Upgrade the CPU or the motherboard?

Hi there,

I have a Compaq SR1650NX (yeah, it’s old) that I’ve been tinkering with a bit and have used it to play games on Steam, and have also used it for general web surfing, that sort of thing. I’m a big console gamer, but am trying my hand at some PC games, and I’ve been quite enjoying it so far. Problem is, this is a slow computer for the most part, though it seems to work fine. This computer has the A8AE-LE motherboard, and I have purchased a used CPU on eBay for it, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+, which is a dual core chipset, and I believe it will be a fairly noticeable upgrade over the stock AMD Athlon 64 3500+. But dual core 4800 chipset is the fastest chipset this motherboard can support, and by today’s standards, this isn’t a crazy-fast chipset.

Now I’ve since found out that the 939 socket version of the dual-core chip is apparently much more “rare” than the AM2 socket version. And looking at eBay, it would appear that they generally sell on eBay for as much as $100. Now if I could sell this chip for even $75, I could actually have enough to buy a new motherboard and chipset, and I was thinking perhaps this one.


This one has the AMD 970 chipset on it, and looks to have much more expandability.

My question:

For some light to moderate gaming on Steam, and general internet use, is it easier for me to simply upgrade the chip on the motherboard, or is it easier to upgrade the motherboard itself? I’d also add that I really don’t have much experience doing anything like this, other than adding a super serial card to my Apple IIe a bunch of years ago. I added a dedicated graphics card to this motherboard last week on the PCI-e slot, but that was pretty easy. This seems a bit more involved.
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  1. Easier? It'd be easier to upgrade the CPU.

    What would be a more effective upgrade? New motherboard, CPU 'n' RAM.

    My suggestion, is to nab that mobo, get a 965 BE for the cheaps if you can (Went for £70 last I checked. Dunno 'bout 'merican retailers, though) and some DDR3 RAM. You'll be set.

    Do note that you'll have to do a fresh install or do some serious and tedious work-arounds to avoid doing a fresh install of Windows.

    Though, since you're doing moderate gaming, could you tell me which games you're talking about? 'Cause if you're playing not-so-demanding games, it wouldn't be a bad idea to get one of those sandy/ivy-bridge pentiums on the cheap. You'd need a different motherboard, however.
  2. You got a monitor so time to get a new computer. For $500 you can build a great computer and the speed difference will make you cry.
  3. First of all, I agree with MajinCry that your most cost-effective upgrade would be Mobo, CPU, and RAM. You'll also need a new PSU, as what you have will undoubtedly not support a gaming video card.
    Do not get a cheap MSI motherboard, however, as they are known to use weak VRMs that pop under load. I can't link the supporting [public] spreadsheet at work, so hopefully someone else can for you. Stick to Asus, Gigabyte, or ASRock.
    Be aware that a new motherboard typically requires a new Windows license, unless you have a Retail copy; in that case you may be able to re-activate, possibly with a call to Microsoft.
    Review some of the quarterly $500-$600 SBM builds for some budget alternatives. At the end of the day though, I agree with envy14tpe that anything you build will blow the doors off what you have now.
  4. Wow, thanks very much for the helpful responses. To be quite honest, the idea of building a PC seems like a fairly daunting procedure to me, and I thought I might sort of “get my feet wet” tinkering around with a computer for which I really don’t care very much if I break, which is my Compaq. I hadn’t even used it in about 2 or so years until I recently decided to clean it up, and wipe it all clean with a fresh reinstall of everything, and I’d give it a try on Steam. Right now, all I’m really playing is Team Fortress 2, which works sort of okay, but it’s a ton better on my 360. As for getting Windows back on my PC, I suppose I could make a call to Microsoft, but since I’m running the 32 bit Windows XP Pro, maybe it’s time to upgrade that as well. Incidentally, I’m also running an ASUS EN8400GS card on this board (it’s an ASUS A8AE-LE motherboard) I currently have, and it seems to work for the most part, though honestly I’m just assuming that a dedicated card would be better than the graphics built into the motherboard, which is ATI Radeon Express 200. I’m sure this all sounds like an Atari 2600 to you guys! At any rate, I picked up some RAM for it, but I can’t seem to get it to work without a long series of beeps when I turn the computer on, and I thought I’d see what a faster CPU might do for me. I realize that it won’t be the crisp video and gameplay of a high-end Alienware system or anything, but if a new motherboard, ram, and power supply won’t kill me in the wallet, maybe I’ll consider that…..
  5. Haven't used it in 2 or so years.....not sure what to recommend cuz you don't seem to be a daily user or a gamer.

    Alienware is expensive as hell and good for those that have money to burn. You will get better build for cheaper if you choose your own components and have a shop put it together.
  6. Well that’s not entirely true. I am indeed a gamer, I just never really got into anything other than console gaming. I actually have a pretty extensive collection of games for all systems from my Atari 2600 up to my PS3. I never even tried a game on a PC until I went to PAX East this year with my son, and I was quite surprised at how big the PC Gaming scene appears to be, and when I tried the PC systems out (after my 13-year old son acted all embarrassed about having to show me which buttons to use to control the action) and tried the keyboard and mouse combo on some games I was absolutely amazed at how much easier that seemed to me. So once I got back from PAX, I set up my PC again, and have been fiddling with this computer a bit using it for something like this. So basically, I’ve had this PC since about 2005, used it fairly regularly for law school until about 2010, and then didn’t have much use for it since then. And now I’m trying to see what I can do with it.
  7. Oh jeez. An eight year old PC? I wouldn't trust any parts inside that case, with that information now known. I say go for a completely new system. Any upgrades you'd make to it as-is will just be a waste of money, as you'll upgrade, be distatisfied and then upgrade again.
  8. Agreed. Trying to upgrade a machine that old will be an exercise in frustration. I would suggest deciding on a budget, then posting in the New Build forum using the template in the sticky on asking for new build advice.
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