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September 2, 2011 8:18 AM   Subscribe

About a year and a half ago my graphics card crapped out. I'd like to replace it at a level where I can play modern games again, but not necessarily at the highest graphics setting. I've never replaced a graphics card before, so I'm not sure what I'm looking for in terms of purchasing and installation. Specs for my system inside...

2.5 GHZ Intel Core2 Quad CPU Q9300
Six gigs of RAM
Windows 7 64bit
1440 x 900
19 inch LCD, VGA/DVI monitor

My price range is 100 to 200 dollars.
posted by codacorolla to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should probably mention what I want to play right? Diablo 3 and Skyrim are two things I'm really looking forward to.
posted by codacorolla at 8:21 AM on September 2, 2011

Not a recommendation, but make sure you pay attention to your power supply. A lot of graphics cards require more power than a power supply in an out-of-a-box computer produces.
posted by semp at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2011

Also not a recommendation, but check that whatever card you select physically fits in your case. Graphics cards have gotten huge. If you're only driving 1440x900 you can get away with a less powerful card.
posted by Nelson at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2011

Best answer: Can you find the specs for your motherboard? There's been a switch from AGP to PCI Express and you want to be sure you get the right one, though I don't think many AGP cards are made anymore so I doubt it's an issue. But just in case.

Like Semp said, take a look at your power supply and you may need to factor that into your selection. I just upgraded my card and wound up having to get a new power supply.

As for those specific games, it looks like Skyrim requires 512MB of video memory, a minimum of an 8800 GT (that's an NVIDIA card), and the recommended is a Geforce GTX 460/Radeon 5850. Diablo 3 hasn't announced yet that I can see. You may want to poke around NewEgg and read some reviews, there's a lot of options in that tier and your price range.

In terms of installation, usually it's just a matter of opening the case, sliding the old one out, and popping the new one in. Sometimes, you have to hook it up to the power supply on its own, but there'll be a manual telling you how to do that and what to look for (or there usually is). Then you install the new drivers and go about your business.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2011

Others are makings some good points regarding compatibility and installation, but with respect to the purchase decision, I find Tom's Hardware's Best Graphics Cards for the Money to be a good aggregator of information.
posted by DrChurlish at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I built a cheap gaming rig last winter and went with a Radeon HD 5770. I've been more than happy with it, and it's running on a 380W powersupply. It runs current games very smoothly at 1920x1080 ok High to Very High settings. It was $140 back then, I'm sure it's dropped by now.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:52 AM on September 2, 2011

Sorry, not "1920x1080 ok," I meant to write "on."
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:53 AM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: This is the model of power supply I have.

Looks like it's rated for 400 watts, right? What sort of restrictions would that place on what sort of card I can get and comfortably run?
posted by codacorolla at 10:07 AM on September 2, 2011

Might also be useful to post what your motherboard is - download and run SIW and under Hardware, click Motherboard and go there.
Ghostride pretty much has it covered; I use a GTS 450 myself and have no problems with titles like DE:HR playing smoothly.
Power supply wise, you're running some generic stuff that might or might not be fine; you can pick up a good 450-650 unit from Newegg for the balance of your $100-$200 price range.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2011

You can get a Radeon HD 6870 for under $200 these days, and a 6850 for $160-170, both of which will future-proof you considerably more than anything from the 5k line. But the 6870 is rated at 151W and the 6850 is rated at 127W so that power supply might be suspect.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2011

Best answer: ...and the Q9300 has a TDP of 95W. Figure maybe 50W for a 4-series intel chipset and RAM, 30W for a couple of hard drives, 10W for a couple fans, and with the 6870's 151W that's pushing 340W or 85% of the rating of your PS. These cheaper power supplies aren't necessarily going to like running at 85%, so it could be an issue. The common advise is that you really don't want to skimp on a power supply: it should be 80+ rated and from a known quality manufacturer (Antec, Coolermaster, Corsair, Enermax, HEC, OCZ, PC Power & Cooling, Seasonic, Silverstone).
posted by Rhomboid at 12:00 PM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Good to know, I'll probably upgrade the power supply with the card, in which case.
posted by codacorolla at 12:11 PM on September 2, 2011

Yeah, I'd recommend either the 6850 or 6870 as others have done, and would add that the Nvidia 460, 560 or the 560 Ti (which might be a little too much $ unless you get a rebate) are good options too.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Hey, this is sort of an old question, but I'm really considering either the GTX 460 or GTS 450... if I'm iffy on the power supply, then does it hurt anything to buy the card, plug it in, and see if problems result? Could I damage other components by not distributing enough power?
posted by codacorolla at 3:40 PM on September 25, 2011

Best answer: If the power supply isn't up to snuff and it's a borderline case, the most likely outcome is that you suffer random glitches, crashes, or lockups, or possibly a failure to boot. If you significantly exceed the rating, I suppose there's a chance that you might test the power supply's overcurrent protection circuit, which if it's a cheap no-name unit could potentially mean death to the PS by overheating/fire, which would most likely not be pretty for anything else in the case at the time.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:03 PM on September 25, 2011

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