Best Bang for Buck on PC Upgrade?

So I’m thinking I would like to get a bit better performance out of my PC, which is not decrepit enough to fully replace but doesn’t quite have the graphics or processing performance for the highest end games right now. I’m wondering if its worth spending a couple hundred bucks to upgrade, and if so, whats the best bang for buck?

I have a Gateway GM5416E, which has an Intel Dual Core 2x1.86 GHz CPU, 2 Gigs of DDR2-533 RAM, an ATA 400 GB HD, and a GeFore 7600 GS video card. I’m running Vista Home Premium. It’s been a pretty good machine, fire and forget, fairly reliable, if a tad grindy on the HD and being fairly slow to load Vista. Overall I’m pretty happy with it and don’t really plan to replace it for a year or so.

Whats my best bang for buck for an interim upgrade? That GeForce 7600 GS card is looking kind of long in the tooth. I read some reviews about the 9600 GT SSC that is supposed to be very good for $200 or less. Is that a good upgrade? What about getting RAM instead? If so, what kind?

If I want to pump up my machine a bit, whats the best course?

9600 GT or 8800 GT, definitely.

Didn’t the new Radeon make for a great graphics card for such a budget?

Right now Best Buy is selling a 3870 for $129.99:

I don’t think you can beat that for bang for the buck right now.

you don’t upgrade to different ‘kinds’ of ram as the increasing bus speeds of ram are only good if you like to play benchmarks.

I have the same RAM and slightly faster CPU. Stick an 8800 in it for bliss.

Rei - I was actually considering just adding RAM - not sure if going from 2 Gigs to 3 or 4 would have much impact though.

As for video cards, I was at Best Buy today and they did have that Radeon 3870 for $129. They also had a Geforce 9600 GT for $175 and a 9600 GT overclocked for $200. They had 8800GTs but those were in the 250-300 range.

The one graphics intensive game I’m playing right now is Mass Effect. I don’t play a lot of shooters, tending to prefer MMO, RPG, RTS and turn based strategy. Games I would like to play in the near future: Neverwinter Night 2 (never finished due to graphical glitches), more Mass Effect, possibly Bioshock (have it, never really played it). I’m currently playing Civ IV Fall From Heaven, a bit of old school Planetside, and some occasional WoW. Not sure if a graphics upgrade will have much impact on my current games.

Given that I have a GeForce 7600 GS now, will a 9600 or 3870 card have a lot of impact on how the games I’m playing or would like to play perform?,572.html?p=1590%2C1599%2C1616%2C1567

The 3870 for 129 is the best dollar per fps. The 9600 GT is a slightly crippled 8800 GT, about 10-30% slower, depending on the game and settings.

I have the 9600 GT but i chose it mostly for it’s lower power usage and quiet fan. It’s chewed up everything so far, but it’s of course no SLI high end solution.

No doubt the 8800 GT is the card to have, though.

I would be concerned about your power supply more than your performance, and work around that. Better to get a more efficient card, like the 9600 GT, for slightly more, than a 3870, and have to upgrade your power supply. Pretty much at every level, ATI cards use more power, at this point, than Nvidia cards for the same performance. Keep that in mind.

Although you want to add up your total watts, the biggest number how many amps your 12v+ rails can provide. As long as you have enough amps, and are over 300 watts, you should be fine. Generally, though, the bigger the PS, the more amps they push.

Sharpe, I just received this in the mail, and am very very pleased with how much it’s boosted my rig’s performance. I went from a 7600GT, so your improvement should be even greater.

Seriously, awesome card for the money.

That’s a pretty impressive price Skorin - about $100 less for a GeForce 8800 GT 512 than Best Buy was charging. I’m still deciding…

Have you defragged your hard drive recently? That’s free. Also, I had a Vista laptop that booted up very slowly with 1 gig of RAM, but was fine with 3. I don’t know how it is with 2.

I got a refurb 512mb 9600 GT for $120 off newegg a few weeks ago.

I’d say go with the 8800 GT or 9600 GT, whichever you can find cheapest. In my book, the 9600 GT is slightly preferable due to being slightly more modern and less power hungry. The 8800 GT isn’t that much faster than the 9600 GT.

Either way a winner is you!

How hard is it to replace a PS in a off-the-shelf PC? I’ve got a slightly older HP with only a 250 watt PS that has frightened me away from sticking in a video card.

I seem to recall HPs not being built with weird powersupplies. Check the product page for your computer if
you’re not familiar with such things, and see if it says anything about you having an ATX powersupply.
If that’s the case, it’s just a matter of buying a reliable replacement and matching the plugs into sockets.

It’s typically easy, unless the frame makes it hard to get the old power supply out, or your system is non-standard.

I question whether it’s really a worthwhile upgrade, though, unless the rest of your system is pretty new. I lean toward the “buy a graphic card upgrade that your power supply can support” option.

So it sounds like a 9600 GT at $175 is the way to go - fairly good performance upgrade, not too much strain on the power supply, within my planned budget. I wonder what the actual gaming impact would be?

Note: The Dell Optiplex line at least had backwards power supplies. That meaning, the power cord socket was on the opposite side from commercially available supplies.

Another reason my company won’t touch Dell anymore.

That’s the odd thing that has me spooked from trying it before now, I can’t find anything regarding the PS on the product page, or even in the various other pages I’ve googled.

Yeah, I’m a power supply noob also. I did manage to look up the specs on mine though. I believe this is my power supply.

It appears to be a measely 300 watt power supply. So now I wonder if I should just leave the PC alone for now and do a full replacement of the system in a few months. Is that PS going to be sufficient for a card like a 9600 GT? B/C although I can pop in a video card or RAM without trouble, I don’t think I want to handle the electrical parts. I don’t think I could handle a PS replacement with my mediocre tech skills.

Powersupplies are extremely easy to replace because there are no driver issues that need to be resolved. However, like i said, try to find the amperage rating for the power supply, which you’ll probably have to see what’s written on it inside the case to do.

Honestly though you’re pushing it… 300w supplies seem like you’ll be lucky to get it to work. I’m using a 350w with the 9600GT, but it’s a high-efficiency supply (so i get, in essence, a bit more than another similarly rated cheaper supply).

Here is the EVGA 9600 GT page. Scroll down and note the amps required

“Minimum of a 400 Watt power supply.
(Minimum recommended power supply with +12 Volt current rating of 26 Amp Amps.)”
The Wattage is there to give them cover, but i’d pay attention to the Amp requirment.

If you can do it, here are two EVGA 9600 GT’s over at Newegg, for 139$ after rebate

One has a two-slot cooling card, which is nice to keep the heat out of your case.

Oh, and gratz to wumpus. When i google “power efficient video card”, Coding Horror is the first site listen on Google.