Consider this scenario, a new game title is released: the cinematics are stunning, the storyline engaging and the rendering technology used incomprehensible (a good sign). You will instantly be thinking “I must get this”; yet you soon find that the game’s requirements are out of reach for the hardware you have installed, particularly your graphics card.
If you have no idea on what kind of card is right for your machine, and you desperately want to play newly released titles, read onwards and it will all become clear. This article will instruct you on what you need to check for compatibility, the different types of slots available and two of the popular models of cards on the market. Running next-generation titles smoothly isn’t solely dependent on GPU (Graphic processing unit) of course, but we will ignore the rest for the time being.
AGP stands for Accelerated Graphics Port and it is still widely used, particularly in older systems or for users who have been unable to upgrade to PCI-E (read below).
AGP graphic cards are still being sold since older motherboards don’t support PCI-E (i.e. sockets 478 or LGA 775) and some manufacturers have released perfectly good AGP cards which will run some next-generation titles. Some motherboards also support both slots, AGP and PCI-E, which makes it easier for you to upgrade whilst still being able to use an older card in the meantime.
If you don’t have a PCI-E slot in your computer you can still buy a good card for AGP. Check the manual for your motherboard to determine its speed (4x, 8x etc…) and check for compatibility with any cards you buy.
Checking for Power
Before purchase, check the requirements for the card you are buying. Some cards require a lot of power from your Power Supply, although a 400-450W power unit should be enough.
You may need to buy a new supply unit with a 6-pin power connector in order for your card to get the necessary power. However, most video cards have adapters which can convert two 4-pin connectors into one 6-pin connector.
Popular Models for both Slots
The most popular models are Nvidia and Radeon, so we will look at these; there are other cards available which are equally as good.
If you still own an AGP-only motherboard, you could consider buying a Radeon 9800XT Pro or an Nvidia 6600GT which are good cards. They won’t run titles which are too new (Assassin’s Creed or Dragon Age Origins for example) but if you are terribly outdated they are good upgrades.
Better cards which will indeed run next-generation titles are the Radeon HD 4650 or the Nvidia 7900GS, both great cards for older systems. However, some users have speculated that it may be problematic running these on an older-socket system even though the requirements for both cards do not specify anything at all (apart from power-supply specifics).
If you have a newer PCI-E 16x slot, it will be easier to shop around for new GPU’s. Depending on what you want, i.e. budget models vs highest-performance, the Nvidia Geforce models are still going strong (i.e. 7800, 8800, 9800) for gaming PC’s. The newly released 100 to 400 series offer incredible visuals and performance. Radeon still provides various solutions, such as the Radeon 3000, 4000 and even 5000 series products using the latest “Evergreen” Graphic Processing Unit.