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What will these upgrades do for Civ performance?

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Technical Support' started by Dubzilla8, Jul 24, 2008.

  1. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Hi all,

    I think Ive posted about this before but Ive been having problems with Civ for some time now and I think Im addicted enough to at least consider an upgrade to my computer.

    The problem is my computer is 5 years old now. Its a dell dimension 8300; Pentium 4 2.8 GHz, 1 GB RAM, Nvidia 5200 FX, 270/300 GB remaining, Windows XP.

    I play standard size maps, 7 Civs, all settings as low as possible, no videos, no unit animation, etc. The game really struggles when the screen scrolls due to a city finishing a build and asking for the next build option. It also seems like the more units I have, the worse it gets. Generally, everything except the land tiles will disappear as the game freezes, sometimes this forces the program to close. My computer will be switched to an 800 x 600 resolution and the color scheme will be changed to lowest (4 bit). Then I have to restart.

    What I'm wondering is:
    How will an extra GB of RAM affect performance? If it will help, what kind should I buy? I know I have 2 512 MB RAM cards right now. I'm not sure if you can overload your computer with RAM...will I be able to upgrade to two GB's?

    I'm sure my graphics card is an issue; I believe its an AGP and I havent been seeing that type in the stores. Do I have any options, or would I have to buy a new motherboard and a new card?

    Any other suggestions/options out there?
     
  2. ori

    ori Repair Guy Super Moderator

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    is this a pc or a laptop?
    if it is a pc: consider a new graphics card. as for the RAM - most pcs have four RAM slots - so you could put in 2 more - some have only 2 - so that you would need to exchange those that you have. 2GB would be nice for the game - but really in your case: go with a new graphics card first. In a PC you should be able install that - in a laptop you won't...
     
  3. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Thanks for the reply Ori!

    It is a desktop PC. I figured a new graphics card is my best option but Im not sure about the card type. If I don't have a PCI-express is it really a great option without having to buy other computer parts? Also, are there any cards that would make a significant impact on gameplay without costing several hundred dollars? I dont mind low graphics all that much, I just want the game to run more smoothly.
     
  4. ori

    ori Repair Guy Super Moderator

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    all you really want is a graphics card with 128 MB onboard memory - which is not expensive (in that you could find one for less than $100 probably. Most if not all of these cards sold today should handle the game ok. I am not too good with graphics card stuff though - so I hope someone else can help better :)
     
  5. Steve2000

    Steve2000 Mighty Pirate

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    Here are four AGP videocard from newegg

    This one is a card I used to have in my old machine - runs Civ IV just fine (although mine was manufactured by eVGA)
    This one seems good, but doesn't have its own fan
    Here is an ATI brand card
    This one is a bit more than $100, but is a nice card if your system has enough power

    There are plenty more choices on Newegg and Tigerdirect. If you don't like these, just go to either site and search for video cards. Then choose the limiter of AGP 4x/8X (or just AGP).
     
  6. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Steve2000,

    Thanks for the reply, thats extremely helpful. Since Im sort of new to dealing with graphics cards, I'm curious about something: What do you look at when you are deciding on a new graphics card? I was mainly looking at the MB's but Im wondering how differently two cards with equal MB's can run.

    Also, what limits my choice of a card? You said the last one looks nice but my system's power might be a problem. How can I check this limit?

    Thanks again, I appreciate all the help so far
     
  7. Steve2000

    Steve2000 Mighty Pirate

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    You also need to look at the "memory interface." Here is what I am talking about: If you have two cards that are both 256MB, but one has a memory interface of 128bit, and one is 256bit - then the 256bit one is better. Basically the memory interface can act as a huge bottle neck for performance. A common thing that card manufacturers will do is sell a card with like 512MB mem, but only a memory interface of 64bit - that is NOT a good gaming card. You would be better off with a 128MB, with 128bit.

    Some people look carefully at the core-clock and memory-clock. Bigger is better, but I don't get to wrapped up with that. Higher clock speeds take more power and produce more heat.

    You also want to make sure the card has the right connectors for your monitor. VGA (also sometimes listed as D-sub 15 pin) or DVI (DVI is better, but if you don't have that connection on your monitor, make sure the card has a VGA port.)

    Here is a recent article that could also help you. This page also is nice because it pretty much lists every card out there right now in a hierarchical fashion.

    Two ways:

    1) Your computer may have come with either paper or online documentation that lists the specs for your PSU (Power Supply Unit).
    2) Open up your case and read the label on the PSU.

    Here I did some quick research, but you should make sure this agrees with your specific machine: This says you either have a 250W or 305W PSU. Find out which one, and hope that it is the 305. Most modern Video cards need at least a 400W PSU, but since you have AGP, you won't have to worry about that. You do, however, often need the power of a 300W for many cards. Read the specifications of the video cards you are interested in to find out what they recommend.

    Also, some graphics cards require you to plug a power cable from your PSU into them (almost all PCI-Express do this, but I have seen some AGP cards that do too). IF this is the case for the card you want, find out what connection it needs, and make sure your PSU has the connection - you'll be able to find this out if you have the case open.

    - Lots of info - hope I am not overwhelming you too much.
     
  8. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Wow, thank you once again. I'm going to pop open the cover and check out the PSU tonight. This is getting my hopes up; I can't imagine playing a whole game of civ without having to restart my computer 10 or 15 times.

    I also noticed on that dimension 8300 specs sheet that it has a four slot, 4 GB capacity for memory. Ill have to check into that as well; could have sworn it only had two slots last time I opened it.

    Ill post back later tonight if possible; tomorrow if not.

    Thanks again.
     
  9. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Okay, just opened it up and it appears I do have a 250 W PSU. Which stinks.

    I did see that there are 4 slots for memory, I had to really get in there to see'em. Should I consider a RAM upgrade? Maybe another GB will do some work?

    I looked into those articles you posted; the author said he wouldn't recommend an upgrade unless the new card is at least three tiers higher. Looks like the 6600 GT is 5 tiers higher! Anything I need to watch out for before I make a purchase?

    Ill keep comparing, any recommendations/observations, as always, are greatly appreciated.
     
  10. Steve2000

    Steve2000 Mighty Pirate

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    Well, too bad about having the lower wattage PSU. It is possible it would still be okay - assuming you haven't added lots of other upgrades.

    Anyone who is more proficient in the PSU department care to comment?

    When you had the case open - did you see if you had a free 4-pin power cable? As I said, some video cards need to be plugged directly into the PSU - and I am pretty sure that the 6600 GT is one of them. You should have a cable that looks like the picture below

    AS far as RAM goes - totally up to you of course. Make sure to get the right kind - (ie DDR400, DDR333, DDR667, etc) Check the specifications and see which kind is already installed in your system.
     
  11. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Okay, I just opened it up again and I do believe I have one of those cables.

    Attached to the PSU, I followed the cables (red, yellow, and black, just like the picture) to a white plug with a black plastic cover on it. I removed the cover and it had the 4 pin holes and the same exact shape. The only difference was the color. The bundle of cables also ran to the floppy disk drive and cd drives. Id say the size of the plug was about the same as the picture above. Sound right?

    As far as upgrades, the only thing Ive added to the computer since I bought it in 2003 was a seagate barracuda HDD. The one that came with the computer fried.

    Finally, according to the system specs, the computer uses ddr333 or ddr400 memory. I think Im going to look into an upgrade here as well, possibly 2 GB's worth.
     
  12. Steve2000

    Steve2000 Mighty Pirate

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    Sounds good - that is probably the right cable, color doesn't matter.

    Let me know how everything turns out - hope my advice works out for you.
     
  13. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Your advice was outstanding, it has been a real learning experience. I really appreciate all the help.

    I think Ill go ahead and order the 6600, maybe look around to see what else is available, but I think thats a good deal for now.

    Ill post back when I get it fired up.
     
  14. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Sheesh. Yet another thing.

    The 6600 GT requires a minimum power supply of 300w. So now Im looking at PSU's and Im not sure if any old one will do.

    Newegg has this guy, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817148027, which is 500w. Im just wondering if needing a new PSU will lead to needing a new motherboard, or a new fan, or whatever else I might have to throw in there.

    Ugh...so much goes into this, wish I could just buy a whole new system!
     
  15. Steve2000

    Steve2000 Mighty Pirate

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    Okay - you can definitely buy a new PSU without replacing the mobo or anything else.

    I would not get the one you mentioned. Cheap PSUs are generally... well, cheap.

    This one from Newegg is what you want. It is specifically designed for older Dells like yours - if you got to PC Power and Cooling's website, you will see that the Dimension 8300 is on the list of compatible computers.

    The other good thing is that PC Power and Cooling is one of the top PSU manufacturers.

    They also make another one with a bit more oomph - but it might be out of your price range.Here it is at Amazon

    You might be thinking - "but the Apevia is a 500W and you are suggesting a 410W - what's the deal?" The deal is that the Apevia is only rated at about 70% efficiency. That means under a full load, you might only get 350-400 watts out of it. The PC Power & Cooling PSUs are rated at their continuous wattage. In other words, you will get 410W all the time, but a MAX of actually 450W. That is why I like PC Power and Cooling, because the wattage ratings they give are real.


    ALSO - why can't you buy a new Computer? Budget reasons?

    Here is a link to a bunch of articles on building your own computer for pretty cheap. There is a "sub-$1000" article, as well as a "gaming machine for $500" article.
     
  16. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Steve2000, you're the man.

    Honestly, I just kind of saw the apevia and threw it out there. I did read about that efficiency rating bit, but after I had already looked on Newegg.

    Budget reasons are the primary concern. I could go out and blow off a couple thousand but it doesn't seem like the smart thing to do when my computer is running fine other than Civ in the late turns of a game. I also figure the longer I wait for a new computer, the better Ill be able to buy since they upgrade so quickly.

    I'm thinking when Starcraft 2 comes out in five or six years, that'll be the time to get a new one.

    I'm going to read that article about building your own computer. I have a buddy that did it and his machine is a beast. It does seem way more cost effective.
     
  17. Snazzye

    Snazzye Chieftain

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    Just wanted to add real quick that if you download Rivatuner and under the directx tweaks if you put pixel and vertex shader both to 1.1 you will get better frames. I had an fx5200 and this single tweak alone allowed me to get way better performance out of that card.
     
  18. Dubzilla8

    Dubzilla8 Just Right of Center

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    Snazzye,

    Thanks for the tip. Ill give it a shot and see how it goes!

    As for previous posts, I think Im going to go with the geforce 7600 GT instead of the 6600. And I think Im going to take the better PSU as well, plus 2 GB's of memory.

    So, with these upgrades, anyone have a guess on how Civ will run? Like I said before, the graphics cut in and out in the late game. It crashes occasionally, etc. Will this allow me to play a standard size, 7 civ game all the way through? How will it handle larger maps/more civs? Any guesses?

    Many thanks,
    Dub
     
  19. Snazzye

    Snazzye Chieftain

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    Well, I have an 8500gt now and can run on all high settings no prob. So the 7600 should be better. It will definately allow you to play standard maps. It would even handle Huge maps.
     

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