Minimum video card for gaming?



I’ll be building another system for a friend soon and have a little issue with the video card. Right now he’s looking at video cards that are resonably prices but he has been reading gaming forums and seems to be getting sucked into that whole if I don’t buy a 400$ video card I won’t be able to play the lates games load of crap.
Maybe things have changed since the last time I bought a video card (it has been a while), but last time I did, the same thing was happening, gamers were becoming convinced that they had to have the fastest card out their for the games to even function (and their were always a few that said that you could get away with much less but they were always ridiculed or ignored).
The system he is building is resonably powerfull (athlon64, socket 939, 1 gig ram running dual channel on decent abit motherboard). Is it still true that a fast system can take up the slack for a slower video card (I know that the technology has changed so I’m not sure anymore). nvidia and ati have both been caught more than once riging cards designs to artificially beat the benchmarks without really having that much real power and we know they very intentionally marked expensive cards to gamers so I really don’t trust what they say (they are trying to get you to buy a new card, not keep your current one). One of the main games he is looking at is battle field 2 (I know that thier is not even a demo out yet but people are already going off the recomended specs and imbelishing on it). What is a minimum card that will run decent with games like this?
Also, Last time I bought, some of the newer cards like the se’s and fx’s were actually slower that the previous generation of cards (I actually had an fx5200 and a radion 8500 and the performance was so noticably diffrent (including but not limited to benchmarks on my own computer)the fx 5200 went right back to the store even though it was the newer card at twice the price. Are thier still older cards that are fast that might be able to handle games like this for a much lower price?
If the answer is that the technology has changed in the last couple of years and you do have to buy something fast you antique computer user, thats fine, I’ll accept that from you guys more than I would from people that are all hyped up listening to all the marketing that is directed towards them, convinced they must buy a 300-400$ video card. This is for recomending a card to him but also for my own personal curiosity. I kind of wonder how my aging radion 8500’s (ati built) 128mb agp would fair with these new games (one is mildly overclocked).
Anyhelp would be greatlly appreciated as thier are a lot of models out their now and researching it is getting to be a little difficult.


Is it pci-e or agp card you are looking for???


He hasn’t bought the motherboard yet so either (does pci-16 give a decent performance boost with midline cards)? If I were to upgrade either of my computers (not that I really plan on it unless something actualy doesn’t run right) I would need agp but this is primarilly about him getting a card.


If he has not bought a motherboard yet i would get the pci-e - there are more options in cards available now and if he decides at a later date to get a better (newer??) card then he will have that option - agp has basically maxed out and i doubt you will see newer cards made. As long as he does not plan to play at high resolutions(1280x1024 or higher) than a card like 6600gt or a radeon x700 would serve him very well. It is the eye candy (AA AF) that brings cards to their knees so it basically comes down to playability and good graphics or spend the money to get playabilty and great graphics. If he plans to game quite a bit i would not go any less than those cards - a few extra bucks can increase a game experience greatly.


Thanks for the help. By the way, one of the reasons I am trying to get him into a cheaper card is that he wants to skimp on the power supply and if he can get a little bit cheaper video card I might be able to convince him to spend some of the savings towards a beter one.
Are their any older cards (that might have been top of the line for the time but are now midline) that he might be able to find? In the past anyway, I have noticed that you can save a lot of money for the same power by going with cards a generation or two old (that were top of the line when new), or are thier new capabilities (not just speed) to the new cards that are important for new games?


anandtech just posted their May Buyer’s Guide which may be of some use to you:


You hit it right on the head - it’s not just speed but the newer generation of cards have new technology that the older cards do not have, plus they will all be of the agp variety. A 9800pro are available for about $120.00 usd, and would be a good card but still need a decent psu.What kind of dollars or limit are you looking at for a card?


@Ripit: If this helps at all, I have an X800SE and I play “Battlefield: Vietnam” at the highest settings @1024x768x32 and it runs very smoothly. I’m not sure what my frame rate is, but I’d be money it is over 50 at all times.
In comparision, Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike:Source require me to turn the settings down to medium for a framerate in the 30-80 range.
I’m sure that battlefield 2 will be more powerhungry.


@drpino, thanks for the link, I’ll check that out.
@jimmybob, he’s looking at this card for 116$ right now

Which is already making him tend to want to skimp on the power supply. Further he is starting to convince himself that that he needs something a lot beter and more expensive than that, and if he does, He might want to skimp in other areas that he shouldn’t. Thier is no limit on the card but thier is a limit on the whole system. If I could get it a little under 100$ it would be great but even if it is a little over 100$, I might still be able to convince him to get a decent power supply. Right now he is wanting to spend about 40$ on a power supply (I’m going to try to get that up to 60$ or maybe even 70$ but that might be stretching it). Overall he wanted to stay under 600$ for the system (basic 1 hard drive system) but he is already up to 700$ with the video card so he’s pushing his budget. Luckilly, he is not in a hurry so he can look for deals (he got a sweet antec 600 series full tower for 25$ after rebate so that helped).


On a side note, the moterboard he was going to get is an ABIT AV8 Socket 939 VIA K8T800 Pro ATX AMD Motherboard

it is agp though
An ABIT AX8 Socket 939 VIA K8T890 ATX AMD Motherboard seems to be basically the same but pic-16

but I havent researched it yet. Anybody know off the top of thier head if the K8T890 is a decent chipset (I know nvidia is beter but it pushes it out of his price range too much). If nobody know right off about it, dont bother to look into that (I can do some research).


How about you put his budget up on this forum and im sure people here will build him the best possible PC he can get for his money?


The one place that I would not skimp is on the power supply. That is a very important component. I bought my antec 400w for only $45.00. Just watch for deals.


Thermaltake makes a excellent power supply for about $40.00
It should be plenty of power and thermaltake is a good brand.


@harley2ride, Tell me about it. I just had a power supply fry on me (a cheapo 10$ after 25$ rebate one from fry’s, so called 400watt) but the sad thing is that I am pretty farmiliar with power supplys and I knew beter. I put my antec sl400 into that computer (stole it from my main rig) and got an enermax 465p (with a sweet 33 amps on the 12v rail) for my main rig.

@Asid, his budget is 600$ but I think that he has accepted that he will have to go over budget to get a gaming rig like he wants (but is trying to cut corners to stay as close as possible to 600$). He is already over 100$ over budget though with the case he has already got and this
This list is of course very tentative (it’s just what he setup as a general idea of what he wants). The cpu seems to be the best bang for the buck but if someone knows anything beter?
He also has another advantage in that he is not in a hurry and he has no problem buying it piecmeal over the next 2 months, so basically he can get it piece by piece (I can test parts in my systems within the return period to ensure no doa parts). That gives him the advantage of getting stuff when it is on sale cheap instead of having to get it all at once. the cpu and motherboard have to be last (I’m not going to tear my systems that fully apart to test) but vid card, memory, power supply etc. should be easy to test. If someone wants to take the time to come up with a recomended system similar to the above one and or in his price range, I would love to see it and I’ll foward it to him. I don’t know if it is nesasary though as he is liklly to go with whatever good quality parts go on sale cheap over the next month. Unfortunatlly, video cards (especially all the newer ones) are one part that I only have limited farmiliarity with. I never saw the need to spend more that 100$ on a video card for my own personal use anyway, and the last two I bought were only about 45$ ea (radion 8500’s) and the easilly outperform the 9200 se or the fx5200 (what was avalable at the time for around 100$ on sale). That just for my personal use though. I think that he is going to do a lot more intensive gaming than I am.


I have the AX8. Highly recommended with PCI-E and four SATA ports, two firewire 1394, and eight USB 2.0. There are four fan headers on the motherboard (two controlled by onboard software). Have no problem overclocking my Winchester 3000 to 3700 speed. I use value RAM so LDT is set to 4x and RAM to DDR333 (263 MHz FSB x 9 multiplier). Also bumped CPU VCore to 1.525 V.

If the case does not vent well, then use 250 MHz FSB with 1.425 Vcore. The $100 AX8 is only 1.5% slower than the much more expensive Fatal1ty AN8.

Be sure to connect the molex power connector from the power supply to the one at the bottom of the motherboard. This will supply extra juice to the PCI-E video card. You don’t need a power supply with a special PCI-E plug with the AX8 board.

I would definitely go with a quality power supply if you are going to purchase a powerful video card. Fortron, Enermax, and Seasonic are good brands. 450 to 500W would be ideal for future expansion. A 350W unit will also run well if you don’t overload the system.


he was actually looking at that power supply. I told him it was decent, but the only thing that I didn’t like was the 18A 12v rail. He is going to be wanting fans and lights in adition to an athlon 64 and probably a videocard that needs extra 12v power. I would think that it would limit future upgrading. I kind of prefer power supplies that have beefier 12v rails since so many things are becoming 12v dependant. I am of the mind that you are going to spend the money on a good power supply, you should get a big enough power supply that you are not going to have to replace it in two years after some upgrading. If he were to upgrade to an athlon fx in a couple of years since the motherboard support is, maybe get a higer model video card in the next couple of year, add a dvd-rom to the burner and or another burner (maybe blue ray if it ever gets cheap), anothe hard drive or two you could easilly exceed that 18 amps, not to mention, he is the type that is going to probably eventually put way to many lights and lit fans and stuff in which pulls even more 12v. Maybe it is overkill, but I like a little overkill on the 12v rail (thats why I got one with 33 amps, and it was only 76$).
I am open to recomendations on power supplies that might be more economical though, since I do believe in power supply overkill (on the 12v at least) and he may just want to save some money for now. Personally though, the extra 20-30$ for a 60-70$ power supply is worth it. I also think that the power supply might be one of those parts that a great deal will come along and he can get a 70$+ one for less (antec 430 watt truepower were recently on sale at newegg for 50$ and maddog 500 watt modular was 50 at compusa (the maddogs are either suposed to be super flower or the same oem as antec, havent found out for sure so maybe it depends on the model but they sound good).
Any thoughts on teh system would be appreciated, though the vid card is the problamatic one for me.


You may encounter AGP lock issue with the AV8. I would never buy a new motherboard AND AGP video card. The future is in PCI-E.

The Enermax 425 or 495 ver. 2.0 would be much better for future upgrade. MWAVE should have a good Enermax +450 class unit for $67. Don’t try to push a powerful video card AND overclock with a 350W PS. or Circuit City usually comes out with the 160 GB Seagate special for $50 after rebate. The SATA version is NO faster than the PATA. I would also avoid the Benq 1620 like the plague. It’s an excellent burner ONLY if you happen to own a non-defective unit. QC is horrible with those 1620. My $ is with the NEC 3520 for about $48. This drive supports PIE/PIF testing with mod firmware.


@furballi, this is what I emailed to him for power supply recomendations
antec, enermax, fortron (or fsp), ocz, sparkle,
zalman, super flower, seasonic, pc power and cooling.
Thier are other good ones too and sometimes they can
be made by one of these people and someone else puts
thier name on it like mad dog or xclio.
As I said in my last post, I believe in good quality and as much overkill as you can afford in a power supply.
I also like enermax (they have always had high 12v rails). I just got an enermax wisper2 465 and it is pretty sweet for the money.
I’ll recomed the ax8 then, so he can go with pci-16.
With the hard drive, while he doesn’t mind rebates, he only has so much upfront cash. He passed up a 120 gig for 40$ after rebate for a 80 gig for 60$ up front, but he may change his mind on that.
I told him about the risk of doa with the 1620 but thats the one he wanted, and if he gets a good one, it should be a good burner (if not then he took the gamble and may have to exchange).


Hey Ripit, From that list you game me I would change 2 things. First, Get a Nforce4 PCI-E motherboard like the one below. Similar Price.

Secondly, Get a PCI-E Graphics card. That 64 bit AGP one will just not be good enough for gaming. Get this 128 bit for similar price.


Changing to pci-16/pci-e is already done (I’m sure he’ll go for it). On the moterboard, I would prefer an nforce 4 board too but the abit nforce boards are too expensive (I am very preferential to abit mb’s). I’ll foward the info on the motherboard that you recomended though and see what he thinks. It is 30$ cheaper so that would leave more money for other things.