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Critique my upgrade plan - is this making sense?

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June 20, 2006 3:12:27 PM

Hi folks!

My last system build was about 4.5 years ago. I've managed to go all this time without a major upgrade (did a minor CPU, HD and video card upgrade a couple of years ago). I'm looking at upgrading primarily for a new video card (gaming - WoW, etc, Vista Aero) and would rather not invest in another AGP video card when the market has moved to PCI-X so heavily.

So I am wondering if I could get a critique on a plan for a system upgrade, and some questions.

Here's the current system:
ASUS P2V-266E, Althon XP 2400, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9700 Pro, Enermax 350W PS, 7200 PATA HD

Here's the proposed new components:
ASUS A8N5X Socket 939
AMD Althon 64 3200
CORSAIR XMS 2GB ( Latency: 3, Timing: 3-3-3-8 )
Sapphire Radeon x1600 Pro 512MB PCI-X

Questions:
1. Will this upgrade give me a noticable performance increase in general day-to-day (internet, office apps, photoshop) applications? The 64 3200 seems to be about a 30% increase in performance over the XP 2400 looking at the benchmarks - would this end up being noticable in terms of more pop in the apps? Note I am not planning to upgrade my HD.

2. Given that I'm not starting with a higher perf CPU, Socket 939 gives me an upgrade path with low cost. But, what do folks think of A8N5X vs A8N-SLI? I'm not likely to go the SLI route, but the firewire onboard option for $20 more is very appealing for future usage. The reason I picked the A8N5X though are the reviews on newegg - the A8N-SLI had concerns on issues with the MB fan, etc.

3. Power supply. I'm planning to reuse the 350W supply and not go the overclock or SLI route. I'm assuming that will be sufficient but would definitely appreciate opinions.

4. RAM - the Corsair XMS seems like a great deal on newegg at $128 after rebate. Should I be concerned about the latency/timing?

Overall, is this a worthy system upgrade, or should I just upgrade to a AGP video card, hold out for another 6 months or so on a system upgrade till CPU prices fall more and get a higher performing CPU?

Any comments would be appreciated!

Thanks,

Dirk
June 20, 2006 3:26:29 PM

Good questions. I'm still running my 4 year old machine too, with upgrades. My system still does everything it needs to do, and beides jones'ing to build a new one , i'm waiting for the market to play it's hand. 939 is not exactly an upgrade path to follow.. though AM2 is new, it is the best current chance for upgrade with AMD, but wait atleast till july 24th to buy. 939 might also be discounted.. this is because of Conroe, or Intels new Core2Duo release. Core2 is poised to rape AMD, atleast until AMD chips come out this fall as an improvement to AM2 chips now available. Latency timings do mater some with RAM.. i would believe it will help more with photoshop since it eats up memory. I think it will only help you to get faster memory. If you can wait.. I'd personally wait as I am. AM2 will be more mature.. Core2Duo will have shown it's metal, and dx10 cards will be on the forefront.

Just for reference.. I still run photoshop and illustrator on a 300mhz ibook from 1999. Ya it takes a minute to save a file..but everything else is just as quick as my XP machine
June 20, 2006 4:30:45 PM

Quote:
Hi folks!

My last system build was about 4.5 years ago. I've managed to go all this time without a major upgrade (did a minor CPU, HD and video card upgrade a couple of years ago). I'm looking at upgrading primarily for a new video card (gaming - WoW, etc, Vista Aero) and would rather not invest in another AGP video card when the market has moved to PCI-X so heavily.

So I am wondering if I could get a critique on a plan for a system upgrade, and some questions.

Here's the current system:
ASUS P2V-266E, Althon XP 2400, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9700 Pro, Enermax 350W PS, 7200 PATA HD

Here's the proposed new components:
ASUS A8N5X Socket 939
AMD Althon 64 3200
CORSAIR XMS 2GB ( Latency: 3, Timing: 3-3-3-8 )
Sapphire Radeon x1600 Pro 512MB PCI-X

Questions:
1. Will this upgrade give me a noticable performance increase in general day-to-day (internet, office apps, photoshop) applications? The 64 3200 seems to be about a 30% increase in performance over the XP 2400 looking at the benchmarks - would this end up being noticable in terms of more pop in the apps? Note I am not planning to upgrade my HD.

2. Given that I'm not starting with a higher perf CPU, Socket 939 gives me an upgrade path with low cost. But, what do folks think of A8N5X vs A8N-SLI? I'm not likely to go the SLI route, but the firewire onboard option for $20 more is very appealing for future usage. The reason I picked the A8N5X though are the reviews on newegg - the A8N-SLI had concerns on issues with the MB fan, etc.

3. Power supply. I'm planning to reuse the 350W supply and not go the overclock or SLI route. I'm assuming that will be sufficient but would definitely appreciate opinions.

4. RAM - the Corsair XMS seems like a great deal on newegg at $128 after rebate. Should I be concerned about the latency/timing?

Overall, is this a worthy system upgrade, or should I just upgrade to a AGP video card, hold out for another 6 months or so on a system upgrade till CPU prices fall more and get a higher performing CPU?

Any comments would be appreciated!

Thanks,

Dirk


To answer your questions directly:

1) You might see more of a difference than 30%, and it should improve performance across the board. I'd HIGHLY recommend upgrading your HDD. A common mistake in upgrading is that people carry over their HD's. A 5-year old hard drive will definately be noticably slower than a new HD. You'll likely be dissapointed with the speed of your new computer if you don't upgrade your HD.

2) Unless you plan on using SLI at some point, don't bother investing in it. Dual-GPU cards are just hitting the market, and have SLI-like frame rates. Unless you know you can fork out the cash for 2 cards, the only benefit from getting SLI now is that it's possible that in a couple of years 2 older cards in SLI will perform better than a single, better card. That's kind of a gamble, though.

Firewire's dying in the market. It's only really used exclusively in high-end digital imaging (High def cameras, for example). Everything else has USB now. USB 2.0 and Firewire are just about the same speed, but USB is more interoperable and you can multiply ports. Unless you have something now that for which you need firewire, I wouldn't plan on needing it anytime soon. In the event that you do, a USB-Firewire converter is like $20 anyway.

3) 350W is a little low. Power supplies degrade over time as well, so I wouldn't chance a new computer on a 5 year old PS. I'd go 500W.

4) Normally, I'd say that unless you're overclocking, XMS is a bit overkill, but at $128 that's a steal. The timing's great.


I agree with logainofhades. If you can, go for the AM2 system. You'll have better upgradability.
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June 22, 2006 4:13:32 PM

Thanks guys for the info and advice! I'm going to take another look at AM2 and Conroe, and add a new PS to the upgrade list (I have been looking at a 550W Rosewill unit). The HD is relatively recent so I am going to likely keep it for now.

On AM2 vs Conroe. My key concerns with both these are the growing pains that will likely be associated with being an early adopter. AM2 in particular I have new concerns about what I have read regarding DDR2, stock fan noise, etc. Conroe indeed is looking more and more intriguing.
June 22, 2006 4:23:49 PM

I'm getting a Conroe myself. Intel is not known for having flaky releases. They could prove me wrong, but I'm willing to chance it :) 

My only concern would be chipset/BIOS, but I'm going giga-byte and an Intel Chipset.

Rumors are abound that Conroe will run on a heat sink alone. There are fan-less, heat pipe CPU sinks out there that will chew through 50W and less with no problems.

I'm going water-cooling tho. I'm going to overclock it until it's red-hot and smoke bellows from the socket :) 
June 22, 2006 4:53:48 PM

the only criticism i would make is to the choice of cpu i would personally put a 3800+ in there over a 3200+ i think it would be worth the extra £50 and yes i would buy a new 80GB hard drive ( not expensive at all)then you dont have to completly destroy your old box and it can still be used to play deathmatch Quake 3 and RA2 multiplayer is awesome but thats my 2 cents
July 25, 2006 9:20:11 PM

Thanks for all the replies from everyone - here's one more round with upgrades based on recommendations. With AMD's latest price cuts, the AMD dual core CPUs seem competitive with Intel's Conroe on the price-performance front and I'm still leaning heavily towards going with an AMD system especially given availability of the lower end Conroe's plus the expense of good MBs for Conroe.

Here are the latest components, w/ approx price estimates:

ASUS M2N-E Socket AM2 - $97
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Socket AM2 - $169
CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) - $178 (rebate)
WD Caviar SE16 WD3200KS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s - $95 (rebate)
connect3D 3056 Radeon X1900XT 512MB GDDR3 - $289 (rebate)
RAIDMAX RX-630 Power Supply - $40 (rebate)

Dirk
July 30, 2006 6:48:11 PM

Hey guys - I just pulled the trigger on this - wish me luck :) 
Made one change to the components - swapped the video card to a HIS x1800GTO IceQ3 model. Also waiting to try out the stock CPU cooler, may spring for an aftermarket Zalman unit.

https://secure.newegg.com/NewVersion/WishList/MySavedWi...
!