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What should my next upgrade be?

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April 12, 2006 5:07:11 PM

Hello folks, this is my first post here, so please go easy! ;-)

I'm looking at performing an upgrade on my system, hopefully with a very to running Oblivion at a reasonable quality.

My system specs are as follows:

Intel Pentium 4 Northwood 2.4GHz
1.2GB PC2100 DDR RAM
Motherboard: 533MHz FSB; 4X AGP
Seagate Barracuda 300GB IDE
Plextor 760A DVD-RW
Nvidia GeForce MX 460 (v. old, I'm guessing the weakest component of my system!)


I'm hoping you could help with several questions. Fisrt, even if I replace my graphics card, could the rest of my system keep up to a standard that could comfortably handle Oblivion?

Secondly, is there any point in upgrading to the latest generation GPU? Would the rest of my system act as a bottleneck and prevent me utilising the card's full potential?

And finally, could you possibly give me a recommendation in the £100-150 price range (this is the amount I will most likely spend, however if I discover that my computer would benefit from a latest generation GPU, I might well be tempted!)

I'd really appreciate any help. Thanks.

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April 12, 2006 5:35:53 PM

Quote:
Hello folks, this is my first post here, so please go easy! ;-)
My system specs are as follows:

Intel Pentium 4 Northwood 2.4GHz
1.2GB PC2100 DDR RAM
Motherboard: 533MHz FSB; 4X AGP
Seagate Barracuda 300GB IDE
Plextor 760A DVD-RW
Nvidia GeForce MX 460 (v. old, I'm guessing the weakest component of my system!)


I'm hoping you could help with several questions. Fisrt, even if I replace my graphics card, could the rest of my system keep up to a standard that could comfortably handle Oblivion?

And finally, could you possibly give me a recommendation in the £100-150 price range (this is the amount I will most likely spend, however if I discover that my computer would benefit from a latest generation GPU, I might well be tempted!)

I'd really appreciate any help. Thanks.


Welcome to the forums!

You need to define comfortably. Currently, you shouldn't even be able to run it. You can cheaply upgrade and be able to run the game, if that's what you're looking for.

As far as what kind of framerates, well...

It's been awhile since I've messed with ram that slow. You've got plenty of it, but I really couldn't say how much that will affect performance. The other issue is that your board (according to you) has a 4x AGP slot. This may or may not make much difference.

The ATI X1600 Pro (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...) is not that great of a card normally, but it does a pretty good job with Oblivion and can be had for just over $100. It is SM 3.0 compliant, and cheap.

Even if you bought the top of the line 7800 GS from Gainward, you likely couldn't fire up everything and run with no stutter, so why try? Save the $400, get something that will do the job, and most importantly, have fun. OB is a great game even without all of the eye candy.
April 12, 2006 6:09:40 PM

I think that your mem bandwidth might cause some problems - after all, you need fast data transfer between cpu -> ram -> GPU, and if you're going for top end AGP (x4 differs by 1% from x8 so don't worry too much about that) then your mem subsystem should be very good. The difference between 533 FSB and 800 FSB along with dual channel is a noticable difference.

Keep that in mind when hunting for Gcard... :wink:

If viable, try and switch to a 800 FSB mobo (865/875 is still around) + CPU + 1 gig DDR400 with good timings, along with something like a X800XL (I'm no boffin on mainstream cards though, but my brother's XL is a stunning AGP solution).
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April 12, 2006 6:43:36 PM

Ok, first of all, I have almost the exactly same system. I have the following:

_Intel P4 northwood @2.4ghz (533mhz fsb)
_1,280mb ram
_Geforce MX 420 gpu (just bought an X800GTO)
_Intel 845 PE motherboard

Once I get my new gpu, I might play oblivion. But Im building a new pc this summer so I may not. Your current setup should work, although it may not be the best and you probably will have to run the game at 1024x768 (or whatever) without extra effects. And unless you want the top of the line visual quality, a Graphics card update should hold you over for the game.

So, just upgrade your gpu and you should be fine.
April 12, 2006 6:48:54 PM

Welcome!! If u want to upgrade, just get a new graphic card that fits your budget and your needs and you shall be fine :twisted:
April 12, 2006 6:52:56 PM

Don't take offense please, but I see a downward spiral in your upgrade path. First off, your GPU is definately the biggest bottleneck, BUT you WILL pay a price premium to get a AGP graphics card. THEN you will not be utilizing to it's fullest because your motherboard is limited to 4X. IF you are already going to upgrade the motherboard, it would be more beneficial to upgrade the CPU as well. Thus, a new GPU might get you by with low settings for a little while, BUT when you decide to upgrade (and you will) that bandaid of a new GPU will need to be replaced again. So, in the long run it would be cheaper to upgrade your CPU/Motherboard/GPU/Memory together. The lower section of the midrange is always the best bang for buck (there are always exceptions to rules, mind you) and you could get all 4 of these things to significantly improve your Oblivion experience for between $400-500. The best AGP GPU is $300 on its own anyway, so if you were considering it (and your post seems to imply so), I'd recommend biting the bullet. Of course, with the new things coming out this summer/early fall, if you can deal with not playing Oblivion until then, it might be a very good time to upgrade.
April 12, 2006 7:41:41 PM

You might get away with investing in a decent AGP card like an X800 XL, with the caveat that you plan on upgrading to a motherboard that takes both AGP & PCIe cards in the future.

That's what I did... I had a 6800 GT AGP, I upgraded my platform to an ASrock 939dual-SATA2 with an Athlon64.

It has an AGP slot, and later I upgraded to a PCIe card.

For the record, 4x AGP won't show any noticable performance degredation from 8x AGP.
April 12, 2006 8:19:06 PM

There seem to be quite a few options for you still, lots of nice AGP cards out there to be had for that price. Definately get a new GPU, splurge, get yourself a nice x1600 and up or 7600-> 7800gs AGP card.

maybe your system can handle more memory might want to stuff some more in there maybe 2 gigs while its still cheap :p 
April 12, 2006 8:20:50 PM

I agree that the AsRock 929Dual Sata 2 is good for upgrading and general OC'ing. But, there is still the premium for buying a AGP card to deal with. If you had a new card, but the rest of your system needed upgrading, it would be the way to go. AGP 4x vs 8x is not the same arguement as PCIe 8x vs PCIe 16x. I was using a friend of mine's 9700 pro on my computer (4x) and with the same processor and similar chipsets as his old board (8x), there was a noticable difference. It wasn't the 100% that 4x/8x suggests, but it was definately there. I didn't properly benchmark it, but my eye figured about 25-40% depending on the game.
April 12, 2006 8:57:55 PM

Quote:
I was using a friend of mine's 9700 pro on my computer (4x) and with the same processor and similar chipsets as his old board (8x), there was a noticable difference. It wasn't the 100% that 4x/8x suggests, but it was definately there. I didn't properly benchmark it, but my eye figured about 25-40% depending on the game.


I have seen at least a couple 4x/8x AGP articles showing that not to be the case, perhaps there were other factors that could account for the performance difference you experienced... chipset, memory, etc.
April 12, 2006 9:12:00 PM

I'm sure they were other variables involved. but not enough to make a 40% differences. I have read some articles varifying exactly what you are saying myself, but in the real world experienced it to be different. My point is that the card wouldn't be the best upgrade for the money. After all, a 7800gs (AGP) performs at the same level as a 7600GT (PCIe) and the 7600GT is by far the cheaper of the two (the difference is enough to purchase a budget processor and motherboard, yikes!). While theoretically having a PCIe X16 connection is better than X8, I don't know any benchmarks that show a significant difference in performance. However, that doesn't mean I'd put a ATI Gemini (I know they're not really available yet) or other dual GPU, single graphics card in a 8X slot.
April 12, 2006 9:29:42 PM

Hell, I've never even seen an 8x AGP vs 16x PCIe bench that showed any difference. You put a 6800 GT with the same clocks on 8x AGP or PCIe, it'll perform exactly the same, the bus simply isn't saturated... and I think the 16x PCIe is, what, theoretically more than 4 times the bandwidth isn't it?

I just googled 4x AGP vs 8x AGP to see other peoples results. It's always under 5% form what I can see. Here is the tomshardware review I remembered:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2002/10/04/nv18_/page4.html

If you search google you'll see that there are other tests as well, showing no perceptible difference between 8x AGP and 4x AGP.

It's also difficult to quantifye what you 'feel' is a '40% difference', with no framerate data or even 3dMarks.
I think in this case there was probably another factor limiting your experiment... I'd give it more credence but every quantifiable review out there shows the difference to be negligable.

On a side note, have a look at these 8x AGP vs 16x PCIe results:

http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=2524&p=9

Once again, exact same cards, exact same clocks, and within 5% of performance... AGP beating it sometimes! This is on the exact same motherboard, too, so it's not like there are alot of other variables here... a 939 dual-sata2 with an AGP and PCIe version of the same card, with separate benches for each.

Bus bandwidth just doesn't mean that much after 4x AGP. An 8x AGP card is certainly not wasted on a 4x AGP bus...
April 12, 2006 9:34:41 PM

Ok, so have you used both? Every review out there will show you that a Neon SRT4 is faster than a Cobalt SS. Go drive both and let me know what you think of them.
April 12, 2006 9:38:46 PM

I'm sure those cars are very nice, but we're talking about video busses here.

I've got hard data showing 4x vs 8x AGP and even 8x AGP vs 16x PCIe have negligible differences (even on the same motherboard). I am simply suggesting that your experiment was not in a suitably controlled environment and that other, properly controlled experiments suggest your results not repeatable and perhaps flawed.

This is nothing you should be talking personally. I encourage you to repeat the experiment, record data this time and share your findings.

But the SRT-4 and Cobalt SS? Nice pocket rockets, but not sure how that's relevant. If you want to talk about cars, we can discuss my nitrous-injected Mazda3 in another thread if you like... :twisted:
April 12, 2006 9:50:07 PM

Just stating that the real world has more variables than you can ever account for. According to Nvidia themselves, they cut down the 7800gt when going to the 7800GS because of bus saturation. So, although it probably isn't MUCH of a difference, apparently it can happen. You Mazda 3 sounds like a cool car. I've always been a big Mazda fan. Wish they'd put a rotary in the Mazda 3! I hope Nitrous works well with that engine, haven't heard of a lot of experiences with it (are you using stock pistons?).
Sounds like you are a very smart guy, I totally understand what you are saying, But on the other hand, I can't see how anyone could recommend any AGP card right now, maybe if they start to get clearanced out or at least drop in price, but not right now. My brother in law is playing Stormreach with a P3 2.0ghz on a AGP board, and I just can't see the point in upgrading from his 9600 AIW to another card instead of upgrading more components. I even suggested to AsRock board to him. What is the Mazda running in the 1/4?
April 12, 2006 9:58:19 PM

Well, Gainward's AGP 20-pipeline abhorration 7800-GT-in-7800-GS-clothing definitely shows improvements over other 16-pipe 7800 GSs. I think Nvidia was basically covering their asses with the 8x AGP statement, I believe they have other reasons for wanting thr AGP bus dead.

The Mazda3 is a great car, best car I've ever had. Really love the handling.

I have to admit though, I'm a bit of a sham when it comes to the nitrous... I have it, but I haven't shot it yet. I'm scared to until I get my hands on an RPM window switch, the Mazda3 has a fuel cutoff at the redline I haven't found out how to override, and I do NOT want to hit that thing under nitrous...

nitrous + lean = boom.

Snow's just melted where I'm from (Winnipeg), so I'm in the market for that window switch... I'll let you know how it works when she's in. Just a 55 shot but I should be able to scare away the Cobalts. :twisted: Can't mess with the timing on this car, so a conservative 55 shot will probably be my limit with this puppy.

The idea of a Cavalier replacement beating me has me uncomfortable, so the nitrous has to work! As you know, I sure as hell won't be a serious challenge to any SRT-4's though...
April 12, 2006 10:00:13 PM

Quote:
I agree that the AsRock 929Dual Sata 2 is good for upgrading and general OC'ing. But, there is still the premium for buying a AGP card to deal with. If you had a new card, but the rest of your system needed upgrading, it would be the way to go. AGP 4x vs 8x is not the same arguement as PCIe 8x vs PCIe 16x. I was using a friend of mine's 9700 pro on my computer (4x) and with the same processor and similar chipsets as his old board (8x), there was a noticable difference. It wasn't the 100% that 4x/8x suggests, but it was definately there. I didn't properly benchmark it, but my eye figured about 25-40% depending on the game.


:roll:

Quote:
I'm sure they were other variables involved. but not enough to make a 40% differences. I have read some articles varifying exactly what you are saying myself, but in the real world experienced it to be different. My point is that the card wouldn't be the best upgrade for the money. After all, a 7800gs (AGP) performs at the same level as a 7600GT (PCIe) and the 7600GT is by far the cheaper of the two (the difference is enough to purchase a budget processor and motherboard, yikes!). While theoretically having a PCIe X16 connection is better than X8, I don't know any benchmarks that show a significant difference in performance. However, that doesn't mean I'd put a ATI Gemini (I know they're not really available yet) or other dual GPU, single graphics card in a 8X slot.


Good luck putting a S939 solution together with the 7600GT included for under $270.00 which is what a 7800GS is going for on Newegg after a $15.00 rebate. You'd be hard pressed to to do it via S754 as well as trying another Intel route.

For less than $200.00 the OP has a wide range of AGP cards to choose from. 6600GTs, X800GTOs, and now apparently X800XLs might start to dip below the $200.00 mark in AGP. Any of these cards will clearly be a night and day difference compared to what the OP has and aren't considered out of line upgrades for his current Northy setup.
a b U Graphics card
April 12, 2006 10:00:18 PM

I agree with you that the difference is little to none. I wouldn't argue that certain situations in some games the bus could get saturated briefly, but I don't see it being noticable.

Anyone with AGP 8X can test it. I've now done it many times and even with a X800XTpe and 6800U I have not been able to bench any difference between 4X/8X. I did however see a big difference going from the same video card and cpu (9500 pro and P4 2.4B) on a i845 with PC2100 vs. i865pe running dual channel mem. Without overclocking, just tweaking bios perfomance settings the i865pe scored well over 1K more in system limited 3dmark2001se. I think the perception is off or something else is accounting for the difference they noticed. Bogged down OS install, drivers, mem timings, integrated sound, etc.
April 12, 2006 10:31:41 PM

Welcome to the Forumz.
It looks like the only part worth keeping is the hard-drive.
For now just upgrade the video card (nothing more)
Then get new everything when you can't stand your system anymore.
April 12, 2006 11:53:57 PM

Well, it seems everyone wants to argue moot points. Oh, well. I can't stop them from wasting their time. For that matter, my 4x/8x point is moot, too. I can't beat the $270 price point for the 7800gs, but I can upgrade he's whole system for a small amount more (if he is willing to re-use hard drive/optical/case/PSU. So, as my original post stated. It does not seem worth spending $270 now, just to spend more later. You can ALWAYS spend less in the short term, but IF you want to think long term, things are always what they seem. PS let me know what you can ebay that 7800gs for in summer of '07
April 13, 2006 12:09:49 AM

Id get a new GPU and some better ram, or start saving for a new system because oblivion wont look pretty at all.
April 13, 2006 12:14:50 AM

exactly.
!