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New A64 system - advice please!

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February 2, 2005 11:59:04 AM

Right, after months of dithering, I've decided to upgrade my creaking Athlon 750 system (you heard me). I don't have a massive budget, but I want a system that can run modern games at reasonable performance. I might be overclocking once I've got the system running smoothly at stock.

My current thinking is (all in stock at my fave supplier):

Athlon 64 Winchester 3000 £100
Asus A8N SLi Motherboard £110
Geil Value CAS2.5 2x512Mb RAM £100
Thermalright XP-120 plus a 120mm fan £40
Enermax Noisetaker 425W £60
Leadtek or Geforce 6800 256Mb £217

I'll be recycling HDDs etc from my existing system for the time being.

Questions:

1. Does the above spec look ok (i.e. balanced? No point spending big bucks on a GFX and have the processor hold it back, etc)

2. I could reduce the RAM to 512Mb and get the 6800GT - would this give me better or worse preformance?

3. I see Gigabyte produce a non-Sli nForce4 board, which is pretty cheap. Is this any good? I've heard the northbridge cooler is a bit shoddy, and hard to replace due to the PCI-E slot position.

4. The CPU cooler. I've read that the Artic Cooling Freezer 64 is a good cooler - it's also £20 cheaper than the XP120 and fan. Will I get any benefit from using the bigger cooler? I imagine the XP120's size will help cool the M/b chipset and memory as well?

5. Graphics - Any reason to choose Leadtek rather than MSI, or vice versa? Software package is almost identical. Also, since my system isn't exactly 'ninja', is the 6800 really necessary, or would a 6600GT give the same performace (i.e. - will the processor be the holdup)?

6. Operating system. I currently use Windows 2000. Is there any performance benefit from using Windows XP (optimisation for CPU, etc)? Would this compensate for the extra system memory that WinXP uses? I could pick up a cheap copy of XP as OEM with the components...

My plan is to use the system I build now for a year or so, then swap the processor for a faster chip as they come down in price (which should be helped by introduction of dual core) - thus squeezing a bit more life out of the system. Don't know yet whether I'd go Sli or just replace the Gfx - depends if NVidia sort themselves out re: the profiles and drivers. Game support for Sli is currently a bit thin on the ground!

Any thoughts, please? Apologies for being such a noob - it's been a few years since I bought any components and I'm out of the loop!

More about : a64 system advice

February 2, 2005 12:14:39 PM

Hi!

I'll try to answer as best I can.

1. Balanced.. hmm well yes, the only offset is the SLI motherboard. Unless you want to go SLI there's no real use for it, but if you do then you do have an upgrade path. And you do not need anything special in games to take advantage of SLI, everything regarding SLI is handled in the nvidia drivers.
2.A 6800 GT would give you better performance compared to a standard 6800. Wether your sacrifice of 512mb ram would have any impact? Some, but I'ld rather go for the GT, and later get an extra module 512mb. You'ld want 2 512mb modules to run dual chanel.
3. Don't know anything about the Gigabyte motherboard you're mentioning. Just stay away from MSI motherboards.
4. I've used the XP120 with a Papst fan myself for quite a while. The cooler is INSANELY huge so visit Thermalright's homepage and check if your motherboard is compatible. It may also be a bit of hassle to remove it after you've installed it, but it's performance is GOOD! A bonus is it's light weight.
5. I've had only good experiences with MSI GFX cards as opposed to their motherboards which I haven't had 1 yet that will last me more than 1-3 months (I've tried 3)... So get the cheapest one as long as their specifications are the same. 6600GT would be a step in the wrong direction performance wise... Stick with either 6800 or 6800GT.
6.Windows 2000 is the preferred one for work or non gaming, while XP provieds alot better performance in gaming. Go OEM!!!


Game support for SLI is as I mentioned earlier not required since SLI will work no matter what. It's all in the drivers.

Well I hope this helped abit. Best of luck with your new rig!!!
February 2, 2005 12:34:35 PM

The XP120 fits on the Asus board - but I don't know about the Gigabyte. The Thermalright website doesn't say. Has anyone tried it?

I confess to having a fondness for Asus motherboards - my current one has lasted me for over 3 years with no problems. My previous board (an Epox) died after about 6 months!

There is also a HUGE price jump from 6800 (£220) to 6800GT (£320). Decisions, decisions.

Of course, if I get only 1x 512Mb RAM now, I'll have to hope I can get a matched one later if I want to run dual channel - probably safer (and cheaper) to buy both now.

Complicated, isn't it? You can almost see why people buy shop-bought PCs. Almost, but not quite.

Oh, and another question - the retail CPUs come with a 3-year warranty. Does OEM only come with 1 year? Might be worth the extra £5 for that alone! Of course, overclocking voids the warranty, but can they tell?
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February 2, 2005 12:38:28 PM

Hmm, just found out that some vanilla 6800s can be unlocked to a 6800 GT. Got to be a worth a go for a £100 saving, surely? :) 
February 2, 2005 3:02:56 PM

Avoid the SLI unless you're going to spend the money and get SLI right off the bat. You can get a good NF4 Ultra board for significantly less and put the money towards a better gfx card, like the X800XT. For more details/recommendations on video cards go to the graphics card forum - they have a great FAQ on different cards and mfrs.

There are a lot of mfrs who will have NF4 chipset boards on the streets shortly. Not the least of which is Abit who is coming out with <b>4</b> boards! Do you have the patience to wait a little while longer. If yes, then I hihgly recommend seeing how it unfolds for the next month. Asus has gone down $26USD so far and I would expect all the prices will come down once the competition hits the streets in force.

For your questions:
1. Looks balanced to me. You and your system may be happier with a little more juice in the PSU - especially if you're going to OC.
2. Reduce the price of the mobo to get the GT (or other better gfx card) and keep the dual RAM.
3. The benchmarks of the Giga board look faster than the Asus board. I can't comment on the cooler issue. Again - recommend waiting a little longer to take a look at the Abit boards and possibly the DFI boards.
5. Checkout the gfx card FAQ for mfr info.
6. Recommed getting XP or, better yet, get W64 after you wait a short time!


"He who will not risk, cannot win"
- John Paul Jones
February 2, 2005 3:35:27 PM

Well, if you consider that I started thinking about upgrading when I realised that I couldn't play X2 - The Threat, you get an idea about how long I've deferred already! There's also the practical matter that my g/f is away this weekend, so I can take over the flat with my PC stuff and swear loudly (as I surely will) as much as I like...

I would have built it before Christmas, but was keen to get an nForce4 board, and you couldn't get them for love nor money. I'd be a bit loathed to wait another month for the Abit cards to become available - especially since experience suggests they will de delayed and then in short supply. It could be Easter before I get my hands on one - and that's assuming that they're any good!
The DFI board looks nice, but it's more expensive than the Asus or MSI, and more importantly, if anything goes wrong you have to RMA it overseas - not appealing! One of the main reasons to use OCUK is their superior service!

I looked at my budget and I don't think I can afford the 6800GT unless I make big savings elsewhere - i.e. the Gigabyte board, 512Mb RAM, cheaper cooler (the non-Sli gigabyte board is the only one that seems to be significantly cheaper than the Asus). I'm tempted to go with the trusty Asus and the gig of RAM and gamble on being able to unlock and/or overclock the 6800. If it works, I'll be laughing, and if it doesn't, it'll still be better than the 6600GT. :o )

Cheers for the PSU advice - I'll probably go for the 485W Enermax to be on the safe side.

It's all getting rather expensive - the cold cathodes and UV reactive cables might have to wait a while! :o /
February 2, 2005 5:55:47 PM

Understand a lack of patience. I'm in the wait and save mode right now. :frown: I usually don't upgrade much, if any, between system purchases, so I'm debating on whether or not to go s754 when I upgrade. The s754s have a 200Mhz advantage over a s939 that is rated the same - i.e. a s754 3000+ has the same clock speed as a s939 3200+! Guess AMD thought the dual channel memory would make up for 200Mhz worth of speed. I'll probably end up getting either a nice mobo/RAM/better gfx card with the money I save on going s754 and then OC the system some. That is unless the s939s step up in performance and down in price with the release of all the new boards before I buy...

They always get expensive fast! :lol: 
To save a few more dollars:
1. Another idea for the PSU is the Fortron Blue Storm 500W. It's around $20USD less than the Enermax here in the states and just as good.
2. Unless you're planning on doing some extreme OCing, you can probably get away with some Kingston value select RAM instead of the Geil - that should save you somewhere around $50USD.
3. Until you OC you can save some money on the HSF by getting the retail CPU and using the provided HSF. When you need to OC for perfomance, then you research HSFs for a good noise/price/performance cooler.

"He who will not risk, cannot win"
- John Paul Jones
!