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Upgrading For ArmA 2? - Recommended Specs and Advice!

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  • Upgrading For ArmA 2? - Recommended Specs and Advice!

    This was just posted on Armaholic
    Minimum and recommended system specs for Arma 2

    Minimum specs:

    Dual Core CPU (Intel Pentium 4 3.0 GHz, Intel Core 2.0 GHz, AMD Athlon 3200+ or faster)
    1 GB RAM
    GPU (Nvidia Geforce 7800 / ATI Radeon 1800 or faster) with Shader Model 3 and 256 MB VRAM
    Windows XP
    DVD (Dual Layer compatible)
    10 GB free HDD space

    Recommended specs:

    Quad Core CPU or Dual Core CPU (Intel Core 2.8 GHz, AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ or faster)
    2 GB RAM
    GPU (Nvidia Geforce 8800GT / ATI Radeon 4850 or faster) with Shader Model 3 and 512 MB VRAM
    Windows XP or Windows Vista
    DVD (Dual Layer compatible)
    10 GB free HDD space


    * *

    Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at.

    -Carlos A. Urbizo-

  • #2
    Upgrading Your Computer for ARMA2

    With the release of ARMA2 upon us, seems like everyone is talking about upgrading their rigs to get all the eye candy they can out of the game. But upgrading can be a daunting task, and nothings worse than spending a ton of money and then finding out it wasn't worth it, or wasn't the right parts.

    This tread is going to hopefully help those looking to upgrade get the most bang for their buck and end up with a smile on their face when they boot up ARMA2 for the 1st time :row__577:

    I spend a lot of my free time keeping up with the latest tech news and looking for deals online, and using that to help fellow TG players make good choices. The way I see it, the players that are happy with their computer, the more people I have to shoot at. :icon19: This thread may end up being so long, you might have to read it over a couple days. I also recommend you check out our Tactical Gamer Hardware & Software Discussion forum. It is very active and has a lot of really smart guys to help with just about any problem. We are constantly talking about the latest news, and will be a good way to keep up with things that change from what I talk about below. Things change very fast in the tech world after all.

    So here we go.

    First thing to know is this summer/fall there is a lot of new tech stuff about to be released all about the same time. As hard as it is to wait when you have money in your pocket and are not happy with your low FPS, I think this is one case where it will be very worth it. I am going to talk about all the future stuff first, then talk about the current stuff after that.

    Around the Sept/Oct time frame we will see major changes from Intel, ATI, Nvidia, Windows, and harddrives. So lets take a quick look at those so you can understand why waiting might be a wise choice.

    Video Cards
    Lots of big news trickling in on the Gfx card front. This is due to both ATI and Nvidia releasing their next gen cards. This is pretty important because Windows 7 will be out Oct. 22nd, and will have DirectX-11. ATI has already said they plan to have DX-11 cards out by Win7 release and was actually showing off early hardware at a recent tech show, but Nvidia hasn't said anything yet. Word is that Nvidia may not have it in time, but things change really fast.

    But, the really important news is that early leaks show both ATI and Nvidia's next gen to be a huge boost. Also important is the fact that both companies are going for a gpu built with a 40nm die process. That is important because the smaller it is, the less power it will need and cooler it will run. For comparison, most current cards you buy are built off of 55nm or 65nm, with some older ones like the 8800 series being even larger. Big news considering the gfx. card is usually the most power hungry part of the computer, in some cases using more power than the rest of the computer all together. That means you have to buy a very good high power PSU to keep it going, which also puts out more heat and noise and runs up your electric bills.

    ATI blew people away with their current gen, the 48** series. It was a huge jump in power from the 38** series, and surprised all the tech sites when they started doing reviews. ATI is saying they expect a similar jump in power in the new cards (which might be called the 58** series, but not official yet).
    Here is the latest:
    AMD Evergreen: 40nm DirectX 11 GPU Silicon Arrives

    Nvidia is being tight lipped as always about their next gen, but this bit of news recently made the rounds:
    NVIDIA's GT300 specs outed???

    If that even remotely comes true, anyone buying a high end card right now will be kicking themselves by the end of the year.

    And soon gaming won't be the only reason to be buying a really good gfx. card. Both ATI and Nvidia are starting to put out stuff that will allow you to use programs that can use your GPU as a super CPU of sorts. For example, the time it takes to convert a video with just the CPU can be cut in half or even faster when using the GPU to help. So instead of it taking an hour to convert a hour long video to use on your Iphone or to post to youtube, it might take 15 mins. Photoshop will be getting a boost, as well as flash videos like youtube. Lots more about to happen on that front.

    Right now Intel is on the verge of making a major change in it's whole product line. For the last few years, it has had the 775 socket as the main one for desktops. Recently it added the i7 line (also known as 1366 socket or Nehalem line), which is much larger. The larger size has allowed them to move the memory controller onto the CPU (something AMD has done for years), and also to allow for triple-channel ram (compared to the dual channel most all of us use today). Right now both 775 and 1366 are selling side by side, with the 775 being mainstream, and the 1366 being high end/hard core. But that will change the beginning of Sept., when the 775 gets cut, and replaced by the new 1156 socket with the brand name i5. There will also be an i3, but that is low end stuff that won't be good for gaming, more for the $350 Dell specials.

    We still have a few months to go till the i5 gets released, but tech sites are already getting peeks at very early samples, and the news is looking VERY good. Check this out:
    The Lynnfield Preview: Rumblings of Revenge
    If you are thinking of building a new computer in the next year, you really should read that article. And don't worry if you don't understand all of it, as some of it is even over my head. The parts you will understand will make it worth while. The last page with Final Words sums it up some, but you will miss the good parts on the other pages.

    Bottom line though is the i5 will replace the current mainstream stuff, like the Core2Duo and Core2Quads, but some of the new tech it has looks very promising, especially for gamers, like with the Turbo mode. You will be able to get a motherboard/cpu combo for about $375 or so at launch, while the i7 will be dropping it's lowest end CPU (the 920), and the cheapest motherboard/cpu will be in the $750 or more range. So the i7 will be for hard core folks with money to burn, and the i5 will be what pretty much all of us will be buying.

    I will talk more about the current 775 socket below, as it is really very affordable right now, and still a good option on a budget. But there will be no new CPUs being put out for the platform, so it is a dead end. You should be happy with a new rig based on the 775 for a few years, but then won't be able to upgrade. It will be like all the guys that have socket 748 right now, and are stuck buying 4 year old CPUs, usually on ebay, if they want to upgrade. But they spend a lot of money to get one of those chips, and even if it is the same speed and a current Core2 cpu, it won't offer anywhere near the same horsepower. Point is, when I spend my money, I want it to be as future proof as possible, and waiting on the i5 would give someone that.

    Windows 7
    Windows 7 is pretty big news right now, and is looking like it will make up for a lot of mistakes people think Vista was. You may have heard about how stable the public beta of Windows 7 was, and the recently released Release Candidate was even better. If you read tech forums, a lot of people are saying they hate Vista, and had tons of problems, but are really liking Win7. Personally, I have been happy with Vista and really haven't had more problems than I did with XP, but I know some people have. Part of that has more to do with other companies not having good drivers, causing lots of blue screens. A lot of that had to do with the very different way Vista drivers work compared to XP, but the good news is Win7 uses drivers kind of like Vista, and so most companies already have good drivers working. I know a lot of TG guys already running Win7 and are happy with it.

    But it doesn't release till Oct22nd. So if you do upgrade in early Sept to the new i5, you are kind of stuck. So some options are to use a current copy you have of XP or Vista to get you through. But I suggest you don't buy XP or Vista, as you will very soon find yourself wanting to upgrade. And make SURE you get the 64 bit version. It really is time for 64bit to go mainstream, and there are a lot of people saying Microsoft should have dropped the 32 bit to begin with.

    As said above, Win7 will bring DirectX-11, and while DX-10 hasn't done too much, a lot of devs are already talking about DX-11, and that it will be easier to switch to. ATI has said they expect that everyone will switch much more quickly than with DX-10, and the Devs of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 have already said they have ported some of their work to DX-11.

    Here are some more links to info about Win7:
    Windows 7: The Complete Guide (Now With RC1!)

    Top 10 Windows 7 Features #6: DirectX 11

    Windows 7 RC coming May 5 for public consumption (long thread, but lots of good discussion and links)

    I decided to include this topic in the future section because of the status of Solid State Drives (SSD) in the market right now. Currently, there are a couple different types of drives, and a couple different types of controllers, and makers are still getting the kinks worked out. Personally, I don't think now is the right time to buy because of that, as well as the fact that prices are dropping at an amazing rate. It looks like prices should drop to about half what they are right now by the end of the year, and lots of firmware updates are fixing problems with early models.

    Yes, you can find some really good deals on SSD, as low as $99, but when you look at reviews of those drives, they usually aren't very good, scoring the same as an average harddrive, while still costing 2x-3x+ as much for the same capacity. But, the recently released drives from Intel and the OCZ Vertex Series show huge boosts in speed, but a price jump to match. Since it's release early in the year, Intel has cut the price on it's drives 2 or 3 times, and with new lines just getting released from Corsair and others, they will be forced to cut even more soon.

    This thead, SSD drives in the news, has been running for a while in the tech forum, and is still being updated. If you are interested in getting a drive, you should skim through and read up on the subject before you buy. I think that sometime between Oct. 22nd and Christmas would be a good time to really consider buying if the market continues like it has with updates and price cuts.

    Will leave this as the final point about SSDs. It is a quote from AnandTech, one of the most trusted tech review sites out there. And just think, this was from Sept. of last year, so think about how much better they will be a year later and in the future.

    This thing is fast, and I want one in my system...actually, two. It's the only SSD that I would actually go out, buy and stick in my desktop machine at this point. I think that's the first time I've ever said something like that in a review, but I'm absolutely convinced. I've been using SSDs in my systems for a few months now and I'm hooked.


    If Intel can get capacities over 100GB at reasonable prices in the near future, I'd say that the X25-M would be the best upgrade you could possibly do to your system. I'm curious to see what pricing and availability will be like for the 160GB drives, but Intel is being pretty tight lipped about them.

    and finally

    To me this is bigger than Nehalem, but then I look at the price tag and think that Nehalem will probably be a cheaper upgrade. Intel redefined the performance of the MLC SSD, I only wish they also redefined the price...

    Well, that about does it for future tech stuff, and why I think you should wait to buy right now.
    My fingers are cramping up from typing, so I'm going to take a break and post this for you to think about. I will post the part 2 covering current gen stuff later (maybe today if my fingers relax), but am going to lock the thread for now so part 2 will be right after part 1.

    Hope I explained everything so it is easy to understand, and along with part 2 will help you make the right choices for your $$. :row__523:


    * *

    Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at.

    -Carlos A. Urbizo-


    • #3
      Re: Upgrading Your Computer for ARMA2

      Ok, sorry for the week's delay in getting part 2 up, but crazy at work and lot of my free time is answering PMs.

      So here is all the details/info about building a rig based on the current Intel Socket 775, and maybe some on the current i7, since it is already out for sale, as well as current Gfx. cards to choose from, etc. If someone is interested in doing a writeup about current and future AMD setups, PM me and would be glad to include it. I have just gotten out of the AMD loop over the last year since the Intel stuff has been so good, though I am part of an AMD survey feedback group.

      Current Intel CPU Options.

      The current Intel socket is the 775, and it has been a good option for the last couple of years. The tough decision most people have had to make recently is between going dual or quad core. There have been lots of arguments for both, but in the case of ARMA2, I can sum it up easily with this pic of my desktop I took yesterday:

      That shows a little app in the top right that I keep open in my 2nd monitor to keep an eye on CPU/RAM usage while I game. Notice that while ARMA2 is running all 4 cores of my Q6600 are running? And not even running but at about 75% or so. The load is being devided up over 4 cores instead of 2 if I was running a dual core. Most games from here on out are going to be able to take advantage of quads, and that is why I have been trying to talk all the people I've helped build systems over the last year into buying quads over dual. Yes, for the same price you can buy a dual that runs at a faster speed than a quad, but with the ease at which you can overclock the current lineup of 775 cpus, you can make up a lot of that difference. In my case, I had to decide between a q6600 (stock @ 2.4) and a e8400 (stock @ 3.0), but if you notice in the pic above I have my q6600 @ 3.005, and all I did was spend 30 sec. in the BIOS to change 1 number, the FSB.

      The q6600 has been replace now by the q9*** series like the Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz, which is currently $219. The other options are kind of confusing, because there is a q9400, which is the same price at $219, but is slower and has half as much L2 cache, which from what I have read is important for gaming. And to add to the confusion there is also a q9550S model, which is about $100+ more expensive, and doesn't really give you any boost, just a saving on power needs.

      Here is all the current quads lined up:

      Really, the only deccision I would say would be between the q9550 and q9650. The q9650 is about $100 more, and only adds about .17GHz of speed, something you could overclock for without even thinking about it so the q9550 has always been my suggestion to people I help with builds. And between the q6600 and q9550, that is an easy choice as well. Right now there is about a $30 difference, but the q9950 is stock speed faster, is based on the Yorkfield design, meaning it is a 45nm die compared to 65nm. It also has a bigger L2 cache, and a faster FSB, which allows it to take advantage of faster RAM.

      But remember, these are all going EOL (end of life) this summer, being replaced by the i5 talked about above.

      Then there is the dual core options. I have helped a lot of TG members on a budget build with a E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz, and they have been very happy. It is really fast, and can easily overclock to 3.7 with a good air cooler and good case with air flow. It is dual core, so can run multithreaded apps, and games like BF2/2142 and others can't use more than 1 core anyway, so a fast dual is great.

      For gaming, I would only consider the e8400, e8500, and e8600. Here is a comparison chart with all 3:

      Notice though the only difference is speed, and again, that is something easily fixed with overclocking. I am thinking I will probably do a part 3 to this writeup explaining overclocking, so people will be able to understand how easy it can be, and how it can be done safely when done right, without fear of frying your whole system. But as for the 3 duals, I would choose the cheapest e8400 and overclock, and use the money saved on something else like a better GFX card.

      So, after seeing above, if you haven't decided which to choose, and money isn't the deciding factor, then I suggest you use the brand new beta Benchmark tool has up:

      Pick an application/benchmark/game you want to test, and it will show you how different CPUs score. So for instance I can look at a Left4Dead benchmark and see that the q9650 and q9550 only have a difference of about 3 FPS, while the difference in price is $100+.

      To be fair, if you run a lot of the game benchmarks and others, you have to scroll down a ways to get to the AMD scores. But with others like the Media Encoding (something you might start doing a lot of you get an Iphone and want to rip DVDs to watch or making movies of ARMA2 from fraps :D), the AMD chips score pretty decent. Not as good as the i7 stuff, but still decent. And they can come in at a decent price. I'm just not up to date on them and don't want to steer anyone in a wrong direction. And I do want people to buy them, as it keeps them in business and Intel in check. The laptop I bought my wife is AMD, and am happy with it. I'm helping people build higher end gaming systems though, so I have been only keeping up with Intel. If there are any AMD fans, again, get in touch so we can add to this guide.

      So bottom line is if you are going with a 775 CPU, I personally would choose the q9550 or e8400/e8500.

      Current Intel Motherboard Options.
      Wow, where to begin with motherboards. So many options to choose from, so many makers, so many chipsets.

      Lets start with makers, cause I can shorten that list. I am very happy with my ASUS motherboard, and when you read tech site reviews where they do a big roundup of motherboards, the ASUS usually end up on or next to the top. I have had to use their warranty service twice, mostly due to my own errors (like a bad BIOS flash before I knew what I was doing), and I have been happy both times. GIGABYTE usually comes in around 2nd, and sometimes first, in those tech roundups, and people I have heard are happy with their quality and price/feature/performance ratio, so I would recommend them as well. I would also put DFI near the top, because they can put out some really good stuff. But they are usually more expensive and are designed for tweakers and overclockers looking to get every single drop out of their cpu/components. Their BIOS usually have more bells and whistles and setting than most people could ever use, and their quality is usually very good, so can make a good option.

      The rest of my tops list would include EVGA, XFX, MSI, and stock Intel.
      There are others, like Foxconn, BioStar, and ASrock (which recently split from ASUS), that can make decent stuff, but usually score down on a motherboard roundup, and you would need to read some reviews before you buy. They can make some good stuff, but I'm spending my money on something, and I want to pick what comes out on top in a roundup, not the bottom.

      Then you have to decide what chipset you want. Currently, for the 775 that would mean for a gamer the Intel P45 or X48, or an Nvidia chipset. Nvidia has had some problems over the last year or so (which may have been worked out, but don't know for sure), where their MBs ran really hot, had lots of weird problems like bad static in sound output, funky drivers, etc. A lot of them can be more expensive as well. But they are the only option if you want to go SLI (meaning run 2 Nvidia gfx. cards at the same time to boost your FPS). SLI is a whole other ball of wax I will talk about when we get to gfx. cards, so will save it for then.

      If you go with the P45 or X48 you can't use SLI, but rather Crossfire. That means 2 ATI brand cards at the same time to boost your FPS. But you are limited with the P45 chipset in that if you run 2 cards, your PCI-E slot speeds will drop, because basically there is only so much data throughput the MB pipes can handle. So if you run just 1 card, it will run in the slot at the full 16x speed that PCI-E allows. But if you run 2 cards, most motherboards will drop down to 8x speed for both slots. Now, that can be limiting or might not, depending on conditions. According to a head ATI guy, a card like the 4850 won't max out a slot running at 8x, but he didn't say anything about what like a 4890 or future cards can do. So if you are thinking you want to run Crossfire for absolutly sure, the X48 is what you would want. It has room for pipes that will run 2 full speed 16x slots, and a few other tweaks that make it designed for gamers/tweakers. But you are going to pay usually about $50 up to $150+ more for going with the X48 over P45.

      Here are some links to Newegg with them lined up by highest buyer reviews:

      So say you decide to go with the P45 chipset, how do you decide which board to pick. I have to say even I get confused looking at the ridicules amount of options, even just from one maker. For instance, Asus makes 25 different P45 boards. What the hell?????? :D (a guy I was helping last week needed to decide between the p5q pro, the p5q turbo, and the p5q pro turbo).

      So when I am helping people pick I tell them to make a list of what features they like about their current computer, like how many USB ports it has, how many SATA ports (SATA is how you connect your HD and newer DVD drives to the motherboard, instead of those giant fat gray cables like in older computers, and they are SOOOOOO much better). Also have them look at if they are going to need old PCI slots, or how many newer PCI-E x1 or x3 slots they might want to use in the future. Lots of stuff like sound cards are finally starting to come with PCI-E options. Also have them think if they would ever use E-SATA or special sound outputs, dual Gig networking, etc. Also important is to look at the placement of the SATA ports on the motherboard. I didn't really do this when I bought mine, and turns out my gfx. card actually sits above 2 of my 6 SATA ports, making them hard to use. Turns out in my case I was lucky and had an extra L-shaped plug SATA cord, which most people don't, so I could still use the ports. Next time I will try and buy a board with the SATA ports at the bottom away from the Gfx. card, but it isn't a deal breaker. The number of SATA ports can be a deciding factor though, when you consider many people like having 2 DVD drives, and more than 1 harddrive. Look for at least 6 in my opinion to leave room for future upgrades.

      So when you go to finally decide, use Newegg (even if you live in another country and can't order from them), and make a chart or 2 with all your options in comparison view, and that will help you decide. If you still can't decide, remember we have a really good Tech forum here at TG, with lots of people happy to help, so make a post.
      General Forums- Hardware & Software Discussion

      Have to state it again though, at the end of summer the 775 motherboards are going EOL. Of course ASUS and others will continue to make and support them, but just stating it.

      Intel i7
      I decided to separate this out, because it is it's own beast. Very different than the 775 stuff talked about above, and of course more expensive. But when you look at the Anandtech benchmark stuff above, the i7 stuff is pretty much always on top. Part of this has to do with Intel going back to the old Hyperthreading (where the OS can see each core as 2 cores, so in some instances you quad core can have the power of 8 cores, so to speak.) This might get even better when the 6 and later on 8 core i7 stuff comes out, and you end up with 12 or 16 hyperthreaded cores. Link:
      Intel unveils eight-core Nehalem EX :icon_eek::icon_eek::icon_eek:

      But currently, the only option for most of us here is either the 920 or 950 cpus

      And for most of us with out a money tree in our back yards, the 920 at $280 is our only option, since the 950 is about $540. On top of that, you have to plan on spending at least about $100 more for a X58 motherboard with the socket LGA 1366 to fit your i7 cpu. You also have to plan on buying DDR3 memory, which is still a bit more expensive than the very common DDR2. And while you can buy a dual stick kit of DDR3 to use, to really take advantage of your setup, you are going to want to buy a triple stick pack of DDR3, so you can use the triple channel feature of the chipset. You do have to make sure you bought a motherboard that supports it as well, so one with 6 memory slots. I have seen some x58 motherboards with only 4 slots, so you will need to read everything to make sure it supports triple channel and not just dual channel before you buy.

      For a little more detail on DDR3, I will say that so far a lot of reviews I have read have show the boost between dual and triple channel to be small in most instances, and some think that gap will grow in the future to show more benefit. Also need to point out that i7 is only officially rated by Intel for like 1066 speed ram, though pretty much everyone now that buys to build is using 1600 speed ram, which is much faster. This is where people start to see the boost. There is also some kind of turbo boost you can enable to see even more benefit, and I posted a thread about it in the tech forum.
      Exclusive: Retail Core i7 CPUs More Powerful than Originally Reported
      Pretty interesting.

      So when choosing a motherboard, like I said your only option right now is X58 boards. There have been a lot of really in depth roundups, like this one for example:
      X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards

      Again, the ASUS comes out on top. But there are a lot of reasons other reasons to like the X58 besides the ones I mentioned above. For instance, with many X58 boards, you can run EITHER SLI or Crossfire, whichever you choose. People have been dreaming of that for years. No more having to decide way in advance what board to choose because who knows a couple years down the road if ATI or Nvidia would have the best cards.

      But again, you are going to end up paying more for an i7 system. And a word of warning. When the i5 gets released later in the year, Intel is supposed to drop the 920 CPU model, to help keep confusion down between the i7 and i5 lines. So that would mean that you could get into the i7 line without paying $500+ for just the CPU. That puts it out of most people's reach. But it is possible to go i7 now, while the 920 cpu is still cheap, and benefit from the triple channel and other perks. My understanding is the i5 will not have triple channel. And going i7 now might mean if you ever did want to upgrade, say to the 6 core CPU, you would be looking at a very high price to do so. And to top it off word is kind of leaking out over the last week that the 6 core and other models will be called the i9 line. Supposed to still use the X58 motherboard though.

      So pretty tough decision to make. Even though it is more expensive to go i7, there are some really good deals out there. My buddy in the 10th squad |TG-X| Pancho just bought an i7 system from Bestbuy for about $1,300 I think. It is a Gateway brand, and game with like a 9800 gfx. card, so pretty decent. A few weeks later I helped |TG-X| Caffine buy parts from Newegg to build an i7, and his came out to be about the same price. Then last week Newegg had a special combo deal I posted in the tech forum:

      So saving about $100.

      So that about sums up what to look at when deciding on which CPU and Motherboard to look for. The post turned out to be much longer than I expected, but just let my mind run off at the keyboard. My fingers are again cramping up, so going to take a break, and will have to do a part 3 to include the guide on RAM and Gfx. cards and harddrives. Will probably throw in a bit about cpu coolers and cases to choose as well.

      If you have any suggestions, feel free to PM me, and thanks for reading. Last time I looked, with only part 1 posted, already had 400+ thread views.


      * *

      Stoop and you'll be stepped on; stand tall and you'll be shot at.

      -Carlos A. Urbizo-


      • #4
        Re: Upgrading Your Computer for ARMA2

        It is time for part 3 of your upgrade guide, picking the right Graphics Card. Picking a GPU can be daunting, especially since for some people it will be the most expensive part in their whole computer. And while ARMA2 looks to be somewhat dependent on a good CPU, most games out there are more GPU dependent. And from the test results people are posting on ARMA2, it looks like you need a good GPU and CPU combo to really get the eye candy right.

        So, today at lunch I'm sitting there checking my tech sites on my iPhone, and see this article was just posted:

        Giz Explains: How to Choose the Right Graphics Card

        I'm sitting there reading it, and thinking "I couldn't have said it better myself." They really did a great job of hitting all the points I would have made. The part about not even trying to compare # specs between ATI and Nvidia cards, as they don't really relate is spot on. I was helping someone here a couple of weeks ago, and they kept insisting on getting an older model Nvidia card because it was really cheap but had really high spec #s compared to a newer ATI that was about $25 more expensive. Then I showed him some benchmarks in FPS games, and how much higher the ATI scored. He went with the ATI card :D The numbers from these 2 companies can really only help you compare other cards from the same company.

        The site also links to some of the best tech review sites out there, which is exactly how I figure out what cards are the best. But a word of caution. Make sure to look at more than one source, and how old the article is. The reason for that is driver updates make a HUGE difference in the performance of a card, and if a review is using an old driver, and it scores your fav. game pretty low, you may find another tech site used newer drivers and the score jumped double digit FPS. Tom's Hardware, a site that is linked in the article, made a lot of people mad a while back when they ran a comparison between a ATI 48** series card and an Nvidia 200 series card, but used really old ATI drivers, like ones from their first month of release, while using just released Nvidia drivers. It could have made a huge difference in the outcome, and the people in the comments section of the article were quick to point it out.

        My personal advice is this. If you can't wait for the next gen stuff that will be out by the end of the year, buy the medimum high end card, never the high high end. The reason for this is you will loose way more money on a card that is usually only about 5-10% faster (so about 5 FPS in some cases), and the markup on the high high end is just as extreme as the price. GPU makers only make a tiny profit on low-mid range cards, as those are the ones that usually go into OEM rigs, like from Dell. They make tons of money on the high end cards. My fav. example of this was the 8800 GTX Ultra. When it first hit, I saw it selling for as much as $900, even though it only gave a few more FPS than the 8800 GTX, that was selling for about $550. And of course, once the new 200 series replace the 8800 series, the card that was $900 was selling for about $350. And the funny thing was, the 260 model was just as fast or faster, and was selling for the same price.

        Point is, go for the high mid range, where you get the best cost/performance ratio, and you don't feel as bad when the new cards come out.

        So right now, that would mean these cards:

        Radeon HD 4850
        Radeon HD 4870
        Radeon HD 4890


        GeForce GTX 260
        eForce GTX 275

        You could include the Nvidia 285, but those start around at least $330+, and there isn't that much of a difference between the much cheaper Nvidia 275.

        Just to say this very broadly, because there are a lot of different models of each kind of card, with factory overclocks, not to mention that some games just run better on ATI or Nvidia, but here is how the cards rate in many tests:


        I know that kind of sounds obvious, but once you start looking at the benchmarks, it will make some sense.

        You may notice that the 4850 is one of the cards BIS listed as the recommend spec. It is a very good card, especially for the price, and can run BF2/PR/Crysis/COD4 all very well, but it probably isn't going to get ARMA2 running with everything on Very High.

        Price wise, for an average card you should be able to find deals to buy the card at the prices below:


        That is USA Dollars, and I usually see things a bit more expensive in CAD and UK Pound. And that is just an average, and I have seen really good deals, like a 4850 for $85 after rebate.

        If you want to look at the 9800 Nvidia cards, you can as well. Most people are pretty annoyed with Nvidia right now because they keep renaming their old cards and putting a new sticker on, trying to sell it as a new model. For example, the 8800GT some how magically turned into the 9800GT.

        So lets say you have decided on your card, and price range, how do you pick which brand/card to get. Here is what I tell people. First, decide if you need any special kind of connections, like HDMI or Displayport (supposed to be the next big thing to replace DVI connections). Then look around and see if there are any special editions, like one with 1 gig of RAM, vs. the usual 512mb. In most tests about a year ago, when these cards first showed up, they didn't show much if any boost in FPS. But with the game just now releasing, it looks like the extra RAM might start showing it's value. Also look at what kind of RAM it is, usually either DDR3 or DDR5. ATI just started using DDR5, and it has helped to give them the boost to compete with Nvidia again.

        I also put a lot of weight towards a card that has a high end aftermarket cooler. A bunch of TG guys, including |TG-22|Xmaster, bought cards with IceQ4 coolers (that is just an example of one) because test showed it could keep the card up to 20 degrees cooler than the stock cooler most cards came with. That big of a difference in cooling is huge, and worth paying a few extra $$ for. The cards are also usually quieter, which means people on comms won't think you have a vacuum cleaner running in the background every time you play. :icon_eek: The sound output is something you should always pay attention to in reviews. It really can make a huge difference in if you are happy with the card or not. And yes, you can buy VGA Cooling aftermarket, and they can really help cool your card, but they can be hard to install, and will usually void your warranty.

        So what about all the factory overclocked cards? Depending on the deals you can find, they might be a good choice, but don't pay a ton extra for them. Most makers have a stock speed, a mid overclock version, and a super clocked version. A lot of the time the only difference is a GPU BIOS tweak, which is something you can do yourself for free with a program like RivaTuner. Lots of guides out there on how to do it, because it can seem complicated at first. Sometimes the superclocked versions will have a few extra things like connectors thrown in, or maybe a free game, so you will have to decide if that is worth it.

        The big thing to look for is the warranty. You want to find something with the longest warranty possible. I'm not saying EVGA is the company you should buy from, but just as an example, I bought my 8800GTS from them because they had a Lifetime Warranty. See here:

        A lot of other makers have similar warranties, but some only have 1 or 2 years. Personally, I want that assurance that a company expects their card to last longer than 2 years.

        As a side note, I also chose EVGA because they have very good public forums, and they have a step-up program. That means that if you decide within 90 days you should have bought a faster card, you can trade up, and just pay the difference. Pretty good deal, except that last I heard you had to send in the card and then wait for the new one to be shipped. For some, that might mean sitting without your gaming rig for a few weeks.

        But again, a lot of other companies besides EVGA have good forums and a step up program, as well as good warranty services. Most all of the brands sold at the newegg links above, like XFX, ASUS, PowerColor, BFG, etc., are all pretty good. You really do have to do your homework and read reviews to find out which to go with.

        So where do you find all these reviews? I might should have posted this up with the Motherboard section, but here are my current favs, in random order:

        The Tech Report

        Hot Hardware

        PC Games Hardware


        Xbit labs

        Legit Reviews


        Tweak Town

        Hardware Logic

        Nordic Hardware

        Tom's Hardware

        Tech ARP

        Maximum PC

        Ars Technica

        Those are the sites I check everyday though my RSS feeds.

        When helping someone build, I also usually use Bluesnews, which by itself is a great game news site. But if you look on the left, there is a search box, and if you know what certain part you want to find reviews for, type it in and you can usually find a bunch of good ones, many from the sites above.

        As for finding deals, I check these to sites all day long:
        While the front page deals are usually really good, they can sell out fast. The forums on Slickdeal are also really good, with the vast majority of deals not getting posted on the front page.

        Finally, some of you might be wondering about going SLI or Crossfire. If you have read my thoughts on the subject in the Hardware & Software Discussion Forum, you know I try and talk people out of it. Unless you really do have tons of money falling out of your pockets, it just isn't worth it. I have posted lots of articles where other tech sites have said the same thing. Yes, you can go multi-GPU, and usually see a bump in FPS, but in the price/performance ratio, it is a waste.

        Lots of reasons I say that. For one, there are a lot of games that show very little if any boost in FPS. A buddy of mine bought a 2nd Nvidia card so he could go SLI for ARMA, only to find out it wasn't' supported (that may have changed, not sure). And usually at the most, under ideal tests, you can see a 75% gain. So you are paying full price for a card you are only getting max 75% out of it. Most games don't see that much even. Lots of games when they first release don't have SLI/Crossfire support. I know when Crysis first released, there were all kinds of rushed beta patch releases for Nvidia drivers, trying to get SLI and other bugs fixed. People were pissed, considering that game had been in development for years, and was an Nvidia, "the way it's meant to be played" game.

        You also have 2x the power needs, and 2x the heat output, and 2x the noise.

        So what I usually try to convince people to do is instead of buying a 2nd card, just get a new mid-high end card, and sell their old one. Most of those people have say an older gen. card, and are thinking they could just buy a 2nd card and get a boost up to about where the current gen stuff is. Why, when you can buy a current gen, sell the old card, and end up with a better system for the same price. Who knows, might end up even cheaper if you get a good sell done with your old card on Ebay.

        Anyway, my personal opinion on that subject, and if you do have the money to blow, I will of course still drool over pics of your system and the screenshots it makes. :row__536:

        Thats all for tonight. I will try and finish up on picking RAM, Thermal Paste, Optical and Hard Drives, etc. soon.


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        -Carlos A. Urbizo-




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