Hi, what CPU can I upgrade to on this machine?
HP Pavilion a1514n Pentium 4 3.06 GHz Media Center PC
Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 pre-installed w/COA
Intel Pentium 4 3.06 GHz processor 524
512 MB DDR2 RAM (Expandable to 2 GB)
250 GB SATA hard drive
DVD±RW DL LightScribe drive
Integrated High Definition Audio
9-in-1 memory card reader
Integrated IEEE 1394 FireWire
Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
56K PCI Modem
Supported Memory Cards:
CompactFlash I (CF)
CompactFlash II (CF)
Secure Digital (SD)
Memory Stick (MS)
Memory Stick Pro (MS Pro)
Micro Drive (MD)
One (1) PCI Express x16 slot
Three (3) PCI slots
Two (2) DIMM sockets
Four (4) SATA connectors
Two (2) PS/2 ports
One (1) 15-pin VGA port
One (1) 25-pin parallel port
Seven (7) USB 2.0 ports (four on back and three at front)
Two (2) IEEE 1394 FireWire ports (one on back and one on front)
One (1) RJ-45 Ethernet jack
One (1) RJ-11 modem jack
Digital audio out on back
Side, rear and C-sub jacks
Line-in, line out and microphone jacks
Line-in, microphone and headphone jacks at front
Two (2) 5.25-inch external drive bays
Two (2) 3.5-inch external bays
One (1) 3.5-inch internal bay
300-watt power supply (100-240V, 50/60 Hz)
The chipset on the MB is Radeon Xpress 200, which is an old low-end chipset that only supports up to single-core Pentium 4 and Celeron CPUs. It doesn't support dual-core CPUs. You've already got a fast CPU (for Pentium 4s).
These types of pre-built computers are normally built with parts that don't have much if any room for future upgrading, in order to save as much production cost as possible. To upgrade your computer, at a minimum you would need to buy a new MB, and new CPU and CPU cooler, a new power supply, and a new operating system (your current copy is almost certainly licensed for use only with the specific MB it came with). You would very likely also need to buy a video card and new RAM. After you've upgraded all that, you've changed just about everything, so it's normally better to just sell your old computer and build a complete new one.
That and the 512MB of RAM (2GB is the minimum for decent performance these days). However, as I said, you'll be able to reuse any new stuff you buy in your next build, so it won't be a waste.
PS - If you do try to upgrade your HP, make sure there is enough case airflow to handle the big heat load of an 8800 graphics card, and monitor CPU and GPU temps closely for at least the first few days to verify this.
This one was recommended to me over at CGSociety:
Asus® Extreme EN9600GT Silent/HTDI/512M - GeForce™ 9600GT w/512Mb DDR3 & PCI Express x16
Recommended because of the price at the moment here in Canada at PCCanada and also because, at the vendor site, they say it runs cooler. If you have comments on this card, I'd welcome them.
BTW, my HP A1514N was a debranded purchase and it came with 1G instead of 512Mb RAM. The RAM upgrade to 2G is my first move because the ZBrush 3D app by Pixologic actually doesn't depend on the video card, but rather: itself, RAM and CPU (especially RAM, apparently). I don't know jack why, but that's what I have been told many times by those in the know at that site. They say you can have just about any card in there and it won't matter, which I can't understand.
If you go with a fanless graphics card, internal case airflow is even more important, because such cards don't run any cooler, they just have a monster heat sink and depend on internal case airflow to cool off the heatsink.
As for the specifics of graphics card performance, check out the (almost monthly) Tom's Hardware graphics card guides to choose your level of performance/price.
Same deal here. Same mobo with a 2gb ram, 1.5tb hdd, 7300gt 512mb card and a 450w PS. I am looking to hand it over to my 7 year old son but would like to increase the performance. It has the base cpu (runs at 2.8) but can be upgraded to a PD 9XX series...what would be the best cpu to install? Thanks!