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PCI Video card for Civ IV?

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Technical Support' started by CteinPhoto, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    Dear Folks,

    Background:

    I wrote a while ago asking about whether a Matrox P650 AGP card (64 meg) would run Civ IV. Well, the good news is that it will. The bad news is that it's very sluggish-- it and Civ IV don't seem to get along very well. The opening movie plays with huge video dropouts-- only 2 seconds of motion out of every 10 seconds. The game itself? Well, with graphics settings at their lowest levels, frame rate can be as poor as 2.7 frames per second. Not fun.

    It's definitely video limitations-- I just upgraded the CPU in my system and while CPU intensive apps like Photoshop showed an improvement, Civ performance didn't improve one bit. It's not other hardware limitations- my Win2K system has 2Gig of RAM and plenty of fast HD scratch space.

    That's the situation. Here's what I'd like to do. I'd like to get a second video card just for playing things like Civ IV. But it'd have to go in a PCI slot, because my AGP slot's taken up with the Matrox card. Are there any PCI cards out there which will play Civ IV at a decent rate? If so, what's the cheapest one that people consider acceptable?

    Tough question, lotsa judgement calls, I know. But, hey, I want your judgement. Thanks!

    pax / Ctein
     
  2. Akhenaton

    Akhenaton Warlord

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    If with "decent" you mean better than Parhelia-LX based P650, then the answer is probably very much NO.

    Just get a new older generation AGP card from an old stock purge sale.
     
  3. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    How would an nVidia GeFORCE4 PCI card with 128 MB do for Civ IV? Someone *not* of this forum thought it would be a good choice. I trust the folks here to know Civ IV better.
     
  4. Zanmato

    Zanmato King

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    Would be tempted to get a high-end GeForce 5 or maybe a GeForce 6. You will need to double check the AGP speed and voltage too just to be sure that upgrading to whatever card you decide on will work.
     
  5. Akhenaton

    Akhenaton Warlord

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    The PCI versions are MX-series (420/440/4000), which are not better than your IGP (much over 1000 Mtexel/s). Accordingly, they tend to have crappy GDDR which certainly doesn't help with the PCI bus bottleneck.
     
  6. Lord Foortwenti

    Lord Foortwenti Chieftain

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    If you absolutely MUST get a PCI video card, meaning you don't have an AGP slot than don't go anything lower than the FX series. I know there is a version of the 5200 FX that is for a PCI slot. I'm not sure if the 6 series has a PCI card, but I kind of doubt it. If there is one it would be the 6200, but I think the 6 series only comes in AGP and PCI-E flavors.

    edit: Ok wait, I understand the situation better now after reading through a second time. I don't think putting a video card in a PCI slot will do anything, in fact, I know it won't. Both cards would probably show up in your device manager, but you would only be able to enable one or the other. Now, a nVidia 5200 fx PCI card probably would outperform what you have in the AGP slot. But you might as well just get a decent AGP card instead which will definatley out perform what you have in there now. Even if you went with the low 6 series, 6200 or 6600 AGP, which is less than $100 btw, it would blow away your current card. nVidia also just came out with a new 7 series mainstream card, the 7300 which you might want to check out as well.
     
  7. Akhenaton

    Akhenaton Warlord

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    And just in another thread someone was complaining how a PCI FX5200 is too slow for him...

    Basically, it's all the same performance. However, there seems to a be a few 6200 PCIs, which are factory "OC'd" to TC levels (350MHz), like the BFG GeForce 6200 OC PCI 256MB. If you can get your hands on one, it might give marginally better performance than the Matrox, but personally I just don't understand why you don't rather replace the Matrox with an AGP card. It will be so much better value and a much more proven solution.
     
  8. Zanmato

    Zanmato King

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    I had a FX5200 on AGP and it didn't do too well handling Civ4. Sure it would work but the card might start struggling as the game progresses. I wouldn't recommend wasting money on this card as you can get a much better one for alittle bit extra price wise.
     
  9. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    Dear Ankh,

    "...I just don't understand why you don't rather replace the Matrox with an AGP card..."

    Well, that may be what ends up happening. You're right-- a marginal improvement isn't what I want and is not worth the money/effort. If I can't double my frame rate and get (mostly) glitch-free movie playing, ferget it.

    Here's the bigger picture. What I *need* this machine for is my Photoshop work. Good graphics boards have a different set of most-valued criteria than good game boards. Good game boards need to be able to pump lots of pixels reliably: IOW, fast and dynamically stable. Good graphics boards need static stability: to produce rock-solid steady pixels with no signal drift or variation, long term or short, and no video jitter. You're staring at a still image for hours and NOTHING about it should change except what you're changing. But throughput isn't very important.

    These aren't mutually contradictory criteria, just different. Matrox AGP boards don't have the dynamic performance for Civ IV. But they're great at that static stability. And I'm loathe to mess with a setup that works for me professionally. Which is where I got this "Great Notion" about running a secnd PCI board for the games and wanted to exhaust that idea before moving on. But the concensus seems solid that I ain't gonna get the performance out of PCI.

    Also, don't want to throw a lot of money at the problem. If I gotta spend over $200 for a really good graphics-and-games AGP card, ain't gonna happen. Much less would be much better.

    So, are there any graphics professionals lurking about here who can chime in with their opinions?

    Thanks for your great help, by the way. I'm always end up happier when I consult the experts!


    pax / Ctein
     
  10. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    Dear Zanmato,

    Thanks for your great advice. Consensus seems clear, 't'heck with the PCI option.

    By the way, I notice your system is very similar to mine ('cept for the video), maybe half a generation more advanced. I've got a AMD XP 2400+, K7VTA3 v3 Mobo (266 Mhz CPU bus), 2Gb PC 2700 RAM, Onboard sound (Via), 200 Gb HDD and OS Win2k Pro (SP4).

    So, are you happy with the performance and behavior of your 256Mb GeForce 6600 (128bit AGP) card? Any reason you'd recommend I consider something else?

    Googling on "256 MB geforce 6600" turns up a lot of boards with those specs. I could live with the price for any of them, but there seems to be an awfully big range of prices even for the same configuration of outputs. Any opinions from anyone on what makes one brand or model worth more than another? Remember that static stability (vis my message to Akh) is of utmost importance to me. If it's not good for professional graphics as well as Civ IV, it's nogo.

    Thanks for your expertise; it's been most helpful.

    pax / Ctein
     
  11. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    Dear Lord,

    "Both cards would probably show up in your device manager, but you would only be able to enable one or the other."

    No, that's not a problem under Win2K. I could run as many video boards as I want, so long as I have the slots. Once I install the drivers for each one, Win2K Display Settings will happily show them as different available displays and monitor icons, and I can configure them any way I want for simultaneous multi-monitor/multi-card operation.


    But... you and everyone else have convinced me it's a dumb idea, so I'm gonna go with a new AGP card. Now I have to find out which one is best for graphics arts, as well (viz my message to Akh).

    Thanks for your help; it's been very valuable.

    pax / Ctein
     
  12. Lord Foortwenti

    Lord Foortwenti Chieftain

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    What kind of applications are you looking to run on this card? Are we talking Photoshop and Paintshop Pro, or are we talking Maya and CAD?

    I would think that a card in the nVidia geforce 6 series should give you what you are looking for in both gaming and rendering. I know I was able to run Photoshop and GMAX without any funkiness, as well as games at decent (stress decent-mid graphic settings or lower in current gen games @ 1280) framerates on a 5700 Ultra. So a 6600 Ultra, or even a vanilla 6600 should suit your needs and pricerange nicely. You could even take a step up to a vanilla 6800 for around $125.

    I know that nVidias workstation/rendering cards is the Quadro line so you might want to check that out as well, although I don't know how well they handle games. But they would certainly give you whatever you needed in rendering apps.

    Whichever way you go, do your homework first. There are lmany different variants and flavors for each card. The general nVidia food chain looks roughly like this, 5000-7800 (higher meaning better) base < GT < GTX/Ultra for the geforce line, and a similar setup for the Quadro.

    As an aside, I preffer nVidia chipsets over ATi for a number of reasons. Chief among them is that I've had bad experiences with hardware failures on thier products. But that's not to say they don't make good hardware. It's really just a personal prefrence.

    Whichever you choose, you are probably best off picking it up @ NewEgg, but if you want to explore all options then pricewatch is the place to look.
     
  13. CteinPhoto

    CteinPhoto Chieftain

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    Dear Lord,

    I'm doing just Photoshop (and similar apps)- no video, no flash, no 3-D modeling.

    I cut my teeth on ATI, but that was long ago when they had a clear edge in price/performance. I never had hardware problems, but their bleeding edge approach always seemed to raise some driver issues (ultimately resolvable, but...) with some app or another. I don't feel the need to be so cutting today.

    Looking over the specs, a 6600 GT or 6800 looks like it would be a good combination of price/performance. From reading the online tests, it's very hard for me to figure out if it really makes much difference which one, especially since I'm running "only" a AGP 4X bus and an Athlon 2400+ processor. Also doesn't seem to be much difference in price. Am I missing something?

    Main practical difference seems to be a lot more models of the 6600 out there. Which raises the question... does that matter? Do some makers produce a better 'build' than others from the same chip set, or is it just everyone scrambling for a piece of the market share?

    I'm leaning towards the 6600, just 'cause Zanmato is running a system VERY similar to mine with that card, which argues I'm less likely to be unpleasantly surprised. I'm waiting to hear his feelings about his board.

    I'm reassured that you saw no video funkiness with Photoshop and the previous generation of board. I'm going to run this past folks in the graphics lists to see if any of them have experience with this, but maybe I'm getting close to a choice <fingers firmly crossed>?

    Much thanks for the advice. Jeez, makes me long for those days when I was just thrilled with my 8 MB ISA video card and could run any software without jumping thru hoops.

    pax / Ctein
     
  14. Zanmato

    Zanmato King

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    Ctein, I also do alot of Photoshop work. Upgrading to the 6600, it's a PNY one with the onboard fan by the way, made life slighty easier with Photoshop but made a massive difference with my 3D apps (Studio Max and Civ4). The biggest difference in performance with Photoshop was when I upgraded the RAM. I got the 6600 because through various threads on here it seemed my old FX5200 wasn't a good 3D card. After upgrading, all issues I had with Civ4 ceased and all the other 3D apps are abit more stable and run quicker so I would now tend to agree with that.

    There are alot of different brands of cards out there but they are all pretty much the same since they mostly use the same chipsets.

    As for the board itself, I've had it for about 2 years now and have had no problems with it. I think it's the same chipset (KT333) running at 333Mhz. The only other thing I upgraded with the new video card was the power unit, from 300W to 400W.
    If do go with a 6600 (58 watts) or 6800 (60w), 6800GT (75w), 6800 Ultra (105w) check on your current power supply as they require a bit more power, they also come with their own power socket meaning you will need another lead from your PSU. Also, check the amp rating on the +12v rail, you will need 24A or more. Also given the position of the AGP slot and CPU be prepared to keep a close eye on the CPU temps as the onboard fan on the video card will blow extaust air into the CPU fan making slightly it warmer than usual. I only noticed a rise in a couple of degrees but the AMD CPUs can run quite well - starts getting a concern when it runs at nearly 80 degrees. BIOS threshold is 90 degrees. Mine happily runs at a range of 54 to 72 degrees with no problems. Intel ones would likely die above 70 degrees so just be aware of these things if you do upgrade and hopefully you won't run into problems.

    I've been running this spec for about a month now and so far not a single hardware problem or Civ problem.
     
  15. Akhenaton

    Akhenaton Warlord

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    This bit is important only if you are using a CRT display. If instead you have a (high quality, high color separation/contrast) LCD panel, there aren't really any quality differences between cards. They all send the same bitstream to the panel via DVI-D/HDMI and there is no analog conversion or signal shaping losses. If you get bad pixels due to the signal, it's because the signal is faulty, not that it's "bad quality". In that case the signal doesn't meet the standard, and it's a HW fault (as opposed to "bad quality" analog signal which is still withing VGA specs and not a HW "fault", just cheap design).

    From what I've heard, 6600 and better series tend have good to great analog quality, whereas 6200 may have cheaper RAMDACs and other analog parts, in which case the quality may be less, but should still be tolerable even for pro use.
     
  16. Lord Foortwenti

    Lord Foortwenti Chieftain

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    When it comes to which companies produce the best quality nVidia cards, there are a couple that really stand head and shoulders above the rest...

    BFG make great cards that are usually factory overclocked AND very stable, all BFG cards also come with a LIFETIME WARRANTY and 24/7 tech support for the life of card which is pretty rare and not only that but they actually stand by it too. My 7800 GTXOC is made by BFG and I love it. You'll find most hardware sites will usually recomend BFG video cards before other brands.

    Other good companies are XFX, EVGA and PNY. Going outside of these four and you are asking for trouble IMO.

    As for all the different flavors of 6600, yeah there are a ton. Really, the differences will be minor ones between each version, probably only a couple mhz higher clock speeds or what have you. I did a little research and the "best" card in the 6600 line seems to be the 6600 LE, although there is a small difference between the LE and the GT. Basically the best thing you could do would be to go to www.newegg.com and do a search under video cards for the BFG (or one of the other 3) 6600 GT and LE and compare clock speeds and prices and whichever offers the highest clockspeed for the lowest price, grab it.

    edit: I made it really easy for you, check here, that is a list of 6600, 6600 GT and even a 6800 XT that all fit your requirements. The one I like the best out of those listed is this one. These will serve you really well also, but the XFS has 256MB of memory compared to 128MB in these two. I'm almost tempted to recomend the BFG cards even though they have less memory just b/c I know the quality of BFG products. But outside of my prefrence the XFS does look to be the best piece of hardware for the price
     
  17. MxxPwr

    MxxPwr Chieftain

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    I have one older system with a new evga MX 4000 128MB PCI (no agp unfortunately). The game plays fine, but the movies are non-existent (studders too much to even deal with). Why gameplay is fine but movies suck is beyond me.
     
  18. Akhenaton

    Akhenaton Warlord

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    Mostly because the scene is still being rendered when a movie plays, which is a known bug.
     
  19. MxxPwr

    MxxPwr Chieftain

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    Thanks.

    Hmm. Is there something subtle about the way agp cards work that might hide that? My 'newer' old system (I have several 'old' systems; all about 3 years between 'em) with a 64 mb MX440 agp card seems to do better with the movies.

    Plus, I have a evga FX5200 128mb agp on order for that system. Heh, heh can't wait. Definitely need a bigger power supply on my next rig for larger upgrades... but now I'm rambling. Sorry. Anyway, Thanks.
     
  20. Zanmato

    Zanmato King

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    Hopefully, the low-res movies will sort out the issues with the movies. Might be in the next patch which should be available in a couple of weeks.
     

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