It seems there have been many people here who have bought cheap computers, only to find that the computer contains only pci slots, with no way to add a traditional agp or pci-express x16 video card. Many of these people only find out they can't upgrade after buying the computer and trying unsuccessfully to install "the newest game," having it not run at all, or very slowly with the integrated graphic chip. Then these said people try to find out how they can get "the newest game" to run on their computers, and so they hit the forums, like techspot, for advise and help. Many people will suggest the latest $100-$200 video card for agp or pci-e, without thinking that the person could possibly not have an agp or pci-e slot. Then, some brave soul breaks the bad news that the system in question only has pci slots. Some people then lose all hope and say that no pci card would be any better than the integrated chip in their pc. Today I will be testing the best pci graphics card (currently) available, the nvidia 6200, to see if it really is as slow as integrated graphics, or if it does give pci only systems new life. I hope this article will help people with pci only systems decide what they should do.
The reason I care about the subject, is that I too was in a situation several years ago where my pc only had pci slots and I wanted to play "the latest game" which I had purchased. My system was a dell dimension 2300, but the 2350, 2400, 3000, and B110, are similar as well.
I ran these tests on my dell dimension 2300. It has 256mb pc133 ram, a pentium 4 1.8A ghz 400fsb cpu, intel integrated graphics, intel 845gl chipset, etc.
I ran aquamark3, an older benchmark on the 2300 with it's integrated graphics and got a score of 180 for graphics, 2714 for the processor, and a final score of 1752.
I then installed a pci nvidia 6200 128mb card
and ran the same benchmark. The results are a score of 2130 for graphics, 1993 for the processor, and a final score of 13,885.
So this shows that in my case, the 6200 is approximately 7.9X faster than the integrated graphics that came with my dell. That's significant in my opinion. Keep in mind that I had no other pci cards installed to "compete" with the video card. If you have a pci sound card, or other pci cards installed, it may
seriously degrade performance.
I then tried the same card in my one other system, with an athlon 64 processor @ 2.25ghz, 256mb ddr400 single channel ram, nforce 4 chipset, etc.
I got an aquamark3 score of about 15,000+ on this system.
I then ran 3dmark05 and got a score of about 620.
I then proceeded to play several games with the 6200 to see if it yielded "playable" framerates. I tried command and conquer: generals, america's army, and far cry. All were playable with the 6200. C&C:G ran very well, and so did america's army. Farcry also ran reasonably well at 800x600 on medium setttings(more ram would help, I used only 256mb).
So, my concluson? My conclusion would be that if you have no agp or pci-e slots, and can be satisfied running their games at a low resolution(800x600), and with low or medium settings on more demanding games, then getting a pci 6200 would be the best option for you.
Some more information on the pci 6200.
Made by 3DFuzion
350mhz core clock
4 pixel pipes
64bit memory interface
128mb ddr memory @ 400mhz
Some of you may question whether a card with a 64bit memory interface can compete with cards with a 128bit memory interface, like some nvidia fx5500, or fx5200 cards. I at first questioned this, since it seems like "everywhere" online people claim that all 64bit cards are total trash, and that the worst 128bit card would beat the best 64bit card. I then found an interesting benchmark comparing 64bit 6200 cards to cards like the 5200, 5500, and 9550, in which the 6200 came out on top. Note the cards in question are agp, so pci performance is less, but the percent differences between cards should be similar when comparing pci cards.
Here's the link.
Now, if you don't want to settle for lower resolution and lower quality, then you have basically two options, upgrade your current system's motherboard to one that supports add in graphics cards(and buy a video card), or buy/build a new computer.
I've upgraded my dell 2300's motherboard to a gigabyte 8IG1000MK motherboard to get an agp slot to add a video card. This way, I can add in whatever graphics card I want in the agp format, and get decent gaming results. Things to keep in mind when upgrading are to get the correct form factor for the motherboard(most all pci only systems are micro atx, or else a proprietary board design), the cpu socket type, the graphics upgrade slot(agp or pci-e x16), and the memory type. It is advisable to get a new copy of your os(xp) and do a reinstall after the motherboard replacement, so be sure to back up your data before the motherboard replacement.
If you do decide on a new system, just be sure you get one that has a good cpu, and has a graphics upgrade slot.
If you are in this situation and are still unsure or need help, feel free to post and/or PM me. I'm glad to help.