View Full Version : Bloomin' graphics cards! New PC but don't want to go all 'overkill' on the wallet!

10-03-2012, 12:52 PM
Hey guys and gals,

Last year, I attempted to upgrade my PC by treating myself to a new GFX card - the nVidia GTX 850, and was horrified to realise that I couldn't fit it because it was too bloody big. The combination of the hardware that was already packed onto the motherboard meant that there was no hope of ever getting it in there - it would have literally crushed or irreversibly bent some of the circuit components out of the board.

However, before I discovered this rather annoying problem, I didn't realise (likely as a result of my sloppy / ignorant research) that the card required two 8-pin power connectors, only one of which my PSU was actually capable of supplying. The card did come with a converter that transformer two 4-pin connectors into a single 8-pin one, but my PSU didn't even have any spare rear-panel slots for these aforementioned 4-pin plugs.

Honestly, upgrading is a bloody nightmare. Back in the late 90's and the first few years of the 00's, I was quite content building machines up from scratch and cherrypicking my favoured components. Now, however, it seems that buying a modern graphics card requires you to reserve a small auditorium within which to acommodate it.

I have a watercooled i5 750, nVidia GTX 285, so it's not a pants machine by any standard. But the watercooler is starting to beep regularly as the pump fails, and the graphics card seems to be running hot regularly now, as I think the fans are stuttering, and in some cases failing completely.

I'd like to purchase a new gaming machine, but I'm not one of these people to want the latest and greatest 'must have' gaming rigs - I just want something capable that will be able to run moderns games on their 'good' graphic settings at a decent framerate.

I'm totally out of the loop now with hardware, to be honest. Back when I built PCs, it was all about 'Socket 7' or 'Slot A' motherboards and DIMM chips, with their fancy new 'AGP' graphics busses. Now, I couldn't even tell you what the standards are, or even what format of memory is the most 'current'.

What sort of budget should I be looking at? And more to the point, is there a decent UK supplier that doesn't ponce you off in the manner you might get if you walk into PC World and have one of their salespeople try and dumb down to you why having 'tech guy' aftersales support and warranties is a must have. Please, that's why I have home insurance!

Thanks to anyone who can offer an olive-branch on this :)

EDIT: As wisely pointed out, I should've probably mentioned that my budget is around the 1,300 mark - no need for a display, keyboard or mouse!

Alex Bakke
10-03-2012, 01:01 PM
First of all, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay. In the future it would be better to submit a thread like this to the 'Tech Support' subforum, that way everything's a lot neater. :)

Do you have a budget for the PC? If you set a budget then everyone here would be able to build a new PC tailored to your needs in 5 minutes.

10-03-2012, 01:08 PM
Sorry, I'm not quite au fait with the structure of these forums yet. So many, and with so many different rules :)

My budget is probably looking around the 1300 maximum. No need for a display (or KB / mouse), just the box would be enough!

10-03-2012, 02:15 PM
Dunno if it may be useful, but I recently upgraded my rig to an Intel i5 2500k, 4gb Corsair RAM, ASUS PBZ68-V LX motherboard and a 2gb Nvidia GT440, with a new Corsair TX550M power unit and a 1TB SATA HD. Had to fish out around 500 € total, reusing monitor, kb/mouse and case. This thing manages to run everything at top detail on 1440x900 (I have an ASUS widescreen monitor) as long as I keep antialiasing down to 2x or off (I find the loss of framerate to be excessive for a very minor increase in visual quality). I built that all by myself, however, so if you're okay with tinkering you may save some bucks.

10-03-2012, 02:19 PM
Toms hardware page is extremely usefull when it comes to people who are doubtfull about their hardware purchases. Here's a neat link for your convenience. (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i5-overclock-performance-gaming,3097.html)

10-03-2012, 02:23 PM
1300 is probably overkill, if I say 800 will buy you what you want then someone will spec a 500 machine that will suffice :)

10-03-2012, 02:39 PM
Unless you have money to burn, you don't need to replace your whole machine.

If you're looking for a new graphics card a Radeon HD7850 or HD7870 should serve you well. Neither of them should be larger than your current GTX 285, and they use less power while offering a substantial performance boost.
It may be worth waiting a week or three to see what Nvidia brings to the table with their upcoming GTX 680/670 release. They should also be good performers without taking up a huge amount of space or power.

The state of consumer CPU's hasn't advanced much in the last couple of years. Unless you do a lot of video encoding or software 3D rendering, then your presumably factory overclocked i5 750 should continue to serve you well.

10-03-2012, 09:36 PM
Thanks, everyone who took the time to reply to my questions.

It might be worth reiterating my original point about the watercooling sporadically failing - I actually went into the BIOS and disabled the factory's default 'overclocked' settings that had been used for the CPU timing. I was concerned that the extra juice the CPU was pulling was perhaps getting too much for the watercooler to bear the brunt of, and that's especially more apparent now that pump isn't up to scratch. I didn't want to overstress it.

After all, a less speedy machine that works is still better than a broken one.

I spoke to the original supplier, and they don't make this type of watercooler anymore, which means I'd probably have to fork out for a newer version - and those things are bloody expensive. Add on top of that the intention of upgrading the graphics card (even if, as suggested, to a middle-of-the-road between what I have and what's most modern), we're still talking getting quids-in.

Let's say I'd drop my budget to a more acceptible level of 800, I'm probably going to follow the advice of some on here and work with that as my budget; but I don't really know if I'm at all comfortable doing a self-build anymore.

I'll take a look at Tom's Hardware though, perhaps an out of touch hardware guy like me can glean some useful ground-up build assistance there :)

One more thing (In my best Peter Falk)...

Back in the day, if you bought all the components yourself you could save yourself a fortune over a shelf-purchase. Nowadays, I see ads in magazines offering gaming machines for as little as 600. Can a self-build really be much cheaper / viable these days?

Thanks, guys.

Spider Jerusalem
11-03-2012, 02:14 AM
a self-build is most certainly still miles cheaper.

11-03-2012, 02:23 AM

Get something like http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103065 to replace the current water cooling system. It will work fine for even an overclocked i5 750; water cooling setups are for the most part overrated.

If you don't feel comfortable with taking off the current watercooling system and installing in its place a heatsink&fan like that one, there will surely be a local PC repair shop nearby who can do it for you for a reasonable price.

Altogether you will be looking at a cost of under 60, rather than 800. Then add about 170 for a Radeon HD7850.

I'd suggest then putting some of the money you have saved towards an SSD (assuming you don't already have one). Even a reasonable mainstream SSD (OCZ Agility 3, Adata S510, Crucial M4, etc.) will make you notice the difference much more than a minor CPU upgrade.

11-03-2012, 10:18 AM
a self-build is most certainly still miles cheaper.

It's much cheaper than a branded PC, but there are plenty of smaller outfits out there who specialise in sourcing their components as cheap as possible so the difference may not be as big as you think. It all depends on if you want the satisfaction and smugness that comes with an own build PC and can forgive the fiddling and small frustrations, or are willing to let someone else make some of the decisions with the knowledge that if it doesn't sork then it is someone else's fault.

14-03-2012, 02:29 PM
I was going to sidle with the Radeon HD7850 as a good middle ground between my current GTX 285 and the bleeding-edge, but I can't seem to find a retailer anywhere online that stocks it.

Is it going to be a mission to find something that's quite a bit better than the 285, but will still fit in my case?

Graphics cards are really expensive, but if I can see a decent performance boost for under 200, then I'd really like to go with that option - providing it doesn't far exceed the dimensions of what I already have in my PCI-X slot!

14-03-2012, 03:11 PM
If you're really not at all confident about building your own PC then you could check out PC Specialist. Just choose the parts you want and they'll put it together and send it out. I used them for my computer a couple of years ago and they're really very good.

14-03-2012, 03:59 PM
pixelprime, the 7850s have been announced but are not for sale yet. Gotta wait for a little while.

That's exactly the card I'd be buying if I was buying now. Price/performance isn't all that much improved from last generations but the card is very very low power for what it does. It's incredible to think that I could upgrade to a 7850 and Ivy Bridge processor once those are out, and probably quadruple my computer performance while staying on the same power consumption.

One thing though, what resolution screen are you running? Just checking because if it's more than 1920x1200 you might want to think about going with a 7870 instead.

14-03-2012, 04:03 PM
+1 for the 7850 performance/watt. I'm holding off on building a gaming PC (I don't have one) until these things come out.

14-03-2012, 06:01 PM
I would never bother spending over 500 on a pc. Spend that much, have fun maxing everything out, in 12 months to 2 years upgrade with the difference, or buy another for 500 and ebay the old one/do some LANing/turn it into a media centre.

14-03-2012, 06:22 PM
Dear sir,
just take 20 minutes to read the Logical Increments PC Buying Guide

This will tell you everything you need in order to purchase a gaming machine with the best price/performance ratio at your desired price level.

14-03-2012, 09:29 PM
I would never bother spending over 500 on a pc. Spend that much, have fun maxing everything out, in 12 months to 2 years upgrade with the difference, or buy another for 500 and ebay the old one/do some LANing/turn it into a media centre.Max everything out on a PC of that price? At sub-1080p resolutions maybe.

Unless you are really hurting for cash, spending some extra on a nice case, power-efficient components and quiet is very much worth it. Minor spending on power efficiency may even concretely pay itself back assuming you pay for your own electricity. Ugly, hot, noisy and power-hungry boxes do not make good media centres either.

I feel a good balance between price, performance and quality has always sat somewhere around 0.8k-1k euros. 200-300 towards the graphics card, 150-250 towards the processor, 100-200 towards case and PSU.

15-03-2012, 11:56 AM
Thanks for the update suggestions on this.

I wasn't aware that the 7850 wasn't out yet - It was something somebody suggested earlier on in this thread, which I suspect was down to my mention of the power-hungry nature of modern GPUs (and my slightly underperforming PSU).

It sounds, from the tone of the replies, that a new machine is preferable to upgrading a component, considering the machine's age (~2 yrs). Looking on Tom's Hardware makes me realise that graphics card performance levels have increased, as predicted, by at least 2 factors since my GTX 285 came out. Even a 'budget' graphics card seems to offer more than twice the performance of my current card.

In answer to another query posed earlier on: I'm running at 1920 x 1200 (16:10) in most of my games. Although, for some reason, Starcraft 2 bugs out after about 2 minutes unless I drop the resolution down to a miserly 1280 x 800. Part of ther reason I think an upgrade is necessary; the machine doesn't seem to let me run anything modern at full-whack anymore.

A very (very) loose reason for this upgrade is the hopeful new release of Diablo 3 soon. And although I hear many people cry that the game will likely be very scalable, graphics-wise, I've waited years and years for this game, and I want to be able to run everything at full everything to enjoy the very best it has to offer. I'm pretty sure any PC configuration released in the last 6-8 months should be capable of that?

Thanks for linking the Logical Increments Buying Guide, it made for interesting perusal. I'm familiar with PC Specialist here in the U.K., as that's whom I purchased my original gaming PC from - although at the cost of ~1,300. I'd rather not spend quite as much this time around.

15-03-2012, 12:01 PM
I'm thinking this as a starting point:

The specs seem pretty decent for the price. What do you guys think?

15-03-2012, 01:37 PM
I'm thinking this as a starting point:

The specs seem pretty decent for the price. What do you guys think?Not sure there's a point in buying a whole new machine when you already have an i5-750. Why not just replace the failing water cooling and/or fans with standard air cooling and swap graphics card with a 7850?

15-03-2012, 09:40 PM
As I mentioned in my post - I was very concerned over buying a new GFX card because of the disaster I had last time I tried it.

In summary, a while ago I bought an nVidia GTX 580. This thing:

I mean look at it. It's like trying to fit a small cottage inside your case.

Putting it onto my motherboard would have literally damaged vital components on the board - since the card was too deep (in terms of slot size). Add to that the enormous power requirements (although I'm told the 7850 doesn't have this problem).

I would be quite happy to swap out my current GFX card, this thing:


With something between the two. Perhaps under 200?

15-03-2012, 09:59 PM
Honestly, I'd shoot for a GTX 560 Ti. All the reviews I've seen have been excellent, it's a fairly beefy card (certainly enough for one 1920x1200 screen) and it should last a while without breaking the bank (this should be sub-200, though I'm no specialist of UK prices).

Yeah, people will keep harping about the latest and greatest 7xxx and 6xx series from AMD and Nvidia, but the thing is... They won't be out for a while yet, there's always a few growing pains initially and prices are going to be higher than past generations because AMD isn't trying to undercut Nvidia anymore; their GCN architecture cost them a lot to put out, so they're looking to cash in. Unless you absolutely need the top dog, I'd suggest going for that. Prices might go down a little bit when Nvidia releases their new generation, but we don't know when exactly those are going to hit retailers. Furthermore, Nvidia has a habit of taking their time to release the best value-for-money cards. Their 8800GT was a second generation card within the 8xxx family, just like the 560 Ti is also some sort of half-step.

However, considering what you've said, changing the water cooling should be just as urgent if not more. Your GPU running hot is not all that unusual, Nvidia's few last generations are all hot cards, but your water cooler failing is bad. Really bad. Honestly, unless you're doing some really heavy overclocking, why not strip all that out and go for a nice and simple air cooler? Something from Noctua can really blow you away, like this NH-U12P SE2 that I happen to have. Comes with support for all Intel sockets from 775 onwards plus all modern AMD sockets. It also comes with excellent instructions (much better than any I've seen) and superb thermal paste. Just make sure it fits!

15-03-2012, 10:41 PM
Thanks for the helpful insights. I'm definitely not necessarily after the absolutely latest-and-greatest. And to be honest, not many games out now would even take advantage of the full brute force of the card beyond what would be considered overkill. If I can get a steady 30 fps out of a game running at max, or close to max resolution, I'm happy. I don't mind trimming back some of the settings to get the right balance.

One thing I would note is that most people consider a game only to be running on 'max everything' if you're including maximum FSAA and 16xAF. Running at 1920 x 1200, I think games are crisp enough not to worry about FSAA. And although 16xAF looks really nice, it doesn't really matter to me. That means I can get more bang for my buck with other settings.

I chuckle when I remember back when I splashed out on a Voodoo 5 card - with its new fangled anti aliasing chip. I was in the future!

16-03-2012, 11:38 AM
Circumstances have found themselves slightly more favourable, and it's looking like a new machine is probably in the pipeline.

One question, would this machine be decent enough to last me, perhaps, another couple of years as my current machine has?


Thanks guys!

16-03-2012, 12:59 PM
Basically yes, those specs are reasonable. I would up the memory to 8GB and the processor to a 2500k for not much additional cost.

What do you want from your case in terms of looks / size / silence / price?

It might be of interest to you that small cases like Fractal Design Core 1000 and Silverstone SG08 (which are easier to transport and are easier on the eye in living spaces compared to regular midtowers) have evolved into valid options even for powerful PCs. Not sure if that particular company would build a gaming machine with mini-ATX motherboard, but it doesn't hurt to ask. I'm really itching to build a new PC precisely so that I can LAN with it or stick it on the same shelves with other home AV equipment. I have never needed the extra space in any of my midtowers, and now that I'm getting to the point in my life where I'm spending actual money on furniture and interior, a big honking monolith of a tower in the middle of it is just wrong.

16-03-2012, 01:23 PM
I'm currently using this thing:

(iPhone included for scale!)

This is the CoolerMaster HAF case, standing at around 230 x 599 x 550 mm.

Ideally, I'd like something smaller-form than that.

The machine I linked to earlier (http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/view/Vortex-750-gaming-pc/) has a case with dimensions: 191 x 437 x 468 mm, so a bit smaller, which would be nice.

They do sell 'small format' machines (what they call Mini PCs), which are here: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/computers/intel-top-spec-mini-pc/, but as usual I'm not entirely sure what would pass as a reasonably decent gaming machine for my budget (around a max of 700-800). Having a mini machine handle that task would be amazing, but for reasons of cooling and overheating I'm reticent to make a move into that format of PC, unless anyone knows whether it's worthwhile.

16-03-2012, 02:20 PM
They do sell 'small format' machines (what they call Mini PCs), which are here: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/computers/intel-top-spec-mini-pc/, but as usual I'm not entirely sure what would pass as a reasonably decent gaming machine for my budget (around a max of 700-800). Having a mini machine handle that task would be amazing, but for reasons of cooling and overheating I'm reticent to make a move into that format of PC, unless anyone knows whether it's worthwhile.Some of the mini cases aren't designed for handle power, while some - like the ones I referred to - have no overheating issues even with the ultra-high-end GPUs. Of those two cases the Core 1000 is cheap while the SG08 is out of your current budget.

Only you know whether the benefits of a smaller case are worth it, but functionally you shouldn't lose anything besides the ability to stuff in more components.

16-03-2012, 03:32 PM
The only thing I'll say about the size of the case is: if you like or want to tinker with the innards, do yourself a favor and get a nice roomy case. My last computer had an Antec 900 and while it was an excellent case, it felt slightly cramped. My current desktop has an NZXT Phantom and the difference it makes it astounding. I can finally see inside the case! Plus, I wouldn't have been able to fit my Noctua cooler in anything smaller, yet it's all extremely quiet and has plenty of space to pass wires behind the panel. Of course some of the small cases are very well designed, but you simply can't have the same feel in a case half the size.

Now if you're not interested in toying with it, then by all means get a smaller case!

18-03-2012, 04:44 PM
I think then, all things considered, case size isn't really going to be a hugely important factor for me. Yes, smaller form PCs take up less room - but I suppose there are also compromises where noise is concerned, seeing that larger cases generally take larger / slower fans. The HAF case I have is a good example - not too noisy, mostly on account of the extremely large top / side fans.

I think I'll go with the Vortex 750. It comes with an i5-2400, which is naturally a little better than my existing i5-750 (benchmark tests show improvements in speed across the board, but the difference only seems to be between 10-20%, so not huge).

The bonus is that it also comes with a 2GB AMD Radeon 7850, which is seems like a really nice card. The combination of those factors makes it seem like a worthy purchase to me, perhaps moreso given that the machine comes with 4GB ram as standard - although I may consider upping that to 8GB.

Thanks to everyone who replied, offered advice and helped me out with this decision. For a total all-in price of 640.83 (I can get the VAT off) I think that's a pretty darn good deal for a whole new box.

18-03-2012, 07:40 PM
I don't want to force your hand here, but just be aware that the i5-2500K is much better value than just about any processor in Intel's lineup (with the possible exception of the 2600K for those who do a lot of thread-heavy work). Why?

Because on top of the small bonus in base clock speed, you get the K, which means unlocked multiplier. I know you don't need to overclock to have good performance on Sandy Bridge, but keep in mind that a 2500K can easily gain 500MHz on air, making the 2500K go from 3.3 to 3.8GHz with just the flick of a switch. My extremely conservative overclock puts it at 4.3GHz, a whopping 1GHz higher!

Considering unlocked multipliers were usually reserved for the "Extreme" classifications which cost upwards of a grand and are usually maxed out already anyway, this is just superb value for money. Right now it might not mean much, but in two or three years the difference can be most interesting.

Just something to keep in mind. Congrats on your purchase in any case!

19-03-2012, 01:07 AM
Thanks for the helpful info FF. The difference in cost between the 2400 and the 2500K is, astonishingly, 20. Considering all that you've told me, it seems I'd be foolish not to throw in the extra few quid for the potential bonuses available.

However, I'm always cautious with approaching OC setups. Having that extra juice is good - but won't I need to also start considering improving cooling options too? Much as I like to get good performance for money, if it means I'm going to have to start swapping other components around because of this slight upgrade (if I were to use the OC options as you mentioned), then it sounds like it's going to be more hassle than it's worth for my needs, perhaps?

Either way, it's something to think about. Thanks!

22-03-2012, 06:36 PM
You guys are awesome, thanks! I'm posting a thread about this shortly, since it's worthy of a mention.

23-03-2012, 10:03 PM
If you want to be able to plan for overclocking, you should also plan ahead with your CPU cooling option. I'm not familiar with the Titan brand of coolers, but either of the available choices should be a sufficient improvement over the stock Intel cooler. The cheaper one is only 19, but if you think you may want to really push for the best overclock possible with the 2500K, then either the FENRIR EVO (39 upgrade option) or the Hyper 212 mentioned by kalelovil on the previous page (29 at eBuyer (http://www.ebuyer.com/288855-coolermaster-hyper-212-evo-rr-212e-16pk-r1), though I've no clue about their shipping and you'll have to installed later) should easily do the trick.

I'll second the suggestion of upping the RAM to 8GB. For the small price difference, you're much more future-proofed in the same way that you are by going with the 2500K over the 2400.

I'll also second the suggestion of upgrading to an SSD for your boot drive and the difference between the 80GB SATA 3Gbps and the 120GB SATA 6Gbps is somehow only 23 for 50% more capacity and FAR better performance. The 120GB SSD only raises total price by 55 and will make a massive difference in boot time for Windows, making it much more possible to have a bunch of stuff auto-load at startup. It will also improve game load times for any that are installed on the SSD and will improve overall system responsiveness quite noticeably. By upgrading my boot drive from a SATA 1.5Gbps HDD to a SATA 6Gbps SSD, EVERYTHING is just faster. HDDs don't really gain much performance by using faster SATA connections even if you've got a 10k RPM Raptor. And my current mobo only has SATA 3Gpbs ports, so the increase in performance will be even greater when I finally upgrade it. Storage drives are at their most expensive in a long time and it's across the board, so you won't likely find a better time to go with an SSD since you're already buying a system with a new drive. You can use your current HDD or any older one for data storage.

So with four upgrades to the base Vortex 750, you can get a helluva system that should definitely be a nice gaming machine for at least as long as your current one has (probably longer) and for 745.

Edit: Missed the topic saying pixelprime had already bought his new PC. Oh well!