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Need help upgrading my 5-year-old gaming/workstation PC for $500-700

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August 30, 2013 4:24:15 AM

Hello all,

So I've been thinking about giving my old gaming/workstation PC a bit of an upgrade (the motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-X48-DS5, which I can't find on pcpartpicker)

I've upgraded several pieces of it over the years: swapped out 2X HD-4750 in CrossFire to a single HD-6870; added 4GB of RAM on top of the original 4GB; swapped out 2 500GB Seagate's for a 64GB SSD coupled with a 2TB HDD for storage; and changed the PSU when it died.

Now I'm thinking about upgrading the motherboard, CPU and RAM. I'm not a hardcore gamer anymore, but I would still like to be able to play the new CoD or Battlefield without setting everything to "low" or "off".

Changing the case is also an option, as the Antec 1200 has grown a bit too big and noisy for my taste, so I'm looking for something a little more "grown up", but still with a bit of character (so LEDs are out, but a small side window would be nice), and relatively silent.

My budget is for this upgrade is in the $500-700 range.

Thanks for your help.
a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 4:38:17 AM

The 6870 is still a powerful card. But if you want to play the modern games with medium settings, I suggest you to upgrade the GPU to 7950. You already have 8gb of ram, right? That's more than enough.
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August 30, 2013 4:50:21 AM

adimeister said:
The 6870 is still a powerful card. But if you want to play the modern games with medium settings, I suggest you to upgrade the GPU to 7950. You already have 8gb of ram, right? That's more than enough.


I'm not planning to upgrade the GPU, as that would pretty much be a waste of money, considering my needs. I figure the 6870 can still serve me well for another couple of years. The PC in question serves as a workstation about 90% of the time, but I still want to be able to play new games reasonably (medium settings is good enough).

Regarding the RAM - yes, I do have 8GB (just noticed I forgot to include the other 2x2GB in the build, but it's OCZ PC2-8500). However, seeing as it's DDR2 with low clock speed, I figured I might as well swap the four sticks for a 2x4GB kit DDR3 1600MHz, which would be a relatively cheap upgrade.
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 4:59:44 AM

What part of the world are you in? Part availability varies widely.
Check the motherboard BIOS and see what overclocking options are available, the Q9550 is still a useful CPU but add an inexpensive cooler and a little time and you can make it a fair bit better.
Either a HD7950 or GTX760 will make a nice upgrade, they'll both play current games at at least 'high' and in many cases 'ultra' settings-with a little careful tweaking ;) .
The GTX760 is a little quicker overall, has PhysX and some efficient AA options, the '7950 overclocks like a mad thing and usually comes with the 'never settle' game bundle, if you decide on a 7950, avoid those with a single fan cooler!
If it's just noise bothering you several companies make low noise fans these days, it'll certainly be a cheaper and easier upgrade than swapping cases.
Note, I'm approaching this from the 'minimum cost' angle, for $700 (US) you can go for a full MB/CPU/RAM/GPU/case upgrade but being out of work at the moment I'm finding it hard to spend even some one elses money :( .
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 5:04:06 AM

I see. Yea that GPU is still powerful bro. There are a lot of cheap AM3+ mobos out there. Then get the fx 6300, then 8gb of ballistix sport. You'll be good to go.
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 5:20:23 AM

If you want your case to be quiter why don't you just swap out the fans?

Get two of these twin packs
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007RESG7G/?tag=pcpapi-20

And one more
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007RESG3A/?tag=pcpapi-20

These will make sure your PC runs as quiet as it can while mentaining good temperatures.

If you're set on getting a smaller case though, fans aren't going to do the trick.
I suppose you got the Antec 1200 because it can keep even the hottest pc's cool, and you would be dissapointed if you saw your temperatures rising by a dozen degrees after switching to another case.
Sadly, most of the cases that can match the Antec Twelve Hundred in terms of cooling performance are just as big and also have LED fans (Phantom 820, Phantom 630, HAF X).

So, you'll have to make some sacrifices
Spend a lot of money and get a cool, quite case with no LED fans, save some money and get a case with no LED fans and unimpressive performance.
Anyway, here are my suggestions

Silverstone FT02.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=CA-FT02WS&c=CJ

Silverstone FT04
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DU6RWIE/?tag=pcpapi-20
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DU6RWFW/?tag=pcpapi-20

Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 (+ fans)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair Obsidian 650D
http://us.ncix.com/products/?usaffiliateid=1000031504&s...
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 7:24:07 AM

@ vorlorg: Missed your post-had to rush out.
Check the motherboard manual, all the info I can find says that it can't use DDR3 memory and the 'board itself supports a maximum of 8Gb.
What software are you using? If it's heavily threaded it may be a good work investment to go all the way and get an i7 with a new motherboard and memory. If it can use GPU acceleration does it use Direct Compute (AMD) or CUDA (Nvidia) again, it may be helpful from a work perspective to upgrade the graphics card to improve that acceleration.
Love that Fractal Design BTW sweet little case!
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August 30, 2013 12:46:28 PM

Thank you all for the help.

Kamen_BG: Thank you very much for the suggestions for fans and cases. I quite like the Fractal Design Arc Midi R2, and it fits nicely within my budget.
What you say about the temperatures is true, or rather was true when I bought this machine ~5 years ago (it was top of the line back then, and set me back about $3000). However, when I bought this beast I was 21 years old, with a steady income for the first time in my life and wanted a heavy duty gaming PC (which it was at the time, and still performs fairly well with some games, with the upgrades I've put in it over the years).
Now I'm fresh out of law school, with very little time in the foreseeable future for any serious gaming (apart from the occasional CoD or Battlefield, or some nice RPG on the weekends), so I'm looking to sort of re-purpose this machine for much lighter work, rather than getting a new PC altogether. I thought about maybe just swapping out the existing fans for quieter ones (I have 6 120mm fans), and have been looking at the Nexus Basic D12SL-12, though I'm not sure they'll provide the necessary airflow. I haven't come across the Corsairs you linked, but I'll definitely look into them now as well.
When I started thinking about the fans, I thought about maybe replacing the two rear exhaust fans with a radiator (namely the Corsair H100i), and then thought that I might as well just upgrade the CPU, motherboard and memory along with it. The problem is that I've been out of the ever-changing hardware world for a few years, so I'm not completely familiar with the current-gen CPU's, so I figured who's better to help me out than you guys :) 

Coozie7: As I said, I'm interested in changing the motherboard, to support a newer generation CPU as well as DDR3.

Adimeister: Thanks for for the fx-6300 recommendation. Would it give me better results than an A10-5800K?
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 1:45:13 PM

Can you tell us EXACTLY what this system will be used for?
Unless you're going to do video editing or fairly heavy calibre 3D work there's no real need to upgrade.
If you're going to use it for work I think you'll be mainly using office applications, which it will run with great ease the only change I'd make would be to get a pair of enterprise class HDDs and put them in a mirrored array (MB allowing) to secure your data as much as possible, otherwise for your needs the system is more than enough.
Changing the fans will make a difference and you could always get a fan speed controller to keep them quiet if the motherboard lacks enough headers to control them all through its BIOS.
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August 30, 2013 2:10:48 PM

coozie7 said:
Can you tell us EXACTLY what this system will be used for?


It will be used mainly for basic office tasks (no 3D editing or anything like that), web browsing, and the occasional weekend gaming.
I realize that with the current components, it will serve me well enough for at least 3 more years for these uses. The thing is, the entire upgrade idea originated from wanting to make the system as silent as possible, while keeping decent temperatures. I initially wanted to just swap out 4 of the 6 existing case fans for silent ones, and replace the CPU heatsink (which is currently a Zalman heatsink, not sure about the exact model) and the 2 rear exhaust fans with the Corsair H100i.

However, the Corsair isn't compatible with my Socket 775, so I realized I needed to upgrade the CPU (and of course, the motherboard) as well, and while at it, I might as well upgrade the RAM along with those, as that's pretty much the cheapest thing to upgrade.
Naturally, I tried to find a dual 120mm radiator that's compatible with Socket 775, but couldn't find anything available in my country (Israel).

So yes, it's not really a necessary upgrade considering my needs, but I'm willing to invest a few hundred bucks to make my PC as quiet as possible, and bring it up to current-gen components while I'm at it.
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a b 4 Gaming
August 30, 2013 8:40:49 PM

Yes it will give you way better results. Because the a10 is an APU, while the 6300 is a CPU only. So the computing power of the 6300 is more efficient than the APU because the APU also has graphics computing embedded in it.
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Best solution

a b 4 Gaming
August 31, 2013 4:15:17 AM

@Vorlog: For your computer needs the system will keep working just fine for years to come, you've actually got a nice rig there and I really cannot in good faith say that upgrading the CPU/MB/RAM is going to make any real difference for your uses, it's still a useful gaming setup and office applications will run happily on far less hardware than your system currently has.
Personally I think your best option would be to: Swap the system into the Fractal Design case, add a pair of HDDs in a mirrored array for maximum data safety and, perhaps, replace the current CPU cooler, if it's noisy.
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August 31, 2013 4:51:37 AM

coozie7 said:
@Vorlog: For your computer needs the system will keep working just fine for years to come, you've actually got a nice rig there and I really cannot in good faith say that upgrading the CPU/MB/RAM is going to make any real difference for your uses, it's still a useful gaming setup and office applications will run happily on far less hardware than your system currently has.
Personally I think your best option would be to: Swap the system into the Fractal Design case, add a pair of HDDs in a mirrored array for maximum data safety and, perhaps, replace the current CPU cooler, if it's noisy.


Thanks coozie7, I appreciate all the advice and you taking the time to help me out (and everyone else in this thread as well).
I will follow your advice (and Kamen_BG's), and just replace the existing 6 case fans plus the heatsink fan for quieter ones (currently debating between the Corsair FA120 quiet edition that Kamen_BG suggested and the Enermax UCTB12 which have detachable fans for easier cleaning which is pretty nice because this machine gathers a lot of dust, or possibly a combination of both).

The RAID 1 array is also a great suggestion, but I currently have a bi-weekly backup to an external HDD, so I'll pass on that and instead get 2 extra 2TB HDD's for my HTPC (on top of the one I already have) and set them up in a nice RAID 5.

Again, thanks for all the help, and for saving me about $400 on an unnecessary upgrade :D 
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a b 4 Gaming
August 31, 2013 5:21:32 AM

That, my friend is why we're here :) .
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