Video Card Advice
I got a couple things to upgrade my computer with for Christmas, including a new mobo, an AMD dual-core processor to go with the mobo, and 2 GB of DDR2 PC6400 ram. The next step to make this system kick is to get a new video card.
Right now my system uses a GeForce 7600 GT... I was planning on getting another 7600 GT to go to SLI, but now I'm wondering if I should instead upgrade to an 8 Series card instead and future-proof the video power of my system. After doing some research, I've come to the conclusion that the only worthwhile SLI chipsets are the 8600 GT and the 8800 GT, and therein lies the problem. I'm on a budget, so I can't justify spending more than $200 on a video card, leaving me with only the 8600 GT. I've searched TigerDirect, NewEgg, Dell, and ZipZoomFly and have seen 8800's for only as low as $220 after MIR.
What are the main differences between the 8600 GT and the 8800 GT? I want to future-proof my video power, so 8800 would be the logical choice, but it isn't economically feasible at this point. I can certainly afford at least one, but I still have to pay off a credit card from Christmas and I want to get a new case for this system, plus a cooling upgrade or two, and I want to take my car into an exhaust shop for the upgrade it's been waiting for since last July. Worse comes to worse I can stick with the 7600 GT for now, since the new proc and memory doubles my processing power and quadruples the amount of memory I have now (512 MB of DDR1) which should dramatically improve my overall system power. Plus I plan on getting a couple new cooling goodies so that I can do some OC'ing without being paranoid of overheating... current system runs at 80* F case temp (sensor near CPU heatsink) with only the GPU overclocked by XFX.
Also, how worth it would this upgrade be? I hear StarCraft 2 will be DX10, which my current 7-series doesn't support, but neither does my OS (Win2k). I'm not so sure DX10 is worth downgrading to Vista. If I don't have a choice, what version of Vista should I go to? I read more than a few reviews where people bought Home-Premium for "Aero", and then shortly after installation the "Aero" feature stopped working. Also, I've heard too many horror stories of nothing being compatible to Vista and that it's a programming nightmare. My sister has the basic version on her new Dell laptop and I used it very cautiously just to open Firefox. I would love for it to have the same feature that XP does where I can revert the start menu and interface to Windows Classic (2000), which is how my laptop is currently setup (with an Alienware skin!). If I have to bite the bullet and downgrade, is it better to step up to the 64-bit version?
I searched "8600GT or 8800GT" on Google and found that a lot of people are saying the 8800GT 512MB is the way to go for performance, but again my OS doesn't support DX10 so I'd be using DX9. According to various online sources, I get that DX10 games won't run on DX9 and DX10 is available only to Vista. I could be wrong about that first part since my best friend is running Crysis (DX10) on XP.
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