Want to supercharge your PC on the cheap? Get older gear

When it comes to upgrading your PC, the temptation for many is to go for the latest and greatest. Can’t afford the highest of the high end? Then get what you can afford, as long as it’s new, right? Not necessarily. Just because something is new doesn’t mean it’s automatically superior than something released a year or even two years ago.

For instance, I have a single ATI Radeon HD 5770 (yes, this was before the naming switch to AMD) running on one of my PCs at home. That was released way back in 2009, when Windows 7 was brand new, the iPad hadn’t even been released, and Windows 8 was merely an idea bouncing around inside Steve Ballmer’s head. Think it can’t handle modern games? Think again. I play Deus Ex: Human Revolution and League of Legends with that card alone, with great results. I typically get way over 50 frames-per-second in Deus Ex and in the 80s in League of Legends, with the resolution cranked to 1920 x 1080 and most of the graphical details enabled. Should my PC fail to handle anything I throw at it as currently equipped, I can toss in another 5770, both of which I snagged for a total of $200 in 2010. I’d just have to locate a second pesky PCI-Express cable to plug in the other 5770, which continues to elude me. My package from ModDIY can’t get here soon enough…

Anyway, though a card like the 5770 is tough to find these days, you can get a newer version, the Radeon HD 7770, for dirt cheap compared to current-gen cards. A simple Froogle search indicates that multiple versions of the AMD Radeon HD 7770 can be had for around $100. So, assuming you have the right motherboard and an adequate power supply (we recommend a 600 or 700-watter), for roughly $200, you can substantially upgrade your PC, turning it from a chump into a graphics champ for hundreds less than a brand new top-end NVIDIA or AMD card, while also getting plenty of bang for not much buck.

Here’s some perspective: the AMD Radeon R9  290X and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti, which are the two best video cards on the market today, go for roughly $550 and $700, respectively. Need we say more?

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