Picking a graphics card for a Dell Inspiron 545
December 26, 2011 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me pick and install a graphics card for a Dell Inspiron 545.

So the boy want to play Saints Row the Third on our Dell Inspiron 545 running Windows Vista. I looked over the system requirements and I am afraid that graphics will be a problem and want to install a graphics card. It will be his Christmas money buying the card so I don't want to overdo it or to get something that is not compatible. When I go online I am immediately overwhelmed with the variety and price range of graphics cards.

Here are the system specs:

Operating System: Windows Vistaâ„¢ Home Premium
System Manufacturer: Dell Inc.
System Model: Inspiron 545
BIOS: Phoenix - AwardBIOS v6.00PG
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad CPU Q8200 @ 2.33GHz (4 CPUs), ~2.3GHz
Memory: 8180MB RAM
DirectX Version: DirectX 11

So what is a cheap-ish card that will let my son plays Saint's Row and similar games? And are there any tips on installing a card? He is 12 and my plan is to have him do this as far as possible.

Thanks, friends.
posted by LarryC to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a Radeon HD 5770 that performs beautifully at 1920x1080. What resolution will you be playing at? That's a big factor. Your computer only has a 300W power supply it seems, so an upgrade may be in order, but I have a more powerful rig running the 5770 with a 350W PSU, so you might be okay.

In any case, the HD 5770 is, while over a year old, still pretty much the sweetest card with regard to bang for your buck.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:15 PM on December 26, 2011

Thanks. Hmmmm...looks like there are a lot of cards with Radeon HD 5770 in their name. How do I tell which one I need?

We have a Samsung SyncMaster T220HD monitor, currently set at 1680 x 1050 resolution.
posted by LarryC at 7:53 PM on December 26, 2011

Larry, personally I recommend Asus, Gigabyte, and Sapphire as far as graphics card manufacturers. Key to performance in new cards is the width of the memory bus, and wether it's GDDR 3 or GDDR 5 memory. The Radeon 5000/6000 series chips are pretty rocking as far as a price to performance ratio. And when you're son turns to... Eh emm, "alternative Operating Systems" the open source Radeon drivers are getting more mature with every passing release. KDE 4.7 and Compiz always flowed smooth for me.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:10 PM on December 26, 2011

I would suggest looking at this chart and picking the recommended video card for your budget.

I think your power supply may be the biggest issue with a video card upgrade. The Radeon HD 5770 that @InsanePenguin suggests is the suggested card for the $110 price point, but AMD recommends, at minimum, a 450W power supply for any cards using that GPU. You may be able to get by with a weaker power supply for some games, but you will run into issues in more demanding games. The harder a game works the CPU or GPU, the more power they'll consume. Once you hit the limit of your power supply, games may crash or your computer may hang or spontaneously reboot. The 500W power supply that Amazon lists as "frequently bought together" with the Radeon HD 5770 seems like about the right power supply (ie: a basic power supply from a reputable company).

As for installation help, the video card will almost definitely come with a foldout sheet of easy-to-follow instructions. If you choose to upgrade your power supply, it will be more complicated, but shouldn't require anything other than a phillips screwdriver. The basic procedure would be:

1. Power off computer, open case.
2. Disconnect all of the cables coming from the existing power supply (definitely take notes on how many and what kind of cables you disconnect)
3. Physically remove the existing power supply.
4. Install the new power supply
5. Connect the power supply to all the things you disconnected in step 1.
6. Make sure that the computer still turns on before you get the new video card involved at all.
7. Follow the installation instructions that came with your new video card.
posted by strangecargo at 11:52 PM on December 26, 2011

Thanks, friends, this is all very helpful. So it looks like we are at about $150 to upgrade--seems a better investment than replacing a 2-year-old desktop that is still a solid machine. Of course $150 would be all of the lad's Xmas money so maybe we will split the cost...
posted by LarryC at 10:18 AM on December 28, 2011

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