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New-but-basic Windows 8 Desktop PC - what would be a good boost in graphics performance?

Posted on 2015-02-17
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My work Windows 8.1 Pro desktop PC is fairly basic.  It isn't the most powerful but I have plans to use it for years.  I am wondering if I can get a noticable boost in graphics performance with a graphics card.

Summary
I do NO gaming.  

I use Office programs, occasionally program in Access or MySQL, do research online a lot, stream videos, and a couple times a year edit movie clips with Movie Maker.  Not the most sophisticated graphics!

Here's the thing:  I built my PC with some new stuff:  motherboard, CPU, RAM.  I brought two SATA3 HDDs with me, as well as my wireless keyboard, mouse & 23" HD monitor.  I also installed an older PCIe 2.0 graphics card with 1 GB DDR2 RAM.

I looked at benchmarks for graphics at passmark.com and the integrated Intel HD 4400 was rated higher than the GeForce GT 220 card.

Details
Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
Intel Core i3-4150 CPU
Gigabyte GA-B85M-DS3H motherboard
(2) WD SATA3 HDDs, 1 TB each
Crucial Ballistix 2x4 GB PC3-10700 DDR3 RAM
Samsung Syncmaster 2233 1920x1080 monitor
Antec Earthwatts 500W PSU

Is there a decent graphics card for less than $100 to boost my performance?  Or would I be better off using the integrated graphics - and perhaps using less energy?

Note - at some point, I plan on installing an SSD at least big enough for Win8/10.  This has been a budget build, converting from a previous PC;  not going to break the bank on any components.
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Question by:Robert
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by:nattygreg
nattygreg earned 250 total points
ID: 40615791
you can try this graphics card, for $99 at tigerdirect.com independent grahics with their own processor always boost performance. However you did mention that it was an older card.

XFX Radeon R7 250 Video Card - 1GB GDDR5, PCI-Express 3.0 (x8), Low Profile - R7-250A-ZLF4
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by:Robert
ID: 40615817
I like the features - 1 GB GDDR5, PCIe 3.0, the price is very reasonable.  But when I compare it against my old card as well as the integrated Intel, the Intel shows higher 2D graphics.  Is this really possible?  I went to passmark.com for the comparison:

http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/compare.php?cmp[]=2643&cmp[]=2768&cmp[]=72

And I found an MSI AMD Radeon R7 250X 2GB GDDR5 - would twice the GDDR5 be better?
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by:nattygreg
ID: 40615889
try another benchmark
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by:Robert
ID: 40615932
??  I don't know of another.  Do you?
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by:nattygreg
ID: 40615964
I never understood why people use benchmark, I never did and I never will use it.

I purchase computer parts based on use of the computer, for example if I was still editing photos and videos I would buy the above card, along with a motherboard with 2600fsb memory 2000fsb DDR3L or 4 somewhere around 8-16 gb ram.
what you need is memory and a good graphics card that process its own rendering. If you were rendering block buster movies then the card you need is not on the market.

benchmark means nothing.
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by:nobus
ID: 40615985
don't forget to check if your PS has enough power if you install a video card
you can calculate your need here : http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp
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by:Michael Rojek
ID: 40616104
You've got a very similar setup to me. I'm on 6GB RAM, but the rest is nearly identical. Your 500W PSU is double what i have, so you'll have no problem running a graphics card. ATI Radeon HD6450 1 GB will create a noticeable assist, and it's under $50. There's also a silent version without a fan and just the heatsink. The HD7450 is under $100 as well, and you'll be able to play games with decent enough performance. Both are available on Amazon. These are low profile options, of course.
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by:Robert
Robert earned 0 total points
ID: 40617172
To All:  My apologies for asking the oil or tire question (go to cartalk.com or any motorcycle forum and ask about oil or tires and, within a day, flames will be raining down from on high).  My understanding of computer graphics is not too far from rudimentary.  And I can read ratings.  I see that futuremark also rates/compares graphics cards & CPUs.

http://www.futuremark.com/hardware/gpu

What I don't understand very well is what makes a good graphics card for me.  To me, it is more than simply pushing pixels.  To say it differently from above, my usage breaks out roughly:  (45%) streaming video, (35%) browsing, (15%) Office and other PC programs (4%) photo editing, (1%) Movie Maker.  No games - wait, does web sudoku count as a game?  Put that under browsing.

nobus - PSU rating calculates 292 W and recommends a 400 W PSU.  I suppose the 500 W unit is sufficient.  If I do not choose a graphics card, it drops to 202 W.  I guess that an integrated graphics setup is not being considered if I don't choose a graphics card but nowhere does it give this option.

nattygreg - Please do not take my questions for clarification and more understanding as any kind of disregard for your singular recommendation.  You probably have more experience than I do with hardware in general and graphics in particular;  I do not doubt that your recommendation is accurate in that it is under $100 and would improve my graphics performance.  But what makes that one better than the rest (a) for what I do and (b) at that price point?  Is there any online comparison of hardware you'd accept as useful?  I don't believe everything I read but I think it is safe to say that we need something to compare apples of different varieties.  Specifications help, but don't tell the whole story.  Some sort of testing & comparing, while probably not perfect and level do help point out better performance... right?
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by:nobus
ID: 40618317
so the PS is ok
integrated  graphics ARE considered - but consume far less power
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by:Robert
ID: 40626176
I do appreciate the input.  I thought a graphics card - newer than the one I have - would help this < $500 PC.  [u]Let me try to explain a bit differently[/u].

I don't quite understand what to look for in a graphics card.  I know the GDDR5 memory is a plus and more of it is better than less.  But how much memory should I look for at a minimum?  If I compare cards, what features or ratings makes a card better for me?  How might my usage call for a different set of specs than someone playing CAD or GTA or WOW?  Or does it not make a difference?  Would 1 GB of GDDR5 be better than 2 GB of GDDR3?

I use this PC to:
(45%) streaming video
(35%) browsing, sometimes simple web photo editing (Canva, PicMonkey), web design (WiX, Google Sites, WordPress)
(15%) Office and other legacy PC programs
(4%) photo editing
(1%) Movie Maker
Often I have two different browsers with 15-20 pages open at the same time

With 8 GB RAM, the CPU & paging don't seem to mind this load, if I look at Task Manager.
With a  22" 1920x1080 (DVI) display, I suppose that has some bearing on card choice
In a few years, I plan on upgrading the monitor to a touchscreen with at least 1920x1080 native resolution
My price point is $100, but if I could get by with a $50 card, all the better.  

Some people just want to know what to buy.  Others want to know what makes one choice better than another.  I'm in the 2nd group.  In other words, tell me with details what I should be looking for.  Educate me a bit!

Did that sound any different?  Thanks in advance.
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by:nobus
ID: 40627541
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by:Robert
ID: 40629525
LOL!

That article is NOT what I'm looking for.  (a) it pretty much talks about games, games, games. Are the features for games going to compare to the features for web browsing, video streaming?  And (b) the article is 2 years old - so the technology being compared is now 2 yrs older.

What if I said I prefer a Tesla S85D over a Porsche Panamera?

Let me rephrase, again:  Given my previously mentioned workload on this PC and the hardware already mentioned in this PC, what features or specs should I look for in a graphics card?  And can I find something for $50 USD?  $100 USD?

Or rephrase it this way:  What is your reasons for choosing a graphics card over the others?
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by:nobus
ID: 40630036
that maybe - but the reasons why they choose stay the same - but the hardware may change, so the article is still valid

what i do is :
1-look at the budget
2-look at practical issues :
eg :does it take lots of power - so i need another PS - or does it have a fan (= noise)
3-look at what it is used for : eg : games = high end
4-look at a comparative sit e for performance :  a well known one here :  http://www.videocardbenchmark.net/
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by:Robert
ID: 40630727
In baseball they say, if at first you don't succeed, try 2nd base.  I'll try again.

What are the demands of an HD/1920x1080 display on memory?  

At what point is 1 GB RAM enough, at what point is it not enough?  

What is HDCP and and the other technologies in a card?

Should I pay any attention to 3D ratings, since I do not play games or watch 3D video?

nobus, I agree - I have a budget, between $50 - $100;  the practical issues - mobo has PCIe 3.0 slot, monitor has VGA & DVI-D ports, but at some point I'll upgrade the monitor to one that is a touchscreen and probably an HDMI port, so I'd want a card with at least HDMI & DVI-D ports;  PSU requirements <500W.  Beyond that, though, requires a greater understanding of the technologies in a graphics card and what it would be used for.

I don't hear anyone saying - oh, you stream videos, therefore you need xyz;  or, oh, you have a bunch of windows and 20 web pages open at the same time, so this technology would help and you'd need at least this amount of that;  or touchscreens use x amount of this resource and works better via a DVI port or an HDMI port or a DisplayPort.

I do not play graphics-intensive games;  I do stream Netflix and other HD-level video.  At some point, I don't think having the most expensive, highest-rated video card would perform any better for what I'm asking it to do.  The thing is, I have no idea what that card would be.  In other words, I could buy the best card out there or I could buy one that does all I ask it to do - which I think is far less than those top numbers of the benchmarks.
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by:nobus
ID: 40630780
DHCP explained :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-bandwidth_Digital_Content_Protection
the other questions i cannot answer
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by:Robert
ID: 40646052
Not sure what to do with this question. I don't feel like any of the suggestions have helped me understand what makes a graphics card better or worse - or as good as it gets - for a particular situation.

Am I not asking the right question or not providing the right information?
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by:nobus
ID: 40646276
in general - faster GPU chip, biggersized on board ram and speed
but there's alot more -not easy to explain in a couple of sentences; you need to read articles, get familiar with the jargon

maybe this helps then :  http://www.pcgamer.com/how-to-buy-a-graphics-card-six-things-you-must-know-about-gpus/

http://www.wikihow.com/Choose-a-Graphics-Card
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by:Robert
ID: 40648297
nobus, all,

I appreciate the links.  Only the last one points out that 1 GB  of GDDR5 is better than 4 GB of GDDR3.  That's the kind of concrete info that I think would be valuable.

Is there a performance boost in using a PCIe 3.0 card in a PCIe 3.0 slot?  Or would a PCIe 2.0 card give me a similar result?  

A good point of reference would be a card or a point of performance where HD video can be viewed cleanly.  I don't play video games, I think I've made that clear from the beginning;  I do stream videos.  I might upgrade my monitor in 2-3 years when I expect touchscreens and QHD/4K to be falling in price.

Some of the video I stream are sports.  I know it's one thing to display in HD, another to display a action cleanly.  But I don't know what level of cards will provide a good quality sports video in HD or better.

None of the articles even discuss this.  It's all games, games, games.
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by:nobus
ID: 40648662
well - not exactly my terrain; but this can help :  http://graphics-cards-review.toptenreviews.com/
"The two major players in the graphics card world are AMD and Nvidia. Each has developed its own rendering technology for processing graphical data. Nvidia graphics cards use CUDA cores, and AMD uses stream processors. While these technologies are measured differently, their purpose is to accelerate the communication rate between the graphics card's GPU and your computer's CPU. The more CUDA cores or stream processors a card has, the faster it is"

there are big price differences - but performance differs much less, so check if you're willing to pay a lot more  for it

here a comparison, including the performance per $
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-card-review,3107-8.html

i also found a classification on best, best for gaming, best budget card
http://www.pcgamer.com/the-best-graphics-cards/#page-2
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Robert earned 0 total points
ID: 40649484
More good reading, nobus, thanks.  

For unanswered questions, I researched PCIe 3.0 vs 2.0 and found little impact on version:

http://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Impact-of-PCI-E-Speed-on-Gaming-Performance-518/

While Puget Systems builds PCs, they do not manufacture components, so I take their report as relatively unbiased.

What about performance from the video ports?  Which port provides the best performance?  DVI-I or -D, HDMI, DisplayPort?  Certainly not D-Sub/VGA, right?  

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2030669/hdmi-vs-displayport-which-display-interface-reigns-supreme.html
http://www.cnet.com/news/hdmi-vs-displayport-vs-dvi-vs-vga-which-connection-to-choose/

I think I've answered these additional questions myself!
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by:nobus
ID: 40649558
Pcie 2:

PCI-SIG announced the availability of the PCI Express Base 2.0 specification on 15 January 2007.[26] The PCIe 2.0 standard doubles the transfer rate compared with PCIe 1.0 to 5 GT/s

Pcie 3:
PCI Express 3.0 Base specification revision 3.0 was made available in November 2010, after multiple delays. In August 2007, PCI-SIG announced that PCI Express 3.0 would carry a bit rate of 8 gigatransfers per second (GT/s),

so  it is nearly the double in speed for transfer of data; of course  -your card must handle that too

both from wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express
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by:Robert
ID: 40650092
I saw that, but apparently real-world performance does not have PCIe 2 as a bottleneck.

http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Intel/Ivy_Bridge_PCI-Express_Scaling/23.html

Not with current technology.  In the future, I don't doubt that PCIe 3 will make a difference.
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by:Robert
ID: 40680461
Well, I finally pulled the trigger on a graphics card:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127804

I still can't find much info on improving or understanding needs for streaming HD video.

Like this article sounds promising at the start, but it ends with a thud:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2139341/tested-why-almost-every-pc-could-use-a-video-card-upgrade.html

But there is one application where adding a discrete video card did not have a significant impact: Video playback. We saw very little impact on CPU utilization while streaming both YouTube videos (HTML5) and video files encoded using the h.264 codec and placed inside MKV containers.
Really?  LOL!
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by:nobus
ID: 40680700
you sure make your homework!
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by:Robert
ID: 40694824
So, I took the bait and bought:  MSI N740-1GD5 GeForce GT 740 1GB 128-Bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card from newegg.com.  Seemed to be a good price with a $30 rebate (ugh, rebate crap!) to boot.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127804

I would've thought that adding a graphics card would unload work from the CPU.  But if Temperature is a key factor, just the opposite has occurred.  I think I'll pose this issue as a new Que.

But for now, suffice it to say, the CPU was showing mid-30 C at boot to mid-40 C when running video.  Now it is almost always in the 50 C, whether just booting or under my usual mix of web pages open & some video.

Thanks to all whom posted advice here.
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by:Robert
ID: 40695050
OK - so note to self and others, perhaps - don't run other programs or web pages (those are programs too, Einstein!) while running benchmarks:
w/o MSI  w/MSI   now          
1,785       2,131    2,465  Passmark Rating
4,666       4,065    4,989  CPU (went down, now UP)
   635          728       799  2D Graphics
   529       1,127     1,802 3D Graphics
1,849       1,889     2,192 Memory
   845          934        923 Disk

Note that I went into BIOS and turned off Intel processor graphics processing before running the tests and now the CPU temperatures are back in the 30 C - low 40 C range.  I would have thought it would not reinvent the wheel or double the effort.  But apparently it does.
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by:nobus
ID: 40695394
ok enjoy!
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by:Robert
ID: 40704720
If "answering the question" was providing a reply to the title, the 1st answer of a Radeon card under $100 would have been correct.  But MY QUESTION had detail and was REALLY NEVER ANSWERED.  

I stated clearly that I-DON'T-DO-GAMING and I did not think 3D performance applied to my needs.  No one challenged that but every recommendation or suggestion pointed to describing graphics performance for GAMING.

In the end, my system now costs more, the CPU runs hotter, and I don't see any visible change in performance.

Passmark tells me :
Before      After
1,785       2,131  Passmark Rating
4,666       4,065 CPU (went down)
635            728  2D Graphics
529         1,127  3D Graphics
1,849      1,889  Memory
845            934  Disk
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