Help Me Rule The Galaxy at 1280x1024
December 31, 2011 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I've just purchased Star Wars:The Old Republic, and my four-your old HP Pavilion is having a hard time keeping up. The game is playable if I drop the resolution to 800x600 and move all the video settings to "low". Obviously, I'd like a better play experience. However...

My computer has a PCI Express x16 video slot. The machine's specs:
- HP Pavilion a6560t PC
- Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (64-bit)
- Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Duo processor E4700 (2.6GHz)
- 4GB DDR2-800MHz dual channel SDRAM (4x1024)
- 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9300 and TV Tuner Card/PVR

I would like to upgrade the video card, but I know that my options are limited because of the PCI Express x16 slot.

Please recommend me a video card that will upgrade my gaming performance. I don't play twitch/fast action FPS games; I play SWTOR and Portal 2 and such. If this can be done for under $100, so much the better.

Thank you!
posted by DWRoelands to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First things first...
What are the system requirements for the game?


AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz or better
Operating System:
Windows XP or later


Windows XP: 1.5GB RAM
Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB RAM

Note: PCs using a built-in graphical chipset are recommended to have 2GB of RAM.

Star Wars: The Old Republic requires a video card that has a minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM as well as support for Shader 3.0 or better. Examples include:

ATI X1800 or better
nVidia 7800 or better
Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better

DVD-ROM drive – 8x speed or better (required for installation from physical editions only) Internet connection required to play.

posted by markkraft at 7:37 AM on December 31, 2011

The big limiting factor I see here? Not the PCIe...

Rather, it's the 300W power supply that comes standard with that computer.
posted by markkraft at 7:45 AM on December 31, 2011

Replacing the PSU will not make that computer go faster.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2011

I know this isn't what you're asking about, but in the meantime...if you haven't turned off bloom and shadows in the video settings, do that. I do it for many games, and never have I seen it make the difference that it made for me in SWTOR.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:26 AM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: Practically any modern dedicated GPU will be a huge upgrade from your current one, so just pick a price range and then get the best card that's within your budget. The "Logical Increments PC Buying Guide" is a good starting point to see what's available.

Ars Technica currently recommends AMD's Radeon HD 6850 for new "budget" gaming PCs; it typically goes for $120-150 depending on the model and retailer. If you're not planning to upgrade the rest of your components, you might want to go with a cheaper one since beyond a certain point your CPU will become the bottleneck. (To put things in perspective: in terms of raw floating-point math speed, the 6850 is about 45 times faster than the 9300. Obviously the actual gaming performance is dependent on a bunch of other factors, but you get the idea.)

Bear in mind that as markkraft said, you may need to upgrade your power supply as well. It's not uncommon for a powerful GPU to draw 100-150 watts under full load.
posted by teraflop at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

6850: 500 Watt or greater power supply recommended
posted by Edogy at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2011

"Replacing the PSU will not make that computer go faster."

Of course it won't... but what it will do is allow him to put in a more intensive graphics card.
posted by markkraft at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: Performance per dollar for around $100, you cannot beat the Sapphire 1GB Radeon HD 5770. You'll need to replace your PSU as well, but my 5770 runs SWTOR on the highest settings. (I also have 8 gigs of RAM, and a tri-core processor, so YMMV.) I still think it's your best bet.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2011

Best answer: "Performance per dollar for around $100, you cannot beat the Sapphire 1GB Radeon HD 5770."

I agree... a 5770 is a good choice for this kind of system, and it only needs a 450W power supply.

However, NewEgg is selling a 500W power supply for cheap today, so if it were my decision, I would probably cough up the extra $35 -- after rebate -- for the 6850.
posted by markkraft at 9:52 AM on December 31, 2011

Please please please check the HP website to look up technical info regarding the motherboard in your Pavilion before you start buying replacement hardware. It has been my experience, when working with prefab PCs, that proprietary/unusual hardware and BIOS combos render them effectively un-upgradeable.
posted by trunk muffins at 10:07 AM on December 31, 2011

Response by poster: Dang. A new video card AND a new power supply are not in the budget. Thank you all for your input. I may just have to shelve the game until next summer.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2011

FWIW, my system has been running stably for more than a year with the 5770 on a 350 watt PSU. So, it might almost be worth getting the 5770 and trying to run it without a new PSU. Just for fun. To see if it works. If not, uninstall the card and wait until you can spring for a new power supply.
posted by InsanePenguin at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2011

It seems to me that something like this (5570) is a big improvement while being fairly low-power. I think there's a good chance it'll work just fine, and if it doesn't it's cheap enough that you'll be able to upgrade the power supply and still be under budget. It's not a 5770, but it's still a lot better than what you've got.
posted by alexei at 5:11 PM on December 31, 2011

After hearing about your budgetary limits and reading this thread, I would consider going with a 6670, as that appears to be something you can safely use without upgrading your power supply, and it's capable of significantly boosting your graphics performance.

A search of eBay's completed items show these selling for about $50-60 there, after tax and shipping. Otherwise, expect to pay about $75.
posted by markkraft at 4:54 AM on January 1, 2012

I didn't look at the small print on that $75 newegg 6670... the cool bit that says "$59.99 after mail-in rebate"... and "Free Shipping"!

So, there ya go... the low-cost option. May the force be with ya.
posted by markkraft at 4:58 AM on January 1, 2012

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