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AGP Slot help

By EclipseOTO ยท 21 replies
Jul 13, 2006
  1. So to start out, I am a complete computer novice. I know very little about computer's hardware and whatnot so please take it slow. Anywho, I've been searching for a new graphics card so I can play some newer games. My computer always exceedes minimum, and often recommended, requirements for the games except in the field of a graphics card. I currently have a Radeon 9200 128mb in my AGP slot. With this in mind, I have been searching for other cards for AGP but have run into the question of how one can identify what kind of AGP slot one has, as in 8x, 4x, etc. as well as if this matters. So if someone can help me figure out what kind of slot I have that would be great.

    Any card recomendations are appreciated as well, I have around a 200$ spending limit.

  2. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,018

    You can web search/download CPU-Z. This small program has a tab that identifies what AGP slot your system has (2x, 4x, 8x) and AGP 2.0 or 3.0 standards supported.

    (Edit- direct link for CPU-Z website, just "Download Latest Version" top-left link):

    If your system is even semi-modern, you likely have at least an AGP 4x slot, whereas 99% of today's AGP cards will work in either AGP 4x or 8x slots.

    More importantly will likely be your power supply. You likely have a very wide upgrade path available to you, only reduced by your budget, but newer 3d cards do draw significantly more power. I'd recommend cracking your case and looking at your power supply for the sticker to see what top wattage it's rated at and if it has info on the voltage rails vs. amperage. It's important what amperage the 12v rail has and top wattage (example: 350W power supply with 12v@19A).
  3. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    This card really caught my attention;


    however it says its wattage is 350. I haven't opened my computer to check on the inside yet, but according to the small dell manual it has a wattage of only 250! I assume this means I cannot use this card, in which case is there any way I can boost my computer's wattage or must I search for a different card?
  4. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,018

    That's definately one of the most powerful/best AGP upgrades possible! It's a super AGP 3d card.

    With a 250W power supply though, you are indeed stretching things a bit thin. While it's possible your PSU might drive that card, I wouldn't count on it.

    Do you know what precise model of Dell you have? Some Dell's have standard PSU mounts and connectors so you can upgrade the power supply. Other's do not.

    If you're considering that uber-powerful 7800GS and have some extra budget for a new power supply (.. and it's even possible to upgrade the PSU with your particular Dell), this may be a realistic option.
  5. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

  6. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,018

    A little research shows your system indeed only has a 250W power supply.

    PCPower & Cooling (the makers of the absolute BEST power supplies) does make an aftermarket replacement power supply for the Dell 4600's. It's a 410W, 23A unit, $119 direct from PCP&C (model Silencer 410):

    It's also $105 @ pcpowerzone.. you might be able to find it cheaper with other online retailers.. and might want to check pricewatch.com for the PCP&C Silencer 410 for Dell if you're interested in upgrading the PSU.

    As you're a computer novice, this may be the easiest path for you. It's also quite possible you can rebuild your system into a new case with standard power supply- such as the Antec Sonata II regularly marked down to around $99 @NewEgg, which includes a 450W PSU. This would be major surgery though (removing all parts to the new case). This would be the best option though as aftermarket cases, such as the Sonata II, also provide better cooling. It's anyone's guess if you'll suddenly have cooling issues in the Dell case after upgrading the PSU and 3d card.

    Hope this helps!
  7. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 7,306   +577

    An alternative to the PC Power and Cooling psu (which would be a good choice, BTW) is to buy an adapter (Click here to see it). Then you could still get a high quality psu but maybe not quite as expensive or at least it broadens your psu choices.
  8. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Alright, I like the less expensive adapter alternative suggested by mailpup. How easy is it to replace the power unit though? Is it as easy as putting in a new card or is a lot of technical computer experience needed. If it is feasible to my computer skill level, which is a minimum, what would be a good supply to get or what should I look for in an adapter.
  9. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,397   +37

    Not very difficult I'd say. Will require some experience though. The PC Power & Cooling PSU is good but getting another brand PSU like Antec, Enermax, Fortron or Thermaltake will cost u significantly less. I personally prefer this Antec one. With the adaptor, it will be almost the same price as the PCP&C PSU.
    Oh and don't worry, it will fit in ur case.
  10. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Alright, after some research on my own, namely here in NYC, I'm here on a short vacation, I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to add the Dell aftermarket powersupply as sharkfood earlier mentioned. One of the people I talked to said that, since this is a family computer and I can't mess with it too much, it might be too risky to add in the adapter and a standard power supply.

    Anywho, now that that dicision is more-a-less made, I've come to a new problem. The aforementioned eVGA card also requires something called "An available 4-pin Molex hard drive power dongle". What the heck is this and how do I tell if I have one? I'll be back with my computer to check on wednesday if I need to look inside or something.

  11. dmill89

    dmill89 TS Guru Posts: 471

    A "4-pin Molex hard drive power dongle" is a standard hard drive,cdrom power connector. you need to have an extra one which the PC Power & Cooling Powersupply does. Switching Powersupplies is easy just remove the four screws around the old PSU on the back of the case discoonect all conections comming out of the old psu and remove it. then screw in the new psu with the four screws you removed earlier and reconnect all the devices to it. don't forget to connect a unused 4 pin connector to the video card. On an Atx motherboard you can't get the commections mixed up as they are all different size and shape they also can't be inserted backwards so this should be easy.
  12. Greenmachine

    Greenmachine TS Rookie Posts: 149

    In my opinion...the easiest way to replace a PSU:
    1).Unscrew the old powersupply from the case - leave everything plugged in
    2).Place the old PSU on the side of the case where the CD-ROM drives are(you can tape the PSU up there if you think you might accidentally knock it into your case)
    3).Mount your new PSU and screw it in
    4).Remove/install new cables as you go one by one. This way you do not forget to hook anything up.


    Have you looked at the X800GTO? It was on sale a couple of weeks ago. I would take the X800GTO over the 6800XT, unless you are hell bent on NVIDIA.
  13. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Greenmachine, the X800GTO looks like a good card as well, assuming this is one of what you were referring to; http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16814131010 .

    It looks as if the major differences are in the pixel pipelines (12 vs 16), the memory clock (980 vs 1200) and the core clock (400 vs 375). How much will these affect the overall preformance and speed of the card, especially with newer games?
  14. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,018

    For me, the replacement card of choice has been mainly X800GTO's since nothing can touch them, bang for the buck.

    There are compelling arguments against the X800GTO as it trades blinding performance for features. It does not support SM3.0 nor FP16 blends for some forms of HDR.

    For me, this is of really no consideration as the games out with support for SM3.0 you can: a) count on one hand, and b) offer next to no value.

    FP16 blends/HDR is only an issue for Oblivion, Splinter Cell and Far Cry. If you get an NVIDIA solution, you have to choose between HDR or AA, and I'm personally more a fan of AA than HDR. Plus, at least with Oblivion, there are various mods to improve the color/dynamic range to create nice colors similar to HDR-enabled.. but can be used with AA!

    The 7800GS is a "no compromise" card for AGP as it has 16-pipes of performance (or even 20-pipes if you order the euro Gainward Silent AGP version) plus SM3.0/HDR. If you don't play the 3-4 popular titles, or enjoy smoother/aa'd Image quality over HDR, you're paying extra for this ability. You CAN save a bundle on an X800GTO, get blinding fast performance, but have no FP16 HDR or SM3.0 modes.

    Hope this helps. :)
  15. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Im not sure what AA, SM3.0 and FP16 are, and the fact that a card that doesn't support these will not play Oblivion, Far Cry and other newer games, or at least not as well, brings up the question of wheather new games to come will also require these things in a card and I will be left out in the cold!
  16. wolfram

    wolfram TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,831   +8

    Don't worry. Anycard right now (even 7900 series or X1900 series) will be left out in the cold when DX10 arrives. But that's in a somewhat long term.

    So I highly recommend the X800GTO, it's powerful and cheap.
  17. Sharkfood

    Sharkfood TS Guru Posts: 1,018

    Hi again EclipseOTO,
    AA = Anti-aliasing. It's a form of smoothing edges in games so games look less pixelated and more smooth/true to life.

    A good image of how much better an antialiased, 3D image looks can be found here:

    SM3.0 is "Shader Model V3.0"... the X800GTO supports Shader models 1.1, 1.4 and 2.0. There is next to *nothing* out there that uses SM3.0, and the games that do.. really gain little benefit or difference. Age of Empires 3, for example, has *slightly* nicer looking water on SM3.0 cards... but they look just as good on SM2.0 cards and still incredible.

    FP16 is a blend mode to enable HDR- which is High Dynamic Range lighting. There are only a couple games out that support this, and of these some require FP16 blends. Half-Life2, Lost Coast- for example, can do HDR on an X800GTO as it uses a different blend mode. Only Oblivion, Far Cry, Splinter Cell and a couple others require FP16 for HDR. Also realize, you have to disable AA (from above) in order to even ENABLE HDR, so you get some brighter colors, but with the jagged look. Newer ATI cards (such as the X1600, X1800 and X1900) allow HDR + AA though, so there isn't any limitation with new ATI cards.

    As I said, I have both HDR/FP16 and SM3.0 cards in the house and *still* preferred to add two X800GTO's since these new things really don't amount to much. Oblivion plays GREAT on an X800GTO and there is a "Fake HDR" mod for it to yield nice colors like HDR anyways.. then you can still have nice color and AA smoothing.

    And as already mentioned, SM4.0 and DX10 are about to be released, at which point ALL current cards will be obsolete in features. It makes little sense to pay the extra $$ for the smallish improvements in visuals unless you're really, really hardset on HDR.. and don't mind staring at jaggies from lack of AA. :)
  18. wolfram

    wolfram TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,831   +8

    Very nice, long comment Sharkfood.

    Cheers! :)
  19. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Ah! Very, very informative! Thank you very much! The X800GTO definately sounds like the choice for me, especially with the monitary consideration of having to buy a new power supply as well.

    Thanks a lot for all of your help,
  20. EclipseOTO

    EclipseOTO TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Aargh, I hate to be such a bother, but while looking on pcpowerzone.com at the Dell power supply, it stated that the power supply (silencer 410 dell-2) will not work for the Dimension 4600!!! I checked back to the pcpowercooling website and that says that the powersupply WILL work for the 4600! Which website should I trust?
  21. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,397   +37

    If ur not sure, better buy another PSU and an adaptor instead IMO.
  22. dmill89

    dmill89 TS Guru Posts: 471

    I believe the PC power & Cooling site is more acurite if unsure you could always call PC Power & Cooling @ 1-800-772-6555 for confermation.
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