Actually, what GPU, and memory, and cooler, to "pimp" out an old Q9650 system?
Before I retire this thing later this year, I want to show it some love. It's been a workhorse of a Digital Audio Workstation for almost a decade, producing several almost profitable albums for myself and clients (i.e my friends) through the years.. I plan to build a dedicated rackmount and near silent DAW at the end of the year. My current machine will be dedicated to "retro" gaming (and maybe a NAS???)
Since this is mostly for the LULZ, I want to keep this pretty cheap. $150 total for RAM, cooler, and GPU upgrades.
Intel Q9650 (usually overclocked to 3.6GHz with the stock cooler, but I'm at stock speeds in this heat as my studio is a non-climate controlled dusty af barn atm)
Stock intel cooler circa 2007. (started with a core 2 duo) *
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3P motherboard
4GB Various Crucial brand DDR2 RAM **
Sapphire ATI Radeon 3450 ***
Windows 7 pro 64bit
120GB Team Group SSD for the OS , and a total clusterfuck of old 3.5 HD's and old laptop drives for other storage. some in various mis-matched RAID arrays.
MOTU 828MKii firewire is audio my interface, it's also old af.
*fan in the stock intel cpu is noisy af at this point. I think I will go with either a cooler master T2 or 212, and maybe upgrade the fan(s). budget $17 to $27.
**Currently 2 1 GB sticks of ancient Crucial Ballistix with the yellow-orange heat spreaders and a 2 GB stick of Crucial more "consumery" DDR2. I've gone through a bit of Crucial or Kingston RAM over the years. Runs in "flex" mode currently, seems insane that I can even overclock at all. Not surprised I burn through memory a bit. Plan here is to spend between $20 - $25 dollars on 8GB of DDr2 off ebay or craigslist. I'm mostly looking at Naya RAM just for aesthetic reasons, matching this blue PCB mOBO.
**this 3450 is total crap - however you almost want a piece of crap GPU when working with audio - so much driver hell sometimes involved when you need rock solid real time audio performance with a USB or firewire device. It's almost better to have a crappy card and let windows install whatever driver instead of using whatever the manufacturer provides. (at least in this era of machine, using the onboard GPU baked into more modern CPU's is often a benefit - sort of depends on the GUI of the plugins you use) This is passively cooled, which is great in a studio setting. I've actually replaced leaking capacitors on this thing. But I HATE it.
This leaves me with a budget for a gpu of around ~$75, likely buying used off ebay. (Blue pcb with some amount of copper heatpipes a bonus for aesthetic reasons) What should I look for? For gaming titles it's basically Morrowind, and the Thief series here. Also I play a bit of MTGO (usually only when the Vintage cube is out, or if I'm just absolutely depressed). Literal potatoes run these titles, but I wouldn't mind being able to try out Oblivion or Skyrim - perhaps even the Elder Scrolls online. Yeah - not much of a "gamer". I'd rather sling real cards, poker/blackjack/Magic The Gathering.
I hear an equal amount of horror stories from my fellow audio peeps regarding AMD/ATI and Nvidia drivers, I really have no preference. Matrox was the company of choice as far as GPU's back when I started in digital audio at the start of this Millennia. Something that's more aimed towards "workstations" appeals to me. I can't start to explain to a bunch of likely gaming enthusiasts how much a bad gpu driver effects us audio guys - oh you have a few less FPS? cry me a river. I can't make my money efficiently cause this driver is messing up real time performance!
but.. I do use one plugin that has (reportedly really terrible) CUDA support, and since "retro" gaming to me basically means Morrowind/Oblivion and thus potentially I'll be using Blender to mod my character, I slightly lean toward the green team here for CUDA support. (80% sure I'll never use it)
GFX 660 - ish?
R9 280 - ish?
I'd appreciate a shorter card. this MOBO wasen't designed for longer cards in mind.