Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

How to Spend Money on Component Upgrades

Last response: in Systems
Share
August 23, 2007 3:00:25 PM

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/08/23/how_to_spend_money_on_component_upgrades/index.html

The time for an upgrade may be now. Next-generation platforms are still a year away, and in the meantime, upgrading certain components can help to limber up your two-year old system for another year.
August 23, 2007 3:43:56 PM

Hm.... wow. This is almost exactly what I was looking at. xD

I have a 939 3500+ (Albeit a venice core, so the power savings would be null) and was actually looking at the X2 4200 and a 320GB hard drive for a cheap upgrade. The video card is good for a while longer, as I have an x1900xt, and 2 gigs of RAM already.

Seems like a good idea to me, at least, to upgrade. >>
August 23, 2007 4:03:53 PM

Nice article - I enjoyed it.

FYI - The article mentions using the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500 GB SATA hard drive for all three upgrades, but the test setup and benchmarks also show the WD7500AAKS.

Also under test setup, "Graphics Card II" lists the 8600 GTS but I think the GPU and RAM are incorrect.

Related resources
August 23, 2007 4:55:33 PM

I actually did this recently, getting an x2 and a 2nd gb of ram for my aging system.

I did run into a problem though, and its important to mention to those who plan to do the same thing. The new ram that I bought was incompatible with the ram I already had, despite the same speed and timings. Either set of ram worked fine on its own, just not together. So either buy 2x512 of what you had before, or take your chances and try to match every spec (speed, timings, voltage).
August 23, 2007 5:15:52 PM

I had a little question would the 8600 GTS be good enough for 16x10 resolution?
August 23, 2007 6:27:16 PM

Wow, this is almost exactly what I had going on...But I already had a 74GB raptor with my 3500+ and had (and still have) a 6800GT in my main computer.

I can certainly vouch for the improved performance just moving up from a 3500+ to an 4200 X2. I was going to get a new card from this years mid-range, but the 8600 series and the HD2600 just don't have enough power to justify really moving up from an old 6800GT.

Oh, and BTW, I had to ditch the Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe board because it was the worst board I had ever had to deal with...finally, I made the mistake of leaving it on overnight and the chipset fan died and fried the Northbridge...Terrible board, just terrible. I recommend if you have that board I would think about abandoning S939 altogether when upgrading.
August 23, 2007 6:28:28 PM

:love:  You got everything except mainboard & processor & Vista Ultimate. Seriously 6400+ BlackBox is THE bargin or await integrated 4 core penryn, barc may be best inst set? certainly 690 minmum, better 790, there are few or X38, also few. Or await penryns need for new bios chip & grab that you cann't go high enough & higherU GO more you'll know few weeks make real display dif no matter useage.

Signed:p HYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART VON DRASHEK M.D.
August 23, 2007 8:03:38 PM

I can't even bash the authors for this one, something with tests and purpose! Wow.

Seriously, though. You should've included something that used the 2GB RAM option, maybe X2 4200+, 2GB RAM, 8600GTS. Sounds about the best option. Looks like your Seagate gained ~20% over the 250GB. Let's assume the user doesn't need 250GB and is happy with those transfer rates. How would that setup compare?

Oh, and instead of running the single threaded version of LAME on a dual core then saying "There is a multi-core version available," why not actually use the mult-core version? Maybe there is only a 10% boost from the SMP version, maybe it's the full 100%. I'd like to know.
August 23, 2007 8:24:11 PM

What do you think should I upgrade my system now, or wait for the new Phenom processors.? (socket A, Agp, Sempron 2600+, 9550)
August 23, 2007 9:11:18 PM

Socket A? Thats far too old for upgrading in a cost efficient way. I'd build a new system now while prices are low. New stuff may be on the way by the time next year rolls around but it probably won't be very affordable until much later.
a b B Homebuilt system
August 23, 2007 9:47:16 PM

Good article

@ Peet - Thats alittle too old to upgrade, but when u build a new one in the future you have something to play with linux(if thats your thing, or u want to learn) and fold on :) 
August 24, 2007 12:42:53 AM

A good article. With short-term upgrade fixes.

I especially liked the following statement:

"I personally don't like the idea of spending so much money on upgrades, as an entirely new system (motherboard, RAM, processor, graphics card, hard drive) is not much more expensive."

Amen. I could not agree more. I generally do not upgrade an existing PC system, with perhaps exception of a graphics card upgrade. I generally upgrade the motherboard, processor, memory and graphics card together. That is because every 2-3 years you can rather inexpensively upgrade to a system with double performance for the same cost and power draw as the old system. But to realize this gain, you have to upgrade all major components.

I strictly follow the rule: I will not upgrade my PC system until it is more than 2 years old, components are available that have (at least) double the performance at the same (or less) cost and power draw of the replaced component.

The secret to a really effective, economical upgrade is to be proactive, carefully research and invest in a upgrade motherboard that has all the features you need or want. I found this to be crucial because if you wait for the high performance processors to achieve a discount sufficient to the cost goal, the good motherboards for it are gone, or available at much higher cost. Motherboards are not deeply discounted as CPU's, memory and graphics cards are, so its worth investing. Once you have motherboard in hand, then wait for suitable CPU's, memory and graphics cards to become sufficiently discounted (and rebated) when "better" products have been introduced.

Benchmark your PC with PCMark2005 and 3DMark2005 for scores on your existing CPU and graphics card. Then go to the THG VGA and CPU charts (which often does not have your existing CPU and graphics card because its obsolete) to identify candidates that have at least double performance. Use an online power calculator to find out what the componet power requirements are (such as http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.js...), then decide and wait. Memory upgrade is simple. If you have DDR-400, upgrade to DDR2-800, which has (at least) double bandwidth. Stick with low-voltage, mainstream memory systems and avoid high-voltage enthusiast memory.

Harddrive upgrades, which double performance (bandwidth) every 7 years, are difficult to justify. I do not upgrade harddrives unless the old drives are incompatable with the motherboard, or they are more than 5 years old, or I really need the capacity upgrade.

My last upgrade:

2005 Upgrade --> 2007 Upgrade
-----------------------------------
Epox 8RDA6 Pro --> Intel DG965WM
Athlon XP-M --> Intel E6600 (Both Operated at 2.4 Ghz)
6800GT 256MB --> 7950GT 512MB
1GB DDR-400 --> 2GB DDR2-800

Same Operating System (Windows XP Home (From Feb2002))
Same Harddrives (2 Seagate 160GB 7200.7 SATA-150 drives.
Adequate. No candidates with 2x performance Avail.)
Same CD & DVD Burners (Plextor Premium & Plextor PX716A)
Same Power Supply (420W Enermax Noisetaker)
Same Case (Lian-Li PC-65)
Same Power Draw (340W at Load)

Upgrade Cost $715 (Less than 2005 Upgrade)

Performance 17010 --> 38150 3DMarks (3DMark2001SE) 2.24x :) 
4870 --> 9955 3DMarks (3DMark2005) 2.04x :) 
3378 --> 6261 PCMarks (PCMark2005) 1.85x :) 
3271 --> 6117 CPU (PCMark2005) 1.90x :) 

The Seagate 7200.7 drives lowered the PCMark2005 scores. I took a 6% performance hit :(  with the DG965WH which is optimized for 3.0G SATA drives. Still, 1.85x is a good performance gain.

For $750, a complete upgrade could be purchased that has nearly double the performance of the 2005 base system of the article. This is a much better long-term solution for the next 3 years than what this article offers.
August 24, 2007 2:05:37 AM

"A Radeon X850 card still can be considered nice, because it continues to offer acceptable performance. However, this product generation does not support DirectX 9.0c with Shader Model 2 and HDR support."

"The two-year-old graphics card supports DirectX 9.0, but does not support Shader Model 2 (DirectX 9.0c) with support for high dynamic range effects (HDR)."

I thought the X850 did support SM2. I'm sure it doesn't support SM3, maybe that's what they meant?
August 24, 2007 3:06:49 AM

Must be. I am almost certain the X850 supports SM2+HDR.

Good article btw. I recently went from a AMD3700 to an opteron 175 (socket 939, all that was left). It really helped out my games. Didnt see a bump in my 3dmark scores though due to it not working properly.
August 24, 2007 4:44:00 AM

Good article, and I'm saying that as someone who's given a lot of advice on the best bang for the buck upgrades. The link to the old fallacious (wrong) article about how the 8800GTX needs the top cpus (it doesn't, since minimum framerate is what's important, and that doesn't require a 3.0Ghz cpu, but rather a strong graphics card (and yes, we know there are 1 or 2 games where the top cpu can actually improve them a little)) -- is kinda strange, as this is about cheap upgrades, not about getting a 8800GTX after all!

The only way I'd improve the article is.....taking out that link. Otherwise it's actually well done. And I don't give out complements to most articles on most sites.
August 24, 2007 5:22:55 AM

Finally, a 250 GB hard drive that you've been using for two years might be close to burst at the seams said:
Finally, a 250 GB hard drive that you've been using for two years might be close to burst at the seams

Meh, I'm still using a 160Gb PATA hard drive :p 
August 24, 2007 6:58:22 AM

For the $500 upgrade, i believe there could have been another test set up, with all new components, while the option of selling the old computer for a new one and using the combined power of both the sale and the upgrade to build a new system was never mentioned.
IMO the computer in the tests did not need an upgrade worth trouble and money.
August 24, 2007 7:03:25 AM

finally- an article on tom's that is worth reading through! this is the kind of thing that should be written more often. a couple gripes though-

"A 500 GB hard drive is more expensive than two more 512 MB DDR400 DIMMs, but it will last you longer than upgrading into an outdated memory technology." i don't really understand this.. as games will benefit much more from 2gb of ram, especially in the future, than a bigger hard drive. the newer hard drive may have better performance, but that is definetely going to have less impact than twice the ram in games that need it.

also, for gaming, dual core cpus dont have much of an advantage over single cores. the upgrade suggested is the same clock speed, just dual core, so performance in games won't be affected greatly. although, the dual core route would be better in the future.. although that contradicts with toms ditching the 2gb of ram for a bigger hard drive... :whistle: 

August 24, 2007 8:19:42 AM

Agreed, the HDD vs RAM is stupid but I admit the do have a reasonable basis for that comment. The HDD can be carried over to a new system in the future, the RAM most likely can't. But for a quick performance boost, the RAM is better. I could have upgraded my 160Gb HDD instead of getting another gig of RAM, but I am so glad I didn't, as alt-tabbing is much more responsive and quick to get back in the game and load times are better.
August 24, 2007 11:29:46 AM

Yep the X800s do.

FACT: X800 family does support HDR and SM2.0 as well as DX9.0b. Not 9c but 9b.
You can easily look that info up anywhere.
I know they say DX9.0c in the article, but I just wanted to specify the version. I am really disappointed with the lack of fact checking in this report, it effected my opinion of Tomshardware as a whole.

Also if anyone was considering upgrading the vid card only from a x800 series, to a 2600xt they would only get SM4.0 and DX10 support, performance wise there would be no improvement, perhaps even a slight step back.
August 24, 2007 12:39:16 PM

good article. i really enjoyed it.
August 24, 2007 12:44:37 PM

jepperson said:
Yep the X800s do.

FACT: X800 family does support HDR and SM2.0 as well as DX9.0b. Not 9c but 9b.
You can easily look that info up anywhere.
I know they say DX9.0c in the article, but I just wanted to specify the version. I am really disappointed with the lack of fact checking in this report, it effected my opinion of Tomshardware as a whole.

Also if anyone was considering upgrading the vid card only from a x800 series, to a 2600xt they would only get SM4.0 and DX10 support, performance wise there would be no improvement, perhaps even a slight step back.

So am I, and the fact that they made the mistake twice indicates that it's more than just a typo :pfff:  . Interesting article, but I wouldn't bank my $500 upgrade on it.

Just for the record, I recently went from a 939 3500+ @2.7GHz to an X2 3800+ @2.5GHz and I am very pleased. I also got another gig of memory and an eVGA 8800gts 320MB and I can play any game in existence maxed out on my 1440x900 LCD. I hope they enjoy their new hard drive :sarcastic: 
August 24, 2007 1:10:53 PM

Glad others agree. Yeah what is with the harddrive? If you have empty room, there is no need to upgrade unless you go for a Raptor and the money you spend on Raptor would be better spent on CPU or video card. I must be way out of the norm though as I only have 40GB of used space.

I have a similar system as in the article except my mobo is AGP. I myself can play any current games on high settings unless they require SM3.0 like damn Bioshock. Some games like FEAR and DMoMM at max settings at 1280x1024(crt) with vsync(cant stand flicker)

Unfortunately I would have to upgrade my whole system to get better performance, since it is AGP, if I upgrade to pcie and new cpu, might as well go all out.
August 24, 2007 4:54:49 PM

jepperson said:
Glad others agree. Yeah what is with the harddrive? If you have empty room, there is no need to upgrade unless you go for a Raptor and the money you spend on Raptor would be better spent on CPU or video card. I must be way out of the norm though as I only have 40GB of used space.

....


It's smart to look at upgrading a 2yr old hard drive since often when a dual core computer is making you wait a few seconds here and there, it turns out the cpu is waiting on the hard drive (more often than you'd guess). Since most modern mainstream 7200 harddrives are much faster than 2 yr old drives, it's an easy way to up the overall system responsiveness and reduce many irritating delays a worthwhile amount. Will it speed up all things, no. Will it speed up many things nicely? yes
August 24, 2007 5:47:17 PM

How exactly are the hardrives MUCH faster, a bit maybe but not much...
August 24, 2007 7:12:30 PM

I currently have system that I built around April last year (I couldn't wait for Core 2 Duo) with an Athlon 64 FX-60, Asus A8N32-SLI mobo, 2GB Corasir RAM, Antec P180 Case, Antec 550w NeoHE PS, ATI x1900xtx, 2x Western Digital WD4000KD 400GB RAID 0 HDs, Plextor PX-760A, Creative X-Fi Platinum. I'm wondering if an upgrade to either an 8800GTX, 8800GTS or HD2900XT would be worth it for me. Any thoughts??? How much of a bottleneck is my CPU???

Thanks,

Michael
---Abort, Retry, Fail???
August 25, 2007 12:10:49 AM

halbhh said:
It's smart to look at upgrading a 2yr old hard drive since often when a dual core computer is making you wait a few seconds here and there, it turns out the cpu is waiting on the hard drive (more often than you'd guess). Since most modern mainstream 7200 harddrives are much faster than 2 yr old drives, it's an easy way to up the overall system responsiveness and reduce many irritating delays a worthwhile amount. Will it speed up all things, no. Will it speed up many things nicely? yes

I disagree, I upgraded to 2Gb RAM and my system is FAR MORE responsive than any upgrade from my 3yr+ old 160Gb PATA hard drive could achieve.
August 25, 2007 12:31:30 AM

I have to agree with randomizer on the RAM vs HDD debate. If I had to upgrade one over the other, I would definitely go with more RAM.
August 25, 2007 12:38:45 AM

Admittedly 160Gb is getting a little small, but I would not need any more than 250Gb in a long time.
August 25, 2007 2:19:26 PM

The last major overhaul I did was about 3yrs back, going from my old Socket-A 3200+ to a 939 4400+. Due to the mainboard I went with, (Dual SATA Asrock) I was still able to use my X850 AIW until I got my 8800GTS. Then I simply ported it back over to the 3200+ pc, which is now being used to run W98b so I can still play the old XP incompatable games.

As to the hard drive issue, I'm running a 160GB SATA and still have a bit more than 100GB free on it. I only have maybe 10 games on my system, including EQ2 and 15GB of music. I have no problems running Oblivion, NWN2, EQ2 or late game Civ4 with this setup. There's no real need for bleeding edge parts for great gaming.
August 25, 2007 6:59:41 PM

Since this is Once Only Shot, JuST to meet "STEP UP" means from NT5 old XP to NT6, OR ALL THINGS GOOD. Thats means 690/790 chipset or X38 ONLY at present time & READ ALL FINE PRINT CONTACT MFG & DON'T FOOL YOURSELf. Vista is not enough, IT MUST BE VISTA ULTIMATE.

Signed:p HYSICIAN THOMAS STEWART VON DRASHEK M.D.
August 25, 2007 10:08:20 PM

randomizer said:
I disagree, I upgraded to 2Gb RAM and my system is FAR MORE responsive than any upgrade from my 3yr+ old 160Gb PATA hard drive could achieve.


Not sure who you're responding to, but I'd agree with the elementary observation that 2GB of Ram is a priority. Myself, having a fair amount of experience with 1GB and then upgrading, I can say for me a modern hard drive made a bigger difference until I ran a certain mem hog program (on 1GB on WinXP) -- this depends on what software (or game) you are running.
August 25, 2007 10:12:53 PM

royalcrown said:
How exactly are the hardrives MUCH faster, a bit maybe but not much...


No need to guess. Check out THG's hard drive charts. A good 2 yr old hard drive would be one of the slowest in the current chart. Average read speed is a good metric.
August 25, 2007 11:10:04 PM

so so foolish... i love how the very article they link to, on their own site, disproves the drivel they themselves are spewing. would anyone care to find me an instance in that article where, at max resolution, the intel had a significant lead over the amd with a 8800gtx? the point at which amd bottlenecked the card was when the frame rates were very high, and wouldn't make any impact on playability whatsover.
August 25, 2007 11:20:17 PM

Personally I don't see why they're suggesting a Seagate harddrive..

Maybe toms don't change harddrives often enough, but through my company at least 90% of the computers that arrive it's a damn Seagate in there.

If it's another brand, often the builder placed the harddrive standing.
Makes you wonder if the average dell/compaq etc. system builders have more than 50 IQ. Or there's obvious traces of "angry kid by the computer"-syndrome
August 26, 2007 4:46:00 AM

muk said:
http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/08/23/how_to_spend_money_on_component_upgrades/index.html

The time for an upgrade may be now. Next-generation platforms are still a year away, and in the meantime, upgrading certain components can help to limber up your two-year old system for another year.



Ahhh would have been nice to see more gaming benchmarks. Hmmm the single core base system did quite well and would make one wonder why they would even need to upgrade at this point. Well from just a gaming perspective that is what I got out of it.

I have 4 machines. Two with dual core Athlons a X2 6000+ a X2 3800+ and two single core machines a 3200+ and a 3800+ they all perform quite well in gaming. Hell the 3200+ has a vanilla 6800 video card and it will let me play most games at 1280 buy 1024. I have to turn some of the eye candy down but that aint bad at all. :hello: 
August 26, 2007 9:08:43 AM

Take into account a 4-year old system:
a64 x 3200+, 2x512 ddr (400)
250gb maxtor (pre seagate), visiontek (ati) 9600@256mb...
but: here's the kicker: socket 754 and agp bus loaded..
Not a good upgrade path here.. So in this area I think it's better to hunker down with low-end system performance and the new system AM3, socket 940, or whatever intel has up their socket sleeve to come out.

Then I shall be wow'd by system performance jumps with an x6400 amd or quad 6800 native (do I get to do an Indian dance, woo, woo, woo, woo?)

The upgrade paths laid out on a 2-year old sytem are more clear cut (socket 939 and 775 are gold vs 754 copper).
I already invested in a 400gb external usb drive to offload my "surplus" data. When you do a system rebuild, especially the $350 upgrade, it should go without saying that you should wipe your hard drive and reinstall windows.. your applications and benchmarks will thank you for this.. imagine what junk you've acquired in the system registry, orphaned install files and whatnot.

I have faith that processor prices will come down, memory and hard drive prices are good, but I'm still concerned with the "bang for the buck" when it comes to VIDEO CARDS.. the two main companies ATI (amd puppet) and GeForce (independent for the time being) are just not "getting it" when it comes to aggressive price cuts... This more than anything is keeping me out of the upgrade "market" as it were.. the other half of the equation is/was system bus/socket upgrade paths were changing like toilet paper, this is not good for the up-grader. My money does not grow on trees the way the gasoline stations think, thus I intend to stick it out almost possibly until some hardware dies, or technology/price redux gets further in-line with the "need for speed" ability to run mainstream software (2008, and beyond).

Part of the "allure" of next generation systems are:
1. Increased multi-tasking abilities (vista, speed-boost, & hybrid hard drives) Made for multi-core high (2gb+system memory, etc)
2. Smart multi-core computing can save power when not in use...
3. Time savings (when doing tasks such as encoding/ loading applications, etc.
4. Software that takes advantage of the new hardware, little do we know it, but applications are being written to be memory hogs because the people who write the software EXPECT you to have the latest and greatest... so, the handwriting is on the wall, upgrade or your system will C.R.A.W.L.
August 27, 2007 8:28:35 AM

This is a good article, but did I miss all the real life gaming benchmarks, I only saw one for quake 4
August 27, 2007 2:11:31 PM

VERY timely article for me. I came here to ask for upgrade suggestions. My two year old "Kick ***" gaming system is very similar to the reference system in the article, except I have a FX-57 cpu, A8N-SLI Premium mb, 2GB ram, and two GeForece 7800 GT OC vid cards w/256mb ea in SLI. I've got plenty of HD space.

My upgrade question is primarily about the video cards. Would a single 8600 or 8800 with 256mb match or exceed these SLI 7800S?

Which would give me more bang for the buck - upgrade to a dual core cpu and one 8600/8800 vid card, or keep the FX-57 and get two 8 series cards for SLI? Which card(s) would you recommend. Total budget would be, say $500.

Thanks for the replies.
August 28, 2007 1:21:18 AM

Well, According to the VGA charts, one $280 8800GTS 320Mb would outperform your SLI setup. Going SLI with the 8600s will be such a mild performance up that you probobly wouldn't notice it. Also, the 8800s in SLI will exceed your budget, so I wouldn't go with that route. Maybe just a single 8800GTS and then a processor upgrade, will boost system performance enough to be really noticeable.
August 28, 2007 3:20:35 PM

Plyro109 said:
...Maybe just a single 8800GTS and then a processor upgrade, will boost system performance enough to be really noticeable.


THANKS!!!! Sounds like a plan.
August 29, 2007 10:54:02 AM

I've got a question to you guys.
My current system is made up from:
Athlon xp 3700+
Gigabyte NF4 SLI MoBo
2x512 MB DDR
NV 7800GT card
some SATA drive (120 GB)

My question is:
Will I see a significant performance boost (in windows apps and games) if I upgrade to an X2 4200+ (or 4800+) and add another Gig of RAM now (and get a new graphics card in a year or so),
OR
Should I wait until Q12008 and get a new core duo system with 2GB RAM , new HDD and a 8800GTS?

Please consider that this is a gaming rig which currently plays all games out at nearly the highest quality at 1280x1024.

Thanks in advance.


August 29, 2007 2:18:14 PM

A followup question:

Would I see a positive performance difference with a dual core Athlon 64 X2 4200+ - 2 x 2.2 GHz (which can be had for around $120) over my current FX-57 (1 x 2.8 GHz which can easily be OC to over 3 GHz)? Again, my mobo is socket 939.

PS - Sorry if these questions and answers are intuitively obvious to the tech heads here. Thanks for you patience with this novice. :ange: 
August 29, 2007 9:56:56 PM

I was basically in the same situation.

A8N-SLI Motherboard
Athlon 64 3500 CPU
6600 GT w/128MB
560 WATT Power supply
2 GIG RAM
160 GIG RAID

I upgraded to
AMD X2 4200 CPU $99
NVIDIA 8800 GPU w/320MB RAM $310
and a new 22' LCD monitor

and got similar numbers in 3D mark etc.

2 things;

Make sure your mobo drivers AND BIOS are up-to-date, also you will want to run the AMD dual-core fix.

and very importantly upgrade to the latest version of nVidia NTune.

Using a Standard profile my 3D mark score in around 7500. But using nTune to find the best profile my score jumped to over 10000. That translated to 10fps in CoH at 1680x1050. Also I can run Bioshock with everthing on high at 1680x1050 and run 40-60fps.

Needless to say I am very happy with the upgrade.
!