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(Re)Building a System

Last response: in Systems
November 19, 2005 4:41:02 AM

This is my first post on these forums...

I am looking at rebuilding an Athlon 3200XP system. The main goal is long-term usability, followed by a decent cost. I would like to buy essentials like a mainboard, RAM, etc now, along with a cheap CPU, replacing the CPU with a high-end version within a year or so, to save money.

Current system:
Athlon 3200XP CPU
Gigabyte G7NNXP NForce2 mainboard
GeForce FX5600 256MB Video card
74GB 5400RPM HDD (Windows XP) (Note that this drive is six years old)
200GB 7200RPM HDD (data)
Dual-layer DVD-RW
Single-layer DVD-RW (A real unfortunate purchase)
16x DVD
20x CD-RW (This is going away)

I would like to reuse as many of the existing components as possible, such as the drives and RAM.

What I have in mind currently is something like this:
1-1.5GB RAM
PCIexpress GeForce6800
10,000RPM 74GB HD (Western Digital Raptor)
Athlon 64 3800 -or- Opteron 246
I am thinking about a dual-socket board to run the Opteron in, so in theory I could have a 4-core system in a year or two from now, but I wonder if that is really practical.

This system would be used mostly for page layout stuff and photo editing, as well as some games. Plus, I need my bragging rights back, as the boss just bought a new P4 that really kicks my ass.

Does anyone have any ideas? My budget isn't real tight, but I'd like to keep it under $1,000.


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November 19, 2005 10:49:42 AM

I'm going to give you some recommendations, but I want to preface those recommendations with some questions. The most important question is: Is the computer NOT doing what you need it to do? Do you need it to perform better? The reason that is such an important question to me right now, is that you seem to be a person that will upgrade on a regular basis. If you can hold off parts of the upgrade for a bit (mobo/CPU/RAM), then I would wait for socket M2. With M2, AMD will be going to DDR2 RAM. I would hate to see you drop good dough on a mobo/extra RAM/CPU that you'll want to upgrade when the M2 comes out. If that is not an issue for you, then read on...

PSU? Monitor (please include native resolution)? What games are you playing? High eye-candy settings? Are you an experienced OCer or do you want to OC? If one of the goals is to beat the Bosses rig, then what are his specs? What memory are you using now (mfr/model) and what is the config (2X512MB)?

If you go for a dual socket board, then your going to blow past the $1000 mark....quick. I think it's probably overboard, but what's your "average day." How much are you really stressing your rig? How much multi-tasking are you doing when you're editing and what program are you using?

Here are some early recommendations - subect to change after your answer the questions:
MOBO: Epox 9NPA+ Ultra or Abit AN8 Ultra.

CPU: I would probably stick with the 3800+, but that is because I'm not as familiar with the Opterons. I have heard that people are getting some mad OCs on the single core Opterons and I think it's safe to assume that will carry over to the DC. If you do go DC Opteron, then be sure to get a 939-pin CPU that will fit on the board I recommended.

RAM: With s939 you will need similar RAM (preferably matched pairs) in each bank to maintain dual channel. Dual channel gives about a 5% performance boost, so you want to make sur eyou don't take that performance hit. With more than 4 banks of memory, the chipset may automatically change your command rate to 2T for added stability. What I would do for the baest performance is get OCZ Platinum series 2x1GB $30 MIR at Newegg right now or the OCZ Value VX series 2x1GB after the sale on the Plat ends. Try it with your current RAM and this, then try it with just the new RAM to see which gives you the best performance. More RAM does not necessarily mean better performance.

HDD: Get the 74GB Raptor or good quality 16MB cache HDD. The 16MB drives have eliminated alot of the perf advantage from the Raptor and give you extra storage - bonus with your work.

Video: In the $200 price range get the 6800GS. In the just over $300 price range get the 7800GT.
November 19, 2005 7:57:01 PM

Thanks for the response.

The reasaon I'm replacing my current system is that the motherboard failed, actually. I would just as soon keep it around, as it did work well, although slow. This seems like a good time to actually upgrade the system, and I'm at the end of the chain for Socket A.

Do I need it to perform better? No, not really. It runs Adobe InDesign and Photoshop on the slow side, but it is certainly manageable.

When does socket M2 come out? If it will be soon, then maybe I can just get another NForce 2 mainboard, without really upgrading, and then jump to M2. Is DDR2 going to be a major performance difference?

My PSU (power supply?) is an Antec 350W. I don't know anything about power supplies, but I understand that upgrading costs more power. I've replaced it before, as the case is an old InWin Q500N that I really like and don't want to give up on (it's had four computers in it).

My monitor currently is a ProView 19" tube that can support up to 1600x1200. It will be replaced with (probably) a ViewSonic VP 93 that I won't have to pay for, so right now, anyway, that's not a problem.

My current games are mostly Age of Empires III, Morrowind, and the MS Flight Simulator. I'm looking at getting the Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Battlefield 2, and Call of Duty 2. I try to play games at the highest settings I can stand, but on my current system that is usually medium to low. For Age of Empires, I have to turn off almost all of the eye candy to make it run smooth.

I'm not much of an OC'er, in fact I haven't overclocked anything since my 486 probably 10 years ago. It burned up. ;)  I wouldn't mind getting it to that again, but it won't be the certerpoint of the system.

The boss bought this within a couple weeks...
Dell Precision 670
Intel Xeon 3.60Ghz
2x 250GB SATA HDD, 7,200 RPM
16x DVD, 16x DVD/RW
NVidia Quadro FX540 128MB, PCIexpress 16x
He spent $4,400 or something. I can't spend nearly that much, unfortunatly, but I would at least like to approach those specs. That really isn't a big deal. As long as I can get my job done and play games, I'm fine. This would be an added bonus.

At work, the Big Three are InDesign, MS Word, and Photoshop. Ideally, two could be in the background while working in the third, to cut down on layout times, but that isn't essential. There's other stuff as well, but those are the major ones.

Can a dual core Opteron run on a socket 939? I had thought that they only ran on socket 940.

Does this sufficiently answer your questions?

Thanks again for your help.

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November 19, 2005 8:12:10 PM

Get a 400W enermax or Fortron source....whichever you can find cheapest.

Get a EPoX EP-9NPA+Ultra Socket 939

Get a 4200+ X2

Get 2GB or RAM....2x 1GB sticks.....OCZ is m fav brand.

Get two SATA drives for RAID-0, one other HD for your boot drive.

get any optical drive you want....

Get at 7800GT.....

With that system above you should be able to shitt on any game on the market at maxed settings at 1024, and it should also be amazing for you in all the programs you listed that you want to run. Just off the top of my head i would say this computer that i listed would cost you about $1400shipped.....i didn't look up prices but it shouldn't be more then $1800. Have should be amazed at the speed of this machine.

Yes, a dual core opteron will run in a 939 board....but you can save yourself some money by doing with an X2.
November 22, 2005 5:37:19 AM

$1400 is a bit more than I'm planning to spend on this.

What I had had in mind with the dual opteron setup was something like this:

MSI K8n Master 2-FAR NVidia NForce Pro mainboard - $269
AMD Opteron 246 Sledgehammer socket 940 - $239
XFX GeForce 6800GS 256MB PCIexpress - $215

That's just over $700, although I realize I'm leaving out a couple important things.

On a related note, I have a Compaq Presario 1500 laptop with a P4-M 1.6Ghz processor. It turns out that P4-Ms go up to 2.something Ghz. Would it be at all practical to replace the cpu in this laptop?

November 22, 2005 5:49:05 AM

Get a 400W enermax or Fortron source....whichever you can find cheapest.

Get a EPoX EP-9NPA+Ultra Socket 939...$110

Get a 3800+ X2...$322

Get 2GB or RAM.... $186

Get two SATA drives for RAID-0 get 2 of these two in RAID-0 $208

get any optical drive you want....

Get at 6800GS 199.99 At Mwave

That puts you right at $1000 and should be great for layouts, Photoshop, and gaming. Have fun
November 22, 2005 6:09:36 AM

Thanks for the response... I'll look into that. Meanwhile, let me ask another question. Do you think that a system built around a dual-processor board, but with only 1 chip, and adding a second later, would make sense at all?

November 22, 2005 6:11:21 AM

You have a $1000 budget and want to do page layout, some photo editing, and some games with a dual processor board?
November 22, 2005 6:20:12 AM

Yes it would make sense....but not a lot of sense.

Anything beyond 2 cores isn't going to give you a lot of performance....well perfromance for the money. You will be spending another 300 bucks for like 3% increase....

honestly a dual core chip, cheap 939 board, 2GB or RAM, Raid0 for 2 SATA drives, and a 6800GS is the best $1000 spent for what you want.

There are better solutions but not for a grand.
November 22, 2005 6:29:17 AM

Dhlucke: Yeah, why not?

But based on the responses I'm getting, it seems it becomes impractical real quick to build a system like that.

Pickxx: Thanks for your help with this. I'll let you know how it works out.

November 22, 2005 6:30:43 AM

its not that its bad...but a dual cpu board is going to run you a lot more its just not somethign you can do for a grand.
November 22, 2005 6:36:36 AM

I'm more of a fan of the single core processors unless you have a specific task that will take advantage of the second core.

You should spend your money wisely grasshopper. No duel core or dual processor for you! :D 
November 22, 2005 6:38:10 AM

True.....but personally i think DC single chip is better then two single cores.....

He could have 200bucks be getting a 3200+....but thats his call not mine