1.0 cards.

Most of these will also use your old P4 chip - so you would need

MB
Video card
RAM
HD

Here is what I would suggest.

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3573170&CatId=1533
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4197108&CatId=3670
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3404049&Sku=O261-8038
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4206999&Sku=M122-8048

Price
140
50
35
70
=295





or get the barebones kit
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4266404&CatId=333
with a better video card
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4197108&CatId=3670

Price
160
50
= 210

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Z-Photo



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PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want to go the cheap cheap route -

This card will work

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4226575&CatId=1603

shader 3.0

I would recommend the barebones kit - then you would have a comp that would last another 2 + years

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Spanky Ham



Joined: 22 Mar 2006
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

garyfritz wrote:
That's PCI-e x16. I only have vanilla PCI in the old box. I'd need a new mobo too, though that may be a good idea anyway. According to the D2400 manual the power supply is only 200 or 250 W, so no way will that handle a new mobo AND a current-sucking graphics card. Sounds like all I'd be able to re-use is the box and disk/CD drives. Sad So either I keep it cheep and get a low-end PCI card for $50, or I pitch the Dell and buy an entire new PC, probably with a graphics card in addition, for at least $300 or so. **SIGH**


Pete gave some good advice, but you haven't really gave us a budget. In response to your original question, I think it would be better in the long run to upgrade at this point. Driver support will start to become an issue with the older cards. For an extremely cheap solution, Frys always has a cheap mobo/CPU combo deal going on for around $80. Couple that with 4gigs of memory at around $35 and you should have a good start. Tom's did an article stating that having more generic memory was better than less exotic type memory. As for a card, you could get a 4670 for around $60 to $70 or a Nvidia card from EVGA. Note the $90 for the 9800 GT or $49 for the 9600 GSO doesn't include the 25% discount from Microsoft Live. The only problem that I see for the future is the issue with Windows 7. The current cards probably won't be able to take advantage of all of the eye candy (I hate that so overused cliche and here I am using it), but you won't have to worry about that for two years.Smile Also, I would wait till Black Friday or the week after Christmas to buy. With Circuit City and other business throwing in the towel (hell I have decided it is time to throw in the towel myself), there should be some better deals.
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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
Posts: 10372
Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That card you recommended at TigerDirect should work, Pete -- 6200 seems to be the bottom end of the Spore-approved GPUs. That looks like about the cheapest option.

On the other hand the old box is a slow pig, and always has been. I've assumed that was because of the single-core Celeron processor, but it's a dog. Even my 11-yr-old has refused to use it because it's so slow. Upgrading is an attractive alternative. For $200 we could have a very capable system, assuming we can transfer the disk w/XP from the old box. (How successful is that likely to be?)

Unfortunately I think my 11-yr-old would "DIE" if we made him wait for Black Friday, but we'll see.

According to Wikipedia, it looks like anything that supports DirectX 9.0 or better has at least Pixel Shader 2.0??
Quote:
In 2002 Microsoft released DirectX 9 with support for the use of much longer shader programs than before with pixel and vertex shader version 2.0. Microsoft has continued to update the DirectX suite since then, introducing shader model 3.0 in DirectX 9.0c, released in August 2004.


It's a lot easier to find DirectX 9 or 10 cards than to find cards that support Pixel Shader 2.0...
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Spanky Ham



Joined: 22 Mar 2006
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PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, truthfully I am not sure how much money you are going to save on BF. That CPU, mobo and memory combo might be what $10 or maybe $15 less but that would probably be about it. The graphics card I linked to will probably not get any cheaper and is already a great deal.
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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
Posts: 10372
Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK. Still figuring out options. Can somebody clarify for me if e.g. DirectX 10 support ALWAYS includes Shader 4.0 support, as indicated in the quote above? Wikipedia says DirectX 10 on Vista includes Direct3D 10 which supports Shader Model 4.0. Many mobos include GEforce 8200, which is not on Spore's approved list but supports DirectX 10. So shouldn't an on-mobo 8200 do the job??

Gawd I'm so confused...
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Mark_A_W



Joined: 15 Mar 2006
Posts: 3068
Location: Sunny Melbourne Australia


PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gary, that PC is now 2 generations of graphics interface out of date.


I'd really, really think about upgrading the whole thing before spending money on it.

Even if you do get it to play the game, it will suck, as it will be way too slow.
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garyfritz



Joined: 08 Apr 2006
Posts: 10372
Location: Fort Collins, CO


PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 3:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, that's what I'm concluding. It's slow even for non-game stuff. Which is strange considering it's a 2.2GHz CPU, but it must have a 2 byte L2 cache or something. Just need to figure out what it takes to get a workable system, and that's not easy to do!!
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jkruger



Joined: 24 Oct 2007
Posts: 2435
Location: Carlsbad, CA


PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just bought a new mb,2 gig ram, chip, box w/ps, sata 320 gig drive and XP home for 300.00 from Fry's 2 weeks ago. Cant recall the video processor info but it's way better than the old pc at work. Not as good as the 8600gt at home though.
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Z-Photo



Joined: 07 Mar 2006
Posts: 2753
Location: Huntsville - Alabama


PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PCI is actually 4 generations out of speed improvement and 2 from MB architecture.





A great setup for gaming is

Intel quad core
PCI-e 2.0 (SLI)
MB with high FSB (over 1333mhz)
at least 800mhz ram
SATA 2 -
45nm chipset

I just set up my gaming (and photoshop computer)

Using

CHIP (always spec first)
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4089664

MB
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3528165&CatId=1533

VG (using 2 in SLI)
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4209965&CatId=3585

RAM (8 gig)
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3404049&Sku=O261-8038

Already had the HD(s) and PS
but here they are
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=2937372&CatId=106
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3326100&CatId=2458

Basically I used my old MB (non SLI) and Chip Duo (conroe) older E6200 (1.8g 800 mhz FSB)
VG 6800 GT

for the wifes computer


I swapped out the chip/MB and left the OS on the HD - good boot - you have to re-register windows and install the new drivers but no issues.

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Z-Photo



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PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am consistently running

over 80+ FPS at 1920x1200 (all graphic element set to highest) at 70hz (WOW and COD4 - which is fairly easy on graphics)

the VG cards are not even warm.

and I will PWN you

for the old farts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn

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AnalogRocks
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PostLink    Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Z-Photo wrote:
I am consistently running

over 80+ FPS at 1920x1200 (all graphic element set to highest) at 70hz (WOW and COD4 - which is fairly easy on graphics)

the VG cards are not even warm.

and I will PWN you

for the old farts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pwn


You know I've been a gammer for many years and I still hate that term it's spelt with an "o" damit. Very Happy

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Z-Photo



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PostLink    Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Owned is when you see them coming

PWN'd is when you dont

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