Video Card Upgrade
July 3, 2005 2:27 PM   Subscribe

I need to replace my video card. What should I get?

My video card has burnt out on my year and a half old pc. I want to get something good enough to play dvd’s and Civilization IV, but I don’t need a high-end video card. I would, however, like something that will play new games for at least a year or two.
What has the best bang for the buck in the $100-$150 price range? What features should I look for? Digital output?? I don’t even know what to look for, honestly.

Technical info: 2.8ghz Pentium 4, 512mb ram, WinXP Home

Thanks mefi!
posted by meditative_zebra to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
Here are the hardware requirements for Civ IV as sussed out by those fans who should know. Anything on the market should be fine for DVDs.
posted by catachresoid at 3:12 PM on July 3, 2005

All decent cards out these days have should have DVI output as part of the standard package. Just get a Radeon 9800 Pro or a GeForce 6600 and be done with it - both support DirectX 9.0, and both have plenty of horsepower to do a reasonable job with anything likely to come on the market over the next year.
posted by Goedel at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2005

Get a Geforce 6600GT. Or a 6600 plain if you're feeling miserly. The GT is usually about 175-200 but you could probably find one cheaper. It's the sweet spot in terms of price/performance at the moment.

Most every card these days should have DVI and VGA output, but do check to make sure it has the connector you need.
posted by selfnoise at 3:47 PM on July 3, 2005

I third the GeForce 6600, I got one for my brother's new computer since he games all the time, while I sit around and read askme.
posted by borkencode at 4:17 PM on July 3, 2005

My brother picked up a 6600GT a few days ago, runs Doom 3 like a charm. He said it was one of the best compromises between price and performance.
posted by bobo123 at 4:22 PM on July 3, 2005

I'm assuming you'll need a replacement fairly quickly. If not, if you can borrow something for a bit perhaps, you might want to look at this AGP/PCIe combo card. I'm not sure when it will be released, and it's ATI -- which gets mixed reviews from people -- but it will save you having to buy yet another video card if you want to upgrade your motherboard to PCIe later.

Personally, I have the 3D1 from Gigabyte -- it's a dual 6600GT on one card, but you can only buy it as a bundle with a matching motherboard. It's very nice, but more suited to building a new PC.
posted by krisjohn at 6:29 PM on July 3, 2005

As many have mentioned, the Geforce 6600GT is an excellent choice, however it might cost a bit above your suggested price range. Does your motherboard have PCI express or does it have AGP video? If you have AGP video, I'll buck the trend and suggest something lower-end like the ATI Radeon 9600. It can be had for about $70 and has many of the features you might want including DirectX 9, DVI, and a maximum monitor resolution of 2048x1536. Naturally it doesn't have the oomph of the newer cards, but it is more than adequate for moderate gaming.
posted by RichardP at 3:40 AM on July 4, 2005

(I assume you have AGP, considering the age of your PC.)

It's worth considering the Radeon 9700 Pro. We picked one up on Ebay for the equivalent of about $100 for our second PC. It's not as nippy as the 6600GT in our main PC, particularly at higher resolutions, but we run World of Warcraft and Half-Life 2 at 1024x768 quite happily with it on a 1.5ghz, 1gb RAM system.

A quick check on Ebay US shows a load going in the $100 range with £15 or so postage. Performance-wise, a quick scan of various benchmarks at Anandtech indicates that, if a Radeon 9600 is 0 and a Geforce 6600GT is 100, the 9700 Pro is about 50-70, depending on the game.

A 9800 Pro is probably about a 70-90, again depending on the game, but they tend to go for closer to $150, or $120 second hand on Ebay.

Although the 6600GT and 9800 Pro are both dead quick, I would guess that you'd get better performance for your money in Civ 4 and games like it by getting a 9700 Pro and spending the spare money on another 512mb RAM. Any game that chucks a lot of information around will be happier with more memory headroom.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:29 AM on July 4, 2005

'll buck the trend and suggest something lower-end like the ATI Radeon 9600
There's simply no excuse to get something so underpowered when the Radeon 9800 Pro has come down so drastically in price; the card can be had for less than $130 brand new.
posted by Goedel at 6:09 AM on July 4, 2005

There's no excuse to get something so unreliable as ATI. Just pick up a GeForce 6600. They're cheap and nVidia's drivers suck much less than ATI's. Even if a comparable nVidia product is five or ten bucks more, it's worth it to be able to avoid the inevitable system stability problems that ATI drivers bring.
posted by majick at 10:12 AM on July 4, 2005

Omega drivers. Work like a charm. The standard ATI drivers come with a fairly nasty interface, but the Omegas are straightforward, reliable, and offer slight performance improvements.

If anything, our Nvidia-based PC is the more unreliable, but then it's also the internet gateway and the machine with the big hard disk, so it gets clogged with crap easily.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:43 PM on July 4, 2005

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