Uprading a Graphics Card... What Are the Limitations?


I have an Acer Aspire T160 MB-70 PC with an Acer FC51GM motherboard. It has built in graphics ( Nvidia 6100 ). It has a 2.2 ghz CPU and a standard PSU. It can take a maximum of 4GB RAM.

I would like to buy a new graphics card which can be placed in a PCI Express slot. It must be the best one that my motherboard will accept as money is not an object.

In addition, I am willing to upgrade the PSU if necessary and also the CPU.

I will be using the graphics card as an all rounder as I do gaming and watch alot of videos, dvds etc on the PC. It must preferably have a hdmi output on it and have HD capabilities. I would like this to be connected to the TV.

I am having difficulty finding information regarding what graphic cards my system in its present state will accept. I want the best I can get and am willing to upgrade other components.

I have seen one which I believe will fit into my present system which is the Nvidia GeForce 9500 GPU. Will this motherboard accept a 1GB card or do I need to drop to 1024 or even a 512 MB card?

Does my motherboard support Crossfire technology. Please help as I have no idea what card will fit into my system.

-submitted by Dom Lewis


Hi Dom, 

Cases like yours are both extremely easy and incredibly difficult to answer. Let's start with the easy stuff first.

Your motherboard sports a single PCI-Experss x16 connector, which would be the only tecnical limitation of the motherboard as to which cards you can install. In other words, so long as the card uses the same interface (and can fit inside your case), you can use it.

Your T-160 also is limited by it's anemic 300 watt power supply, which you'll probably need to upgrade if you want to use a card with any real graphics capabilities. How crazy you go depends on which card you ultimately choose, but since you'll only be able to drive one card a 500 to 750 watt power supply from a reputable brand should be more than sufficient.

The CPU is not a limiter as to hich graphics card you can use, but is ultimately a limiter in your potential for gaming performance.

You asked about Crossfire, which for those who don't know, is ATI's technology for running multiple graphics cards at the same time. Your PC isn't Crossfire capable for two reasons. 

1. It's using an nVidia chipset (No, it doesn't support nVidia's SLI either).

2. It only has 1 PCI-Express slot. You'd need 2 of these to run two cards.

You can, however, run a card with 2 GPUs in the same card. I don't see why that wouldn't work.

That should answer your question regarding upgrades. Provided your PSU is strong enough, you could upgrade to Nvidia's top of the line GTX-295 or ATI's Radeon HD 4870. 

Now, whether upgrading your rig with something that crazy is worthwhile is another story all together. There is a point where you can upgrade your graphics all you want, but unless the CPU and the rest of the system follows, you'll never reap the true benefits of such a card. Any current gen video card in the $150 to $200 range will far outperform your integrated graphics solution (by a hundred times), which is reasonable for the age of the rest of the hardware. Regardless of how much you're willing to upgrade, there's only so far upgrades will take you based on the platform you're using.

If you really want to build a gaming powerhouse, and price is no option, I'd start with a newer PC using Intel's Core i7 processors, an SLI or Crossfire capable motherboard, and a ton of RAM.

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