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Older Socket 939 Upgrade Worth Investing In?

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September 5, 2007 2:26:04 PM

Sorry if this is a bit amatureish, I've been out of the computer hardware game for a couple of years. If anyone could help I'd appreciate it. My main purpose of the computer is for web browsing but I still want to be able to play the latest upcoming games like BioShock, UT, and Crysis. My current specs are:

AMD Athlon 64 3200+
1 Gig of Ram
ATI Radeon 9800 128 Meg
Gigabyte nForce3 250 w/ Nvidia chipset motherboard

Initially I thought I would have to do an entire system upgrade: new motherboard, ram, powersupply, video card, cpu, etc...but I dont have an extra 1500$ laying around. So my question to you guys is, is it worth dropping maybe 500$ into this system or should I save up? I did some research and I thought about upgrading the following:

-AMD Opteron 180 Denmark 2.4GHz Socket 939 Dual Core Processor Model (would this dual core processor work in my mother board? I am assuming it would since its a socket 939. Even if it did work, would I notice a big difference in gaming?)

-1 more gig of ram

-A new video card, I realize my motherboard doesnt support PCI express so I would be stuck with an older AGP 4X/8X card that only supports DX 9. Is this a total waste of my money to upgrade to a card like this or will this buy me more time? If its a worthwhile investment, what do I go with? Nvidia/ATI?

Once again, any advise is greatly appreciated.
September 5, 2007 2:45:03 PM

I am in the same boat as you but I started looking and it wont cost near $1500 unless you want bleed edge tech.

$275 = P35 Motherboard, C2D E4300, 2GB DDR2 800 Ram
$ 50 = Decent Power Supply
$175-600 = Video Card. Really this is up to you and your budget. I would put together CPU,MOBO,Ram,PSU then look and see what you have left. Then check on toms review on best video card in your price range.


IMO it is worth the upgrade. One big thing you cannot forgot not only are you upgrading to a faster CPU and 2 Cores, but you will also upgrade your Ram from PC2700 or lower up to PC6400
September 5, 2007 3:15:15 PM

A503 to answer your question it's all about your MB if you have to change out your MB to a 939 dont- do the whole systen. The AM-2 processor's and MB's are cheaper than the 939 stuff and more modern. that MB you have now if it's a 754 then go AM-2 or C2D If you already have a 939 MB then do what I did buy a OPTY 170 and clock that sucker up to 2.8 for about 110:00 buck/'s. Then do the EVGA 8800GTS at about 280-300 buck's that is what I did I also had 2 gig of ram at the time you cant play the newer game's with just 1 gig of ram it's just not enough. And if your going to spend money on a video card then this is a good a timje a any to break into the 10X equiptment. Not buying a 10X high end video card just dosent make sence now. That GF-3 250 came 2 diferent way's 939 or 754 if you have the 939 the AM-2 isint any better in preformance but the intel just might be as they are dioing 3.6 OCed if you are a master ocer. 939 is just fine as I type this out mine is crusing right along on Vista64bit UT on a UT Lanparty I bought 2 year's ago a NF-4 that I bought spacifly to OC and it's been grate. Anyway good luck. [Judge]BadArthur yea im a Gamer
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September 5, 2007 3:20:50 PM

you are definitely at a crossroads...one that i approached a few times with my current x2 4200+. i bought it when they first came out and have since taken it with me from a nforce3 MSI board w/a 6800gt to my current setup in a ASUS A8N SLI-Deluxe and an 8800gts 640MB and through the best AGP card i could find to SLI'd 7900gs's...

you really need to figure out the cost of an upgrade to a newer card (the ati 1950xt for example) with another gig of ram and a new proc. i know my little brother went from a 3500+ to his new x2 4200+ just a week ago for about 60$ to keep his nforce3 / 6800GT (my old system) combo more viable till phenom drops. i personally am a fan of a smaller upgrade like a new proc or another gig of RAM but where you are going to be doing the proc, RAM and video card...you might just be 100-200$ off of a Core 2 Duo set up that would be a MAJOR improvement over what you have now...run the cost/benefit and determine it from there.
September 5, 2007 3:37:58 PM

You should be able to get a substantial performance increase with the upgrades you are contemplating.

I could not find an exact match to the MB you listed, so you should find it at the Gigabyte site and confirm that it will take the Opteron. If it is the GA-K8NSC-939 then it will. See link:

http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Support/Motherboard/CPUSuppo...

If not that model, check here:


http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Product...

For graphics card selection, see these two aids - one is recommended graphics cards - the AGP follow the PCIe in the first article. The second shows performance (for PCIe cards so AGP may not be as fast but it still is a good guide of relative performance between AGP cards):

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/09/05/the_best_gaming_...

http://www23.tomshardware.com/graphics.html

You also need to check to see if your PSU can handle the upgrade. For that review requirements of prospective upgrades here:

http://www.extreme.outervision.com/psucalculator.jsp

If you need to upgrade power supply, consider these:

http://www.jonnyguru.net/forums/showthread.php?t=1460

That being said, if you can handle a MB change, I would second the recommendations above to compare with an upgrade to a C2D based MB. The suggestion from Nickc07 provides a simple basis for comparison and provides a good upgrade alternative. For about $500 you could get it with a 7900GS or x1950Pro card now and then have a simple upgrade to an even faster video card in a year or two - an option not available if you stick with AGP.
September 5, 2007 4:16:25 PM

I have an Opteron 165 (OC'ed, of course) and an X1950 pro AGP....and it runs games pretty well. If you don't plan on upgrading any more in the near future, this is a great upgrade because you can salvage your RAM and motherboard. Keep in mind that you'll probably need a new power supply.
September 5, 2007 4:29:43 PM

I must admit I am at work and misread this post. I thought that you already had a 939 system and you were wondering if you should upgrade that or just do a complete new build.

In that case socket AM2 has been out long enough to be cheap. I havent compaired prices but AM2 and 939 should run you about the same.
September 6, 2007 12:52:26 AM

Hey guys thanks for all the replies. All this upgrade stuff is confusing as hell...anyways. I dug out my MB manual and I have a GA-K8NS Ultra 939 Motherboard and the website says it can run an Athlon 64 FX processor. Let me guess, this means my motherboard wont support a dual core processor? I also discovered I have 1 gig of DDR PC3200 400mhz RAM, will this carry over to a new dual processor MB or will I have to ditch it? I have an older 400 watt power supply in the case that I've been using since at least 2000, time for a new one? Basically, I want to dump in some money and have this system last me another two years without breaking the bank. I feel like if I am going to upgrade, I should at least be able to have a system that can handle PCI express and support a DX 10 video card. Thoughts? Thank you all once again.
September 6, 2007 1:06:17 AM

If you are to go to PCIe, I suggest you dump the entire system. (minus HD and DVD drive) The rest is too old to use in a new upgrade.

On the other hand, if you stay with your current system, but just do an upgrade, you will need a new power supply, processor and graphics card. According to the gigabyte web page, your motherboard IS compatible with dual cores, including the Opterons. You could also throw in a decent ~500 watt PSU and an x1950 pro and have a decent system.
September 6, 2007 3:24:25 AM

So I figured out if I upgrade the MB, PS, RAM, CPU, Vid Card to PCIx I would spend about 800$. To upgrade to the following would cost 400$. How long do you guys think this system would last me in the gaming world?

Radeon X1950PRO 512MB

AMD Opteron 175 Denmark 2.2GHz Socket 939

1 more gig of RAM

New power supply

All for 391$ from Newegg. Would this really give me 400$ worth of improvements? Would I just be better off upgrading the video card, ram and PS or will the dual core really help out? Is it worth the extra money to upgrade to the 180 at 2.4ghz? Thanks.
September 6, 2007 4:11:34 AM

you may be able to shave some cost off of the dual core, primarily depending on how high you intend to OC, otherwise a lower clocked X2/Opty would work about equally as well, only differentiated by the clock speed and thermals primarily.

as long as the memory is brand name and operates at PC3200, you can probably get that for fairly inexpensive too.

the GPU is the only thing thats a make or break as far as gaming performance goes usually (seconded by the memory amount). that gpu is decent, should carry you over for another 2 years or so maybe as far as gaming goes, maybe 3-4 years if you push it. (at that point you may want to upgrade everything anyhow). if you choose to go with vista though (for DX10 and such), the need to upgrade may come a lot sooner than that..

as far as the psu goes, not sure, just dont skimp on the amps or brand.

edit: as far as whether a dual core is worth it? yes. it didnt used to be though for games, because there were barely any games before that even recognized the second core, its now over 2 years since the first dual cores were released, and many newer games now have SMP patches released, and others are being designed with SMP in mind from the ground up (bioshock and crysis for example are just 2 games right off the bat, not sure if UT is SMP aware though, but i would be suprised if it wasnt).
September 6, 2007 2:24:45 PM

Thanks for the help choirbass, I think Im going with the 2.0ghz verson of the opteron to save 50$. Its been a while since Ive overclocked anything, would I need a special fan or is the AMD fan that comes with it just fine? To OC I would just enter into my BIOS right? I know this may be a silly question, but when I put in the new CPU to my motherboard, will it recognize it or will I have to do more than just plug it in? Thanks
September 6, 2007 2:44:44 PM

I had an s939 AMD64 3000+ (Running at stock 1.8Ghz) w/ 1 gig Corsair valueRAM and a 6600GT. Decided to upgrade and for around $300 I picked up 2x1024 OCZ Plantinum sticks, an Opteron 180, and a 7900GS.
September 6, 2007 7:56:37 PM

the fan that comes with it should work fine, it may get a bit noisy because of the higher RPMs it may get to when at higher cpu temperatures (also because the HSF is only 92mm i believe), but that would be up to you if its worth replacing due to that reason.

and yep, going into the bios is really all thats necessary. make sure you reduce the HTT multiplier from the default 5X down to 3X, when you intend to OC. beyond that, the settings changed would be up to you, for cpu speed, memory speed, etc (so if you run a component out of spec, you might end up needing to clear the cmos battery to allow it to boot again). you shouldnt need to change voltages with an opteron though, because they tend to OC well even at stock voltages, so i would reduce voltages as much as possible while still keeping a decent OC, imo. if you do need to increase voltages though, try to keep it to a minimum, because you risk frying it if you go to high (and increasing temperatures as well), usually staying below 1.5v is a safe bet though.

as far as the motherboard working with the opteron, the most you may need is a bios update to allow it to recognize it properly. i had to do that with my s939 X2 3800+ when i first got it in 2005, so its no big deal (its still holding strong @ stock speeds and reduced voltages for anything i do, and up to 2.4 @ stock voltages whenever i need it, it can go higher, but needs additional voltages). as far as otherwise, its pretty much just plug and play.

amd also has updates youll want to download since its a dual core; a driver update to enable additional cpu functionalities not enabled otherwise in windows (CnQ, etc), and a dual core optimization patch to sync timing issues with certain programs (games, etc). and they have a few other optional things you can download as well, such as a temperature monitoring program called dashboard demo (its pretty accurate in my experience)
September 6, 2007 9:11:04 PM

choirbass said:
the fan that comes with it should work fine, it may get a bit noisy because of the higher RPMs it may get to when at higher cpu temperatures (also because the HSF is only 92mm i believe), but that would be up to you if its worth replacing due to that reason.


The fan that comes with the Opteron is actually a 70mm one, so its loud when it spins up to high speed.
Here's a review for that particular heatsink.
http://www.frostytech.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=196...
If you do decide to stick with the stock heatsink, I suggest that you disable the thermal sensor and control the fan speed manually, I had a slight problem with that originally.

If you have any questions on how to do this, PM me.

Best of Luck
September 6, 2007 9:55:46 PM

AM2 is the way to go
September 6, 2007 10:42:36 PM

OPTYS are a little better but I think you could go with a $59 3800x2 and OC to 2.4 -2.6 ghz without any problems. You could put the extra money toward a x1950xt. That would give you more bang for the $ over the OPTY.
September 7, 2007 6:08:56 AM

You might want to read this article by Cleve about upgrading just the AGP card on an Athlon 2500 to get a substantial increase in game performance.

http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/0 [...] -analysis/

Have you evaluated your PSU to see if you can get by with it?

I think your decision framework should be comparing cost and performance improvement for each step:
1. Decide on the best AGP graphics card - there appears to be agreement on the X1950Pro.
2. Determine if you need to upgrade the PSU and what that might be. Note that you might have to have an option or reevaluate size depending on which additiional upgrades you do, if any.
3. Add RAM - it is VERY cheap right now.
4. Upgrade MB.

Note that after reading Cleve's article, and depending on your current PSU, you might wish to stop after just 1 or 1 and 3.

5. Compare the cost of above - at whatever step you wish to stop at with going for the new C2D option. As noted by Nick above - with an X1950Pro PCIe card - I think you could put together a good basic system for under $550 - not the $800 you stated. Maybe less if you don't need to purchase a new PSU.

That said - you still have a tough choice. If you don't need a new PSU - you may get substantial improvement from just a new AGP card, and a little more with more memory. And a little more with a new CPU. Then you would have a perfectly good system for about $400. But for a little more you could have a C2D with a much better upgrade path. But it is a dollars for performance decision that only you can make. Like others have stated, I hate to see you invest a lot of money in an older system with little upgrade potential. But if you can save a few bucks and have a system that more than meets your needs for a few years ? Only you can decide.

Follow the admonition - I think it was said by the wise old Ben Franklin -
A penny saved is a penny earned.
But then I think he also said -
Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.
He is just so quotable - because he covered both sides of an issue. - So save your pennies but don't be pound foolish.
September 7, 2007 1:07:20 PM

Yes, but upgrading a XP vs s939 agp system is really two different animals. The s939 agp with an x2 will be powerful enough for most stuff out now and in the near future with a decent gpu. Obviously, budget available is important but if the OP chooses he can get decent performance out his current system for less money than a full upgrade involving changing platforms.
September 7, 2007 2:53:35 PM

RockyJohn, thanks for all your help. I figured out I probably need to upgrade my PS. Ive had it for 8 years now and its only rated at 380w. I was thinking about this one, is it suitable?

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?item=N82E1681...

This is a tough choice. From newegg I can get 1 more gig of ram, ATI Radeon X1950 PRO 512 meg, Opteron 2.0ghz and the PS for 401$.

Giving me a: Opteron Dual core 2ghz, 2 gigs of ram and the X1950 Pro

Basically I want the system to run Crysis and the next gen FPS at 1280x1024 with the goodies turned on. Do you guys think this system will be able to handle it? One part of me says spend the extra and be set for the future, but the other says its silly to spend all my hard earned money to play games. So will my 400$ be money well spent (lasting me another couple years would be ideal, I figure if it can run Crysis well I will be happy for that amount of time with it) or am I trying to upgrade a jalopy?
September 7, 2007 5:55:10 PM

for future games, it seems you should hold off on upgrading until theyre released, that way you can know for sure if what you upgraded to can do the job well... noone knows how playable crysis is on current hardware, but im willing to bet that everything but the gpu youre wanting will be sufficiently adequate for it.

i would say to hold off on upgrading then, considing what future games youre wanting to play for the next couple years even (which will mean probably more demanding games than crysis even after not too much longer). and then read benchmark reviews when the game is out. that seems like the best thing you can do.

so, i suggest holding off for a few months. and then deciding what to upgrade should be easier, because the games will be out, and so with the corresponding reviews and opinions... most likely a DX10 gpu will be the way to go, dunno which one yet.

the other option is if youre okay with making a more affordable temporary upgrade, by just upgrading the gpu and psu. and that shouldnt run you over $200 really, so its certainly less than a complete overhaul, and should make upgrading again much less agonizing as far as part selection. its decent enough for current games. and possibly for future games, but again, noone knows yet for sure how those will play with 'any' of the hardware thats out now... an 8800 GTX might not even be able to handle them well at the resolution youre wanting.
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