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Time for an upgrade - Video Card and PSU

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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April 10, 2008 3:08:57 AM

Well I'm fairly behind current generation in terms of my PC components but would like to play games such as F.E.A.R., Quake 4, Heroes of Might and Magic V decently. I am not worried about maxing out graphical settings.

My Setup:
CPU: P4 - 2.4Ghz
RAM: 2x 512mb RDRAM (means I can't remove it and upgrade?)
PSU: 250W
Video Card: Radeon 7500 64mb - AGP4X

I've been considering the Sapphire HD2600XT 512MB AGP for around $110 - but I'm sure I'd need to upgrade my PSU to around 400W according to threads around here. Also I've noticed many educated people here pointing to the "rails" of the PSU being more important that the wattage - if so, what kind of PSU would you recommend?

I'm also worried about "bottlenecking". Will it be worth it at all to get this card considering my current setup? I know my CPU and AGP4X slot will be the narrow end of the bottle. I've thought about looking for a new Motherboard with PCI-E but figured such a board wouldn't support my current CPU.

Thanks a million,
Maximu5
April 10, 2008 3:39:02 AM

How much are you willing to spend on a PSU? $$$$

As long as that P4 is Socket 775, you could use any of the current Intel chipsets, I am pretty sure. That would allow you to go PCI-E and give you a nice upgrade path to get around the CPU bottleneck.

I guess it all comes down to your budget?
April 10, 2008 4:06:32 AM

Thanks for the reply badgtx1969

From using CPU-Z I found that my CPU is socket 478. I'm guessing this is bad news in terms of the upgrade path you mentioned. I don't think it's necessary to shell out more than $60 on a PSU (Canada). My budget is flexible but I'm still careful - I'd like to get the best value for a casual gaming machine. I thought the best method would be to get the HD2600XT 512MB AGP as long as it won't be horribly bottlenecked.
Related resources
April 10, 2008 4:20:05 PM

So if I can't get a PCI-E MOBO with socket 478 - would it still be smart to buy the HD2600XT or will it not be worth the ~$110?
April 10, 2008 5:40:10 PM

since you want to play game, wait up & aim for : pci-e mb, ddr2, 9600gt + e2160, i did mine (tommorow ill be getting e2160, boxed looking for mo) & you'll happy with it.

dont be shy to browse / look around for second hand items.
April 10, 2008 5:43:07 PM

Thanks for the reply spotless,

Do you mind if I ask around how much you paid for that upgrade?
April 10, 2008 6:22:51 PM

I've looked at Motherboards with socket 478 and I have only come across ones with AGP8X. I don't have a big eough budget to buy basically a whole new computer (CPU, MOBO, PSU, Video Card). I would appreciate if someone could tell me if it's worth upgrading to the HD2600XT on my system and/or if socket 478 PCI-e MOBOs are available.

Thanks
April 10, 2008 6:40:35 PM

I think you need to re-think this. Why spend good money on old equipment, wait till you can afford to upgrade your cpu, gpu and mobo at the same time?

My thoughts....
April 10, 2008 6:51:26 PM

Thanks for your input mythor20

My dilemma is that I could afford to upgrade, but I wouldn't buy top-of-the-line hardware since I have no interest I dishing out money to play games on highest settings. Therefore, I've been trying to look into the future and see if only upgrading the graphics card will sustain me for 1-2 years. Any input would be appreciated.
a b U Graphics card
April 10, 2008 6:53:53 PM

I checked Canada computers, and came up with this low budget upgrade: Celeron 420 cpu with heatsink $38.99; Asus p5gc-mx board $59.99; Kingmax ddr2 pc6400 1 gig $21.99. This setup will give you some room to upgrade in the future. The newer celeron will outperform your old socket 478 (especially when overclocked); this board will take a 21xx or 64xx cpu if you want more performance later. I wouldn't invest another dime in your old 478 setup. It will be a bottleneck even with a pci-e card.
April 10, 2008 7:16:47 PM

Thank you o1die,

Some concerns though: I've heard that Celerons perform worse than P4 - and the celeron mentioned is 1.6Ghz compared to my current P4 2.4Ghz. I understand what you mean by being able to upgrade (since the celeron is socket 775 as with current core2's etc..) but what is meant by the board being able to "take a 21xx or 64xx cpu"?

Thank you
April 10, 2008 8:49:29 PM

$60 for a below average mobo, a celeron!

Maximu5 its never been a better a time to buy pc components, you can get a Dual core 3.0ghz, 2gb ram,550 watt psu, 9600gt for $400



http://cgi.ebay.ca/EVGA-9600GT-Superclocked-675MHZ-512M...

Overclock that cpu to 3.0ghz and you have a serious gaming pc that can handle everything, instead of paying $ for sh"te
a b U Graphics card
April 10, 2008 9:11:19 PM


I agree with all items except PSU. The CoolerMaster PSUs are cr@p (Tire 5/4 for that model). I would go with at lease a Tire 3 for about $10 more. A better motherboard option would also have been the P35-DS3L motherboard.
a b U Graphics card
April 10, 2008 11:17:32 PM

The new celeron has a shorter pipeline than your old p4, and runs cooler. To overclock, simply bump up the cpu voltage by .1 to about 1.3 and set the cpu fsb to 1066. Most will overclock this easily. With $39 invested, who cares if it dies. It's a good temporary upgrade. It has the same cache as your old p4, and with the fsb set to 1066, will outperform your old cpu. The 21xx series is only about $30 more, and overclocks just as well. For your $30 extra, you get twice the cache and a dual core cpu. I simply suggested the celeron to save money in the short run.
April 11, 2008 4:46:43 AM

Thank you everyone for your input.

I guess the consensus is that it's wiser to upgrade most of my components. I forgot to mention that I just got this PC (believe it or not) and the one I was using before was even worse. I've read up a bit on the forum here but I'm wondering if all motherboards are the same size. I mean, will any desktop MOBO fit in any desktop computer case? I'd also like to know the same about the power supply - are they all generally the same size?

All of the help is greatly appreciated :) 
a b U Graphics card
April 11, 2008 6:08:35 AM

If you have a generic atx case, then any atx board will work fine. Same for the power supply. For the power supply, get one with some weight (literally). The cheaper ones are lightweight, less than 3 lbs.
a b U Graphics card
April 11, 2008 8:12:53 AM

A cheap C2D setup will run you around $400 or so, so consider this as a budget. Obviously if you have some parts that can carry over (HD/Case/etc) than that will make things a bit cheaper. Here is what I'd get to start out:
CPU - $70 shipped.
Intel Pentium E2160 Allendale 1.8GHz 1MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mobo - $97 shipped. Goes on sale for around $90 or so, so keep an eye on it.
GIGABYTE GA-P35-DS3L LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX All Solid Capacitor Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM - $69 - $40 MIR = $29!!! Cheap and fast DDR2 800mHz RAM!
CORSAIR XMS2 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU - $82 - $15 shipped = $67!! If you keep with the 2600xt.
SAPPHIRE 100208L Radeon HD 2600XT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case/PSU combo - $80 shipped! Has 380w >80% efficient PSU that has 27A on the 12V rails, so you have plenty of room with this build.
Antec NSK4480B Black 0.8mm cold-rolled steel construction ATX Mid Tower Computer Case 380W Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Add your HD's/DVD/CD drives and your total would be: ~$397 - $55 MIR's = $342!! Now not too bad for a decent budget build. Obviously you can change any parts, but this would at least get you into a PCI-e Mobo and a much better situation. You could even sell your current PC for some $ and use that $ towards this build.
April 11, 2008 5:16:52 PM

Thanks for the time you put into that lunyone

What is the advantage of getting a $90 MOBO like the one lunyone recommended compared to a cheaper mobo with the same connections - I know durability is one factor and I think (correct me if I'm wrong) certain features of certain CPUs (FSB?) are only compatable with motherboards that support them. I also read about about good overclocking support with the mentioned MOBO.

Also, how would I be able to tell if my current 2x 512MB of RDRAM is compatable with the MOBO mentioned by lunyone?

Thanks - more suggestions are welcomed - still haven't decided entirely what I'm going to do but am considering the options lunyone provided and using the information from other people here.

THANK YOU GUYS&GALS :) 
April 11, 2008 6:45:30 PM

RDRAM is dead, it was used for a [very] short time with Socket 478 Intel processors.

A system upgrade should be in-line for you.

My suggestion:
P35 motherboard (DS3L is a good one, among other Asus boards)
E2160/2180 Pentium Dual Core CPU
Antec Earthwatts PSU (good quality and efficiency, as well as inexpensive)
ATi HD 3650 GPU DDR3 (I can't suggest the 2600XT anymore since this GPU has dropped in price to near comparable levels) like these:

MSI R3650-T2D512 OC Radeon HD 3650 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - $80 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS EAH3650 SILENT/HTDI/512M Radeon HD 3650 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - $80 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Although I think the 2600XT would be a good choice too, since the 3650 is a 2600XT with a smaller manufacturing process.

Getting a good name motherboard (Gigabyte, Asus, etc) comes with a better warranty and is less likely to have compatability problems and early death issues.
April 14, 2008 2:03:04 AM

Sorry for the late reply and thanks to Kyle for the great suggestion.

I've now confirmed my budget around 300-400 so if anyone has additional recommendations I'd love to hear them before I make my purchase. So far it seems the DS3L MOBO is the most popular as well as the C2D E2160 CPU.

I'd also like to add that I'd be buying (likely in store) from these stores
http://www.canadacomputers.com
http://www.infonec.com
http://www.ucomputer.ca

I really appreciate all of the help - such a helpful and knowledgeable community here at tomshardware!
April 14, 2008 7:39:29 PM

In terms of what I'll be able to transfer over to the new system: my case (Dell Precision 340), CD/DVD Drives, Hard Drive, Monitor and Peripherals.

So I guess I'm looking for a MOBO, CPU, RAM, PSU and Graphics Card for around 300-400 CAD preferably from the sites I posted above. If everyone agrees with KyleSTL's setup he recommended, I'll go with that.

Thank you
April 14, 2008 9:07:52 PM

Antec EA-430 430W ATX 12V 80mm Fan 80PLUS ROHS Power Supply - $60
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L - $99
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

A-DATA DDR2 800 240pin 2GB Kit (2x1GB) - $42
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160 Socket LGA775, 1.80 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 1MB L2 Cache, 65nm (Retail Box) - $76
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

Sapphire ATI RADEON HD 2600XT 512MB DDR3 Dual Display PCI-Express Graphics Card - $95
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...
(The DDR3 versions of the 3650 start at $113, so that's why I suggested the 2600XT, it's simply not worth the price difference)

Total - $372 CAN, not bad
April 14, 2008 9:51:28 PM

Go for the 9600GT/8400GS over the 2600XT, for a few dollars more!
April 14, 2008 9:56:33 PM

Thank you again Kyle

I've decided to have this rig last me a while (maybe a RAM or CPU upgrade in the future). Also by no means am I limited to ATI cards - I'd be open to nVIDIA if you feel I can get more performance for my money out of one of their cards.

Also I've read around and found the real key to a PSU is the 'volts on the rails'. Will the EA-430 provide enough for me now and the future?

EDIT: Just saw Dostanio recommend 8400GS and 9600GT for 'a few dollars more' but the 8400GS is like 30 dollars cheaper and the 9600GT is about 70 dollars more expensive than the 2600XT...
a b U Graphics card
April 14, 2008 10:55:48 PM

The Antec EW 430w PSU has 30A on the 12V rail and will run any single GPU solution that is out. See my link in my signature to see what the little brother, Antec EW 380w, PSU can do with an 8800gtx (g80). Not that I'd recommend running it that hard, but you'll get the point.
April 15, 2008 2:39:28 AM

Ok so the EW 430 sounds like a good choice first of all - how about the video card, I don't know how long the 2600XT will last me. Once I get this rig up I'll probably play games like COD4 and Crysis if possible.
April 15, 2008 4:22:27 AM

It all depends on resolution. The 2600XT could run Crysis @ 1024x768 with medium settings, I believe. The 9600GT you could crank up the resolution and/or detail settings a couple tiers higher. If you want it to "last a while" the 9600GT would be the minimum I would recommend even at 10x7.

@ Dostanio: 8400GS? Why? The only thing that bottom-of-the-line GPU is good for is turning on Aero or watching Blu Ray (and it might not even do the latter that well).
April 17, 2008 5:20:59 AM

Thank you very much for all of your help KyleSTL

I've been thinking and I'm worried that my Dell (Precision 340) computer case will not work not ventilate enough for all of the new components. There are no external fans or ventilation on the case. Do you think this case will keep the temperatures of my hardware too high?

Also, when buying a CPU what comes in the package? Do i get a heatsink and fan, or only the CPU? I've decided to go with the e2160 and GA-D35-DS3L since it seems like a good investment - having overclocking potential for the future.

Also, which would be the better investment;
Sapphire HD2600XT http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...
OR
XFX Geforce 8600GT http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...
OR
XFX Geforce 8600GT XXX Edition - If it's worth the extra $15
http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

There is also the Sapphire HD3650 at canadacomputers (DDR2 and DDR3)
DDR2 - http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...
DDR3 - http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.php?do=ShowProduct...

Thank you so much everyone - I'm almost ready to finalize the build! lol
April 17, 2008 2:01:32 PM

Also, if I need to buy a new case - does anyone know of some worthwhile case+PSU bundles (preferably from Canadacomputers.com and infonec.com). I've seen some, but I'm not sure if they are worth it.

Thanks
April 17, 2008 3:28:07 PM

I would suggest a new case, the Antec New Solution (NSK) and Sonata series are pretty good and come with good PSUs. I wouldn't pack your new components in an [inadequate] old Dell case.
April 17, 2008 3:34:45 PM

So with my setup, do you think I should buy some case fans, or will my temp. be ok?
April 17, 2008 3:39:20 PM

I would say new case with the stock fans. The price difference between PSU and PSU/Case combo is small enough to warrant buying both.
April 17, 2008 3:43:50 PM

OK...and would you happen to have any input on the video card choice?
April 17, 2008 3:50:13 PM

The 8600GT (with DDR3) will perform better than the HD2600XT in most circumstances. And considering that the next level of video cards available at canadacomputer (the 9600GT) is $180-200, I'd say the $19 difference is worth the little boost. So I'd go for the XFX 8600GT XXX you listed.

Do not get any video card with DDR2, it will severely effect the performance.
April 17, 2008 3:53:34 PM

I really appreciate all of the help Kyle -- I guess that answers all of my questions besides overclocking (which I will ask in the appropriate forum when the time comes). I hope I can PM you if I have any further questions.

Again, thanks so much.
April 17, 2008 6:21:50 PM

KyleSTL said:
The 8600GT (with DDR3) will perform better than the HD2600XT in most circumstances. And considering that the next level of video cards available at canadacomputer (the 9600GT) is $180-200, I'd say the $19 difference is worth the little boost. So I'd go for the XFX 8600GT XXX you listed.

Do not get any video card with DDR2, it will severely effect the performance.


I'll second the vote for the 8600GT XXX. I have the same card and it is pretty damn fast for the price. I haven't run into many games that run poorly on it (haven't tried Crysis, though). Oblivion, ETQW, NWN2, Rainbow 6 Vegas (among others) run great on it.

It is clocked a bit higher than the standard GT too. Also, mine is able to be overclocked to 700 core/850 (1700) memory mhz and run perfectly stable.
April 22, 2008 1:25:49 PM

You will only be able to attach two of them. That is the problem with newer mobos. They are phasing out IDE for Sata. But, you can get Sata optical drives pretty cheap now, if you wanted to swap one out. Otherwise, a Sata HD would be better than having IDE.
April 22, 2008 1:29:09 PM

So are there any differences between SATA and IDE besides reduced clutter with SATA? Is there a noticeable increase in performance when switching to SATA (eg. 40GB SATA HD vs. 40GB IDE HD).
April 22, 2008 1:35:55 PM

Transfer rates are a little higher with sata. But, whether or not it will be highly noticable is questionable. We are talking like reducing load times on a game by like a second or two. IDE standards topped out at 133MB/sec, while SATA started at 150MB/sec, and the SATA 3.0 doubled it to 300MB/sec. But, you really don't need that much through put for one drive. It becomes more significant when using multiple sata drives.

Reduced clutter is another good thing, better airflow in your case.
April 22, 2008 2:16:32 PM

You can probably pick up a cheap PCI PATA controller. On newegg you can find them for $10-15 with two ATA connectors (4 devices total). I would offer you an extra ATA card I have, but shipping/customs might kill it's economic feasibility.

Edit: I only suggest this because replacing two opticals and two HDDs could be somewhat expensive (as a percentage of your total budget), but that's also an option.
April 22, 2008 2:26:40 PM

KyleSTL said:
You can probably pick up a cheap PCI PATA controller. On newegg you can find them for $10-15 with two ATA connectors (4 devices total). I would offer you an extra ATA card I have, but shipping/customs might kill it's economic feasibility.

Edit: I only suggest this because replacing two opticals and two HDDs could be somewhat expensive (as a percentage of your total budget), but that's also an option.



Yes, good thinking Kyle! For your needs, you won't see any real benefits from Sata, so this is a better idea.
April 23, 2008 4:11:46 PM

Thanks for the replies

I've been looking around again and would like to know how the XFX 8600GT XXX (256MB) stacks up to the ASUS 8600GTS (256MB) and the Sapphire HD3650 (512MB). All of them are around $105. The ASUS 8600GTS is from http://www.ucomputer.ca/html/video.php and it's about $30 cheaper than CanadaComputers (without considering CC's rebate). Hopefully ucomputer didn't factor a Mail-in-rebate into the price without mentioning it :p  The prices for the other cards are from CanadaComputers.

Thank you (P.S. I guess I'm careful with my money; trying to make this topic live forever! lol)
April 23, 2008 8:53:06 PM

I would not trust that Asus deal. Did you notice that there are two identical descriptions with different prices? My guess is the $105 is a DDR2 card, and and $150 is a DDR3 version.

Try NCIX too:
http://www.ncix.com/
!