The PA Hardware buyers guide.
Heres the first update, ill add a bunch of video cards, with prices, specs, and pros and cons to the card, along with a section for drivers from nvidia and ATI. Read the bottom rules section before you think about replying, and im looking to have this thread stickied, if any mod would be so kind.
What Should you upgrade first?
This thread will cover most hardware related questions about what you should upgrade, and what to upgrade too. So lets discuss, what should you upgrade first, for the most performance for your money?
Memory is a huge part of your windows performance, and if your running less then 512 DDR memory, i suggest upgrading, especially if your running windows XP. Videocards can give you a big boost in gaming, but not much change in other windows apps.A hard drive upgrade will not give you a big boost in performance, but try for a 7200 RPM HD, at least 40-60 Gigs, and fast seek time(The speed at which the HD can seek data or something like that). If your running below a 2Ghz processor, you could probably stand to upgrade, look for a P4, or if you wanna save money and get good bang for you buck, look for Athlon 2000+. Motherboards usually arent really mentioned for performance upgrades, but they can play a big part. If your running a P4, look for a mobo that supports high FSB speeds, can use dual channel DDR memory, and supports AGP 8X. The same ideas go with Athlon mobos too. When shopping for a processor, look for Intel Pentium 4, or Athlon XP. You see other proccessors like intel celeron and Athlon duron, but those are mostly for lower grade CPUs, or even server processors.
Heres the first, and probably most important question. Why
should you upgrade, and do you need
If you want to play the newer games coming out, especially HL2, and Doom 3, youll need a card that supports DX9 to play it comfortably. If you running anything lower then DX8, i suggest upgrading to around at least a Radeon 8500, or a Geforce 4600 Ti. Look for also at least 128 DDR SDRAM.
Now, lets find out what company you want to support, ATI, or Nvidia.
cards have great drivers, but lately I've been hearing bad things about their cards, like bad performance for the cash, they sound capable of space flight, such and such. Personally, i know next to nothing about Nvidia cards, since ive never owned one, hence my bias to ATI cards. I'm quite sure a Nvidia fanboy will contribute some good information eventually.
ATI Radeon website
series. ATI cards are very good price and performance, but until lately, their drivers sucked, no uninstall, and other such crapiness. the latest ATI drivers are excellent, with ability to save video profiles, make games play in Black and white mode, and the ability to uninstall the drivers, they've busted out the big guns.
Now you may be looking at your various websites, and seeing cards like sapphire ATI radeon, or such and such Nvidia geforce. These cards for the most part, i think, are originally made by their respective companies, but modified to optimize, or even reduce performance. I prefer to buy directly from the original maker, but sometimes these other companies offer games and such with their cards.
When you look at the box of your Card, youll see all these cryptic stats, like Core bus speeds, memory and such, ill break them down for you.
The core of your card, persay. There is 2 basic chipsets, ATI radeon, and Nvidias Geforce cards. You see those other cards from other companies, but they all run the same chipsets of their original siblings.
Ram is used to store information about the geometry of the 3D models the card is rendering, as well as the actual textures that are being stretched across those models. Current games use most of the 128 memory, and some even use some of the 256 in newer cards. 128 will be more then enough to last you for a few months, but if you have the cash to spend, go for 256.
The first number of this spec youll see is a XXX-Bit number, this refers to the amount of data the cards memory can transfer each clock cycle, the bigger then better. The second number is XXXMhz, this refers to the speed, the bigger number, the better. The last part of the spec will be DDR SDRAM, double data rate memory, which means it transfers data twice as fast as the old SDRAM.
[/b]RAMDAC:[/b] This number will be a XXXMhz type deal. this converts digital signal producded by the videocard into analog signal that a CRT monitor can display. the faster the Ramdac, the higher the maximum resolution and faster refresh rate the videocard can drive.
This is the maximum resolution and refresh rate a videocard can support.
Some newer cards support AGP 8X, most cards support at least 4X, this number refers to the amount of memory bandwidth it supports, 4X is i think, 1GB per second data transfer, while 8X is 2 GB per second. im not sure the exact number atm.
Lets take the RAdeon 9800 series for example.
Chipset: ATI R300
Memory size: 128MB
Memory Type: 256-bit, 330Mhz DDR SDRAM.
Max resolution: 2048x1600@85Mhz.
Thanks to MaximumPC Website
for showing me wtf these specs mean..
Now, lets talk about Direct X 9
, Pixel and Vertex shaders.
Direct X9 is the basic 3d thingamagig(ill update a more detailed explanation when i know one later) that runs with windows, and gives increased performance in games. A card that has full support of DX9 will be able to use more Advanced effects shown in upcoming games like Half-life 2(fapfapfap), and Doom 3.
Some of these features are, Detail props, which are set pieces that add realism to scenes. Reflective and refractive water, reflective water reflects images, but refractive water, which can bend incoming light, which makes it look more realistic. Volumetric effects, like fog, which makes fog appear in patchy and uneven amounts, and makes it look more realistic. Some of these features are hardly new, but they work better with DX9. Some low end cards say they support DX9, but their low memory bandwidth hinders performance.
Pixel and Vertex Shaders made shadows and stuff, im not really sure yet, so ill update later.
Some Direct X7 cards are.
Any nvidia with SDRAM and DDR SDRAM
Any nvidia Geforce 2
Any unnumbered ATI Radeon
ATI radeon 7000 series
Any nvidia Geforce 3 or 4
ATI Radeon 8500
Any ATI radeon 9000
Any ATI radeon 9200
Any SiS Xabre.
Any Nvidia Geforce FX between 5200-5900.
Any ATI Radeon between 9500-9800.
I used PCGamer's
) Half-Life 2 article from august 2003 to give this Direct X9 writeup, so i must give them some credit.
Now heres a thing most people never look at, noise
level. Ive never had a problem with no level on my card, but from what i hear, some Nvidia cards are pretty loud, and also some radeon cards with big fans can be noisy. If your buying a card for the sole purpose of gaming, no OCing or anything, id look for one with a smaller fan, and try to find out how noisy it is before buying. If you want to OC, you might want a larger fan to accomodate for increased tempetures.
Heres some links to the drivers from each company.
ATI Radeon Catalyst 3.8 Drivers
Im going away for a few days, and since listing all the recent cards takes to much time that i dont have, ill just list the 3 cards you really should bother looking at.
Radeon 9600 PRO, its the best card for under 200$, so buy it.
Top end cards
Radeon 9800 XT, or Geforce FX 5900 ULTRA.
Either of those cards are more then any recent game needs, but the radeon will perform better for HL2.
If your looking for any other cards, PM me and ill give you my poorly informed insight.
Some rules I'd like people to kindly adhere to.
I'm looking for people to write a report type thing for specific parts of the computer, like processors and memory, mobos etc, and keep it relativly up to date. PM me if your interested.
If you have corrections to make, or want to add something, PM me, i dont want to clutter the thread with corrections.
And umm, yea, try not to make replies.