Video Card Upgrades
November 23, 2004 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Okay, so the fan on my 4-year-old video card (GeForce 2 64mb) is starting to struggle, which means pretty soon it's probably going to just stop. I've looked around, and they don't seem to make replacement fans for cards that old anymore, which means I'm looking at getting a new card. I'm planning on replacing this computer hopefully sometime next year, so I don't need to go balls-to-the-wall when buying a new card, so can someone recommend a card that would be as good or better (64-128 mb) for less than $100 or so?

Also, does manufacturer of the card matter, or just the manufacturer of the chip on the card? Looking here, I see all kinds of different GeForce cards. (Predator, Champion, Verto, Asylum, etc.....) What's the difference?
posted by emptybowl to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
I have an ATI Radeon 8500 on which the fan started making a rather loud noise (bearings were going, I think). I just unplugged it. Now there's no noise and no appreciable effect on case temperature. The video card has survived numerous hours of Doom 3 and Half Life 2 so far without showing any ill effects. If you're happy with the card you've got in terms of speed, I'd suggest keeping it even if the fan dies. Mind, I've got an Antec power supply, a case fan, and a big Zalman fan in the box so that might help keep it cool...
posted by humuhumu at 5:20 AM on November 23, 2004

When I say 'unplugged it', I mean that I unplugged the little wire that went from video card fan > video card board. Fan seemed to be glued on, so I didn't bother trying to get it off...

Having said all this, I'm fully expecting it to die as Gordon Freeman continues battles the Combine tonight...
posted by humuhumu at 5:23 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Well, this isn't the first time the fan has died on this card (last time I was still under warrantee with Micron and they sent me a replacement card), and when it happened before, the computer was crashing from the card overheating while I was playing Jedi Outcast (this is back when that was new :P), so I guess the card needs the fan. Maybe Radeon is better at putting a card together...
posted by emptybowl at 5:33 AM on November 23, 2004

I had two GeForces die on me (an original GeForce 256, and then a donated GeForce 2) over the period of about a year. In preparation for Half-Life 2, I decided to upgrade my whole machine, and I ended up deciding on the ATI Radeon 9600XT. Two of my friends who were going through similar dances purchased 9800s, and my brother went with the GeForce FX 5800.

I've been extremely happy with my card so far, and AFAIK, the three others are as well. Granted, all of the cards I've mentioned are in the $130+ range, but even something a little lower down the chain (Radeon 9600, GF FX 5700) should be more than satisfactory for modern gaming.

Be sure to check out Pricewatch for price comparison shopping (as long as you're comfortable with buying from small businesses online), and Tom's Hardware's most recent video card super-benchmark.
posted by Plutor at 5:34 AM on November 23, 2004

I followed advice here last year on video cards. The thread's here.

Last year, I went for an ATI 9600XT with 256 meg and it was over your budget then and might be a touch now. The 128 meg option is probably around the 100 bucks mark now though. Its not the "best best", but it'll take a while before it's obselete.
posted by davehat at 5:44 AM on November 23, 2004 has good prices on cards. as for the various geForce cards, nVidia makes the chip and other people put the chip into a package and sell it. my first video card (diamond brand) used an s3 chipset, and the drivers that came with it sucked, so i ran the s3 drivers instead. that was my first experience with the difference between card brand and chipset manufacturer.

i have a chaintech geForce FX 5200 that has given me no problems. 128 meg. you can probably pick up a similar card for dirt cheap right about now if you poke around. runs most games i've tried on it with no problems (even the doom3 demo, in medium res at smaller screen sizes - a bit choppy but it worked.)

pricewatch will give you good prices, but has an awesome no-hassle return policy. it's worth paying a few extra bucks to know you can send it back if you have issues with it. i have never been unhappy with newegg's service, or with their return policy.

and if you buy online, buy retail. it's worth it. i have had issues with unboxed parts, they are cheaper of course but you quite often get what you pay for.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:04 AM on November 23, 2004

If you just want to replace the fan, you can probably stick a 486 CPU cooler on top of it. I bet they're five for $3 on eBay.
posted by majick at 7:11 AM on November 23, 2004

you could also try cleaning out the fan bearing -- I've done this on case fans and vidcard fans, generally with good result.

vidcard fans just piss me off, you generally only see them on the more expensive cards and yet it's a pathetic cheap part that dies very quickly. much better to get the card that was the top of the line last year, and which, thanks to die shrinkage, is this year's mid-level model with completely passive cooling.
posted by dorian at 7:34 AM on November 23, 2004

The fans are crap. I have had many of them die over the years (On a TNT2, Gefore2 MX - that one lasted 3 days, and a GeForce 3. I just bolted on a spare AMD stock cpu fan, and run it at 7v (wire it up to the yellow and red lines from a molex) works great.
you can also purchase a cheap replacement heatsink and fan from a computer store, for about $10 or so.

Really any fan will do, but you do need the air movement over it. Get epoxy putty (like plasticine, but gets hard) to mount it, or just use zipties or somesuch.
posted by defcom1 at 8:14 AM on November 23, 2004

You might want to look at a third party cooling solution like Zalman. I think they offer a fanless system for Geforce 2 cards.
posted by crumbly at 8:14 AM on November 23, 2004

Ok, duh -- all the heatsinks on that page are fanless.
posted by crumbly at 8:19 AM on November 23, 2004

When the fan on my Creative Annihilator Pro died several years ago, I picked up one of the Type A coolers from TennMax and got another two years out of the card before replacing it for a newer model. They supply fans for all sorts of video cards, including one which attaches via thermal tape and doesn't rely on mounting holes in the PCB itself. What's more, they provided fast shipping; I ordered the part on a Friday and it was delivered Monday morning.

Of course, that was in 2001, so caveat emptor.
posted by Danelope at 8:26 AM on November 23, 2004

I have to also say that NewEgg is great, well worth the extra money for the wonderful customer service.
posted by yodelingisfun at 8:52 AM on November 23, 2004

Be warned, however, that NewEgg requires you to jump through hoops if you want to ship to any address other than the one associated with your credit card (i.e. If you're at the office all day and your account is tied to your home address.) They also ship via FedEx which, unlike UPS, doesn't allow you to redirect delivery to another address once the first delivery attempt is made (without asking the vendor's permission and charging them an extra fee, and NewEgg will have none of that.)
posted by Danelope at 8:56 AM on November 23, 2004

NewEgg requires you to jump through hoops if you want to ship to any address other than the one associated with your credit card (i.e. If you're at the office all day and your account is tied to your home address.)

Nope. NewEgg has been shipping to my office without problems for years, and I didn't jump through any hoops.

While they do use FedEx for delivery, this is a feature, not a bug, as it means your package is much less likely to arrive damaged and less likely to be stolen from your porch.
posted by kindall at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2004

From their Payment FAQ:
In order to guard against credit card fraud, if the billing and shipping address are different, we must verify that the alternate shipping address is authorized.

Please contact your credit card issuer bank and list your ship to address as an alternate address in their memo field. We will call them and verify the address. Please make sure your credit card issuer bank's phone number is listed in your account with
If they don't enforce said requirement, that's excellent, but I didn't take any chances with $900 worth of kit when last I ordered.
posted by Danelope at 9:28 AM on November 23, 2004

Newegg has always sent stuff to my work address, no questions asked. I've seen this disclaimer on other sites as well, and have never been hassled when I disregarded it.
posted by Hackworth at 9:58 AM on November 23, 2004

and i've always had good luck with gainward geforce cards, for what it's worth.
posted by Hackworth at 10:06 AM on November 23, 2004

If you have an ATX now and you plan on having an ATX next and building it yourself then there is no great reason why you can't go "balls to the wall" now and swap the card into the new one - otherwise you'll only end up with 2 cards, one of which you'll never use again.

I'm trading up my GeForce4 for a Radeon 9800 Pro (don't get the SE or LE) 128 meg - which isn't too painful on the wallet.
posted by ralawrence at 11:04 AM on November 23, 2004

1. Yes, Newegg is the first coming in the world of online resellers of computer parts.

2. Pricewatch is good, but takes more time, because every resller located via pricewatch must be checked on:

3. ResellerRatings. Personally, my cumulative score cutoff is 8.5, I do not purchase from anyone with a score of less than 8.5. Ever.

4. If you want to replace the heatsink on your current GF2 card, I recommend the Vantec Iceberq, dirt cheap and certainly capable of cooling the relatively low-clockspeed gf2-series cards.

5. Yes, a whole series of manufacturers create cards based on the gf2 (and gf3 and gf4 and all the radeons). How this works is that there are two big graphics engineering companies: ATi and NVidia. These guys primarily design chipsets. A chipset is the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), VRAM (Video RAM), and any other integrated circuits that connect those two elements. NVidia's flagship line of chipsets are the GeForce series; ATi's flagship line is the Radeon series. Other companies (such as Asus, MSI, and Sapphire) then license these chipsets and make their own cards around them, with various quantities of bells and whistles, different clockspeeds, and so on. A great example of this were the old Gainward GF4 Ti4200 "golden sample" cards. Gainward bought a bunch of Ti4200 GPUs from NVidia and then tested them all extensively; those that could be overclocked in the lab were incorporated into the golden sample cards. These had bigger heatsinks and cost a little bit more than a normal 4200 but a lot less than a 4600. The idea is that they were guaranteed to successfully overclock to 4600 speeds.

7. You may find it worthwhile to take a look at the Ars Technica A/V forum wiki, a wiki about computer and electronics A/V stuff maintained by the knowledgeable community at the ArsTechnica forum.

8. If you want to replace your card, you're in something of a strange spot. In terms of cards you can buy new, you're going to have to look around alot, since people are mostly moving to PCI-express, and away from AGP. So you may want to look at various places like the Agora at Ars Technica, ebay, or the buy/sell forum at Anandtech to get ahold of an used card. Additionally, don't neglect the companies like Dell and Gateway: they often have stocks of inventory they want to get rid of, and you can get some great deals on less common hardware that way.
posted by kavasa at 12:21 PM on November 23, 2004

I currently recommend the "ASUS V9520 Magic GeForceFX 5200 128MB" because it's the fastest card I could find that doesn't have a fan at all.

I haven't tested it, but it is most likely "worse" than a GeForce4 Ti4600. It will, however, perform very well for pretty much everything except Doom3 and HL2 with ALL the eye-candy turned on.
posted by krisjohn at 6:27 PM on November 23, 2004

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