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Need graphic card advice..


LilTart Rhapsody
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The recommended graphics cards listed on the system requirements page seems to be a bit old so I'm looking for advice. I'm building a new computer, already bought a graphics card, but having second thoughts.. What's the best graphics card to be had for SL under $200 right now? Needs to be PCI 2.0 x 16 for use with a Phenom II processor. 1000w power supply so no issue there. Thanks!

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Check here (on just this one site there are 149 choices):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007709%204017&IsNodeId=1&name=%24100%20-%20%24200

 

It appears that an nVidia card (my personal preference, and recommendation) a little above mid-range in performance is possible.........and such a card is way more than enough for SL to perform at high (even Ultra) settings.  Try to stay as close to the current newest series as possible......that will give you the longest "life expectancy" before obsolescence.

 

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Two hundred dollars will buy a really nice card.

Your computer machine type will be the first factor in finding a card. The card needs to physically fit in the machine. Most websites will list available cards by machine type. The price as you have already established is the second factor.

In most cases, you need to decide if you want a Nvidia card or a Radeon card.

All the Cards listed as "out of stock", or "on back order" are usually the "best" cards.

For now, a laptop card cannot compete with a card for a desktop.

I like this card, if you can find it. It's more than twice your budget but It's a good example of extreme performance. Some people run 2 of these, I think the card's dimensions are 3x4x11 inches.

 

Asus GTX 580 DirectCU II 03.jpg

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The first three cards listed:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007709%204017%20600030348&IsNodeId=1&name=NVIDIA

would be great cards for SL.  They all are in the 500 series which is the current latest series for nVidia......all the means is that they are newer as far as what SL requires out of a card and therefore have the longest time you can expect before becoming obsolete (probably at least 4 years).  I have no facts to back it up but the "Ti" cards seem to be more prone to issues with SL (I don't know what the Ti stands for but it appears it's a lesser spec'd card with the same model number as the cards without that designation........I would avoid them for now anyway).  My thinking on any video card is the warranty.......EVGA and XFX cards have a lifetime warranty so I tend to stay with them when possible (though right now I'm running a PNY card because I got such a great deal on it when I was shopping for a card).  I would shop around more.......look seriously at cards in the 400 series for a better performing card at a lower price.

 

I'll try to briefly give a little information about how nVidia model numbers tell you the performance you can expect from them.  The first number is the series number (it tells you that there's been some major changes or upgrades to how the chipset is manufactured and what capabilities that chipset offers over the older series.......for the immediate future it means very little since most (if not all) graphics programs won't be utililizing any of those features or capabilities (eventually graphics programs will use those features, but not for a year or so at the earliest).  The second number is the number that tells you what the performance of the card is.....it's the most important number to look at.  The higher the second number is the higher performing the card is within the series.........a GT510 card is at the bottom of the heap in performance for the 500 series and a GTX580 (I don't believe there is a 590 card right now) is at the top.  The letter designations will also tell you a little about performance within the model of the card.  A GTS card is a little better than a GT but a little "worse" than a GTX card (this is for the model number, not the series).

 

With the understanding of how nVidia models their cards you can often find great cards (even the top performance cards) at a very reasonable price if you look a series or two (even three) back from the current newest series.  I wouldn't be overly excited for a card more than 3 series back simply because the expected life before obsolescence is going to be pretty short.....maybe less than 2 years.  Try searching for 400 series cards.  I think you can probably find a Gxx470 or 480 card in your price range.  A card like that will out perform a GTX560.  If you can't find a 400 series card that high performing check out the 300 series.  A $200 upper budget will definitely get a very good card.......just don't limit yourself to a single online distributor.  Newegg is my favorite but there's also Tiger Direct and CompUSA.  Many brick and mortar retailers have online specials that compete quite well with the online only retailers.  Stick with big name manfufacturers like ASUS, XFX, EVGA, PNY, MSI, ect.  Look at warranties and read reviews. 

 

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This chart should give a good general overview how cards relate to each other.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fastest-graphics-card-radeon-geforce,3085-7.html

Unless you opt for a 570 or 580 which are both out of the budget you mentioned, there isnt really any worthwhile upgrades.

The 580 is pretty much twiddling it's thumbs in SL unless you enable shadows.

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To understand what is affecting performance in SL I have a long article at: How To get a Faster Second Life. It is more about upgrading or buying a new computer.

To understand how to tweak video settings: Graphics Tweaking for Second Life

To see how you compare to others: How Fast is Your Viewer? - Second Life

Any of the 500 series cards are excellent for SL. CPU's need to be quad cores, i5 or i7's come in quad core. Minimum ram accoding to SL is 1gb. I think 2gb is the minimum for a duel core system to get any performance from the current viewers.

I got very little performance improvement when I upgraded from an 8800 to a 560Ti. I plan to upgrade to a quad core soon and expect to get more perfromance from that change.

From the articles, you will find out about GPU-Z. With it you can see if your video card is being over or under worked. The first link above tells how to find the bottlenecks in your system.

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