I've had a Pentium 4 2.8 Ghz for a few years. It only has 1 Gig of ram and a crappy video card. Xp is my operating system.
I want to start getting into some new games coming out such as Starcraft 2 eventually.
I'm wondering if I upgrade to 4 Gigs of ram and a 1 gig Nividia 8600 graphics card if my system will be able to run games smoothly.
I can do that for around 200 bucks.
Or should I just throw the bucks down and get a duo or quad core processor now?
If I can make my current machine game worthy now I can hold off for prices to drop or newer processors to come out.
I have an old P4 3 Ghz system that I have kept up for a long time, it is at the end of it's lifecycle I'm afraid. My friend who was using it for the most part just built a new system for around $800 that can easily run laps around it. I would recommend you do the same.
The main problem is that if you try to upgrade that old clunker any further you will be buying parts that will be unusable on any modern system. You always end up paying a premium for legacy compatible components.
If you bring over your old optical drive, hard drive, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, then you should be able to put together the rest for less than $600 and get a pretty good rig out of the deal.
My PC is almost the same as yours, but I did upgrade it a year ago. I run P4 3.0 HT with 4gb ram and windows XP. I also changed the video card to Nvidia 9600GT. I am running all the games now just fine. COD4 90-100 FPS with no lag. I don't forsee any problems with my PC not being able to play starcraft 2 or the New COD5 World at War coming out in Nov 11.
However; I am planning on replacing my system just as soon an I can afford it. I was think about XPS 630, becuase you can run dual graphics cards (SLI) for around $1,000
this all depends on what your threshold for "smooth gameplay" is if your like me and you need constant 60fps then buy a new pc, if you think you can deal with ~30 fps and low resolutions go for the upgrade route i say, get a dual core cpu if possible, i would go for a better graphics card than the 8600gt... even with 1 gig it will be useless for newest games i think. something like hd3850 @ very minimum if you want to be able to play brand new games and not have time for a wank between each frame being rendered.
also if you want to be future proofed in the slightest i would just build a new pc
If you had an Athlon-64 system (socket 939) I might say just upgrade the GPU but a P4 is starting to look quite dated these days... It was a bit of flawed design in some respects. Fine for multimedia stuff but not looking so good for modern games - especially at higher resolutions. Again, as with others, you haven't really told us enough information for us to advise you properly (like what resolution is your current/ future monitor).
As for upgrading the 8600 is not a particularly good gaming card (the 9600 is much nicer). ATI have some nice budget 4xxx series that you might want to take a look at... Pricing up a new rig as an example:
There are some rebates there as well but I have not included them - it's only an example to show how low priced stuff is these days compared to 4 years ago...
Excluding case, PSU, etc., etc. Definitely the worth the money to get a new build... Everything is much nicer these days (MB have shrouded SATA header that can actually latch SATA-2 cables, solid-state capacitors, auto-BIOS reset on boot failure for OC, PWM fan control, etc., etc.)...
Thanks for all the help.
I think doing my first build will be the way I'll go.
If PCI express - then you can always try a new gfx card and if you don't get the performance you are looking for you could then go onto upgrade the rest of the components - it's not really money wasted.