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Graphics Cards and Cooling: Advice please!


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#1
LeftyScum4000

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Hi there!

I spent much of this evening having a hunt around the web for the information I need, but it quickly developed into a whack-a-mole situation with myself opening tabs and trains of thought alike, so I thought I'd ask some people more in the know than I.

In short, I'm trying to get another two or three notches of gaming performance out of an old PC that was never really built for the task.

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5200+
Memory: 2GB
Graphics: NVidia GeForce 7050 PV / NVidia Nforce 630a

I'm pragmatic with my gaming. I generally play games 3-6 years after they come out, and pick up classics I've missed. Every now and then, I might play a modern game if I'm REALLY excited about it, but this is pretty much restricted to RPGs or turn-based strategy for obvious reasons. I did get Fallout: New Vegas running, but I had to turn down the difficulty to compensate for the framerate. Next on the list is SWtOR, and since that runs online I guessed that my machine would have to make the step up.

The thing has life in it yet, so I'm not looking to replace it. Looking at the specs, the most obvious thing to me was the on-board (?) graphics (though I may grab some RAM while I'm there). So I've started looking at things like this:

1GB GeForce GT 430
1GB GeForce GTS 450

Stuff like that. I'm not expecting to stick all settings on high and put my foot to the floor, I just want functional, and maybe a little bit of "Wow!" out of the more aging parts of my gaming collection.

So, firstly, am I on the right sort of track for that?

Now that said, there is another issue...

My PC is hot. It is hot at the best of times and when the action hots up on games they slow down, the fan screams for mercy, and on more than one occasion they crash. For reference, Core Temp puts the CPU at present (running a minimalist firefox and nothing else) at 49C and 53C. A few weeks ago I cleared the dusk out and cleaned the fans, which shaved about 10-20C off what it was. Speedfan has been known to record 90C+ on some days.

The case is the standard nameless box it came in. It sits on my desk 14cm from the wall at the rear, and 10cm from the wall to its unvented right side. It has a single, rear fan, and two pithy vents on the unblocked left side.

Now, I know those graphics cards I looked at aren't much, but I'm guessing they're not going to make the situation any cooler. So. Is it worth me getting them? Do I need to change my case? Do I need to make upgrades elsewhere?

All advice welcome!

Also, why the [bleep] can't I make these things brief?
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#2
Digerati

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Upping your RAM to at least 4Gb will provide the most bang for your money and should be your first investment. A new graphics card would be the next step after that, but WARNING - graphics cards are often the most power hungry device in the computer and as such, a new card often requires a new power supply too.

It sounds like you may need a new case, one that provides more and larger (120mm or larger) fan support. But first, inspect your case and power supply. If it supports more or larger fans, add them. If not, shop for a new case. Check the PSU for power connectors.
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#3
LeftyScum4000

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Thanks for the advice!

Will shop into the RAM, and examine the power supply situation.

With the fan situation, I initally looked at simply getting another fan for the machine to cool it down, but having delved into the matter the literature raised points that more fans aren't necessarily as good as a well managed airflow, and I wondered if simply shoving another fan in might be counterproductive. For that reason I was looking at new case entirely, but it's hard to get perspective on what I need there. Obviously there are several well designed cooler cases that are specially for games, but I wondered if that was a sledgehammer to crack a nut?



EDIT:

A new case has the potential to take me over my budget. I'm operating on upto about £120 for case, ram and card. All funds after that would be better placed saving up for a new PC. That PC, when it happens, will have a case better than the hardware, for this one...



EDIT the second:

There is room for two fans, though I may be looking at slightly smaller than recommended. Since I can grab those for sod all, I might as well try that before anything else.

PSU: Lpk12-23 @ 420W.

(It says 420W on a sticker on the side, and on the information site I found. However, that would put it in the 350W performance category, right?)

Not that it means a great deal to me. My best estimate of what I was trying to do came up as needing upto 252W on a psu calculator, but my gut instinct tells me to cross reference that particular finding. Is that likely?

So...

4GB RAM and 2x fans bought, and to be installed next week.

Temperature situation to be examined with new fans, if it reduces it appropriately, I'll look towards the graphics card...

Current PSU: Lpk12 @ 420W (350W?)
(1x HD)

NVidia GeForce GT 430 - site says max power of card is 49W, mimimum system 300W.

a) Should that work?
b) Bearing in mind the budget and expectations, is that a good bet for a card?

Edited by LeftyScum4000, 11 August 2011 - 05:47 PM.

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#4
Digerati

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However, that would put it in the 350W performance category

PSUs are not categorized like that. But still 420 is 20% more than 350W. That's a fair amount.

You want good front to back flow through the case. This can be improved by ensuring the interior and vents are all clean of heat trapping dust, and cables are routed to minimize restricting air flow. If you have any flat ribbon cables, I recommend replacing them with round cables.
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#5
LeftyScum4000

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I cleaned all the vents to the best my equipment would safely allow today, and tied up and tidied the cables. There is one flat ribbon from the DVD writer (as I recall) though that appears to be fairly safely tucked out of the way. It's no record breaker, but at present there should be a good airflow when the fan situation is sorted.

Any thoughts on the graphics card?
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#6
Digerati

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I think that graphics card will yield a nice performance bump over the on-board graphics. It has a better GPU and it comes with it's own dedicated RAM tweaked for graphics processing. A card allows previously stolen... err "shared" system RAM to be freed up for the OS and CPU to use - a good thing.

I would recommend you visit the graphics card maker's site and download the manual now and see what it takes for power connections (if any).

That said, in looking back through this thread, I don't see your system or motherboard specs listed. While it is likely that motherboard has a PCIe expansion slot, you need to verify that before finalizing your graphics card purchase.
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#7
LeftyScum4000

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Motherboard: Asus M2N68-CM

And reportedly that's a PCIe x16, which should support the card in question.

What it also appears to support, however, is the Radion HD 5670 (1GB), which is only a little more expensive, but uses about the same amount of power. Given that every review and comparison seems to weigh heavily in favour of that over the GT 430, I think I shall probably head in that direction, unless I encounter any evidence contrary to this.

So...

1. Wait for RAM and Fans to arrive.
2. Install RAM and Fans
3. See if that solves the heat problem
4. If it does, get the 5670

And I guess, for the time being, that's the lot. Unless I'm making any large oversight, I think most of the rest of what I need to know should be available on the web already in at least a semi-digestable manner.

Thanks for your all your help and patience, Digerati, it has been invaluable. :) Much appreciated!

Edited by LeftyScum4000, 12 August 2011 - 09:18 AM.

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#8
Digerati

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You are quite welcome. And while still pondering your card, see Toms Hardware Best Graphics Cards for the Money, August 2011.
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#9
LeftyScum4000

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Ah, thanks for the link. It's interesting reading, and pleasing to see that 5670 riding in top of the budget list. I'm slightly curious about the 5770 given that there is one going for about the same price as the 5670 (and another that is £30 more expensive, with the only labelled difference appearing to be 3 monitor *chokes* support). Nonetheless, given my past heating issues and the fact that brings me closer to the uncertainy level on my power supply, I think I'll probably stick with the 5670. Frankly, given what I have been used to thus far, I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference between the two anyway. Double figures frame rate here we come!
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#10
Digerati

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Have fun!
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#11
LeftyScum4000

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An update, of where things are so far.

I installed the two new fans. The CPUs at idle now read 40C and 45C respectively. A definite improvement, though I still won't have to knit them scarves any time soon.

The extra 4GB of RAM has been more problematic, unfortunately. For some reason, the system is only using 3GB of RAM, despite there now being a total of 6GB installed. Bizarrely, at the BIOS, it counts upto 3GB, then counts again upto 6GB. The Direct X Diagnostic in windows records 3GB.

Ho-hum.

I've yet to explore this fully myself, so I'm not certain what may be causing this. Any ideas are, of course, appreciated, but I just thought I'd update for now.

EDIT: First potential issue

My dual boot runs a 32-bit version of XP, and Ubuntu

On 32-bit XP, the RAM limit would be 4GB. -_- So it will never recognise the full 6GB. This doesn't explain why windows is refusing to use the fourth GB however.

Somewhat unusually (if uselessly) though, the Ubuntu boot seems to be having the same issue. 6GB installed, only 3GB useable.

This is bizarre, because surely if it were a hardware issue, and one the sticks were not installed correctly, then 2GB or 4GB would show. Yet equally, were it an OS issue, wouldn't Ubuntu show 6GB instead?

Again, still reading up on all this (if SWtOR turns out to be [bleep], I'll be fairly irritated later), so my understanding is limited.

For reference, system information in XP has...

Total Physical Memory: 6,144.00 MB
Available Physical Memory: 2.14 GB
Total Virtual Memory: 2.00 GB
Available Virtual Memory: 1.96 GB
Page File Space: 4.72 GB

Whilst the Direct X Diagnostic Tool has...

Memory: 2944MB RAM
Page File: 688MB used, 4140MB available

:)

EDIT 2:

Old discussions in tech forums seem to regard the apparent 3GB cap as part of the 4GB wider cap, resulting from the 32-bit OS. -_-

What is more, because XP has been withdrawn from the shelves, I'm going to be unable to get a copy of the 64-bit version. -_- (to say nothing of the back-up difficulties anyway)

I can have no complaints with the advice I got here. I didn't mention my operating system because I did not perceive it as having any impact. -_- I can be slightly more cross with Crucial's scanner, which gladly informed me I could install another 6 GB of RAM - it just didn't tell me that my OS wouldn't be able to use it.

What is done is done, and I have the extra stick for the upgrade. I suppose the only final question is to how this will impact upon my graphics card selection, and whether any of it is worthwhile.

You live and learn, but it's hard not to be a little disappointed at the way things have worked out. :unsure:

Edited by LeftyScum4000, 15 August 2011 - 11:50 AM.

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#12
Digerati

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Crucial was correct. It reported what your hardware supports.
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#13
LeftyScum4000

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Whilst that is true, given the size of the RAM packets they sell, and their support for older motherboards, surely the information is something of a glaring ommission, no? I mean, technically, I can't complain because I should've done my research beforehand - but the tool was there for the exact purpose of meaning people didn't have to do that.

Obviously I have absolutely no legal* standpoint, but I think I am entitled to be a little disappointed in their service.


*Melodrama unintentional
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#14
Digerati

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Whilst that is true, given the size of the RAM packets they sell, and their support for older motherboards, surely the information is something of a glaring ommission, no?

No, I don't think so. It's none of their business what operating system I use, and they don't need to know my intentions.

How are they supposed to know you are not inquiring because you are thinking of moving to 64-bit? I personally don't want any more sites having profiles on me than absolutely necessary.

When you use a RAM wizard, the question asked is, "what will my motherboard support?" If you want to know what Windows will support, you go to Microsoft.
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#15
LeftyScum4000

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Well, while I can certainly see your point, I still feel a little aggrieved. Still, I shall put that down to my end situation causing me to not perceive the reality accurately. At any rate the point is moot since I now have no further need to use their company for the next couple of years. While I have budgeted for this luxury, money is tight enough to make this a somewhat painful waste.

This does, however, bring up the question of what to do with the Graphics Card. The 5670 had 1GB of memory with it, but is that of any use whatsoever? Indeed, given the cap, would it be best to sell off the RAM and just get the card?
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