I currently have a machine that was put together about a year ago and is starting to creak a little, mainly thanks to my new widescreen Samsung 20" display running games @ 1680 x 1050, and turning AA on to anything above 2x can make things chug slightly. I can't really justify a full system upgrade just yet (though I may do so in 6 months or so), so I'm looking to make a couple of cheap tweaks to give the system a small boost in the mean time. I mainly use my PC for gaming. Specs are:
BFG GeForce 7900GT OC
AMD Athlon 64 3500+
2 x 512Mb dual channel Corsair TwinX PC3200 RAM sticks (model 3200C2PT)
Asus A8N-SLI Premium motherboard
Arctic Cooling Freezer 64
Western Digital 160GB SATA150 7200RPM 16MB Cache
Antec Sonata II case w/ 450W SmartPower PSU
* I'm not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to PCs; this is only the second machine I've built (the first was just a super budget workstation while I was at uni) and I am yet to try my hand at overclocking anything (though it is something I'd be interested in). Is there much potential for overclocking any of these components? How about any OC-able upgrades?
* I'd imagine 1GB of RAM is a possible bottleneck, as perhaps is the processor. For RAM, I can get this OCZ Platinum (assuming it comes back into stock) for Â£28 with the Google Checkout rebate and no VAT via the company account. Will I get any significant performance loss by mixing two matched pairs from different manufacturers? If that would cause me problems, another pair of my Corsair TwinX is available but will be a fair bit more at Â£54. The only other alternative I can find is some Crucial Ballistix at Â£45.
* For the processor, a new socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 4200+ can be found for about Â£80 on eBay. The going rate for a new X2 3800+ seems to be about Â£55 on eBay or the few stores that still sell them. Bearing in mind I will probably upgrade the entire system to Quad Core or something in 6-12 months, would either of these interim processor upgrades make much difference to my gaming? I guess the real question here is whether the 3500+ is likely to be bottlenecking me right now, and if not will it significantly bottleneck me on forthcoming titles such as Crysis, Bioshock, Hellgate etc?
* I know my motherboard can do SLI but I don't really see this as being a good option. A used 7900GT is still close to Â£100 on eBay which seems a bit too much considering DX10 is here, plus I doubt my 450W PSU could handle 2 x 7900GTs. I think I'd be better off saving money on this front and going down the DX10 route in a few months. Would you guys agree?
You would most likely get marginal increases in performance from increasing RAM or getting a better processor. You might want to OC the processor, you should be able to get a nice increase there, although will most likely only have a marginal increase in game play.
You also should be able to OC the video card and get some direct increase in game performance. Beyond that, it's time for a new card. Since you already have the 7900 GT, the only reasonable upgrade is to the 8800 - and if budget concious the 320MB version - although this will still run almost $300.
If you are considering a new system in 6 months or so, it might be best to try a little OC on processor and card and wait on rest for the system upgrade.
I used to have a 3700+ CPU. I bought a second hand X2 4200 on Ebay and upped my RAM to 1.5GB. Good improvement, but it ues 20W more power than the 3700+ and my Freezer64 does not allow an overclock, as core temp stabilises at 62C on full load. I am thinking of getting a Ninja cooler to allow an overclock. I was able to OC my 3700+ by 20%. Try dropping HT multiplier to 4, upping speed to 240 and drop memory speed to 166, it worked great for me.