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Upgrade path advice

Last response: in Systems
April 16, 2006 5:04:19 PM

Hi all

About two years ago I built the following system

Asus A7N8X Mobo
AMD Athlon XP 2400 (OC'ed to 2600 speed)
1Gig Ram (dual channel / 400mhz)
Radeon 9800 Pro
120GB SATA For windows
80GB IDE for Linux

This has served me pretty well considering the budget to put it together.

However, in the last week I have bought Oblivion and a Viewsonic VX922 LCD screen. The combination of 1280x1024 native resolution and 'that game' have made me hanker for an upgrade.

Initially I gave myself a budget of £500 and came up with the following

Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe Socket939 (£140)
Athlon 64 Venice 3200 (overclock it to 3500 levels should be doable?) (£120)
Keep the Ram from the old machine (Free!)
Nvidia 7600 GT (adding another one about a year later perhaps) (£150)
New quiet as possible PSU (about £60?)
Raid of 300-500GB for Windows (£100?)
120GB SATA For Linux (Free)

Which comes in more or less on budget ::) 

The question for you fine fellows is will I actually see much of an improvement from this system? I know that I'll benefit on the graphics front, as the 9800 pro is a bottleneck, equally I'll benefit in Linux by using the SATA HDD and simply by having an Nvidia graphics card. The question is, will I see much of a difference (i.e is replacing the mobo and the processor actually worth it?)

My thoughts are perhaps to get a 7600 GT on AGP (those are coming I thought I read somewhere? May be wrong) and maybe a processor upgrade and simply wait it out. The downside to this is I don't get x64 and the upgrade path to the FX processors, and I don't get SLI as an upgrade path either.

Your thoughts much appreciated. I've already costed this up on a few sites and am hovering over the buy button, but somethings stopping me :/ 


More about : upgrade path advice

April 17, 2006 6:50:11 AM

Your boost in all around performance will be significant, the largest area would be game performance.

that Radeon and Athlon XP really are holding you back.
April 17, 2006 6:54:06 PM

SLI is worthless unless you buy another video card within 90 days or so. When you get around to adding another 7600 in a year, the top performing card of then will spank your SLI setup, and you would of spent more money. Don't fall for the hype. Unless you can spring for 2 7900GTs now (around $600) skip SLI.

Speaking of SLI, that motherboard is way overpriced for the limited feature it offers. (dual x16 SLI) X16 SLI is not that much faster and not worth the price of that board. Consider the Asus A8N-E (if you take my advice and skip SLI) or a DFI Lanparty Ultra D board if you want to get 2 cards still.

Edit: On the PSU get the Antec Truepower II 550W.. should be around 60 pounds ($100 USD).
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April 17, 2006 7:46:11 PM

AGP graphics cards are getting a premium from buyers who do not want to upgrade their motherboards. That makes them a terrible price/performance upgrade. You will notice a pretty big difference between a new system and what you have, even if your processor speed (ghz) does not increase dramatically. My K8 at 2.0ghz, is much faster than my brother-in-laws xp barton 3200. As AM2 and Conroe are not far away and PCIe graphics will be around a while to come, I think I'd keep them in mind if I were upgrading now. However, the fact that they are coming out does me todays 939/Pentium D/Core products will be going down in price, too. If you are ok with running one lessor graphics card for a while, you can easily get away with using one 7600GT/GS until those cards that are better than 7900GTX's are out later.
April 17, 2006 8:42:39 PM

SLI'ing any card that isn't among the top 2 of the series is a tremendous waste of money that will net you less frames than a single top-tier card.

I've also heard that Oblivion will choke ANY card presently out there, so even with a hefty upgrade, you should expect considerable lag while playing "that game".

Also consider getting 2 gig's of RAM, it is one of the best performance boosters that a system can get, and is a lot cheaper than buying a top-tier processor or video card.
April 17, 2006 8:57:05 PM

"Choke" is a big word. Oblivion does well on many cards at LOWER resolutions. If you are using a normal monitor 1200X1024, and don't need all the eye candy: HDR/AA/ETC. You can do just fine with a 7600GT for now, and upgrade to a better card that likes Oblivion more once one exists. Ram WILL definately help, 2X1024 is nice anyway (good point to who posted above)
April 17, 2006 9:24:55 PM

I concur with ditching the SLI motherboard and getting a better graphics card if you can. I'd also ditch the RAID, but I don't know your intentions for that. If the difference in money isn't enough to get a better GFX card, then upgrade the processor to a 3500 or something like that. You'll see marked improvement in all areas.
April 19, 2006 9:11:50 AM

Thanks for all the comments, I didn't realise SLI was so "enthusiast / wallet intensive" in that there wasn't much point if you weren't using the top cards. I shan't bother with that then.

One of the other reasons I'd picked that mobo was the passive cooling, is there a good alternative if generally that one isn't good value for money? I'm trying to be as silent as possible as I find fan noise to be annoying.