A constant question I get from coworkers and customers is the following: "What is the best upgrade I can do to my "off the shelf" HP without overhauling everything??"
For most people looking to get into PC gaming, the graphics card is the first thing to be upgraded. Its the part that is most overlooked in lower end PC's which typically ship "Onboard" graphics designed with just enough power to give a nice user interface and have all the swooshy Windows Areo effects. However, when it comes to playing StarCraft 2, they just wont cut it.
Today we'll look at several options on the cheap for making your 399.99 dollar shitbox able to run StarCraft 2 and Borderlands.
1 - Buy Used - Wanna save some coin? Buy from some idiot who upgrades every 6 months. He bought the fastest card on the market in the spring, and something faster just came out, meaning he wants to unload this one at a huge discount. I've seen cards sell from 50 dollars to 250 dollars for a card that was top of the line less than a year ago. Look for Ati 4xxx and 5xxx cards and nVidia 9xxx and 2xx series cards. All of these are GREAT options and available on the cheap.
2 - Look at Budget cards - Every company makes a video card now between 150-200 dollars. ATI has their 5770 for as low as 139 if you watch the sales on newegg.com and nVidia has their new 460GTX available for about 200 or less. Both are killer cards with more horsepower than you probably need, and wont break the bank. They support DX11 and HDMI so you've got a quality future-proof product.
Any of these options will work fine in most off the shelf systems, taking their mediocre performance to a level that will rip most console games to bits.