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Build an AMD 939 now? or wait for AM2 & DDR2?

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June 21, 2006 6:34:33 PM

My current computer is at the end of its upgradable rope:
Athlon XP2500 "Barton" @ 1866mhz, 333mhz FSB, 512k L2 Cache, Socket A
Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra w/ VIA KT400
1gb DDR-333 CAS 2 (2-2-2-5-1T Timings)
250gb ATA133 16mb Cache Hard Drive
XFX GF 6600GT AGP 550mhz/1100mhz

Since I built the machine I've upgraded from a GF 4600 to a 6600GT (My card blew up and i needed a new one right away), and I've added another 512mb of RAM for a total of 1gb.

What I kick myself for was buying components that were at the end of a generation of parts, namely the Athlon XP line, Socket A. The barton core is what i have and its basically one of the last socket A processors. I also still have AGP, and now that's being phased out. I bought the AGP 6600GT because my 4600 fried, and i didn't have the money to just trash the old system and build an entirely new PCI-E one (which is what I would have done if the 4600 had died today). My current motherboard is flaky and causes a lot of crashes, so I'm itching to make the leap for a new machine.

I have a summer job now and thus the funds to build almost an entirely new machine. This is what i plan to make:
Athlon 64 3800 "Venice" @ 2.4ghz, 1ghz FSB, 512k L2 Cache, Socket 939
NForce 4 Ultra mobo with PCI-E & SATA 2.0
1gb Dual-Channel DDR-400 CAS 2 (2-2-2-5-1T Timings)
250gb SATA2 16mb Cache Hard Drive
GF 7900GT PCI-E 256mb 520mhz/1540mhz

I'm torn atm.

I see AM2 coming out, but it looks like it is still rough around the edges. I usually go with mid-generation hardware that has more bugs ironed out and performance issues resolved, but still has room to upgrade. But it seems I'm a little late for that phase of this generation of hardware, and I'm again at the tail end of a generation. I really don't want to run into the same problem of not being able to make even small upgrades because I'm stuck with the top end of old hardware.

I'm not very impressed by DDR2, the only way to really get it working well is to buy RAM with good timings (which is what i always do anyway). But that means spending a lot more money. It is mostly DD2 that I'm shying away from, I know that the AM2 CPU's will probably be just fine, and I'm going to get the same video card regardless.

So should I buy the Socket 939 Athlon 64 right now?

Buy AM2 right now, spend the extra cash and live with any bugs or performance issues?

Hold my breath and wait for AM2 to get more refined? If so, how long do you think it will be before DDR2-800 starts becoming better than DDR-400?
June 21, 2006 6:50:39 PM

Don't forget Conroe. I've seen enough benchmarks against AM2 Athlons to build my new rig around Intel's new CPU that is to be released on July 23rd. AMD's next generation CPU, K8L, will most likely come out a year from now.

Going for either AM2 or Conroe means that you will need to buy version 1.0 motherboards that may or may not be 100% stable. S939 Athlons are very mature, and will be phased by the end of the year. Therefore, it is an upgrade dead end. But if you are going to build a PC now and you are not going to upgrade to a new CPU for another 2 - 3 years, then the S939 Athlon is a viable option. After 3 years you may want new hardware anyway.

AMD will be reducing prices on July 24th, the day after Conroe is released.

Me? I'm upgrading from my Athlon XP-M 2600+ to a Conroe E6600 or E6700. Those are the two fastest Conroes excluding the Xtreme Edition.
June 21, 2006 7:00:25 PM

sensible advice.

I don't get Intel as a matter of creed :p  It's simple preference, I need no arguments.


As for the price reduction on the 24th, that's great news and I'm glad you've told me that. I'll definitely wait until then. If I'm lucky the new revision of Mobo's for AM2 will be out by then.

I'm probably going to get a pretty beefy CPU for S939, so I wont be looking to upgrade for a while. By the time I'm ready to upgrade, there may be more support for dual-cores, and those will still be available for S939.

Still seems like a crap shoot... AM2 now and stomach the bugs, option to upgrade or get a S939 thats stable anda dead end... Tough choices!
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June 21, 2006 7:33:19 PM

I would wait and take a look at Conroe as you might get a longer upgrade path and a better bang for your buck. At least for the next 6 to 12 months. If no Intel then imho I would go with tried and true 939 and wait for all the price drops when conroe is released. you could prolly get yourself a pretty sweet setup for on the cheap.
June 22, 2006 12:27:54 PM

I've decided to bite the bullet and go AM2. I've found that there is a way to get my money's worth out of DDR2:
*Get a CPU with a speed divisible by 400, so you can get your DDR2 running at 800mhz (1.6ghz, 2.0ghz, 2.4ghz, 2.8ghz, 3.2ghz and on).
*Run memory in dual-channel to get the most speed out of the system.
*Get a CPU 2.4ghz or higher, the benchmarks show that DDR2 pays off at higher CPU speeds.
*Get memory with tight timings like 4-4-4-12, 4-4-4-10 or 4-4-4-8 (the lower the better

After shopping a lot, I've found that to fulfill the above requirements is only $50 more than the 939 setup:
Kingston HyperX 1GB (2 x 512MB) DDR2-800 Dual Channel Kit
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ @ 2.4ghz Orleans 2000MHz HT Socket AM2
MSI K9N Neo-F Socket AM2 NVIDIA nForce 550

Advice to anyone:
*Always get RAM with tight timings, it is always worth it. For DDR1, go for timings of 2-2-2-5 1T.
June 22, 2006 1:37:24 PM

Just make sure whereever you buy the ram from has a good return policy. The AM2 boards are very picky with the ram at the moment. Most people are having success with Corsair. I've seen people using Mushkin and Patriot, but only a few.
June 22, 2006 6:09:48 PM

Seems the only corsair memory i can find that's CL 4 is in 1gb modules, which means that to get 2 of them for dual channel is $270 - more than I'm willing to spend.

Not that i doubt your wisdom - I've actually had very good experiences with Corsair memory in the past. But i can also say that i've had equal experiences with Kingston. MSI seems to recommend Kingston modules, and seeing as how they are the motherboard manufacturer that I'm probably going with, I think I'll be ok.

I'm buying from NewEgg so they should be good for returns.

I will post again in a month or so when I've built my rig and tell you guys how it went. I know one person has already messaged me wanting to know before he builds a similar system.
June 29, 2006 1:01:37 PM

I put together my AM2 system and it worked flawlessly the first time, absolutely no problems at all:

*CPU: Athlon 64 "Orleans" 3800+ @ 2.4ghz, AM2 ($150)
*MOTHERBOARD: MSI K9N Neo F Nforce 550 ($80)
*VIDEO: eVGA GeForce 7900GT KO OC @ 580mhz/1580mhz, PCI-E ($300)
*MEMORY: 2x512mb Kingston HyperX DDR2-800, Timings 4-4-4-12, running in dual-channel. ($150)
*HARD DRIVE: Maxtor MaxLine III SATA2 250gb, 7200rpm, 16mb cache. ($100)
*PSU: Rosewill Modular 550W, blue chrome finish. ($80)
*MONITOR: Viewsonic VX922 19" LCD, 2ms refresh ($270)
*SOUND: Creative Labs X-Fi ExtremeMusic ($150)
*OPTICAL: NEC 3550-A 16x DVD-RW ($40)

Total rough cost: $1,320
Most of that ($570) is the video card and the monitor.


Video card runs a little hot as it's overclocked out of the box, but still runs great. Tried Windows Vista Beta 2 on this system, runs fast but drivers are not working right, as i expected.

I'm very happy with this system, and amazed that it worked so well the first time. The past few computers I have built needed a lot of troubleshooting before they would work at all.

I don't know much about DDR2 so I'm a bit confused when tweaking the BIOS settings.

As for AM2 being buggy, it absolutely is not.

I expect to upgrade my processor in the future as i opted for a single core this time for the lower cost but also because dual-core isn't supported enough in games for me to spend the extra cash on it. I expect it will be supported more in the future, so i will upgrade eventually.
June 30, 2006 7:13:56 AM

Just a quick update for anyone who might be thining of getting a similar system.

If you have an MSI K9N Motherboard and are having problems...

I realized the RAM was running at half-speed, turning it up to stock speed made it crash like crazy. Updating the BIOS fixed it and now its running at full speed.

The MSI K9N has a passive heatsink on the northbridge, and runs at 170 F. I first thought that this was my problem and put a fan on it, reducing the temperature easily to 118 F. That didn't fix it, but the BIOS update did. I would still reccomend putting a fan on the northbridge, running it that hot will probobly shorten it's lifespan at the very least.
June 30, 2006 12:29:16 PM

A) I don't buy intel.

B) AM2 was just released, describe to me how it is already a dead end for upgrades? I'm unlikely to get much more than a new processor anyhow, and as the socket just came out, i expect that there will be more tan enough upgrade choices.

C) I couldn't contain myself long enough for prices to come down. I had the money and I was really excited to get a new computer (finally). I only spent $150 on the processor, so i doubt i could have gotten it much cheaper anyway.
June 30, 2006 1:33:31 PM

A) I don't buy intel.


LOL...
June 30, 2006 3:59:00 PM

It's my money and my preference, no need to be a jerk. Intel has its merits, and you can buy intel if you like, you won't offend me, I just perfer AMD is all.
June 30, 2006 4:41:51 PM

I have a MSI K9N SLI Platinum and when I first booted it up the ram was at half speed but you just had to go into the bios and set the speed to 800 on your own and did not require a bios update.
June 30, 2006 8:16:25 PM

Quote:
i think you jumped the gun here you will want to be upgrading in a year and a half and will not have a path to do this inexpensivly. i think you should have waited for prices to come down or went with core duo which has a built in upgrade path


Can you be 100% sure that current AM2 and conroe will have upgrade patrh in 1 and half year?

On the other hand, can you be 100% sure they won't have upgrade path in one year and half?

At least, he's enjoying his new computer now, not just waiting and dreaming for it...
July 1, 2006 7:16:27 PM

when i went in and set it to 800, with the timings set to 4-4-4-12, it wouldn't boot. After the BIOS update, it did.
July 2, 2006 7:15:49 PM

Quote:
My current computer is at the end of its upgradable rope:
Athlon XP2500 "Barton" @ 1866mhz, 333mhz FSB, 512k L2 Cache, Socket A
Gigabyte GA-7VAXP Ultra w/ VIA KT400
1gb DDR-333 CAS 2 (2-2-2-5-1T Timings)
250gb ATA133 16mb Cache Hard Drive
XFX GF 6600GT AGP 550mhz/1100mhz

Since I built the machine I've upgraded from a GF 4600 to a 6600GT (My card blew up and i needed a new one right away), and I've added another 512mb of RAM for a total of 1gb.

What I kick myself for was buying components that were at the end of a generation of parts, namely the Athlon XP line, Socket A. The barton core is what i have and its basically one of the last socket A processors. I also still have AGP, and now that's being phased out. I bought the AGP 6600GT because my 4600 fried, and i didn't have the money to just trash the old system and build an entirely new PCI-E one (which is what I would have done if the 4600 had died today). My current motherboard is flaky and causes a lot of crashes, so I'm itching to make the leap for a new machine.

I have a summer job now and thus the funds to build almost an entirely new machine. This is what i plan to make:
Athlon 64 3800 "Venice" @ 2.4ghz, 1ghz FSB, 512k L2 Cache, Socket 939
NForce 4 Ultra mobo with PCI-E & SATA 2.0
1gb Dual-Channel DDR-400 CAS 2 (2-2-2-5-1T Timings)
250gb SATA2 16mb Cache Hard Drive
GF 7900GT PCI-E 256mb 520mhz/1540mhz

I'm torn atm.

I see AM2 coming out, but it looks like it is still rough around the edges. I usually go with mid-generation hardware that has more bugs ironed out and performance issues resolved, but still has room to upgrade. But it seems I'm a little late for that phase of this generation of hardware, and I'm again at the tail end of a generation. I really don't want to run into the same problem of not being able to make even small upgrades because I'm stuck with the top end of old hardware.

I'm not very impressed by DDR2, the only way to really get it working well is to buy RAM with good timings (which is what i always do anyway). But that means spending a lot more money. It is mostly DD2 that I'm shying away from, I know that the AM2 CPU's will probably be just fine, and I'm going to get the same video card regardless.

So should I buy the Socket 939 Athlon 64 right now?

Buy AM2 right now, spend the extra cash and live with any bugs or performance issues?

Hold my breath and wait for AM2 to get more refined? If so, how long do you think it will be before DDR2-800 starts becoming better than DDR-400?


I just built a 939 rig with the fact in mind that I would be able to upgrade cheaper with the intoduction of next gen technology. All the 939 cpu's and such will definitely drop in price really quickly, so what was top dollar/top of the line I can get for mid-range prices soon. With top of the line 939 I can get a solid 2-3 years out of a system before I want to upgrade and hopefully by then have all the main issues worked out with Conroe and AM2. And AMD will have introduced 65nm tech and quad core processors.
July 3, 2006 10:18:22 AM

not really my business, but what was wrong with your old system? did you just upgrade, just because you can?
July 3, 2006 10:30:16 AM

Quote:
I'm buying from NewEgg so they should be good for returns.



have you tried to return something to newegg? you have to complain left and right to them in order to get the restocking fee waved. so no, they are not great for returns. they are a great place though, but not returns.
July 3, 2006 10:34:48 AM

I find it a silly lazy habit to restrict one's self to only buying from one store.

Newegg is a great place, but often just searching sites like TD, Mwave, zipzoomfly, etc. can get you prices that undercut newegg's prices sometimes as much as 20 - 30%. This isnt even factorying in sites that search these, and other sites such as froogle, pricegrabber, pricewatch, etc.

Search around, you might be able to upgrade a lot further with a little effort.
July 3, 2006 10:36:15 AM

Quote:
I find it a silly lazy habit to restrict one's self to only buying from one store.

Newegg is a great place, but often just searching sites like TD, Mwave, zipzoomfly, etc. can get you prices that undercut newegg's prices sometimes as much as 20 - 30%. This isnt even factorying in sites that search these, and other sites such as froogle, pricegrabber, pricewatch, etc.

Search around, you might be able to upgrade a lot further with a little effort.


too late, he already did the upgrade
July 4, 2006 7:20:43 PM

I upgraded mostly because my computer's motherboard was kind of broken. I belive the memory controller was screwed up - I ran some diagnostics on my memory and came up with the same errors on both sticks of memory. But when i put the memory in another computer they were fine.

My computer had been bluescreening like CRAZY... was driving me nuts.

So instead of replacing an old KT400 motherboard (repacling motherboards are a pain in the ass) I decided to wait until i got a summer job and do a full overhaul. Since I'm making good money atm, i figured it would be a good time to upgrade.

Alot of the new games coming out didnt run all that well on my old computer, namely Rise of Legends. Dawn of War didn't run that great either.

As far as NewEgg goes, When buying single parts i usualyl shop around alot. But I've noticed that when buying alot of parts at the same time, another place might have one component cheaper, but then a bunch of others are more expensive. Even though NewEgg might be a bit more expensive on a few things, overall they are usually more consistant, and therefore I save money buying an entire system from them. Plus, if i order from 5-6 places to get the best deals, any money i'm saving is counteracted by the shipping i have to pay.
July 4, 2006 11:44:11 PM

I'm in the same boat as you, 2500+ barton, looking to upgrade to 3800+.

I am leaning towards the 939 upgrade path over the AM2. Everyone keeps saying "wait until July 24th" to get reduced pricing. However, every pricing estimate (post 24th) I have seen shows the 3800 at $150 or so, but the processor is already $139 on zipzoomfly. Is the price likely to drop more if I wait until July 24th? Is a better processor going to drop low enough to be a better value/peformance (ie 3800+ x2)?
July 7, 2006 12:56:25 PM

It depends on what you're doing, but I don't consider 3800 X2 to be more performance than a plain 3800.

If you are playing games like i am, most/all games (currently) will only ever use 1 core. The 3800 X2 is 2x2.0ghz cores, which means for games that will only use 1 core, you're only getting 2ghz. The 3800 vanilla is 2.4ghz. So for single-core applications, the non-x2 has more power.

The only thing that i can think of that would make the x2 faster for gaming is that the other core will likely handle all your background applications and windows, leaving your one core you are using for the game more free cycles. I'm not sure about that though, depends how smart the load-balancing is.

All i know, is i was unwilling to pay more than twice as much money for an X2 that might in fact be slower for gaming than the single-core version. I plan to get an X2 when they A)come down in price B)have more support in games. It's likely that B will cause A, as demand will increase, production will increase, and so price will drop.
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