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Guide for Selecting a Discrete Video Card

Different application requirements at times will require a discrete video card or a replacement video card in order achieve the desired video performance and application functionality.  Even Microsoft Windows has minimum video performance requirements to run some functions of the operating system.  Many times the manufacturer of specific application software will indicate what the minimum and recommended system requirements are in order to correctly run the software.  The manufacturer's web site and user forums are generally a good place to start the research process.

 

Depending of the video card being considered, the electrical power (wattage) requirement for a particular video card may exceed the capacity of the power supply in a PC.  It is important to team the video card's power requirement with the power supply’s wattage and amperage to avoid unexpected results.  A power supply that is too weak may result in; a PC not booting up, the video card not being recognized and erratic PC operation once the video card is put under a heavy load.  It is highly recommended that you stay with the power supply minimum wattage specifications as indicated by the video card manufacturer.

 

The typical default video capabilities of a PC are designed to handle the everyday video needs but necessarily high definition video, 3D application modeling and modern PC games.

 

Professional computer aided design (CAD) and computer aid manufacturing (CAM) applications often times benefit from professional quality video cards.  The discussion of professional level video cards is beyond the scope of this document.

 

The on board graphic processors that have been included in specific motherboards manufactured within the last twelve months (1/2012) are often times sufficient enough to handle high definition video. These built in video processors can be sufficient to run some of the modern PC games at the lower game settings but quickly become insufficient for running modern games at the higher settings.

 

When adding a discrete video card to a PC you can expect that an increase in power from the power supply will be required.  A side effect to the extra power requirement is more generated heat.  This can be a problem for PCs with smaller cabinets as the air intake, exhaust and electrical component proximity inside the PC is limited.  For these reasons, often times PC manufacturers will not offer high power video cards as an option in a small cabinet.

In general the following suggestions should be considered:

 

  1. Consider the age of your PC.  Is it worth the added expense to add a video card? Does the PC also need a bigger power supply, processor and increased memory?

2. Consider the minimum power supply requirements provide by the specific card manufacturer and also the video chip manufacturer (NVIDIA and AMD).

 

3. Will the video card perform up to its designed performance level when installed in a PC with a limited system board performance level?  Installing a high performing video card in an older PC may not perform at optimum levels when constricted by a low performing system board.

 

4. Will the PC cabinet allow for sufficient air flow to keep the internal PC components cool enough to avoid heat issues?

 

5. Open up your PC and do some measuring in parallel with the PCI-E x16 slot to see how long of a video card will fit.  The slot adjacent to the PCI-E x16 slot needs to be vacant if a wider video card is being considered.  Look carefully at the motherboard and makes sure that components on the motherboard don't interfere with the installation of the video card.  Review the below typical motherboard and video card widths as examples when taking a video card measurement.

 

Benicia mobo PCI-E x16.jpg

Double width and single width video card.jpg

 

6. Not all video cards will be compatible with every PC.  Check with the video board manufacturer if you have doubts.

 

7. Review your monitor connection requirements. What type of video port is required? (VGA, S-video, HDMI, DVI or Display Port etc.).  Do you need to support multiple monitors?

 

8. Do you desire to have a monitor with internal speakers? Due to the thin profile of the newer LED monitors, monitors with internal speakers are generally limited to older LCD monitors.

 

9. What type of video card slot does your motherboard support? (AGP, PCI, PCI-E or MMX).  Some of the modern PCI-E video cards are now specifying a minimum PCI-E bus level.  A PCI-E version 3 video card might only be compatible with PCI-E version 2 bus levels and higher.  Check with the video card manufacturer about the compatibility with your particular model PC.

 

The performance and DirectX level for video cards are generally published on numerous web sites.

 

Review the ATI and NVIDIA performance specifications. Look at the memory bandwidth specifications and the DirectX level support.

 

Video card performance benchmarks can be review at this Passmark web site.

 

You can compare video card performance at this web site.

 

You can research video cards at this web site.

 

The below text was added on 3-22-2013.

 

Windows 8 delivered PCs add another level of complexity to the installation of a discrete video card.  If the PC was delivered with Windows 8 and UEFI mode is enabled in the bios then the following steps need to be considered. Computer Does not Start After Installing a Video Card (Windows 😎.  The HP Secure Boot Windows 8 Topics also will provide additional information when dealing with PCs in UEFI mode and Secure Boot is enabled.

 

If you are considering installing a different operating system such as Windows 7 on a Windows 8 delivered PC in UEFI mode, then enabling Legacy mode and disabling Secure boot may not work with some video cards that are designed to only run in UEFI mode.  If you encounter a no video issue right after the power on system test (POST) completes after then it’s possible that the selected video card requires UEFI mode.  Check with the video card manufacturer to determine if your particular video card requires UEFI mode to be enabled.

 

The below text was added on 7-29-2017.

 

Most the HP consumer level PCs that were manufactured after October 2012 were UEFI enabled. You can verify the UEFI support by opening up a command prompt (admin) and entering: MSINFO32     --> If the BIOS level is version 8, version 80, version A0 or higher then your BIOS will support the newer model graphics cards. Another key piece of information returned by the MSINFO32 is whether the BIOS mode is UEFI.  The released BIOS levels will keep changing so also look at the BIOS mode.

 

 

*************DISCLAIMER***********

There may be inaccuracies with the above information so please consider that when considering a video card.

 

 

HP Photosmart 6520
HP Envy 17", i7-8550u,16GB, 512GB NVMe, 4K screen, Windows 10 x64
Custom PC - Z390, i7-9700K, 32GB, dual 512 GB NVMe, dual 512 SSDs, 2K screen, OC'd to 5 Ghz, NVIDIA 2080TI 11GB
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Harly Honor Student
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Guide for Selecting a Discrete Video Card

Thank You VERY much ! That is EXACTLY what I needed to know.

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Ray-Tra Top Student
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Hi please tell me if this video card would fit my PC which is a HP Pavillion G5410UK,please tell me if it would work and fit,ah yes I already have a 650w PSU so no problem there at all.

Heres the Graphics Card: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B0047ZH7FU?is=300&qid=1334690586&sr=8-1&in=3

Thanks in advance!
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Hi Ray-Tra,

 

You should open up your PC and measure as a double check to see in the Sapphire 6850 will fit.  It's 8.5" in length and the slot adjacent to the PCI-E x16 needs to be vacant.  It should fit but measure to be on the safe side.

HP Photosmart 6520
HP Envy 17", i7-8550u,16GB, 512GB NVMe, 4K screen, Windows 10 x64
Custom PC - Z390, i7-9700K, 32GB, dual 512 GB NVMe, dual 512 SSDs, 2K screen, OC'd to 5 Ghz, NVIDIA 2080TI 11GB
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thanks for the info but i need the size in (in ) of a replacement power supply any were i can get that i only want to do thei once very good info thenks agin god bless. pkm
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Hi pktinker,

 

Please post the HP product number for your PC.

 

Do you want just a basic power supply replacement or do you have something else in mind?

HP Photosmart 6520
HP Envy 17", i7-8550u,16GB, 512GB NVMe, 4K screen, Windows 10 x64
Custom PC - Z390, i7-9700K, 32GB, dual 512 GB NVMe, dual 512 SSDs, 2K screen, OC'd to 5 Ghz, NVIDIA 2080TI 11GB
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Awesome article Dave, just what I needed for my research. Thank you for this! 🙂

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troublistic Honor Student
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hi dave. i was wondering hp p6390d is upgradable to high end gfx.

pc specifications:
http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/Document.jsp?objectID=c01971599&lang=en&cc=us&taskI...

please advice. thanks!
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RicMW54 Student
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Hello, I have a Presario SR2020NX. The on board graphic card died. I have a new Ultra V series 500 watt ATX Power supply to replace the current 250 watt PS I would like to put in a better card but unsure how to determine what kind. I have browsed many cards but Im not sure which will work any help would be great

thanks ric

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LouizEchi Honor Student
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I have a Pavillion p6590d. it has a single width radeon HD 5450. Will I be able to Change it into a Asus ENGTX 560 DirectCu?
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