Video Cards

When I started this project, I knew I would have an open PCI slot, and I was planning on using a short PCI video card that supported TV-Out. My requirements were something with decent 3D power, generates a low amount of heat, and also does not require a GPU fan! Unfortunately in the end, I was only able to achieve one of these goals.

My first choice would have been a low end Radeon card of some kind. Why? Well, ATI has a good reputation for good TV-Out quality, and the lower end Radeon's also have a reputation as not being very big heat producers. As it turns out, locating a low profile PCI Radeon w/TV-Out, is next to impossible! (...hint, hint, to all you manufactures out there!!!)

So anyways, here is a little tale on my journey to find a PCI card for my NES.

Candidate No. 1
Since the NES lacks allot of vertical space for a PCI card, the selection of video cards was severely limited! My first pick was a GeForce 4 MX 440, pictured below:

At first this card appeared to a good candidate. It's small, very powerful, and has no GPU fan! The only drawback was that NVidia cards don't always have the best TV-Out quality. So with only a few options, I went ahead and placed an order for this card through newegg. A couple days later, I had one in my hand! When I first received this card, I though maybe it would be too tall, but it barely fit in there!

Stupidly, I didn't bother to thoroughly test this card with my system, and I went ahead and cut-out the holes in the back of the NES. Once all the holes were cut, I finished testing the card.

As it turns out, the card would only become the systems primary video card after a couple of hard resets (power-on, reset, reset). And even on the rare occasions where the card was initialized, the video bios screen only reported half the video card RAM was installed (32 instead of the actual 64). I thought maybe the video card was bad, so I installed it in another test system of mine, and it worked perfectly every time. Grrrr! I thought maybe it was my rather wimpy 125 Watt PSU, but even a 300 Watt PSU plugged into the FreeTech mainboard board did not bring a solution to this problem! My guess is that the mainboard doesn't provide enough power to the PCI slot to power a GeForce4 card. Anyways, onto:

Candidate No. 2
Well, since the GeForce4 didn't work, I had to find something else, I really wanted a Radeon, but all my searching still came up empty. So I spotted another card at newegg, placed another order and a couple more days later I had a GeForce 2 MX 400, pictured below:

As you can see this card is a little bit shorter (although slightly longer), has an annoying GPU fan, has only mediocre 3D power, and also runs HOT! Not exactly a choice candidate, but again, my options for a video card were pretty narrow.

Well, this card actually does work! In fact it is the one that is in my final NES system. But like I have previously stated, it runs HOT, has an annoying GPU fan, mediocre TV-Out quality, no component out (S-Video Only), and barely enough 3D power for today's PC Games. But hey, it does actual work!

Candidate No. 3
Of course as luck would have it, after already spending over $100 on video cards for my NES already, all of my trolling on ebay pays off! I found what appears to be a PCI Radeon card that might be everything I was exactly what I was looking for from the beginning! So I splurge about $50 more and win the auction, and receive the card a few days later.

Isn't it beautiful? A nice, low profile, PCI, fan-less, ATI Radeon VE 7000 with TV-Out!

#@*%$# thing is about 5mm too tall! Needless to say, I was a little more that disappointed... However, a while ago, I bought some more broken NES units, and have done some fitment testing with this card, and if I hadn't used a layer of plexi underneath my mainboard for structural support, this card might have actually fit inside the NES! Maybe next time around I will do things different...

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