Since I can’t afford a new computer, I decided my dual core AMD 5600+ might benefit from a new GPU/3D card. Since upgrading to the new CS4, my box has suddenly become pokey–overnight.

Granted, there are plenty of affordable quad core boxes out there. I mean there’s nothing like a feeble economy and scrambling retailers to bring out the best deals. Add the new Intel Core i7 and things simply get silly cheap. All that being said, $2k in plane tickets and a son in school…well. ‘Nuff said.

Armed with the understanding that the new Photoshop CS4 uses your system dedicated graphic card to juice some it’s new features, I rationalized that a new card might offset my new ‘puter jones for a lot less cash and help manage my CS4 performance issues. In addition to the new Nvidia 9800 GT, my machine also has the odor of a fresh, new power supply unit. The E521 uses an anemic 300W PSU and many if not all of the worthwhile 3D cards need more power behind them.

Thanks to a coupon (Cyber Monday), I got both pieces of hardware for less than $150. Again, that’s substantially less than the $1200 Ci7 box I was eyeballing. And if you’ve never shopped them before, is simply the place to get new gear.

So what have we learned class?

First of all, the 9800GT runs circles around the Call of Duty 4 game included FREE (free, is good) with the card. It laughs at maxed out settings.  Secondly, installing my first PSU was more or less as easy as going slow, making notes about what I had DISCONNECTED and reversing the process. The included instructions were comically brief. “Unplug your existing connections, install and the new PSU and re-connect using the cables provided” Granted, that’s pretty much the long and short of it but sheesh!

Finally and most critically: The new, speedy card made no difference at all in my day to day Photoshop processes at the core (no pun intended) of my frustration. I’d knew that the GPU was designed to work with specific Photoshop tricks (the zooming, the “flick panning” trick and such) but I thought I’d get SOME form of a performance bump. But when they cited specific tasks, they weren’t kidding. I got nothing. Nada. Zip.

Since there are other E521 owners out there struggling to upgrade, here’s what’s working
PSU: Thermaltake TR2 RX W0134RU 550W ATX12V
3D GPU Card:XFX PVT98GYDLU GeForce 9800 GT 512MB

The good news: Call Of Duty 4 rocks.