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System Upgrade Recommendations

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August 25, 2006 10:32:13 PM

G'day,

I've got a 4 year old system that I built for my wife's use that I would like to upgrade into a reasonable gaming machine without starting from scratch or interfering with the general usefulness of the machine.

I'd like to use the existing case, HDD, DVD ROM and other peripherals and just replace the Mobo, Processor, RAM, video card. I suspect that I will need to also upgrade the P/S.

The current inventory is as follows:
HDD
WDC WD2500JB-00REA0 - 250GB
ST380021A - 80GB
VIDEO
NVIDIA GeForce3 Ti 200
PROCESSOR
AMD4 Athlon 1.1GHz, 200MHz FSB (yes, 200MHz)
MEMORY
768GB PC 3200
SOUND
On Board sound
MoBo
Shuttle AK31V3.1 ATX
P/S
Unknown 300W
CASE
Unknown ATX

I'm not interested in overclocking or exotic cooling.
The current case has one 80mm fan with space for 2 more, air cooling only. Noise might be an issue.

The sound card is not a big deal to me. I've got a set of satellite speakers with a sub that I'll use.

My screen is native resolution of 12x10 so I really don't need anything higher than that. I'm looking for reasonable frame rates for game playing - probably about 30fps if I can get it. Some of you may have retired systems that would fit my needs.

It doesn't have to be the latest and greatest and I'd like to keep the upgrade cost reasonable $600-ish but definatley <$1,000.

Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Ski
August 26, 2006 4:00:14 AM

Ok lets see here:

PSU: Antec Truepower II 550W- $89

Motherboard: Asus M2N-E- $95

RAM: Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 CAS 4- $259

Video Card: 7600GT ($150) DX10 card in December

CPU: X2-3800+ ($150) now .. 65nm CPU in December.

Total- $743 now, prolly end up at around 1k in the end.

All of the is rough prices from Newegg. The RAM needs to be what I suggested exactly (best performance for AM2) the rest, pretty much up to you. You can get away with a single core 3000/3500+ now easily for around $90 and upgrade to dual core in December.
August 26, 2006 11:28:33 AM

Quote:
.. 65nm CPU in December.


Where did you get that info from?? ive been trying to look it up but every article is more vague than the last one.

Quote:

RAM: Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 CAS 4- $259

The RAM needs to be what I suggested exactly (best performance for AM2)


Could he get the 5400CAS4 and overclock it to 6400 to offer the same performance??
Related resources
August 26, 2006 2:13:28 PM

Quote:
.. 65nm CPU in December.


Where did you get that info from?? ive been trying to look it up but every article is more vague than the last one.

Quote:

RAM: Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800 CAS 4- $259

The RAM needs to be what I suggested exactly (best performance for AM2)


Could he get the 5400CAS4 and overclock it to 6400 to offer the same performance??

He could do that, but DDR-800 allows you to overclock better, and wll almost be required for quad-core CPUs.

As for 65nm CPUs in December, AMD has said it publically. (I think I saw it on news.com). They have production samples now running in decent quanities.
August 26, 2006 3:29:17 PM

Quote:


He could do that, but DDR-800 allows you to overclock better, and wll almost be required for quad-core CPUs.

As for 65nm CPUs in December, AMD has said it publically. (I think I saw it on news.com). They have production samples now running in decent quanities.


I cant seem to find it in news.com, do you remmber the code name for a google search??
August 26, 2006 3:34:24 PM

Quote:


He could do that, but DDR-800 allows you to overclock better, and wll almost be required for quad-core CPUs.

As for 65nm CPUs in December, AMD has said it publically. (I think I saw it on news.com). They have production samples now running in decent quanities.


I cant seem to find it in news.com, do you remmber the code name for a google search??

One: http://www.techspot.com/news/22163-more-details-emerge-on-amds-move-to-65nm-cpus.html

Nice that Sempron is going to DDR2-800 support too!

Two: http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/cpu/display/20060515053242.html
Four this year :) 

Three:
http://www.vr-zone.com/?i=3643
August 26, 2006 4:19:23 PM

Quote:


He could do that, but DDR-800 allows you to overclock better, and wll almost be required for quad-core CPUs.

As for 65nm CPUs in December, AMD has said it publically. (I think I saw it on news.com). They have production samples now running in decent quanities.


I cant seem to find it in news.com, do you remmber the code name for a google search??

One: http://www.techspot.com/news/22163-more-details-emerge-on-amds-move-to-65nm-cpus.html

Nice that Sempron is going to DDR2-800 support too!

Two: http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/cpu/display/20060515053242.html
Four this year :) 

Three:
http://www.vr-zone.com/?i=3643

man i see a pattern and I dont like it... the thing is that I dont live in the states and I MUST have my next build ready by dec 20th (a relative will bring it to me in that date). And according to this the processors will be buyable in JANUARY. Oh well... seems like ill get screwed...
August 26, 2006 4:55:38 PM

Duck,

Thanks for the wonderfully concise answer, just what I was looking for.

Now for the $64 question: Is it possible to make the suggested changes without having to totally restore all of the apps on my C: drive? I moved from Houston to Milwaukee about 8 months ago and almost all of my software CD's were lost. I do have XP and Office but I lost a lot of other stuff that I'd rather not buy again.....

Thanks for the help,
Ski
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2006 5:37:58 PM

An alternative list also from NewEgg:

$110 MSI P965 Neo-F Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard
$193 E6300 Conroe Core 2 Duo
$90 G.SKILL 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5400) Dual Channel Kit CAS-4
$40 Thermaltake Silent PurePower TT-420AD(DUAL FAN) ATX 420W Power Supply
$155 MSI Geforce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI-E x16 (price is after $20 rebate)
$588 (after the rebate is applied)

As for the $64 question.
WinXP OS wraps itself up pretty tightly with the system hardware - drivers are just part of the issue. I have a bad feeling that any significant hardware upgrade like you're looking at will have a problem with trying to just swap the hard disks. I think the problems can be overcome... but you'd better have a bootable CD or Floppy handy.
August 26, 2006 6:04:29 PM

Quote:
Duck,

Thanks for the wonderfully concise answer, just what I was looking for.

Now for the $64 question: Is it possible to make the suggested changes without having to totally restore all of the apps on my C: drive? I moved from Houston to Milwaukee about 8 months ago and almost all of my software CD's were lost. I do have XP and Office but I lost a lot of other stuff that I'd rather not buy again.....

Thanks for the help,
Ski


WR2 answered the $64 dollar question pretty well. There is one workaround, that works about 60% of the time. Post or PM when you are ready to build, and I will share it with you. (Don't want to post it here- because its other complex and involves the registry.)
August 26, 2006 8:10:54 PM

I suspected as much - I know that XP is pretty insididous.

I guess, from what I've read, that I'd lean toward the dual core Intel although I've had very good luck with AMD in past builds.

Thanks again,
Ski
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 26, 2006 8:46:46 PM

If you do prefer to stay with AMD you could look at:

$187 AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2
$77 MSI K9N Neo-F AM2 nForce 550 MCP ATX

That would be about $40 less then the E6300 combo.
If you went with the Athlon 64 X2 4600+ it would be about $40 more than the E6300.

Performance wise they pretty much stack up according to price.
August 26, 2006 10:54:54 PM

Since you will be swapping the MB, Win will need to be reinstalled. However, it's worth trying a "repair" install of Win XP on the original hard drive (might as well try the simple things first!).
*Before* you last shut down your current system, uninstall any video drivers, video card utility programs, audio drivers, and audio utility programs. Once you have constructed you new system, set the boot order to boot from CD before hard disk, and boot from the WinXP CD. The install program should give you the option of doing a "repair" installation in-place on your original hard disk. If this works, don't forget to install any additional drivers for the new MB and video card. Your previous program installs will then hopefully still work.
August 27, 2006 3:44:05 AM

WR2,

I tooka look at the MSI MoBo that you originally recommended (MSI P965 Neo-F Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965) and it seems to be pretty roundly panned in the Newegg reviews.

Any other suggestions/vendors to consider?

Thanks,
Brent
August 27, 2006 2:20:31 PM

Quote:
WR2,

I tooka look at the MSI MoBo that you originally recommended (MSI P965 Neo-F Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965) and it seems to be pretty roundly panned in the Newegg reviews.

Any other suggestions/vendors to consider?

Thanks,
Brent



Newegg reviews are pointless. Ignore them.
August 27, 2006 6:51:48 PM

Mondoman,

That sounds like a worthwhile stategery - thanks,

Ski
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 27, 2006 7:06:45 PM

It's always worthwhile to get multiple opinions but you do tend to hear more from people with problems. The happy campers are much less likely to take the time and trouble to write a review.

Here is a MSI P965 Neo-F product review for you to check out.
These types of reviews tend to be a little more balanced (and informational) than the NewEgg reviews.

http://www.hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?id=1987&cid=6&pg=1

The next step up in motherboards would probably be the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 @ $153
Review here: http://www.hardwarezone.com/articles/view.php?cid=6&id=2025
August 27, 2006 9:30:48 PM

Quote:

MEMORY
768GB PC 3200


haha i wish
768 gigs?
lol
August 28, 2006 3:13:53 PM

Are boards with dual IDE channels a thing of the past? I've got two HDDs and a CDROM, all of which are IDE. I hate trying to route a 3 position IDE cable but I guess I can make it work.

How much concern should I have with cooling this rig? Should I expect to add fans to both of the open positions on my case? Any recommendations for quite fans?

Thanks again,
Ski
August 28, 2006 3:19:27 PM

Quote:
Are boards with dual IDE channels a thing of the past? I've got two HDDs and a CDROM, all of which are IDE. I hate trying to route a 3 position IDE cable but I guess I can make it work.

How much concern should I have with cooling this rig? Should I expect to add fans to both of the open positions on my case? Any recommendations for quite fans?

Thanks again,
Ski


If you want to use all the drives buy a cheap $20 IDE PCI card. Much better than a 3 cable solution. Or you can buy adapters to use the IDE drives on an SATA channel.
August 30, 2006 3:01:29 PM

Quote:
An alternative list also from NewEgg:

$110 MSI P965 Neo-F Socket T (LGA 775) Intel P965 Express ATX Intel Motherboard
$193 E6300 Conroe Core 2 Duo
$90 G.SKILL 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5400) Dual Channel Kit CAS-4
$40 Thermaltake Silent PurePower TT-420AD(DUAL FAN) ATX 420W Power Supply
$155 MSI Geforce 7600GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI-E x16 (price is after $20 rebate)
Quote:


I'm leaning toward the above configuration but will probably go for 2 GB on memory and then OC the processor to about 3GHz. Based on what I've read this processor is pretty easy to OC.

Should I be considering an after-market cooler for the processor?

Also, from a gaming standpoint where is the performance bottleneck of this system?

Thanks for all the help.
Ski
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 31, 2006 4:40:07 AM

Taking the E6300 from 1.83Ghz to 3.0Ghz is really agressive. That would mean bumping the FSB up from 266 to 428 or so. I know there are lots of reports of E6300s reaching 3+Ghz but not everyone will be able to safely do that. Pushing to E6700 speeds (2.66Ghz) would be a 380 FSB overclock.
I think thats about where you'd need to consider replacing the stock HSF.
Pushing the E6300 to X6800 (2.93Ghz 60% faster than stock E6300) would mean a 418 FSB and would still be an amazing value.

-> The bigger issue is for that type of overclock the MSI P965 Neo-F isn't the right board. Right now the bios is limited to reaching a FSB of 333 and the E6300 has a stock (& locked) multiplier of 7. 333 * 7 = 2.33Ghz (E6600 is 2.4Ghz) or about 30%. An E6400 would go to 2.66Ghz (333*8 = E6700 speed) or 45% above the stock E6300. Most people think the next MSI bios release will raise the limit. There are 965 and 975 motherboards that can handle the higher FSBs required to flirt with 3Ghz

So if you really do want to move beyond "reasonable gaming" to "insanely fast" gaming you probably want to look at other motherboards.

You mentioned you play games @ 1280x1024. Even so from a gaming perspective the video card would be the limiting factor in the most demading games these days. Games will be playable but you may want/need to sacrifice some eyecandy (AA/AF for example) to get higher framerates. The 7600GT is fine for "reasonable gaming" but you may want to rethink what is "reasonable gaming" in your opinion (and budget).

You can reach "insanely fast" still stay under $1000.
An upgraded list might look like this:
$153 Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 (FSB 375 * 8 (the 6400 multi) = 3.0Ghz)
$237 E6400 Conroe Core 2 Duo
$236 XFX Geforce 7900GT (after $40 rebate)
$40 Thermaltake Silent PurePower 420W PSU
$170 G.SKILL 2GB DDR2 667 (PC2 5400)
$40 Scythe SCNJ-1000P Ninja HSF
or about $876 for an upgrade to move into that "insanely fast" category.

You'd need to make sure your current case has clearance for the new MB/HSF case fan combo. And be sure you're confortable with installing an aftermarket HSF. Of course there are other HSF options as well.
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 31, 2006 5:38:52 AM

I found a GA-965P-DS3 & E6400 review that said:
The Gigabytes GA-965P-DS3 ran our Intel E6400 (8x *266 = 2.13GHz stock) stable at 400MHz FSB, or 3.2GHz with no voltage adjustments to the MB, and only a .02v increase in CPU vcore.
http://www.hardwarelogic.com/news/129/ARTICLE/1257/12/2006-08-17.html

I also did see a few references that might indicate that the G.SKILL PC2 5400 may not be the best match for agressive overclocking. My experiance doesn't go much beyond mild-moderate overclocking. This maybe a good time to to start a new topic with the your latest idea on what you want to do with your upgrade and see what some other people feel about the upgrade list.
August 31, 2006 2:22:06 PM

Thanks for dope slap WR2,

I had read a review that made it seem that reaching 3GHz on a 6300 was not really a push but it was with the Gigabyte board that you listed. I am not willing to sacrifice stability for speed on this system so, if I OC at all, I will keep it mild.

Would the XFX GeForce 7900GT make much difference without the "insanely fast" changes?

Thanks again,
Ski
August 31, 2006 3:10:35 PM

Quote:
Thanks for dope slap WR2,


Would the XFX GeForce 7900GT make much difference without the "insanely fast" changes?

Thanks again,
Ski


When looking for fast gaming you will always see more improvement when you put more cash into your 1. Graphics card, 2. RAM
Most current games, with the exception of quake4 platform, do not even take advantage of dual processors yet.
So in answer to your question yes, you will see massive improvements going with the 7900gt, as you would if you increased that to a 7900gtx

IMO your best option for the price would be to go with an ATI card such as
x1800xt $210
or
x1900xt $275
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 31, 2006 3:27:43 PM

It's all a question of (1)how much speed you want/need and (2)how much you want to spend.
While 3Ghz would be perhaps too agressive on a MSI P965 Neo-F on the GA-965P-DS3 it would be considered moderate (IMO). Thats the tradeoff between price/performance. Stability should be good for both boards - a major reason the MSI is bios limited to FSB333 is probably to ensure stability - since its not likely a hardware limitation. And FSB 333 and DDR2667 gives you that ideal 1:1 ratio. The GA-965P-DS3 gives you more bios options to overclock the FSB / RAM to have the option to maintain 1:1 ratio at higher clock speeds.

If you played games at 1600x1200 (or above) and just cant live without AA/AF I'd say the 7900GT would be a no-brainer. At 12x10 its a closer call - again based on price/performance.
This THG article shows a 7600GT to 7900GT review (it's really a X1900XT review)
(besides FEAR, they show Black&White, Oblivion game benchmarks)
http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/08/09/a_tale_of_two_gts/page7.html

My personal PC philosopy is buying mid-range performance so I don't need a mid-life upgrade and buying a new system in 2 years. The 2 yr old system gets handed down to family members. I usually get to build 2or3 systems a year for family and friends almost evenly split between budget and gaming PCs. Im waiting to see some nVidia Conroe 590/570 motherboards to start arriving before I buy my next PC.
a c 90 B Homebuilt system
August 31, 2006 3:55:14 PM

A second 7600GT vs 7900GT review with many more gaming benchmarks.
Very good in-depth comparison of the these cards IMO
BFG GeForce 7600 GT & 7900 GT OC
August 31, 2006 5:20:12 PM

Here is another nice review I figured I would toss in here for the
X1950XTX cards due to hit early september.
!