Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bleg: Pick My Video Card

Awhile back, I mentioned that I need a new computer.

Then Tigerdirect had a pretty good sale the weekend after Thanksgiving. They called it "Pink Friday." YOu didn't have to spend the night in the freezing cold with stupid people on a sidewalk, which I like, and they gave $100,000 to the Susan G. Komen foundation to kill breast cancer, which is good, too.

Plus, they sold this barebone kit with case, motherboard, a gig of ram on one stick, and an Athlon 64 3500--for $100 after a rebate. One hundred dollars. Plus, the processor and motherboard use the AM2 socket, so if I ever need to upgrade to one of the dual-core X2 Athlons, I can drop it in.

This seemed like a great deal to me, so I picked it up and threw a processor cooler in too. I've got a 160GB hard drive just sitting around unused, and I've got a fast DVD burner sitting in an external case that never gets used, either. That leaves a few sundries more or less, depending on whether I scavenge from my current machine. It's outmoded, but it still works.

The main reason for upgrading to the new machine is to edit home video and burn DVD discs that I can send off to grandparents. I want to be able to create reasonably nice videos, and I want to be able to burn them to a DVD format that will play in most standard DVD players.

What video card and what software do I need, here? I'd like to keep things cheap on the video card, but I want good performance. I don't play games, so video editing is my only concern. I was thinking something like a GeForce 8500 Ultra Silent (just because it's under $100 and I want something quiet.) I don't know anything at all about video processors or what I should be looking for. I think I want PCI-Express and lots of video RAM, right?

As far as software goes, I just want it to be dummy-proof. I don't need to do anything fancy, just add a title here and there, maybe music, and edit things right.


Unknown said...

I have the exact same CoolerMaster's-a very nice-a.

Video are my $0.02.

You have your pick between the two big names at the moment, ATI or nVidia. Trying to compare which ATI card matches which nVidia card in performance (roughly) is a bit of a science. Here's a page that has a handy comparison chart:

For nVidia, the newest generation is the 8000-series. ATI's newest generation is the 2000-series. The higher the number, the higher-performing the card...your 8500 is faster than a 8300, but not nearly as fast as a 8600 or 8800. Then they have those car-like monikers after the number to indicate relative performance within a certain model number, and you have to be a freakin' geek to know that a 8600GT is not quite as fast as a 8600GTS.

Anyway, the 8500 is an okay budget card, supporting most of the advanced feature sets of the new nVidia line. "Ultra silent" means that it has passive cooling, not an active cooling fan like the higher-performing cards. They make some of the mid- to higher-end cards with passive cooling as well, but most of the serious gaming cards come with (noisy) fans.

If'n you don't do gaming, then the 8500 is a decent pick. It'll even let you do the occasional game in a reasonable manner. 256MB is a reasonable amount of VRAM...the more VRAM, the more textures it can hold in memory, but the lower-end cards don't have the wheaties to peoperly make use of 512MB or more VRAM, so anything more than 256MB for a 8500 is just frosting on the cake.

Your barebones kit has a PCI-E motherboard, so you need a PCI-E video card as well.

With 1GB of RAM and that somewhat aged Athlon, stay the hell away from Vista, and get an OEM copy of XP from TigerDirect. Your thoughts on future upgrades are good...the dual-core Athlons are dropping in price weekly, just about.

One limitation of you chosen barebones kit is that the motherboard only has two RAM slots, so you'll have to replace your RAM rather than add to it when you upgrade, but DDR2 RAM is getting so cheap that I think we'll see them tossing gigabyte sticks into Happy Meals very soon...2 GB will run you under $50 with some deals.

Anyway, that kit looks solid for a budget box. The case is very nice, and the components are serviceable.

Unknown said... got cut off. I'll email it to you.

Don said...

I own the XP on this current box (though I'll have to dig the disc out.) I don't need Vista for anything.

Don said...

I'm not worried about the Athlon . . . I'm just not a power user. My wife's laptop with a 2.8 Pentium 4 does everything I want (with a motherboard that doesn't allow hyperthreading) except create videos. It does that, but veeeeeeery sloooowly.

I don't really have a use for the cutting edge in the next few years.

Anonymous said...