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In your price range, you'd be better off investing in more memory than you would a graphics card. In AE work, you'd get more bang for the buck. 16 gigs vs. 8 gigs can make a big difference.
I will tell you that in my setup a beefy video card doesn't have nearly the effect within AE as it does within NukeX, C4D, DaVinci Resolve, PFTrack & various simulation software.
I have a K5000 in one computer and a GTX 680 in the other and if I was solely running AE, I would be very disappointed.
Putting your money towards a different system resource is a better idea such as Dave suggested.
A computer here running a GT120 isn't that far off from my K5000. The 5xx series GTX GPUs run great and at a much better price point.
Be careful about getting advice about graphics cards for After Effects CS5. Most people are going to give you information that's valid for CS6 and later, which will be useless to you, since everything to do with the GPU was changed in After Effects CS6.
For After Effects CS5, what matters is OpenGL, and nearly any modern card will provide more than enough muscle to help you there.
You should spend your money on more RAM.
Thanks for all the advice, guys.
Just how low quality can I go? (For AE CS5)
It sounds like any of those three extremely basic cards will do the job, without detriment to AE work. Even the lowest spec one - ATI 5450 1gb.
How about an integrated card like the Radeon HD3000 or Nvidia GeForce 7025? Is that pushing it too far?
At what point do I start seeing a loss on my investment by skimping in this area?
I’m guessing I should go for a proper card, not integrated, but the more I save on graphics, the more I have for other stuff like RAM.
For basic After Effects work with After Effects CS5, just make sure that your graphics card works with OpenGL 2.0, and that is good enough.
For After Effects CS6 and later, things are more complicated.