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Going to Dual Core ... Is this money well spent?

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July 23, 2007 11:35:42 PM

I've got an ASRock Dual-SATA2 Socket 939 mobo that's a little over a year old. I've got an AMD 3500 CPU and 2GB DDR 400 RAM in it and and ATI X1800 512 MB video card plus a SB X-F1 sound card. I'm generally pretty happy with my performance. I can run games like FEAR, Flight Sim 2004, Tomb Raider Anniv., GRAW all at very high graphics settings and usually at 1650x1080 resolution.

My plans to go to Vista are not immediate and will be most likely dependent on a DX10 game coming out that I really want to play. In the meantime I'm happy with XP and DX9 and my current setup. However, I've noticed some games like BioShock and World in Conflict that are supporting Dual Cores now. I see on the benchmark comparisons that I might see as much as 3x the speed increase if I goto a dual core 4200 chip in a game like Supreme Commander which supports dual cores.

With Bioshock on my to buy list I'm thinking I might need that dual core to get performance like I'm used to. And with the 4200 X2 CPU selling for $90 it almost sounds like a worthwhile purchase. The catch being that the 4200 runs at the same speed as my 3500 (2.2GHz) so I'm not likely to notice much improvement on my current games.

And the real hold back is wondering if this purchase would server me well for the next 1.5 years or so after switching to Vista? Or will the 4200 be considered a bottom of the barrel dual core chip by this time next year when all the DX10 only games are coming out?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

More about : dual core money spent

a b V Motherboard
July 24, 2007 12:08:24 AM

While it's not going to be huge jump in your current games, actually you will see some improvement, as the dual core will handle your background programs and windows resources much better at the same time the game is running. You can probably even overclock the 4200 X2 to 2.4 ghz very easily to gain just a little more. I went from a 3200+ to a X2 4600, cranked it up to 2.8ghz, and my old 3200+ does not even compare. For $90, i'd say it's a worthwhile upgrade to get another year out of your 939 board at least. The dual core will pair much better with newer games, and a DX10 card later when you toss one of them into the mix. Better grab one while you can, they are disappearing fast, and another year IS quite a ways off.........I'd just do it and never look back.
July 24, 2007 12:38:31 AM

I wouldn't recommend it, at least not yet.

You can save a lot of time, money, and worries by just upgrading when you need to. If you get BioShock (or any title you're anticipating eagerly) and find that you're not getting as many frames as you'd like, then start looking around for upgrades.

As a general rule, processors will get cheaper over time. When you decide you need an upgrade, that X2 4200 might cost even less, or prices on other chips like C2Ds will have dropped enough to make a whole new build worth your money.
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July 24, 2007 1:09:03 AM

a dual core upgrade will in the least make your system more responsive (you can pretty much say goodbye to applications stalling during loading and such), even if it doesnt benefit most other games immediately (most likely you wont see a tremendous boost in most games, regardless of which dual core you have). a dual core is definetly worth it in the long run though (even beyond 1.5 years from now, and it wont by any means be slow, even then)... and as was stated, if youre not happy with the stock performance, feel free to boost the clock speed by a few hundred MHz without needing to increase the voltage either, its basically a fairly hassle free overclock. and if you do happen to be a bit more daring, you can attempt to tweak your BIOS settings for a more substantial OC. (be wary of increasing the cpu voltage above 1.5v though, as you risk damaging the chip then, but below that is pretty safe)

either way though, for $90 you certainly cant go wrong if it can extend the life of your current system by a few more years.
July 24, 2007 2:07:31 AM

I just picked up a 3800 X2 to replace my 3200, yes they run at the same frequency but after the dual core optimizer, windows is faster starting up/shutting down, logging off, etc...also programs start faster. If you're into folding, it'll allow you to get double the work done! My $69 was well spent on this processor; you will probably agree once you drop the X2 into your system and watch it fly.

Another thing, these processors might not be readily available for you to buy soon, so it's good to snatch one up before they're gone.
July 24, 2007 2:25:36 AM

I was thinking the same thing, getting a 3800+ x2 or so to prolong my system. Do u have to reinstall windows once u switch out the cpu's? thanks
July 24, 2007 4:02:54 AM

no need to reinstall, the most that might be needed is updating the acpi driver from uni processor to multi processor, and possibly a motherboard bios update if the cpu isnt detected correctly after installing it
July 24, 2007 12:21:46 PM

Thanks for the advice guys. Based on your advice and the fact that this machine will be in the family for a long while as a hand-me-down to my wife or kids, I decided to go for the X2.

I've replaced CPUs before so I'm not concerned about the installation but I wanted to double check that I should install the AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual Core Processor Driver for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 Version (x86 and x64 exe) 1.3.2.16 even though this driver isn't listed on the ASRock website as an update for my board.

Also, should I install the AMD Dual-Core Optimizer from AMD as well?
a b V Motherboard
July 24, 2007 12:44:32 PM

It should just be a drop in replacement. Install the new X2, boot into XP.
You should get a "new hardware detected" thing that runs for a minute and it will ask you to reboot. After the reboot, you should show 2 cpu graphs in your task manager, and 2 cpus in device manager. Install the AMD dual core optimizer and you are good to go. It's that simple, don't worry the ASCI driver and stuff unless Windows does not detect and install the processor automatically.
July 24, 2007 12:50:26 PM

Another thing, after installing the processor only download the AMD dual core optimizer or windows dual core update, but not both. If your cpu is currently overclocked you will want to set the cmos back to the defaults so it doesn't apply the overclocked settings to your new processor.
a b V Motherboard
July 24, 2007 1:17:01 PM

Absolutely money well spent. Given your current set-up and today's prices, I would go for the fastest dual core Skt 939 that your mobo can take.

And given you are not in rush to load Vista and are waiting for DX10 games, the most else you would need to upgrade in the next 1.5-2 years is your gpu to a DX10 card when they do hit the market.
July 27, 2007 12:38:00 PM

Well I've got the new CPU (4200 X2) installed and all is well.

I popped it in, booted up, and Windows updated the device drivers and asked me to reboot.

After the reboot I tested some games ... FEAR ran fine but didn't really show any speed improvement. I didn't expect to see anything as it's been reported to not use the dual cores very well if at all. Then I tried to run the World in Conflict demo as I know it uses dual cores but it crashed when trying to run the 3D graphics.

I decided I probably needed to install the lasted AMD Dual core drivers, so I did. After than WIC ran just fine and I saw as much as 50% increase in speed over me old 3500 single core in the benchmark test! That is reassuring.

After that I tested a few more games (FS2004, Transformers) neither of which showed an improvement that was noticeable but neither are dual core compatible either. I've since installed the AMD optimizer "patch" as well. Things seem to be running smoothly.

All in all I think I'm getting what I expected. Hopefully it'll add just the little boost I need to make future games like Bioshock and maybe Crysis run with some decent graphics and detail settings. Thanks for all your input.
July 27, 2007 1:03:52 PM

Welcome to the multi-core club :) 
!