Video card advice
June 10, 2005 7:24 AM   Subscribe

If you had about $200 to spend on a new video card for your pc, what would you get? Assume you have a P4 2.4 with an AGP slot and a gig of RAM, the game that you play the most is The Sims 2, and you don't want to have to buy a new video card for a good long while.
posted by amarynth to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Pretty much any GeForce 6600GT with DDR3. NewEgg has tons of them in that price range.

Now, it's pretty much impossible for a low-midrange $200 card to remain serviceable for "a good long while," but you'll surely be able to play new releases for the next year or two without frustration.

However, if you're just playing The Sims, you probably could get by with a much, much cheaper card for a long time to come. It's not an especially demanding game in terms of GPU performance. In fact, it would be kind of silly to spend $200 for a GPU that will never be used. Just spend fifty bucks on an el cheapo video card, and take someone out to a really fancy dinner with the rest of the dough.
posted by majick at 7:38 AM on June 10, 2005

Yep, GeForce 6600GT. I recommend Leadtek.

Another way to say what Majick is saying: I assume you have some reason for wanting to do this now. Otherwise I would wait and see if you really need a new video card.

I have a 6600GT, but I play action games and other stuff that requires up-to-date rendering.
posted by selfnoise at 8:16 AM on June 10, 2005

Of course, with an AGP bus, a lot of the power of the 6600 is going to waste.

I'd suggest saving up a little longer, and look at replacing your mobo with a board equipped with a PCI Express slot. That way, you can get the most bang for your buck out of a card like the 6600.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:00 AM on June 10, 2005

The reason that I wanted to upgrade now is that I'm buying a new motherboard and more RAM (I have 512 now), and I thought I'd just do everything at once. The computer that I have now is a Dell 4600c and the case is so small that I need an ultra low-profile card (I think the one I have now is a Radeon 9600SE, which is the equivalent of a 9200, which is at the low end of The Sims 2 supported cards). The motherboard is an odd size, too, which is why I need to buy a new one to fit into an old case that I have lying around.

I do play other games than The Sims 2: University, but that's the game that I play most, and it takes forever (ok, around 5 minutes or so, which seems like forever) to load lots. I figured the combination of more RAM and a new video card would solve that, but I also don't know much about computers. And I'm sure that I'll buy Spore when it comes out, because I am Will Wright's bitch.
posted by amarynth at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2005

As thanotopsis said, the AGP slot has been superceded by PCI-Express. Any new motherboard you get should have it (I don't know enough about it to know whether your current CPU will work in one.) Then you can get a card to match.
posted by maledictory at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2005

Right now there is no real-world performance difference between a PCI-Express and AGP version of a given video card. Upgrade your motherboard if you want to future-proof your system, but if you don't plan on upgrading your cpu/ram anytime soon, just stick with an AGP card.

On preview, I see that you are planning to upgrade your motherboard - by all means, go for PCI-Express.
posted by philscience at 10:43 AM on June 10, 2005

You have enough RAM. The video card might help - a faster hard drive might also.

If you upgrade to PCI-E you may very well have to upgrade your CPU too. I don't know enough about Intel CPUs to tell to for sure, though.

I wouldn't worry about AGP vs. PCI-E performance wise with the 6600gt... there isn't much of a different in today's games, and tomorrows will make you upgrade anyway.
posted by selfnoise at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2005

A new video card won't improve loading times at all in any way whatsoever, not a bit, nuh-uh, no-how, by the way. More memory probably will, and I suspect that a faster disk and the improved system stability of ditching an ATI card will make the biggest improvements in your enjoyment.

Don't concern yourself with PCI-Express at all. If you wind up picking a motherboard that has it, and you can lay your hands on a PCIE video card for an equivalent price, sure, there's no harm. But with only $200 to spend there's no way you're buying a card that will be faster than AGP can go, so PCIE doesn't matter.
posted by majick at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2005

Some of the AGP 6600s can be 'hacked' to open more pipes, approaching the performance of a 6800.
posted by eas98 at 2:31 PM on June 10, 2005

Also, use the product search in Tom's Hardware Guide, and similar, as my recent card-buying experience was that $200 spent online will buy you a $260 card if you were shopping at a good store, that would be priced at $310 at a normal store.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:41 PM on June 10, 2005

Thanks, everyone!
posted by amarynth at 3:43 PM on June 10, 2005

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