Video Card Problems/Purchase suggestions



Because I know that you are very busy, I will get straight to the point.

I am the owner of a Fujitsu-Siemens PC; and namely, the "Esprimo P5600" model (D2030-A1 Main-Board). This PC was built in Germany, in 2005. On the MB there is a PCI-E 1.0 x16 Slot. I have uploaded a photo (a screen-capture) which presents some details of my PCIe implementation, at the URL indicated below:

I would like to upgrade my on-board GC [SiS 761 GX w. 128 MB of System RAM], with a much more capable device.

The main application for which I intend to use the future GC: I would like to watch HD (720p/1080p) YouTube videos, in my favorite browser (Firefox); and also with my favorite Media Player (Daum PotPlayer). I am not at all interested in modern PC games. All I need is to see very high quality 2D images, on my new Full HD 1080p computer monitor.

The Esprimo P5600 is a Windows XP Pro w. SP3 machine. On my PC's MB there is also an AMD Athlon 64 3400+ processor - accompanied by 2.5 GB of PC3200 DDR SDRAM (200 MHz).

I know that this "antique" configuration might be an impediment in achieving my goal. But I can not change my PC's HW configuration. Not even a little!

What I would need from you, as an Expert in Hardware Graphics, is a [pre-]buying advice. In a nutshell:

What Graphic Card should I buy for my "old" PC?

It has to be PCI-E 1.0 compatible. It MUST be a fan-less model. And it has to be Direct X 9c compatible.

You can recommend me even a GC model built in 2007, or 2008. I will buy a Refurbished exemplar.

Important: I already tested a NVIDIA [Quadro]  NVS 300 graphic card; and it does NOT work on my PC (it has a PCI-E 2.0 interface). But, a 7300 GT model, with 256 MB of video memory, it works quite well. Although, it does not display completely fluent HD content. Also, it becomes very hot (over 62C) during normal usage.

Until now, I have avoided the graphic cards produced by ATI. See below why:

But I am willing to try a different ATI card, if you will recommend me one.

I am also willing to use a graphic card adapted for a PCI connector. Like this one, for example:

But I really do not know how good it is for processing HD content. Plus that some users complain that the PCI video cards do not work as they should, in certain circumstances.

Also, I do not know if a Matrox M1920 PCIe x16 graphic card will function properly in my PC. But I would be very glad if it would! The problem is that the guys from Matrox refused to answer me if their "new" GC is suited for an "old" PC like mine.

If I am not asking you too much, you can give me two categories of answers: professional 2D graphic cards; and "consumer" graphic cards. Older, or newer models, it does not matter. I would like to know which one is THE BEST suited for my needs.

It is not a simple task! Before contacting you, I followed countless threads in Forums and I have read countless articles about "PCI-E" compatibility issues. But I was not able to draw a satisfactory conclusion.

Therefore, you must not give me an answer in 24 hours. You can make an extensive research - till the end of this week. You can contact your colleagues, too, if you wish.

I need certainties, not assumptions. I want a proven, reliable solution. I am tired to grope.

(Note: my budget is around 200 Euro.)

I thank you for your understanding. And I apologize for my grammar mistakes.-

ANSWER: I'd like to first start by addressing some overall themes, and then I'll get to your specific question:

- The era of "professional 2D graphics" hardware is more or less over - what I mean by this is that 2D display quality has more or less been consistent ("flawless") across competitors (nVidia, ATi/AMD, Matrox, etc) for close to a decade. The Quadro NVS and FireMV graphics cards occupy kind of an odd niche for users who require high display density from a low power solution (for example day traders). The more 3D-oriented Quadro (or Quadro FX) and FirePro/FireGL cards are not something I would suggest to a home user, because you're ultimately paying for OpenGL optimizations and industry certifications (e.g. Autodesk or ISV), none of which will benefit a home user (these cards will benefit CAD/CAM applications, almost to the exclusion of everything else).

- The temperatures reported by your GeForce 7300 are not all that alarming or exceptional for a modern fanless card. Modern high-performance 3D solutions often run in the 70-90* C range while working, and idle temperatures in the 40-60* C are not unheard of. Modern processors use quite a lot of power, and dissipate it over a relatively small area. This doesn't mean that fanless solutions can't be workable, but they often do run a little bit warmer unless your system's enclosure has excellent airflow (e.g. a fan situated very near the card) or your system is located somewhere very cold.

- The Matrox card is not suitable for your needs - modern Matrox hardware targets videowall users, and tends to be extremely expensive for what it offers. Matrox, in recent years, has unfortunately fallen behind the curve (including support for GPU acceleration), leaving nVidia and ATi/AMD as (more or less) the sole options beyond integrated graphics.

- I would not regard ATi/AMD as inherently unreliable or problematic, especially based on a single forum posting related to a problem with a single product (which the posting does seem to acknowledge was fixed). They produce hardware of equal quality to nVidia, however you must remember that the actual add-in boards are made by third parties; stick to a quality manufacturer and ensure your system has adequate ventilation and you generally will not have problems. You should have no problems with a Radeon graphics card from a quality maker (of course nothing is a 100% guarantee - there's a given percentage of all products that will fail, we hope that QA will catch the majority of them, but we have warranties for when that doesn't work out). Look at manufacturers like: XFX, Sapphire, Gigabyte, and PowerColor. For nVidia also consider: PNY Technologies and eVGA (some manufacturers make both Radeon and GeForce cards, such as Gigabyte).

- PCIe compatibility should be ensured, that is to say the specification implies a degree of backwards compatibility, however this is not as universal as we would like (as you've experienced); PCIe 1.0 tends to be the problem child, which is what you've mentioned your hardware as supporting.

- I would absolutely avoid a PCI based card - PCI was dreadfully slow for graphics hardware circa 2003, and has not improved with age. Modern PCI cards are often the result of various "bridge" products as well, which increases cost and does nothing for performance; native hardware will in many cases be close to a decade old, and at that point you're talking about equipment that supports DirectX 7, maybe DirectX 8 (such as GeForce 4 or GeForce MX).

Now regarding your specific question:

HD playback performance is ultimately determined by a variety of factors, and while it is true that some graphics hardware (I'll come back to this) is capable of accelerating HD playback under certain circumstances, it is not a universal feature. That is, the software playing back the content must be able to take advantage of hardware acceleration - this is most commonly seen in software players that handle Blu-ray and HD-DVD playback. Web streaming and similar content is often not as universally accelerated - both because the codecs used for the video are generally not supported by GPU acceleration, and because the software involved generally does not seek GPU acceleration. It also should be noted that your ISP plays a big role in streaming HD content - your connection must be able to serve 10Mbit/s or better in many cases to handle a smooth HD stream; a slow connection or a high latency connection will hinder playback on even the best systems.

Regarding playback of files on your computer, I'm unfamiliar with "PotPlayer" and its support documentation appears to be primarily in Korean. I was, however, to find what appears to be a "fansite" that provides procedure for configuring PotPlayer to utilize DXVA hardware acceleration with supported hardware (; this indicates that you should be able to except some hardware acceleration (again, not all video playback is processed by the graphics card), at least with conventional HD content (which is where you will see the biggest performance improvements, in principle). Of course there are other software packages like Corel's WinDVD that would also support this kind of functionality - if you have hardware that can provide HD decode acceleration, there does exist software to support it, even if you have to change applications (having said that, I would very much suggest trying to configure what you already have as opposed to investing time and resources in new software).

Here is, however, the rub - your CPU is very dated, and is very much the bottleneck for HD playback in this situation. Video cards can provide some acceleration assistance for certain kinds of video (generally MPEG-2 and h.264), with certain software packages (as mentioned above) - often this is in the form of assisting the computer to decode a Blu-ray (which outputs a VERY high raw datarate) or similarly large file, however the video card does not do all of the heavy lifting, and the CPU is still at the end of the day just that - the central processor. Athlon64 is right on the threshold of being capable of handling HD video; a reasonable amount of 720p content should playback with relatively few problems, but it will not be in a way that supports heavy multi-tasking. A more modern CPU, by contrast, would have no problems getting through 1080p content, and the assistance of a graphics processor would simply reduce the load seen by the CPU (which can free up resources for other tasks). Additionally, the questionable compatibility of PCIe 1.0 makes purchasing a new graphics card somewhat complex - while modern mid-range and high-end graphics adapters will have no problem with video acceleration (where supported), cards that would be more contemporaneous to your system generally lack the functionality, or do not offer much performance benefit (roughly your system would align with a GeForce 6 or 7, neither of which support HD acceleration in any form; some GeForce 8 products offer varying degrees of support - ATi was not as competitive regarding "GPGPU" features until the merger with AMD, so Radeon cards of the era would be of no help).

Furthermore, your usage scenario is not limited to playback of Blu-ray or HD-DVD content (which software and hardware solutions are heavily optimized for, and which modern graphics cards and processors can make light work of) - from what your inquiry, I'm assuming you're instead dealing with myriad streaming content, which in some cases may not even be applicable for GPU acceleration (so the workload falls entirely to the CPU), and which will also be subject to the performance limits of your ISP.

Finally, the imposition of a fanless card will limit your purchasing options even further - while there probably exist some GeForce 8 or 9 cards on the used market that could reasonably address some of your needs, they will all come with fans (many with two-slot cooling solutions), and they will generally require substantial amounts of power to be delivered by the system's power supply. From the Fujitsu data sheet for your system, the power supply is rated at 260W - which puts it well below the minimum requirement of essentially any appropriate graphics adapter (generally 350W is the minimum requirement for an entry-to-mid-level card; 500W+ is what you will commonly see for higher performance models). Looking through the Fujitsu documentation further, it also indicates that you have already installed very nearly the most powerful supported Athlon64 (and Athlon64 X2 (which would handle your needs with relative ease) is unsupported).

Ultimately, and perhaps unfortunately, the best advice I can give you is to consider a newer computer. What you have presently is not well suited to the performance requirements you're placing upon it, and cannot be reasonably upgraded to handle those performance requirements (because it would need more than just an add-in card). However, there may be another option, depending upon the content you're meaning to stream - if the content you'd like to view is available via YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or some similar service, you can purchase a stand-alone streaming device (or a Blu-ray player or game console (e.g. Xbox360) with software support), within your budget, that will have no problem with 1080p video (it will be limited only by your ISP). Examples here would be include AppleTV and Roku. Of course, if the content you'd like to view is unavailable, that will hinder the capabilities of such a device. I suggest this as an alternative primarily because you mention that gaming and other "high performance" computing tasks are not necessary, which implies to me that your computer is otherwise meeting your performance needs.

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: First of all, many thanks you for your excellent answer! You are, indeed, a competent person in your domain of expertize.

The only thing I would like to ask you, in the end, is to advise me what to choose between the following models of graphic cards:

EN7300GT SILENT and EN7600GS SILENT (based on my requirements).

Are, the last ones, of any use, for me, other than generating more heat? Should I buy the 7600GS GC, or should I buy "the veteran GC" - the 7300GT?

Some details about these GCs, below:

IMPORTANT: a GC with 512 MB of video RAM will help me - even a little! - to better watch HD content, than a GC with "only" 256 MB of RAM?

And finally, please indicate me the exact ATI equivalents of the GeForce 7 Series, from NVIDIA. But only if you think that they out-perform their competitor's models, in what concerns the displaying of the HD and 2D content (mainly, in HW accelerated browsers).

I thank you once again.-

The GeForce 7 will not perform any HW acceleration of any content - neither card would be of benefit for HD decoding. The extra memory or extra processing power (of the 7600) will be of no benefit either; it would only benefit 3D rendering (games, etc). In general more memory is not useful unless the card is specifically designed with it (in other words, if the nVidia reference design calls for 256MB, installing more memory will not improve the performance, however it is common on lower-priced cards to see extra memory as a marketing feature).

The ATI equivalent would be the Radeon X1000 series, which is equally historic, and which performs no HW acceleration either (some of the X1000 models feature AVIVO MPEG-2 decoding, but this will not benefit you for HD content, especially for Flash-based HD content). Specifically the X1300 and X1600 series would be performance competitive in 3D gaming, but again, will provide no benefit to HD video decoding.

In either case, the card would simply demand more power, and generate more heat, while providing no real benefit to your system towards your desired goal. The 7600 may also require more power than your system's power supply can handle.


Video Card Problems

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I can answer technical questions about installation, use, and maintinence of most 3D Graphics hardware, and software. I can offer assistance with overclocking (while I do not suggest overclocking while under warranty) and I can give assistance with more complicated problems to the full extent of my abilities.


I have been into computer hardware, especially 3D graphics and the hardware that drives them, for a number of years. I have knowledge in installation, use, troubleshooting, purchase suggestions and over clocking.

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