Time to upgrade this CPU?

(You'll have to forgive me, this is all probably obvious stuff, but I've never shopped for a CPU before...)

So I've been gaming on this old Dell Dimension 4550 since about 2002, and I'm ready to upgrade. The current processor, as far as the scant information I could get from Dell, is:

Pentium 4 2.0G, 512K, 400, SOCKET N, C1

And the chip I'm looking at buying is:

AMD Athlon 64 3500+ Venice
1GHz HT 512KB L2 Cache Socket 939 (I know it won't be compatible with my current mobo...I'm upgrading that, too)

What I don't get is how the speed of this new Athlon is only 200 mhz faster than my now-ancient pentium. (newegg lists the proc speed of the athlon at 2.2ghz) This will be a major upgrade, won't it? And if not, which processor should I be buying?

Thanks for any help.
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  1. The speed of the chip has nothing to do with the speed of the system. How fast each component of the system communicates with one another is key here. Please give a list of components that you are looking at for your upgrade. You are probably going to need new case, motherboard, memory, etc. Taking an OEM case and putting an aftermarket board in it is a bit of a challenge if you are new to PC upgrades.
  2. This would be a very significant upgrade for you, you will notice a large performance increase.

    Processor frequency (2000mhz, 2200 mhz) is no longer a good indicator of performance. AMD switched to a design that offers more performance at lower clock speeds. AMD want you to imagine the 3500+ processor competing with an Intel Pentium 4 operating in the 3-3.4ghz range.

    Don't forget you will need a PCI-E video card, I suggest a GeForce 7800gt or 7900gt.

    Things you might be able to re-use from your Dell computer:
    - Power supply (might be too proprietary to re-use)
    - Floppy drive
    - Optical Drives
    - Hard drive
    - DDR RAM (if it is PC3200)
  3. Okay, a few things:

    1. AMD chips' clock speeds are lower than the Pentium 4s because they manage to do more in less clock cycles. The same is true of the Pentium Ms and the upcoming Core architecture. You can sort of directly compare Pentium M, Core, and AMD chip speeds as a metric of performance, but you need to subtract something like 800MHz-1GHz from a P4 chip to get its "real" clock-speed-for-performance number. I would guess that P4 2.0A performs about as well as my Athlon 64 X2 4200+ locked at its 1GHz idle and one core disabled. I replaced a chip similar to yours (Pentium 4-M 2.20GHz, 512K L2, 400FSB) with a new Athlon 64 X2 4200+ that runs at the same 2200MHz clock speed, and it is much faster even in single-core applications. The benches and the seat-of-the-pants say about 3-5 times faster.

    2. The memory speed on that new chip is better than on your P4A as the Northwood "A" only can use single-channel DDR266 or RDRAM on a 400MHz FSB. So you would see a big boost with a 2000MHz effective memory link and DDR400 running in dual-channel mode, giving you "DDR800" speeds. It also means that you need to get new memory even though the old sticks would fit and boot the computer- performance would suffer if you did not.

    3. You probably won't be able to reuse the case and PSU as Dell tends to use proprietary, custom pieces that only work with that particular board in your old system. But you can keep the optical drive, monitor, and hard drive. They will work fine.

    4. You will need a new graphics card or get a board with an IGP.

    Happy building!
  4. Yes the athlon 64 3200+ will be SIGNIFICANTLY faster than your P4 2.0. I'd be willing to wager more than 2x as fast at least. "gpfear" makes a very good point. Just slapping a new motherboard, and processor won't make your system any better for gaming.

    What type of video card will you be using? How much RAM will you be putting in it? are you going to be using your old harddrive from 2002? If so expect load times to be about 25% longer on that drive than on a newer drive.

    What's your budget?

    By the way.
    DO NOT USE YOUR OLD POWERSUPPLY ON THIS THING! It will probably fry itself if you do.

    Some reccomendations...

    If you have a decent AGP video card, a GeForce 6600gt, or a Radeon X800XL or better you might want to use that card in your new rig. if so I'd reccomend this mother board:


    It will alow you to use your current AGP video card, and upgrade to a PCIE card futher down the road. you can get a very mild overclock (25%) on it, so if you just want to overclock I wouldn't reccomend it. But at stock it's a very good board. If you're still using the video card that your PC shipped with you will absolutly need to upgrade it if you want to play any of the newer games out today.

    At the very least 1GB of RAM
    either a GeForce 7600GT, or 7900GT depeding on your budget
    don't bother with SLI

    Get at least a 450 watt power supply

    Putting together a PC from scratch has gotten easier over the years, but it still has its pitfalls here and there are you comfortable with that?

    good luck,
  5. Thanks for all the input...sorry I was a bit vague on the details of my system.

    I should let you know that the Dell I'm using isn't the same creature it was when I first got my hands on it (it's my girlfriends computer, and I started adding to it the second we moved in together...)

    The current sytem I'm working with is:

    The aforementioned Pentium 4 2.0 ghz
    1gig (2x 512) DDR SDRam (Kingston, I believe)
    Ati Radeon 9800 Pro 256mb DDR AGP
    Antec SL350 Blue ATX 350W Power Supply

    And as far as a hard drive, what prompted this whole upgrade process was when I bought a:

    Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache Serial ATA150 Hard Drive

    ...and discovered that I don't have an SATA socket on my Dell motherboard...so I thought, "time for a new motherboard." (other than installing a pci adapter card, which seems to kill most of the benefits you get in speed from the SATA interface, or so I've read) And so here I am.

    And Manno (who posted previously) the ASRock motherboard you mentioned is the exact one I am ready to buy, because it allows me to keep my AGP Radeon and upgradet later to a PCI-e, which I plan on doing.

    This is all going into an Antec Performance P180case, specifically:


    Adding another Gig of Ram is also something I plan on doing.

    Am I heading in the right direction with all of this? Hell, if I can play Elder Scrolls: Oblivion at a reasonable rate, I'll be happy.

    Thanks again. You guys have been really helpful.
  6. That's a good power suply,a dn the p180 is an awesome case. I have no clue how well the radeon 9800 will play Elder Scrolls, but the 3200 will hadle it with ease.


    Ars did a small review about the game, and the guy used a 6800GT, a card that's easily 2x as fast as the 9800, and he said the frame rate was OK, but the was only running the game @ 800x600, so I don't know how well the 9800 will pull that off. upgrading to anything less than a 6800GS/7600GT is not worth your money though. Personaly I'd reccomend the 7600GT it's faster, and less power hungry. If you can afford $300 then I'd say go for the 7900GT

    Dell has a coupon for 25% off of the card and it comes to about $285 with tax PM me and I can give you the coupon code

  7. I was in the same boat as you, stuck with Intel and the little blue Intel guys dancing around in their tights flaunting Intel inside all those years. The thought of even owning an AMD never crossed my mind. That was until the Athlon XP came around.

    I said the same thing, how could a processor that runs at such lower speed could outperform a processor that runs twice the clocks! At the time, I had my Dell 4300 (still have it) with a P4 Williamette core running at 1.8Ghz and I thought that was the cream of the crop. Needless to say, I've owned and still own many older Intel machines. Anyway, I went out and bought myself my first AMD processor, the Barton core XP2800.

    I put that thing together and it ran circles around my P4 machine. So with that, I went and built two more Athlon machines. A 3000XP and 3200XP both with 400 FSB. Both of them still in use today.

    I had a newer Prescott P4 630 that of which I sold recently and replaced it with my Opteron machine which runs cooler, faster and does a nice job for me.
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