Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What not to buy regarding video cards....

A little background

I recently decided to do some upgrading on my nifty old and no longer supported Gateway FX6800e. This puppy came with a Radeon HD 4850 dual DVI port card and worked just dandy for its time. Oh yeah, and it had a whopping 3GB of ram and of course was loaded with Vista. Yuck. But hey, that's what it was at that time. 

Fast forward a few years. 

I upgraded the memory to a whopping 6GB. Cool. Oh, and also moved on to Windows 7 Ultimate as that was the only and easy upgrade path without having to re-install all the software apps which would have only taken about 3 days assuming I knew where all the license keys were as well as the actual software. Actually I have quite a bit, most of it downloaded versions, all fully licensed and legit... but man, what a pain.

And now: 

I decided as memory for this old thing has become so cheap to upgrade to a whopping 12 GB. Of course I also knew all along that the bios needed to be upgraded as well. Luckily I found the bios (even though Gateway doesn't really exist anymore and it is actually an Acer motherboard) and a couple of sharp articles with cool tools to do this cleanly. Yeah. (By the way, if anyone out there needs this stuff, let me know. I have it.) 

Then in my infinite wisdom I also decided it was time to get a powerful GPU accelerator video card. I figured since I knew it could handle my old and reliable Radeon of yesteryear, it should be able to handle the newer Radeon HD 7970 (by Sapphire). In my dreams! I spent a whopping 12 hours trying everything from adjusting this, that and the kitchen sink. I downloaded all the latest drivers from AMD only to find that it "pretended" to install with an ending message along the lines of "there were some warnings yada yada" and a button that stated "View Log". I clicked on that button every time (about 20 tries of re-installing). My pointer finger turned blue. My mouse was complaining of back aches and my computer just sat there smirking at me. It never ever showed me the damn log! Somewhere out there, several times on several blogs I did suddenly recall many tech heads writing bad things about AMD drivers. Hmmm.

I (and this is what happens late at night after a couple of Vodka Cranberries) decided to get risky and downloaded a "beta" driver set from AMD just for kicks. This was after I already sent a nasty gram to Sapphire. I even tried writing it in the same broken Chinenglish that they wrote their one page instruction manual in. Piece of real work I tell ya. In any case, the "beta" driver set installed with the same error and no, the damn "View Log" button still yielded nothing! However, this sucker took. I was actually for the first time able to see both my screens come to life as they should with the new card actually working.. somewhat. I tested a couple of apps that are graphic intense and they flew! Awesome! Photoshop, Particle Illusion, Sony Vegas Pro 12 and there was, well After Effects (CS6 mind you.) That didn't fly so well. Or should I say, not as well as one would expect. And there is a reason too. You see Adobe has a strong relationship with nVidia. Hence, forget AMD, Radeon, or ATI (which is AMD) - they simply will never be fully used by Premiere Pro or After Effects. These products really and only support the nVidia stuff. Lesson learned. 

But I could have lived with that. After all, everything still loaded and ran faster with the new card. At least that appeared to be the case at 2:00AM. But then again, it could have been the Vodka Cranberries messing with me. 

I decided it was time to call it a night. I put the system to sleep. As in "Not shut down, but sleep" - This morning I figured, I really could put this through some paces and see how it is performing. After all, the way to "wake up" the system is simply done by moving the mouse or tapping on the keyboard. So I did. 

After a few minutes of sitting there with crossed fingers, waiting patiently, I admired the two (dual) monitors in their pitch black state. The 'puter was on. The external raid was running. But all I got was that pure black. I hadn't really ever admired such a black. Maybe I will sell it as a stock footage piece called "The purest Black". 

Needless to say, the card is now removed and already on its way back to Newegg. And just so that you understand, they had absolutely no problem issuing a Return Material Authorization (RMA) along with even picking up the shipping. I didn't even have to yell or be condescending. :) - I knew there was a reason for ordering from them. I also sense that this all happened for a specific reason. Maybe the whole process was trying to tell me something about changing technologies anyway. 

So here is a quick synopsis:

  • Radeon HD Series Cards have major issues due to crappy drivers from AMD. This was determined easily as only the latest beta version somewhat worked.  Don't waste your time or your money.
  • Sapphire, the company lacks seriously in any type of valuable support or response. (Yes, I am still waiting for even a simple reply - I did get that auto-reply that says don't reply to this message.)
  • Newegg has probably what I would call the best customer service ever. I have been dealing with them now for years. This so far has been the worst case and they handled it wonderfully. 
  • Don't drink Vodka Cranberry if you have the flu. (Did I mention that I have the flu right now as well?)
  • Never put your computer to sleep when using AMD Radeon based tech. (I recalled right after putting the computer to sleep, that I read somewhere while digging for 12 hours that this "could" be an issue as well.)
  • Think nVidia.. this is also the better route for Adobe products anyway. 
So the saga will continue shortly. As soon as I get my GTX 670 in, I will let you know if it is true that nVidia is more stable and solid. Adobe seems to think so, so I will be happy if this is so. It will also really make my After Effects, Premiere and all the other apps run nicer too*.

* Just to clarify why nVidia - see here for latest update info and here for the original specs page.

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