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Old 10-20-2010, 01:10 AM   #1
softblushcom
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Default Graphics Card Questions

Hi,
New user, first post, hope someone can help.

My system:
Dell Inspiron 530/a (circa 2007)
Windows XP (32bit)
DuoCore 1.66Ghz processor w/800MHzFSB
4x1GB RAM
1 internal Hard-drive, but may wish to add a second
300w stock Dell Power Supply
Radeon x1650PRO Graphics Card

Budget is very tight, so buying a new system or really expensive upgrades are not an option. Trying to upgrade my system to play a couple of current games (Civ 5, Bioshock 2, Fallout New Vegas), would like to keep this system a couple more years minimum before I buy a new one.

I realize the the CPU is under recommended specs on these games. For the sake of this question, let's ignore that unless there's a conflict/requirement with the graphics card.

OK, so here we go....

I've got the Radeon x1650PRO in my system, and up until now, it's run AWESOME/love it, etc etc.

Started playing Civ 5, and noticed an exttreme slowdown/delay in map refreshes, as well as map squares that come up painted in a red/white checker pattern instead of game appropriate information. Seem to recall same thing happening with Civ 3 before I got the Radeon, so I'm going to assume that the graphics card is the culprit. So what to upgrade to?

If I can pull off a decent upgrade without having to replace the stock power supply, that would be awesome.

1) Will a Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 1GB work with my system (Power supply, CPU, FSB, physically) ?
2) If so, would the 5770 use the same amount of power or more over the current RADEONx1650 (and if so, how much more)? Is it starting to push the limit of the stock PSU?
3) ATI CROSS-FIRE QUESTION: Pardon the question, I know that ATI cross-fire allows mulitple cards to work together, and I've heard that connecting/bridge hardware is required. Would/could I keep the RADEON x1650 in there as a second card (e.g will the Dell mo-bo support it)? Looks like the Dell 530a only has one PCIe slot, then a couple normal PCI slots (one has a Soundcard in it). So not sure if on my system it's even possible, or if I'd want to do it? My main goal is to upgrade from the x1650, not get sidetracked on a dual-card, expedition, just wondering if there's a simple answer to this one.
4) Heating-the 5770 I'm looking at has a rear-exhaust fan to help keep the heat down. Just want to be sure this thing ain't gonna fry my system.
5) I read somewhere that the 5770 could be used with my current stock 300w PSU, but I'm a little hesitant to buy it and drop it in without the PSU upgrade---question being, what happens if I do just drop it in? Smoke? Fire? No boots or a beep?
6) I know I currently run everything with Directx9, but new graphics cards brag about Directx10 or 11 support....what happens/will anything need to be done to my games, software, BIOS, etc, if/when I drop in a new graphics card? Or will that all be transparent?
7) Lastly, I read that you need to remove old drivers for a new graphics card to be installed correctly. Something about running a program in SAFE MODE and removing old drivers first. Is that true? What program would you recommend? And is it difficult and scary.

** If the 5770 isn't a good option, please explain why, as compared to the x1650 I have in there, and whichever card you recommend.

Sure there will be follow up questions. Thanks!
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Old 10-20-2010, 02:10 AM   #2
Tharic-Nar
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The 3 major problems are...

1) Dell is infamous for poor upgrade options. What should technically be possible, often results in a failed upgrade, mainly because dell builds the system to spec with no prospect of upgrade options.

2) The CPU will be a problem, you could fit in a new GPU if you want, but the difference it will make to your games will likely be only a few Frames per second, since you are CPU bound. You may find with an upgraded GPU that you will get 20fps at 800x600 and 1280x1024 for example, even with the eye-candy turned on and off.

3) The 300 Watt PSU is likely a cheap OEM build, and has a peak of 300 Watts, not sustained, the max sustained load is likely to be 250-260 Watts. Additionally, you are unlikely to have a 6pin 12volt rail for modern GPU's. While you could buy one, it wouldn't be safe with your current PSU.


With all this in mind, i'd say that the 5770 is probably cutting it too close to the 300 watt mark, not to mention it requires an external 6pin power rail. Even a 5750 is probably too much because you will still be CPU bound. All i can think of atm is maybe a 4670 since it doesn't require external power. But you are likely to run into CPU bound problems. Civ 5, New Vegas, both will easily stress the CPU and you will likely be only using 60-70% of the GPU.

Crossfire with your system is highly unlikely, nor recommended.

If you have insufficient power, quite a few things could happen. First, the system might just plain and simple crash under load. Another, it could overload the PSU, causing it to blow with the possibility of damaging other components. At boot time, the GPU may just beep at you and not POST. All sorts of graphical artefacts could sneak in and cause general instability and crashing. In general, a lot of bad, weird, random and dangerous stuff could happen.

The driver cleaning process starts by uninstalling the drivers from windows normally, booting into safe mode (press F8 during POST). Then run something like Driver Sweeper in safe mode and shut-down. Replace the GPU, boot into windows normally and install new Driver. Reboot and you're done. You may need to install Driver Sweeper first, before uninstalling.

So, as a final note, a 4670 is likely your best option, or an NVIDIA equivalent. Or a new system (sorry).

Last edited by Tharic-Nar; 10-20-2010 at 02:26 AM.
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Old 10-20-2010, 06:01 AM   #3
softblushcom
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Default Just as I feared...

Thank you for the quick reply.
Gotta say it's about what I expected. :-(

I was actually looking at the 4670 for a while, and talked myself up to the 5770.

Follow-up question, assuming all you said is accurate (and I believe it is):
If I go the next step, and bump the Power Supply to a CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W, what your thoughts be about the 5770?

I'm guessing you're going to say that I wouldn't have the power related concerns, and I know you're not expecting a big improvement in FPS because of the CPU, but before I start looking to upgrade the CPU/mobo (which I can't begin to say how much I'd like NOT to do),...if I bump the PSU as indicated, will the 5770 (a) work, and (b) give me better performance (noticably better) than the x1650PRO I've got in there now?

Again, appreciate your the help. I know it's a lot to go through to play a couple of games, but it's less than buying a new system, and if it keeps me going for another year or two, I'd think it's worthwhile....assuming it does what I'm looking for it to do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tharic-Nar View Post
The 3 major problems are...

1) Dell is infamous for poor upgrade options. What should technically be possible, often results in a failed upgrade, mainly because dell builds the system to spec with no prospect of upgrade options.

2) The CPU will be a problem, you could fit in a new GPU if you want, but the difference it will make to your games will likely be only a few Frames per second, since you are CPU bound. You may find with an upgraded GPU that you will get 20fps at 800x600 and 1280x1024 for example, even with the eye-candy turned on and off.

3) The 300 Watt PSU is likely a cheap OEM build, and has a peak of 300 Watts, not sustained, the max sustained load is likely to be 250-260 Watts. Additionally, you are unlikely to have a 6pin 12volt rail for modern GPU's. While you could buy one, it wouldn't be safe with your current PSU.


With all this in mind, i'd say that the 5770 is probably cutting it too close to the 300 watt mark, not to mention it requires an external 6pin power rail. Even a 5750 is probably too much because you will still be CPU bound. All i can think of atm is maybe a 4670 since it doesn't require external power. But you are likely to run into CPU bound problems. Civ 5, New Vegas, both will easily stress the CPU and you will likely be only using 60-70% of the GPU.

Crossfire with your system is highly unlikely, nor recommended.

If you have insufficient power, quite a few things could happen. First, the system might just plain and simple crash under load. Another, it could overload the PSU, causing it to blow with the possibility of damaging other components. At boot time, the GPU may just beep at you and not POST. All sorts of graphical artefacts could sneak in and cause general instability and crashing. In general, a lot of bad, weird, random and dangerous stuff could happen.

The driver cleaning process starts by uninstalling the drivers from windows normally, booting into safe mode (press F8 during POST). Then run something like Driver Sweeper in safe mode and shut-down. Replace the GPU, boot into windows normally and install new Driver. Reboot and you're done. You may need to install Driver Sweeper first, before uninstalling.

So, as a final note, a 4670 is likely your best option, or an NVIDIA equivalent. Or a new system (sorry).
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Old 10-20-2010, 09:13 AM   #4
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If you went with the 650TX PSU, then yeah, you could easily supply power to a 5770, it could handle 2 actually, but your motherboard couldn't. So if you plan to make a long term upgrade plan, e.g. buy the GPU and PSU now, then replace the MB/CPU later, then this makes sense. For your current system, your gains may not be as substantial as you'd like (but should provide a noticeable boost). The 5770 WILL give you a higher frame rate, that is for certain, or in the very least, allow you to play games at a higher resolution with more effects enabled. The problem may be that the speed increase may be capped at something like 30 or 40 fps, depending on the game, purely because of being CPU bound. This may carry over for quite a while with that GPU, so while the frames may be capped, they may still be quite high. I would prefer to remain conservative on the real performance gains rather than oversell its capabilities, but just so you know, nearly any modern GPU bar the budget range, will be better than what you have.

I only mention the CPU bound part because from a system standpoint, the 5770 is overpowered compared to the rest of the system, so it'll be under utilised. Just trying to save some money is all. If you plan to transfer it over to another system later, then sure go for it. Just bare in mind that the 6000 series is soon to be released. So it all depends on time.

Last edited by Tharic-Nar; 10-20-2010 at 09:29 AM.
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Old 10-20-2010, 01:50 PM   #5
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Ouch, that is why I never buy prebuilt. It seems like a better deal sometimes but in reality they are giving you the cheapest low quality parts they can get away with (typically). Anyways if you wanna save a bit of money get a 5750 or even a 5670, but if you wait a bit prices may drop further.
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Old 10-20-2010, 03:01 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forums softblushcom :-)

Next time you need a new PC, definitely swing by here and ask for recommendations. Pre-built machines have a slew of limitations, and most often, it's simply not that easy to upgrade, if not impossible. I dealt with this same kind of situation with my friend's Dell last year, and she got so fed up that she ended up just getting me to build her a new PC.

Purchasing that Corsair PSU would help things quite a bit, but it seems like things would be getting much more expensive. The good thing, though, is that when the time comes where you do want to build a new PC, that PSU could be carried over just fine, because it's a nice one.

I agree with Tharic in that the CPU is going to prove to be a major bottleneck, especially in a game like Civilization V. The map I'm on now sometimes takes up to 15 seconds to end a turn, and I'm on a fast quad-core Core i7. I'd hate to see the kind of slowdowns you'll experience in later turns.

Your options are certainly very limited. The best thing for now might be to go around and see if you can find a card like the HD 4670 used, or some other newer cards that A) doesn't draw much power and B) doesn't require a power connector (chances are your PSU doesn't have one).
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Old 10-21-2010, 03:54 AM   #7
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Smile 3 Great Replies-Thank you!

Nice signing on, late night, and having 3 solid replies.
Thank you to all three for your input...

Tharic-Nar>
"If you went with the 650TX PSU, then yeah, you could easily supply power to a 5770, it could handle 2 actually, but your motherboard couldn't. So if you plan to make a long term upgrade plan, e.g. buy the GPU and PSU now, then replace the MB/CPU later, then this makes sense."

Thank you for that. It tells me that
a) I'm not going to blow up my system installing a 650TV PSU (assuming I install it correctly)
b) that it can handle the 5770 (given the 5770 will have a FPS lim due to the processor)
c) there will be [some] amount of noticable improvement in playability with the 5770 over the x1650PRO
d) it confirms my general plan of upgrading in stages, and takes a weight off my mind to know that doing it in this order won't necessarily be throwing money away.

DarkStarr>
There are certainly some major benefits to putting a system together yourself; my situation limited me to a prebuilt system, and to be fair it's help up great since I got it, especially after putting in the x1650 a couple years ago. I'll take a look at the 5750 and 5670 for pricing, but if the difference isn't great compared to the cost of the GPU and the PSU, I'll probably lean towards the 5770, again, with the eye to using it for a couple years, maybe even transporting it into my next system (probably 2-3 years away).

Rob Williams>
Thank you for the welcome, and the quick replies.
When it's time for the Next System, I'll definitely keep Techgage in mind.

Agree that adding the PSU bumps my stretched budget, but like you said, if I look towards it as an investment in something I can transfer to my next system, it's more palletable (sp?).

Completely agree on the CPU bottleneck on CIV5. I'm playing a STANDARD map, and while initial delays are short (5-10sec), up past turn 200 we're talking more in the line of 30-45sec, minimum. Have some hope that with their upcoming patch that will improve a bit; there's been a lot of chatter on the CIV5 Forum regarding the lack of game optimization. Hopefully the designers will listen and do something about it. (Even reducing the delay on each unit after a battle would save a nice chunk of time when added together.) <--Sorry off-point there.

So....given that the CPU will be the bottleneck, once I've done the GPU and PSU, my next obvious question would be do I want to even consider the step after that, which would be swapping out the processor for a Duo-Core in the 2.6 to 3.0 range (I've seen Dell offer a couple that appear to be compatible in footprint and pinout)? Top questions then become how that would effect power consumption (I'm guessing the 650TX could handle it) and whether such a new processor would be able to work to it's full capacity, or would there be system limitations if I don't change out the MO-bo (e.g. thermal, FSB, or clocking).

We're on a roll here, but I'll leave it up to you whether we continue the thread, or I repost the new part of the discussion in the Processors section.

And thank you again for all your thoughts. I'll update this discussion when I take my next step....
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Old 10-21-2010, 04:36 AM   #8
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The problem with upgrading your CPU only will be the FSB locked at 800 and possibly memory. The extra 1.0-1.2GHz will help, but you'll run into bandwidth limitations. Games are cache and latency sensitive typically (not all), so the FSB will prove to be the bottleneck. But you could probably see another 10-15 fps. It's an ageing architecture, so finding parts will become more difficult, it may just be best to save up and get a modern MB with better upgrade paths instead of reaching the end of your current. Also, since this is dell, the MB BIOS may not support faster CPU's, again, just because it's technically possible, doesn't mean it'll actually work.

An AMD based system would give you the best upgrade path, since the sockets are backwards compatible. Buying an AM3 or AM3+ board will mean you can buy a AM2 CPU now and in a couple years, get an AM3+ CPU. DDR3 memory is likely to be around and remain cheap for another few years as well, since there has been little word on DDR4 (or equivilent). Intel may be performance champ, but they would of released 4 socket types in 2 years (1155 and 2011 in the next couple months). AM3+ boards are not available yet, but will be in a few months.

In terms of power, that 650TX will handle nearly anything you throw at it, quad core, 6 core, most SLI and crossfire rigs, but it'll be stumped on a 480SLI or dual 5970 or some such, the high powered cards. That PSU has 2x 6+2 (8) pin 12volt rails for GPU's, and some cards will require both a 6 and 8 pin connector, in those cases, you can only have one card. But in terms of the rest of the system, you'll be fine. As long as you don't hook up 12 hard drives or something silly, lol.
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Old 10-21-2010, 09:47 PM   #9
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Yes go AMD for budget systems, I built my cousin a BEAST pc for next to nothing, but when you toss in a monitor and better gpu price quickly gets close to $600. That's about what my machine started at and now its over $900 for the rig, no monitor and another $450 for the 32" LCD TV/Monitor. It was all slowly added over time (about a year). It all adds up over time and now it destroys any pc that I have come across so far. (not including high end i7 rigs)
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