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Advice needed - Upgrading/Replacing homebuilt system

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March 22, 2006 9:10:33 AM

I think I've reached the point where I need to either do a major upgrade or start again with my system -

(Not celery) P4 2.8
1.25Gb RAM
160GB + 80GB HDD (IDE)
BFG GeForce 6800 OC GS
Soltek Mother board (SL87 something) - AGP 8x, SATA connections, 4 RAM slots (unsure what rating), 400/800MHZ FSB.

Forgive the lack of info - I'm not on my home PC at the moment.

It's ok for now, but as well as gaming I'm starting to do a lot of intensive graphical work like 3D animation and film post-production and it's at the limit currently.
It originally started as a basic home-build with a 1.8 Celery, 512MB Ram, Radeon 9800 Pro etc and has gradually been upgraded to where it is now. However, I'm wondering whether it's worth upgrading - this would need a new mobo to get dual-core and PCI-express, plus a new processor and of course a new PCIE graphics card (I'm pretty sure you can't get a PCIE AND AGP mobo but please correct me if I'm wrong).

So considering the cost I'm wondering if it would be better to start with a new system, maybe using the old one as a file server or even a separate games machine.

Advice would be much appreciated.
March 22, 2006 9:27:15 AM

IMHO, I think it makes the most sense to build a new one. Here's some of what to look for:

Athlon 64 x2 3800+
2GB of PC3200
7900GT
SATA 250GB hard drive

Quack
March 22, 2006 9:41:48 AM

Quote:
IMHO, I think it makes the most sense to build a new one. Here's some of what to look for:

Athlon 64 x2 3800+
2GB of PC3200
7900GT
SATA 250GB hard drive

Quack



Great suggestions, I agree :-D

7900GT @ $299 @ newegg can't be beat

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.asp?DEPA=0&ty...

In fact it looks like prices went up $10 or so because the card is so popular :-(


I would recommend a WD2500KS 7200RPM 250GB HDD with 16MB buffer for $96

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1682...

250GB drives have the lowest cost / GB :-D


If you're not going to OC 2GB of Corsair Value Select, OCZ's value brand or Crucial will work great and same you a few bucks.

Just be sure to memetest it for 12-48 hours when you get it.

http://memtest86.com/memtest86-3.2.iso.zip + http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm

The 3800+ is great but you might also want to check out the Opteron 165.

Good luck!
Related resources
March 22, 2006 9:57:24 AM

Thanks.

Should I go for Athlon in particular? I've always favoured Intel (probably for no good reason). Also I have trouble working out the speeds - Whats the Athlon equivalent of say a P4 3Ghz?

What does the memetest do? Never come across that before.
March 22, 2006 10:04:42 AM

Quote:
Thanks.

Should I go for Athlon in particular? I've always favoured Intel (probably for no good reason). Also I have trouble working out the speeds - Whats the Athlon equivalent of say a P4 3Ghz?

What does the memetest do? Never come across that before.


The Athlon64s and Opterons are quite a bit better and currently beat equivalent Intel CPUs in all benchmarks - even video encoding.

The P4 architecture is actually being phased out by Intel and they are going back to the Pentium 3 architecture.

An AMD64 can match or beat an Intel P4 CPU even though it has a 1.2GHz core clock deficit.


Memtest runs special tests on your RAM to make sure it is working properly.


What is your budget and your timeframe by the way?
March 22, 2006 10:17:50 AM

Budget is a bit difficult to say, as if I'm doing a new build I will probably buy components over time, e.g. 6 months or so. It depends month-to-month on how much I have left over in the bank, plus things like bonuses, extra work etc but I'm thinking not more than about £800 GBP. I wrote a piece of comparison software that enabled me to configure a PC similar to a DEll PCs to show someone the differences and it worked out a lot cheaper when I got up to the XPS - keeping existing monitor etc I think it was aorund £600-700 with high-quality brand components.

Ideally I would like to get it up and running on maybe a lower spec CPU and just onboard grpahics while still using the old PC for games and then gradually buy the extra parts, in which case I could stretch it to about a year (otherwise I couldn't handle having the stuff and not being able to use it!).
March 22, 2006 10:26:40 AM

Quote:
Budget is a bit difficult to say, as if I'm doing a new build I will probably buy components over time, e.g. 6 months or so. It depends month-to-month on how much I have left over in the bank, plus things like bonuses, extra work etc but I'm thinking not more than about £800 GBP. I wrote a piece of comparison software that enabled me to configure a PC similar to a DEll PCs to show someone the differences and it worked out a lot cheaper when I got up to the XPS - keeping existing monitor etc I think it was aorund £600-700 with high-quality brand components.

Ideally I would like to get it up and running on maybe a lower spec CPU and just onboard grpahics while still using the old PC for games and then gradually buy the extra parts, in which case I could stretch it to about a year (otherwise I couldn't handle having the stuff and not being able to use it!).




You could certainly get a Socket 939 nForce4 board + a 3000 or 3200 CPU + 512MB RAM + 20GBP VGA and upgrade one component at a time later on.

Over time you could upgrade to a 7900GT, 2GB RAM and an Opteron 165 or better :D 

What kind of components do you currently have???

You could probably recycle at least a few of them ( HDD, optical drives, monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound card, possibly your RAM, etc ).
a b B Homebuilt system
March 22, 2006 11:09:14 AM

Personally, I'd wait the ~4 months or so for Conroe and it's anticipated/expected 20% boost in many benchmarks, as your rig is still quite adequate for gaming and general work with it's 6800GT card...

(if your current 2.8 is a socket 478 Northwood "B" or "C" model, you may have 400-500 untapped MHz easily waiting in the wings within 8-10 keystrokes within your mainboards BIOS anyway to hold you over, depending on the mainboard...)
March 22, 2006 12:47:21 PM

Quote:
Personally, I'd wait the ~4 months or so for Conroe and it's anticipated/expected 20% boost in many benchmarks, as your rig is still quite adequate for gaming and general work with it's 6800GT card...

(if your current 2.8 is a socket 478 Northwood "B" or "C" model, you may have 400-500 untapped MHz easily waiting in the wings within 8-10 keystrokes within your mainboards BIOS anyway to hold you over, depending on the mainboard...)



Assuming Intel's top of the line Conroe @ 2.66GHz @ 65nm costing $600 for the CPU itself and about $200 for a new motherboard is just 20% faster than a current CPU then Intel is in a lot of trouble because AMD's 65nm chips are expected to do significantly better.

There is evidence suggesting the 20% numbers you cite were rigged.

The ATI chipset under performs severely, Intel selected it for a reason.

The new Pentium 3 based architecture is better than the P4 because the P4 is simply terrible.

I actually like the Pentium 3 but do like Intel's behavior.

Please stop posting Intel FUD.
March 22, 2006 1:04:58 PM

Quote:

You could certainly get a Socket 939 nForce4 board + a 3000 or 3200 CPU + 512MB RAM + 20GBP VGA and upgrade one component at a time later on.

Over time you could upgrade to a 7900GT, 2GB RAM and an Opteron 165 or better :D 

What kind of components do you currently have???

You could probably recycle at least a few of them ( HDD, optical drives, monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound card, possibly your RAM, etc ).


Currently, apart from the components I'm using, I have a spare 80GB Hdd, some odd 256MB RAM sticks, an external USB sound card so that coul dbe swapped over when I wanted to use it, a KVM switch so I could share keyboard monitor and mouse, a spare CD drive and a DVD drive. And loads of fans, cables etc.

EDIT: Looking at AMD CPUS on Overclockers.co.uk there are AMD 64 Bit, AMD 64X2, AMD Sempron 64 and AMD Opteron. Which ones are best? Presumably the 64-bit ones? Do the boards I looked at below take any of these CPUS?

I checked out some boards -
BFG RNF4U nForce4 Ultra
Gigabyte K8N Pro SLi nForce4 SLi
Asus A8N32-SLi Deluxe nForce4 SLi X16

The Asus is a bit more money - is it worth paying the extra? I don't intend to cut costs on the board, it's one component I want to spend as much as possible on. However, I also don't want to waste money :D 
March 22, 2006 1:23:47 PM

Quote:

You could certainly get a Socket 939 nForce4 board + a 3000 or 3200 CPU + 512MB RAM + 20GBP VGA and upgrade one component at a time later on.

Over time you could upgrade to a 7900GT, 2GB RAM and an Opteron 165 or better :D 

What kind of components do you currently have???

You could probably recycle at least a few of them ( HDD, optical drives, monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound card, possibly your RAM, etc ).


Currently, apart from the components I'm using, I have a spare 80GB Hdd, some odd 256MB RAM sticks, an external USB sound card so that coul dbe swapped over when I wanted to use it, a KVM switch so I could share keyboard monitor and mouse, a spare CD drive and a DVD drive. And loads of fans, cables etc.

EDIT: Looking at AMD CPUS on Overclockers.co.uk there are AMD 64 Bit, AMD 64X2, AMD Sempron 64 and AMD Opteron. Which ones are best? Presumably the 64-bit ones? Do the boards I looked at below take any of these CPUS?

I checked out some boards -
BFG RNF4U nForce4 Ultra
Gigabyte K8N Pro SLi nForce4 SLi
Asus A8N32-SLi Deluxe nForce4 SLi X16

The Asus is a bit more money - is it worth paying the extra? I don't intend to cut costs on the board, it's one component I want to spend as much as possible on. However, I also don't want to waste money :D 


Those parts are a great start :-D

If the RAM is 184pin unbuffered DDR SDRAM PC3200 then you're all set.

There are several AMD CPUs most are 64bit:

Socket 939 - 64bit available in Athlon 64 3000+ - 4000+, FX-xx series, X2 series, Opteron 1xx series - all can use Dual Channel RAM and are available in Single or Dual Core versions - Socket 939 is the best currently available platform

Socket 754 - most are 64bit under the Sempron name are limited to Single Channel RAM and do not support Dual Core

Socket A ( 462 ) - K7 series old Athlon XP chips


Future sockets include AM2 and socket F but don't worry about those.

SLI is good to have but not necessary and usually not worth the extra expense.

A nice S939 nForce4 or nForce4 Ultra board is more than good enough.

I would recommend an ASUS A8N5X or Epox nForce4

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

I realize you cannot newegg -- this is for illustration only.
March 22, 2006 1:29:17 PM

So the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice 90nm (Socket 939) I found for £80 should do nicely to start off with then...
March 22, 2006 1:36:58 PM

Quote:
So the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice 90nm (Socket 939) I found for £80 should do nicely to start off with then...


Yes, absolutely :-D

Great choice.
March 22, 2006 1:46:22 PM

Cool. Thanks for all your help. Can't wait to start building my new PC! It's the best when all those nice colourful boxes come through the door :lol: 
March 22, 2006 2:13:11 PM

You're welcome :-D

Good luck with your build!
March 22, 2006 2:35:44 PM

of course, if you are doing alot of graphics and video manipulation then you could see an improvement w/ a dual core... and right now intel has the better prices on bargin basement dual core systems... just food for thought. I do not know the best intel system to get, but I have seen recomendations on this forum that seem to push the pentium D in budget situations that could use the dual core. The amd dual cores are better, but for you this may be the ideal situation for that intel...
March 22, 2006 2:41:13 PM

[/quote](I'm pretty sure you can't get a PCIE AND AGP mobo but please correct me if I'm wrong).[/quote]

Asrock makes a 939 Dual Sata that has an AGP and PCIe slot. It also has an upgrade slot for the AM2. It isn't SLI capable though. The newest revision of the BIOS has it supporting the FX-60. It's not as fast as the premium boards, but it does have some overclocking capability. I got mine for $63 at newegg. It has a strange layout and you need long cables for the drives. I didn't have any problems installing mine. All new parts except the old 9800 pro. Recently installed a x1900xt, with no problems. The system runs as fast as I need it and stable with only 2 cooling fans.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

Toms also did a review.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/09/16/asrock_939dual/

Asrock 939Dual Sata2
AMD 64 4000+ San Diego OC to 2.6 (only $334 at newegg)
2 Gb Corsair Value ram 3200 dual channel
Power Color x1900xt
WD 160 Gb

This should last me for a year. Then I have to see what I want to build next. Good luck. You've got the right ideal building your own. Tons of component options.
March 22, 2006 2:55:03 PM

True those ASRoc boards have AGP and PCI-E which is quite convenient and a decent upgrade option however an nForce4 board with a PCI-Express VGA is a better choice.

A $30 - $40 ( 15-20 GBP ) PCI-Express card will hold most people over until they are ready to upgrade to a 7900GT ( $310 on newegg ) :-D
March 22, 2006 3:01:30 PM

Yea, I wanted to go with a better board, but I didn't have the extra cash for the PCIe card at the time, so I kept my old AGP card. Maybe next year's bonus and I can pass this rig down to my son. Quad GPU's and maybe CPU's too? Can a rig truly ever be fast enough? LOL
March 22, 2006 4:16:17 PM

Quote:
Budget is a bit difficult to say, as if I'm doing a new build I will probably buy components over time, e.g. 6 months or so. It depends month-to-month on how much I have left over in the bank, plus things like bonuses, extra work etc but I'm thinking not more than about £800 GBP. I wrote a piece of comparison software that enabled me to configure a PC similar to a DEll PCs to show someone the differences and it worked out a lot cheaper when I got up to the XPS - keeping existing monitor etc I think it was aorund £600-700 with high-quality brand components.

Ideally I would like to get it up and running on maybe a lower spec CPU and just onboard grpahics while still using the old PC for games and then gradually buy the extra parts, in which case I could stretch it to about a year (otherwise I couldn't handle having the stuff and not being able to use it!).


I built my last PC as a complete new build for about the same budget. This was about a year ago, so you can do better/cheaper:

Asus A8N_SLI m/b
Athlon 3000
2x 512Mb Geil PC3200 value memory
Leadtek 6800 PCI-E graphics
Audigy 4 value sound-card
Thermalright XP-120 heatsink and Vantec 120mm fan
Enermax Noisetaker 600W PSU
Seagate 250Gb harddisk
Windows XP home OEM
Plus a DVD writer, rounded cables, Speedlink Medusa headphones, a couple of cold cathodes and a shiny aluminium case.
Everything from www.overclockers.co.uk (except the case) - came to about £800. And I'm really happy with it - although I'm sticking another 1Gb of RAM in for BF2 and X3.

For £800 now, you could probably get a 7800 and a faster processor.
!