What's the sweet spot for a decent but not amazing video card?

Should be PCIe, should probably be able to run most games pretty well.

I’ve been using an ATI HD 4850. It’s cheap, faster and more reliable than my old 8800 GTS, and relatively low on the power draw scale. Noticeable improvement over the 8800 in games like Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, and it runs older stuff at lightning speeds. I’m running it on a 3 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM, nothing fancy. My wife has one as well with her quad core and it works like a champ.

Asus HD 4850 for $115 after rebate - can’t think of a better deal at that price point. Caveat: note the oversized heatsink - good for keeping it cooler than stock heatsinks, bad for fitting it in tight spaces.

Perfect, thanks.

+1 on the 4850, been very happy with the performance.

Had to go in and edit the profile XML file to get the fan to go past its default 41% cap, since I was having heat issues. I also have an unfortunately small, poorly ventilated case, though.

Now that I’ve had the 4850 for a while, the fan is starting to bug me. I don’t mind that it’s 100 C but the fan ramps up and down during games and kind of kills the atmosphere when I’m playing STALKER. Might just try to set it to a default high speed so my mind can adapt it out as background noise. Or buy an aftermarket heatsink and fan, but I’m not motivated for that on this go-round of a PC build.

I got this one. Works fine most of the time (once it might overheated and shutdown). Now the CPU fan is the loudest thing in my computer.

Get a 4850 or step up to a 4870. Not the Sapphire, though.

  1. 4870 jumps in price quite a bit.

I haven’t had an issue with my sapphire 4870.

Also, they only go for 230 bucks or so. Dunno why you wouldn’t make the leap.

Maybe the Sapphires are fine now, but the 512MB 4870s had an endemic issue that would cause lock-ups. I had bought mine in August for $275 and suffered with it til I bothered to research. I got it replaced for $250 back just last month (lolololol super-cheap step up to the GTX 260), as Newegg had discontinued the model I bought.

Sapphire only does warranties through the retailer you buy from, so if you pick them, pick the right retailer, like Newegg. And you may have to kick up the fan speed.

But yeah, I also would say step up to the 4870.

There is also a HIS model at $224 (- $25 mail-in rebate) if you want to avoid potential Sapphire duds. HIS also has one for $265 - $25 mail-in rebate if you want an overclocked card with custom cooling. I’d just as soon reset one of these beasts back to factory settings and enjoy a cooler card myself.

Powercolor 1GB HD 4870 for $180 after rebate.

Oh yeah, and I never got the rebate from my Sapphire card. Scammers.

They almost certainly don’t do their own rebates; those are generally handled by rebate houses, who collect a fee from the manufacturer, and then get to keep whatever they don’t pay out.

So, yeah, “scammers” is pretty much right word, just the wrong target.

Like these guys?