Help me pick a video card
August 10, 2004 11:05 AM   Subscribe

What would the optimal video card be for a P3 700Mhz system running ArcView/GIS and AutoCAD?
Also, would you choose a different video card for those apps than you would for gaming, and why?

AutoCAD 2002, ArcView/GIS 9. A new system will be purchased next year for these apps to run on, but in the meantime, I'd like to get the best performance possible by adding RAM and a better video card to the current system.
posted by gnz2001 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Does your system have an AGP slot? and if so what is it's rating?

Most mid to high end video cards will most likely be able to process the data as fast as, if not faster than your, CPU can send it.
posted by riffola at 11:08 AM on August 10, 2004

Response by poster: How would I find out by telephone? It's not my system, it's a friend's, and they're in another town.
posted by gnz2001 at 11:30 AM on August 10, 2004

IMHO, pretty much any card on the market today will be borderline more powerful than the system, so don't spend much money. Certainly don't buy a high-end card.

Maybe an older Radeon?
posted by aramaic at 2:04 PM on August 10, 2004

What is the friend doing in AutoCAD and ArcView? For a lot of 3d modelling and rendering, speed and video memory will be issues, for mostly 2d stuff, not so much.
posted by signal at 5:01 PM on August 10, 2004

With a CPU that feeble, you're going to be fine with just about any video card on the store shelf. The limiting factor will almost certainly be the speed of the processor and the memory. I'd suggest steering clear of ATI cards, as they have a longstanding reputation for the kind of driver problems that will make your friend's life miserable.
posted by majick at 8:33 PM on August 10, 2004

IIRC, the XBox is a Pentium 3 in the vicinity of 700 MHz (maybe 733 or 777, though the latter would be an interesting conflict with Boeing). It's GPU is an NVidia chip that is somewhere between GEforce 2 and 3. The XBox's chip is said to be slightly more powerful (and more expenisve) than its Intel CPU.

From that alone, any GEForce 3 card should outpace your friend's main CPU.

If your friend is just doing wireframe CAD stuff, any card will do, even a Tseng ET4000 (if you can find an ISA slot for it). The kind of shading and texturing that the GIS application needs, and whatever rendering AutoCAD wants to do will determine whether you can grab an off-the-shelf NVidia or ATI based card, or go for a special purpose OpenGL card.

After some long conversations with your friend, and lots of googling, go to EBay to buy the right card. Most likely, some CAD shop is getting rid of their workstations-from-three-years-ago and is posting the then-awesome (and awesomely-expensive) OpenGL cards to EBay for $5.

On the positive side, once you've done all this work, you could probably get a job selling either hardware to CAD companies, or even whole CAD systems...

Also, what Riffola said - having an AGP slot will make a HUGE difference. Make sure you get a card fast enough to saturate that AGP slot (ie, if it is a 4x slot, get a 4x card, not a 2x card).

Final comment: you can get all kinds of SGI workstations on EBay for pennies (sometimes even dollars). None of them come close to a modern uber-gamer's machine, but are certainly instructive in the history and practice of 3D graphics.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:19 AM on August 11, 2004

Kwantsar hit the mark. A good OpenGL card will set you back $500-$1000 new. Used ones are much cheaper and will slot right into your used machine.

If you can't find one or want to spend much less look for a Matrox Dual head. Sub $200 dollar range new and once you go dual head for CAD you'll never go back.
posted by Mitheral at 12:01 PM on August 11, 2004

« Older Need <$75 CCD-Based Webcam with Good Color & White...   |   How to unclog an Epson Inkjet printer Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.