Pixel Shader-lovin' video card?
August 30, 2007 5:43 PM   Subscribe

What is the cheapest PC video card available that supports Pixel Shader.

I (well, my son) has a single PC video game, Star Wars Lego, which requires a "Pixel Shader support" capable graphics card. None of his others games require this, not even Star Wars Lego II. The cheapest one I've found is $149.00 (a Radeon 9500). This is way too much for a card to play a game we got for $2 at a rummage sale. Any suggestions for reasonable (less than $50) alternatives. It's going in a three year old PC, running Windows XP-SP2, so it doesn't need to be state of the art. Just affordable.
posted by OlderThanTOS to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Are you sure it just needs "Pixel Shader"? The reason I ask is because Pixel Shader comes in several versions, the most current of which is (I believe) 3.0. Be careful not to end up with a "Pixel Shader" card (which might mean 1.0) if the game actually wants 2.0, or you'll be just as out of luck.
posted by Rallon at 5:48 PM on August 30, 2007

The current release is Pixel Shader 3.0, which is required for the game BioShock, for instance.

I believe the ATI 6600 chipset is cheap(er) and has 3.0 support. Documentation for this is hard to find, I've found.
posted by lothar at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2007

What kind of video card do you have currently? I find it odd that Lego Star Wars 2 would run, but the first wouldn't. According to Lucasarts web site, both require pixel shader support.

To find out, go to Run in your start menu, and type in "dxdiag", once it's done loading, go to the display tab. It should say in there what you have installed.

I'm not making any promises, but if one does and the other doesn't, you may only need a patch or new driver.
posted by Durhey at 5:54 PM on August 30, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, should have said "Pixel Shader 2.0". I assume anything above 2.0 would be backwards compatible, yes?
posted by OlderThanTOS at 5:55 PM on August 30, 2007

Well, here's a 9550 for $40. Presumably, if a 9500 has what you need, the 9550 should be a little faster.

Wherever you're shopping for video cards, you need to find a new retailer. $150 for a 9500 is absolutely insane.
posted by Malor at 5:57 PM on August 30, 2007

Yes, anything above 2.0 should be fine. At this point, though, 2.0 cards are becoming obsolete, so looking into a cheap 3.0 card will very likely keep you from hitting this situation again 6 months from now. Consider lothar's suggestion.
posted by Rallon at 5:57 PM on August 30, 2007

Pixel Shader 2.0 corresponds to DirectX 9, so...pretty much anything over $20.
posted by rhizome at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2007

Note that there is no ATI 6600; I think lothar's talking about the nVidia-made Geforce 6600 series. The 6600 is fairly old, which wouldn't be a problem except it's probably more difficult to find in stores and, in a sort of technology shopping paradox, can often be more expensive than newer, faster counterparts because they're no longer in production and no longer in demand.

Other, more recent options include the Radeon x1600 and the Geforce 7300 series. The two cards I linked are not the only ones you'll find on Newegg, so you may want to dig further into the site if you want to make sure you're getting the best bang for the buck (I just chose cards that didn't look like they skimped too much on the memory but I didn't look very hard myself). They should all work just fine for Lego Star Wars, and possibly some of the lower-end cards as well (Radeon x1400/x1550 and Geforce 7100/7200 respectively).
posted by chrominance at 8:01 PM on August 30, 2007

That x1600 would be way, way faster than the 9550... for the extra 12 bucks, you should definitely go that way.
posted by Malor at 10:13 PM on August 30, 2007

Ooh, wait, stop. That x1600 is PCI Express, which probably won't work on the machine in question. You most likely need AGP.
posted by Malor at 10:15 PM on August 30, 2007

Any card that will run DirectX 9 will work for you, and they can be had for well under $50, assuming you are willing to go mail order -- looking at the Compusa, Best Buy, and Fry's sites, it doesn't look like they stock many sub-$50 video cards.

One thing that you will need to be aware of is whether you need an AGP or PCIe video card (based on the video expansion slot available on your motherboard). You'll want to confirm that before you buy anything, because the two are not interchangeable.

Also, I wasn't clear from your original question, but are you sure that your current system won't run the game? Did you get an error message, or are you just assuming based on the printed system requirements? You may simply need to update your video drivers.
posted by camcgee at 10:41 PM on August 30, 2007

Wikipedia has a table showing what cards support which version.
posted by kenchie at 10:44 PM on August 30, 2007

36 bucks. Please note this an an AGP card. Your desktop might be PCI-Express instead of AGP. If its 3 years old its probbly safe to assume theres an AGP slot in there.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2007

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