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Upgrading on a budget; been living too long with a bad home-built.

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January 17, 2008 11:28:20 PM

I'm finally upgrading after nearly 3 years spent with a home-built (my first) that shuts down periodically for no good reason. (I've never really gotten to the bottom of the problem, but I've more-or-less tracked it down to the drivers for my XFX 6600 GT and how it was interacting with my motherboard. When I do get a message related to the shutdown, it usually points to the graphics card.)

Anyway.

I'm upgrading the motherboard, CPU, and graphics card. I'm planning to keep my current case, 425W power supply, DVD and CD drives, and RAM memory. Here's what I'm thinking about ordering from the good people at TigerDirect:

Motherboard: XFX nForce 680i LT SLI Motherboard

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E4500 Processor 2.20GHz OEM

Graphics Card: XFX GeForce 8600 GT - 512MB DDR2, PCI Express, SLI Ready, (Dual Link) DVI, VGA, HDTV

All of that plus shipping and the incidentals like the CPU fan and thermal paste comes in around $335, which seems fair. Is there anything about this setup that is troublesome? I can't stand these random freeze-ups anymore.

My intention is to go back later in the year and purchase a second 8600 GT and a 600W power supply, which is why I'm going with all the SLI-ready components.

Thanks for any advice or insight.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
January 18, 2008 1:53:07 AM

First of all, get a new PSU first, your old one may be a little tired and may or may not handle the load of all that new hardware. Also, may consider not doing SLI, might be better if you get a non SLI mobo and get an 8800 gt instead of the 8600 gt. Also, the new Geforce 9xxx series comes out in february, so might even be worth waiting on that. Check out newegg.com as well, they have good deals as well, though tiger is AWESOME to deal with.

EDIT: Just noticed the 8600 gt is sporting ddr2 memory, not good. Go for ddr3 if you can, shouldn't be much more and you would get better performance out of the card. If you have to go with the 8600 gt, look on newegg, I was looking, and I think for like 114 you can get an EVGA 8600gt, it was only 256 mb, but I think it was overclocked to or above the speed of the 8600 gts from the factory.
January 18, 2008 1:58:58 AM

8600= rip off of the century
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January 18, 2008 12:18:17 PM

ohiou_grad_06 said:
First of all, get a new PSU first, your old one may be a little tired and may or may not handle the load of all that new hardware. Also, may consider not doing SLI, might be better if you get a non SLI mobo and get an 8800 gt instead of the 8600 gt. Also, the new Geforce 9xxx series comes out in february, so might even be worth waiting on that. Check out newegg.com as well, they have good deals as well, though tiger is AWESOME to deal with.

EDIT: Just noticed the 8600 gt is sporting ddr2 memory, not good. Go for ddr3 if you can, shouldn't be much more and you would get better performance out of the card. If you have to go with the 8600 gt, look on newegg, I was looking, and I think for like 114 you can get an EVGA 8600gt, it was only 256 mb, but I think it was overclocked to or above the speed of the 8600 gts from the factory.


Thanks for all the good advice. I haven't checked newegg yet, but TigerDirect does have an 8600GT 512Mb with DDR3 memory for about $30 more. Maybe I'll go that route. I'd love to pull off an 8800GT, but it's 3x the price of the 8600GT and would blow my budget. (Then again, maybe I can save $$ with a non-SLI mobo and power supply. I'll take a closer look.)

imrul, why is it the rip off of the century? Looks okay to me ..? You must know something I don't know.
January 18, 2008 12:50:52 PM

I have an 8600gt and I like it but I don't spend more than $100 on gfx at any time. As for your choice, you really should get a 8800gt it may be close to 3 times the price but it will easily out preform the pair of 8600's and you'll save on the Mobo and PS.
January 18, 2008 1:43:44 PM

Aragorn said:
I have an 8600gt and I like it but I don't spend more than $100 on gfx at any time. As for your choice, you really should get a 8800gt it may be close to 3 times the price but it will easily out preform the pair of 8600's and you'll save on the Mobo and PS.


OK, there's an ASUS EN8800GT at newegg for about $260, which seems reasonable. 512MB DDR3.

Question: what does that "EN" at the beginning of the model number mean? Is it an inferior model?
January 18, 2008 2:37:59 PM

drop sli cos the technology for it isnt that great at the moment, p5k or P35 mobos are pretty popular (for good reasons). A DS3L is a cheap gigabyte budget board. the DS3R is pretty cool too with extra SATA among other things

8800gt (gigabyte one is the budget 8800Gt and has a zalman on it) is a lovely card but i can understand if its still too expensive (its gonna cost over 200dollars)

what memory does your old pc have?

E4500 is a nice middle-choice processor.

im sure the rest of the system is fine
January 18, 2008 3:27:34 PM

Thanks for all the great insight. I'm going to rethink this a bit. The SLI idea still appeals to me because it means I can improve my graphic capability incrementally: a $100 8600 GT now, and then another $100 8600 GT later in the year (which will probably be a $75 8600 GT by the time I'm ready). I'm no graphics junkie, but my current system is unbearable, and there are current games for which I don't even reach the minimum requirements.

Thanks again for all the help. If I come up with a completely new setup, I may post again so you can take another look. :) 
January 18, 2008 3:36:51 PM

yeah i love the idea of a graphics card being added to boost performance, but one 8800 can outperform 2 of other types of graphics cards.

im not sure about 2x 8600 vs 1 x 8800 but im betting the one card would be a better bet. you could always go SLI with one 8800 and add another 8800 later if you really need it and if sli gets better :p 
January 18, 2008 11:07:43 PM

red_onion said:


imrul, why is it the rip off of the century? Looks okay to me ..? You must know something I don't know.



during the days of the 7 series and further into the past, there was always a good ratio of price/performance between cards such as 7600 to 7800, or 6600 to 6800, and that would be perfect for midstream. this time with the 8 series, that ratio is pretty bad. another way to put it is that the leap with 7800 gtx to 8800 gtx was huge, but the leap with 7600 to 8600 was pretty small, and that ratio went lower.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 12:11:08 AM

flyinfreeee said:
drop sli cos the technology for it isnt that great at the moment, p5k or P35 mobos are pretty popular (for good reasons). A DS3L is a cheap gigabyte budget board. the DS3R is pretty cool too with extra SATA among other things



Agreed. See:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tom...
for OCing the P35-DS3L.
January 19, 2008 2:30:46 AM

P35 mobo, forget SLI. You can get a pretty nice video card (7950GT, 512MB) on eBay now for around $100, as many enthusiasts are upgrading and dumping their old performance cards. SLI will only add about 25% to your performance if it works. A single $200 card is faster than two $100 cards.
January 19, 2008 4:05:38 AM

I'm surprised nobody mentioned the HD3850; for as low as $149 after MIR (check Newegg) you get >double the perf of the 8600GT. If you're really craving high resolution gaming try hunting down 512 MB versions, they can get pretty low in price too. ($179 anyone?) They are totally capable of projeting most of your games into a reasonable FPS range, and while people will argue that the 8800GT (512) will offer you better price/performance, things higher than "reasonable" can be totally subjective... and totally out of your budget range too.
January 19, 2008 4:14:52 AM

stay AWAY from the 8600GT!!! please!!!!
a b U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 5:13:12 AM

I would also recommend the 3850. a little more expensive then the 8600, but still a lot cheaper than the 8800, and not too far behind its performance. if you go with the 3850 then the sli mb would obviously be a bad choice. I would go with a newer p35 anyway, I don't like the dual card option yet, but with an ati card the sli would be a waste.
a b U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 5:17:40 AM

if you need to freeup some cash, go with the e2200 or 21xx, the drop from 2mb cashe to 1mb cashe isn't too hard on performance, and spending the extra on a better video card will give a much larger increase in performance.
January 19, 2008 7:34:24 AM

coltz beat me to it! an HD3850 is an AWESOME deal...it outperforms my x1800xt 512mb :'(  ...all for about a $150
January 19, 2008 8:08:32 AM

im afraid in one year u wont find another 8600 to go SLi....actually you have 2 choices...spend ur money on 8800GT and never go SLi as you wont need it..OR go for ATi HD3850 which gives excellent performance for the buck..its about $155 only..and you can SLi that one in a year.
January 19, 2008 8:24:41 AM

If you are having a pair of DDR2-667, I would suggest:
-go for Pentium E2180 and overclock to 2.4GHz, stock cooler will work. It saves some buck and it will beat E4500 @ 2.2GHz
-go for a ASUS/Gigabyte 945GC board, or P965 if you want to build a CrossFire build later
-go for HD3850 if you want to upgrade to dual card later, or 8800GS if you just need a single card platform
-go for a new 450W PSU, you need it...
January 19, 2008 11:39:07 AM

If you dont do SLI go with the nforce 650 i ultra motherboard instead of the 680i LT SLI motherboard you listed above, you will save a little plus the 650i ultra is a great motherboard for overlocking, not saying the 680i LT isn't.
January 19, 2008 12:09:40 PM

neocortex said:
im afraid in one year u wont find another 8600 to go SLi....actually you have 2 choices...spend ur money on 8800GT and never go SLi as you wont need it..OR go for ATi HD3850 which gives excellent performance for the buck..its about $155 only..and you can SLi that one in a year.


Just a headsup, you're gonna need to crossfire that instead of SLi, I'm sure you know... but someone out there might be confused. =) Also, as of now 38xx cards seem to scale better when crossfired than nvidia cards in SLi; i.e. 1x3870<1x8800GT but 2x3870~=2x8800GT.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 12:38:57 PM

Anytime you are thinking SLI or Crossfire, you only want to think about it with a higher end card. Don't EVER, EVER, EVER buy a midrange or low end card thinking buying another later will give you a nice boost, you may get a nice "little boost", but friend you now have 2 older outdated low-end cards, (that is what they will be by the time you buy the second card, low-end cards that will really struggle with the latest games)

A single upper ranged new card, for about the same price, will mop the floor with them.

Spend a little more now, and get a mid-high end card. It will beat 2 lesser cards in Crossfire or SLI. Then, later when your mid to high-end card drops in price and starting to show it's age, buy another one of them and SLI or Crossfire.

I keep saying Crossfire because as others have mentioned, you should look at the 3850's and 3870's. For the price, they are nice cards. 2 of these in Crossfire will keep pace with an 8800GTX, and beating it a lot of the time.
Crossfire scales better than SLI.

January 19, 2008 5:09:42 PM

Wow, this thread went a long way without me. Neat. :) 

coltz said:
Just a headsup, you're gonna need to crossfire that instead of SLi, I'm sure you know... but someone out there might be confused. =) Also, as of now 38xx cards seem to scale better when crossfired than nvidia cards in SLi; i.e. 1x3870<1x8800GT but 2x3870~=2x8800GT.


Hey now, let's not assume I know anything about ANYthing. Remember the title of the thread: my first homebuilt was a dud, so plainly I'm not the most savvy homebuilder you'll ever meet. And for the record, I didn't actually know how this worked, and I appreciate you (and others) breaking this down for me. It's much clearer to me now.

I'm intrigued by what I'm hearing about the 3850s. As I said in my original post, I pretty much have the problem with my current homebuilt narrowed down to my nVIDIA graphics card, so I really wouldn't mind checking out an ATI model instead. My only real concern is my budget--which is why I'm saying 3850 instead of 3870--but I'm going to take a closer look and see what I can pull off.

My thanks again to all. :D 
January 19, 2008 6:34:28 PM

You said your system was about 3 years old. So what memory do you have? DDR or DDR2. One good thing is memory is cheap now but you did mention budget. So just double checking as we don't know your current build specs.

Oh yeah I vote the single better card 8800GT. Or ATI =.

a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a c 277 U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 7:07:22 PM

SLI has been a poor upgrade path in the past. It should be used only by
those who will not currently be satisfied by the fastest available single vga card
which is currently the 8800GTX-OC. The more modern 8800GTS-512-G92 is very close in performance, and has a good cooling system.
To get SLI. you have to spend more up front for a SLI capable mobo, and a
more powerful SLI capable PSU. Upgrading a single card later with a
second equal card does not get you 2x increase, it is more like 1.1x to 1.5x depending on the game.
At that time, you will still be paying top dollar for a card that is closer to
being obsolete. It would be better to sell the old card and use the proceeds
towards a better new generation single card.

for gaming, the vga card is THE most important component. Pick the best you feel comfortable buying from this list:
http://www.tomshardware.com/2008/01/03/the_best_gaming_...
January 19, 2008 7:23:15 PM

Alright, for anybody still with me, how does this look. My original budget was $500, but with $50 worth of newegg.com mail-in rebates, this will run me about $525 (including shipping and some miscellaneous things I'm not listing like a CPU fan and thermal paste and fun stuff like that):

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA790X-DS4 AM2+/AM2 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ Brisbane 2.1GHz Socket AM2 65W Dual-Core Processor Model ADO4000DDBOX - Retail

Video Card: GECUBE GC-HD3850PG3-D3R Radeon HD 3850 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail

RAM: G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL5D-2GBNQ - Retail

Power Supply: Antec earthwatts EA500 ATX12V v2.0 500W Power Supply - Retail

If I get everything folks have been telling me (ha! yeah right), this setup is Crossfire ready, allowing me to ask for a second Radeon HD 3850 next Christmas.

What do you think? Shall I hit that "Checkout" button?
January 19, 2008 7:44:15 PM

Why did you switch to AMD?
January 19, 2008 8:41:14 PM

keep the core 2 duo and the motherboard, dont be confused, the ati card can work on any pci-e motherboard, you can use an ati graphics card on an intel motherboard with an intel processor
a b B Homebuilt system
a b U Graphics card
January 19, 2008 8:49:35 PM

Concur with imrul.
The amd MB/Proc comees to $264.
Gigabyte P35-DS3r is $134 (the -DS3L is only $107)
Proc: E4500 = $135, E2160 = $84

So For same price, or lower you get a better deal. With overclock you also get much better performance. I got the E6400 and overclocked it to 3.2 Gigs - This was my first overclock - Not difficult!
January 19, 2008 11:24:50 PM

imrul said:
dont be confused


Easy for you to say! ;) 

I did like my original mobo/CPU pick, but I moved to AMD because when I did a search for Intel mobos with Crossfire support (so that I could switch to an ATI graphics card), I didn't recognize the makers and didn't like the look of the reviews.

But imrul, what you are telling me is that an SLI-certified mobo will also allow me to set up two ATI cards (i.e., Crossfire)?
January 19, 2008 11:48:20 PM

Okay, never mind that last dumb question about SLI vs. Crossfire ... I went out and poked through the video cards forum to better understand this. So my simple answer to nukchebi0's question ("Why did you switch to AMD?") is, "because I want to set up Crossfire HD3850s and AMD does it in my budget."
January 20, 2008 4:55:10 AM

if you want to use xfire, you can use an intel chipset like the p35 or x38, you can also use an ati chipset on an intel motherboard to use xfire. nvdia chipsets dont allow xfire.
!