My older PC system and in particular my trusty old (and I do mean old) NVIDIA GeForce 5 card gave up the ghost. To be honest it wasn't a total disaster, as I had been waiting for it to fail to give me an excuse to replace it. The graphics card was the last thing on my PC to update, and so I started the process of reading reviews, and magazines to try and find a quality replacement without breaking the bank.
My search led me to the NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GS card. I believe that the NVIDIA cards are the market leaders when it comes to graphics, and so I have always been brand loyal to them. Now I wanted something which would not become obsolete within a couple of weeks of purchase, yet I wasn't prepared to spend £400+ on the top of the range cards as I do not play massive amounts of games which would require such power. That is why I found this card to be perfect costing £189.99 from PC World, and although I am sure you could probably knock a few pounds off shopping online for it at any of the numerous retailers. I've just had a quick look online and found one on a popular web retailer going for £149.99, so it is worth shopping around.
The card itself is a mighty looking thing, and comes in typical GeForce packaging, displaying the name of the product, a fantasy character, and the PNY logo. Once I got my purchase home, I opened it up and found a rather basic instruction and installation guide, which just about did the job, although I was lucky as I knew what I was doing without it. The first thing to do is start by deleting the old graphics drivers and then with the CD-ROM provided install the new drivers. Once these are installed, then you need to open up your PC and place the card in.
The card itself is an AGP 8x, so before purchase, ensure that your PC has a free AGP slot, and I would advise that you have nothing in the next PCi slot, as you may find it a bit of a tight squeeze, because as I said the card is rather scary looking. Another word of warning here is due to the power of the card, it also requires a connection from the power supply of the computer. This is in the form of a standard connection that a hard drive or cd/dvd drive would need, so ensure one of these is available too. (Although you can buy a splitter cable if you need, but this is not provided with the product and will add further expense to it). I would also say that you need a power supply of at least 400W to make sure that this card will function correctly. (I know the card recommends 350W, but I had problems with my 350W power supply that disappeared when I upgraded it.) The only issue here for most people is the availability of a free AGP slot on your motherboard. As I said this is an older system for me and so I do emphasis the need to check this before going out to buy!
Once you have placed the card into the AGP slot, and tightened the screw, simply close up your PC again, turn it on, and hey presto, your new graphics card should auto detect, and with the drivers you installed early, should work immediately. I would at this point, as with any graphics driver, suggest visiting the NVIDIA website, and download the latest drivers, just to enhance your experience further, as these will have ironed out any bugs that were present when the driver was first launched. I should also say that this card has been the most stable performance wise that I have ever had. So no blue screens, no system hang-ups and so no frustration! I've never had any problems with the drivers either, and so I am extremely happy with the performance here.
My card also came with SWAT 4, a shoot em up style game which is designed to better show the quality of your new card, however I found this game rubbish, (not my kind of thing and it's a little bit old now anyway) and you will definitely notice improved performance and graphics on almost any game that you play.
For those who like the technical side of things, here are the specifications for this graphics card.
The card has 256MB of video memory.
A clock speed of 375MHz with a maximum speed of 1.2GHz.
It supports a maximum screen resolution of 2048 x 1536 / 85 Hz.
It also comes with a 3-year service and support warranty, although I am very sceptical about these when it comes to anything computer related as I don't believe that the companies will actually honour them, and come up with any excuse not to. (Me being cynical again really!)
I should also say that you need at least a Pentium III or equivalent processor to gain any boost in performance from this card, as well as at least 256MB RAM, otherwise the benefit of graphics will be lost by the system unable to cope with the power requirements of the card. I would also point out that most home computer systems bought within the last few years should have no problems with these requirements. Windows 2000, XP, and Vista are the operating systems that support this card, and although I've not tried running this card with Windows 7, I don't envisage any problems really.
To sum up this card, I would recommend it for any average PC user, who plays games occasionally, as it will really boost the graphical performance of your system. The one group who may not like this card are the serious hardcore gamers, so for you I would recommend a top end card, but remember for around £150 you really can't go wrong with this impressive card from NVIDIA. I would also say it is a testament to the longevity and the quality of this particular card that it is still on the market almost 5 years later, and in my opinion still the best and most stable graphics card that I have ever had the pleasure of using.