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Relative novice needs helpful input on series of difficult decisions!

Last response: in Systems
January 2, 2009 7:19:34 PM

Hey guys, I am in a relatively complex situation which has resulted in me contemplating upgrading my system; its all a little convoluted and has a lot of variables so I'll try and make as much sense as possible!

I have a Rig (from now on called Rig A) which a friend built me, in the process I learnt a little about building a computer. As a result I am now buying a PC (now called Rig B) and building it from scratch as a present for someone. They want it to play Titan Quest on a 20" screen, with the idea to play diablo III when it comes out, so it needs to be able to do that.

now the issue is, that seeing as I'm buying stuff for Rig B, I was contemplating using some of my old parts from Rig A and thus upgrade my own Rig A (rather cheekily) in the process.

Rig A is:
cpu - athlon 64 x2 5000+ running at 2.86ghz thanks to mobo auto overclock.
ram - ocz platinum 800mhz 2 x 1gb
psu - hiper 560w
mobo - asus M2n-Sli Deluxe
gpu - 8800 gt
heatsink - an artic cooler, 7 i think.
case - soon to be an antec (should i get the 300 or 900?)

Rig B:
will either be a completely new and relatively cheap system, or a collection of old parts from Rig A, depending on the advice I receive on the below.

So my original and simple idea was to get the AMD athlon x2 7750 Black Edition, and use it in Rig A, and give Rig B my old cpu. I was also going to buy 2x1gb of 800 mhz as well as a further 2x2gb of ram. This was because I was going to utilise Rig A's old ram to give Rig B 4x1gb ( I know its not ideal but it's not that bad is it?), and I'll use the 2x2gb in Rig A. I am gettin vista 64 to utilise this new ram as Rig A is on xp atm.
However, this got me thinking that seeing as im upgrading some parts shall I just chuck in a few more quid and properly upgrade? So i thought maybe i'll get 2x2gb of 1066mhz for Rig A. But then I realised that my mobo doesnt support 1066mhz ram. And I also noticed that the AMD phenom 9950 BE is pretty cheap atm, and would it be worth an extra £70 to go quadcore? also to enjoy OC'ing the phenom would I be correct in assuming the 1066mhz ram would be far more capable?

This leaves me in a quandary, as I can either just slightly upgrade my cpu and ram, or i can overhaul my rig A and get a quadcore. The reason an overhaul is a consideration is because I wouldn't throw anything away, it would be fine for Rig B. So although I have to buy (for eg.) a £110 mobo for Rig A to use this quadcore properly, I would have to buy a £60 one anyone to be put into Rig B - thus in my twisted logic I'm only paying £50 or so for a new mobo as Rig B can have my old m2n-sli deluxe. If I hold off upgrading Rig A until it's necessary then Rig B will already be built, so I can't reuse any of the parts of Rig A, so everything will have to be bought new, so although prices will have inevitably dropped I won't be making any clever savings by recycling parts = I will have to buy new for Rig B now, and then also buy new for Rig A when i upgrade it in the future!

Thus my plan kinda developed into making Rig A:
cpu - amd athlon x4 9950 BE
mobo - a new one
ram - 2x2gb 1066mhz

And this is where I came completely unstuck because there are too many variables for my small mind to comprehend. I would need a new mobo, but what chipset should i go for? I have read that the 790 w/sb750 is good, but I thought they were all amd chipsets, so wouldn't support my nvidia card? But then I have no idea what kind of mobo can use the phenom and still use nivida gpu's?
Thus would it make sense for me to switch to an ati card and give my 8800gt to Rig B? I was just going to settle for a nvidia 9600 for Rig B at first, that should play Diablo III right?
But if I DO upgrade my mobo and you guys say it makes sense to go for an ATI, do i get a 4850 (if yes how much mb, does larger 1gb make that much difference?), or should i invest more and get the 4870.

The reason I thought this might make some sense is because then later in the year when gpu's drop in price the 4850/70's would be more reasonable, and thus instead of a big upgrade in the future I could just get Crossfire to keep up with developments (Rig A is used to play games, I like them to be nice and highly playable but I'm not getting into any benchmarking wars or anything!). Or is there a mobo that can support the phenom and still support SLI (and that is actually good) - but then.... I wasn't sure if I would still be able to get another 8800gt in the future to make an SLI! *sigh*

I am a student, and I don't really have money to spend, but equally I can't resist the temptations of pretty things. Should i just build Rig B for approx £400 and just get a slightly better cpu and 4gb of 800mhz ram, or should I invest some cash and make an almost entirely new rig A with quadcore and 1066mhz ram, and just create Rig B out of the old parts of Rig A? What should I do about the gpu's if you think upgrading is cost-effective? Also, I plan to use this experience to learn alot about computers, and I plan to get into OC'ing, my knowledge of it atm is elementary but I want to learn in the future. If i upgrade to the Black Edition quadcore, i def want OC'ing to be a future option so i need to take that into consideration.

Is upgrading now cost-effective? Should I await the phenom II, or will it be horrendously expensive for the forseeable future, or should i just hold off with what I have for as long as i can and then invest a huge amount in the future on the jump to DDR3 and all the i7 craziness? Should I switch to AtI gpu's, because the whole new PhysX thing with Nvidia looks pretty good?

I know this is a rambling mass, but I've tried to clearly show my thought process of if I'm spending a little now, is it cost-effective to just spend a bit more, even though my current system is quite a good one. Any advice would help, I know there's alot of ground to cover, but just reading reviews online never really helps you if you're only at my skill level, its a bit bewildering. Thanks in advance guys, I really look forward to any knowledge you can impart!
Cheers, and happy new year!
January 2, 2009 7:36:40 PM

1066Mhz RAM really isn't needed for the fare of CPUs out there right now. So I wouldn't worry about that.

Although I'm not a fan of AMD's current Phenoms (the Phenom II's should be better), I'm still in favor of a quad core instead of a dual core. For some games though, a higher clocked Dual-Core is going to perform better (such as Titan Quest). Blizzard's upcoming Diablo III however, I'm not sure whether it is optimized for quad cores or not. Could do some research there. :) 

The Advantage with your system however, is you have the choice of upgrading to a Phenom chip without necessarily having to upgrade to a new motherboard. So you get the advantage there.

Depending on what you do, your current CPU in Rig A (the 5000+) is not going to do it to much longer. As far as waiting on the Phenom II chips goes, they have to be cheaper than the i7 CPUs. The Phenom II's are not supposed to be as fast as the i7's I don't think, and therefore they have to be cheaper or they'd be a giant flop.

Besides I think AMD is trying to aim at the mainstream, and not the high end.

For GPUs: The 8800GT is now "last years" 9800GT. It's cheaper now to buy a 9800GT than the 8800GT (even though they are the same card, but won't SLI together). nVidia is stupid with this whole thing, but that's marketing for ya. Anyhow, finding an 8800GT later might be slightly more difficult, and more expensive than it should be.

Could give your friend the 8800GT, and buy yourself a newer card to SLI later (as it'll be easier to get a duplicate of the newer card).

PhysX I think is up in the air. It's an nVidia only thing, so it means anyone who develops software that supports PhysX has to keep in mind it only benefits half their customer base. Some companies may or may not invest into PhysX programming. Hard to say.

I've always been a proponent of buying one solid video card. Get the best card you can afford to budget for, and enjoy the performance you get there. Later, as prices come down, you can then consider whether to SLI / Crossfire that card, or upgrade to the next best thing available. So far, I've never had an SLI setup. ;) 
January 2, 2009 7:38:01 PM

Well let me throw this into the mix, if your current motherboard doesn't already support the Phenom quad cores then its not going to support the X2 7750. The 7750 is a Phenom based dual core and requires the same support from the motherboard.

The release of the Phenom II should also drive the price down on the older Phenoms since AMD has already started phazing them out of production.
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January 2, 2009 7:52:37 PM

stoner133 said:
Well let me throw this into the mix, if your current motherboard doesn't already support the Phenom quad cores then its not going to support the X2 7750. The 7750 is a Phenom based dual core and requires the same support from the motherboard.

The release of the Phenom II should also drive the price down on the older Phenoms since AMD has already started phazing them out of production.

Yeah but Asus says his motherboard DOES support the standard Phenom. :)

So in theory, it could support the X2 7750. But you're right though. The Phenom II will drive down prices of all their older tech.
January 3, 2009 1:07:49 PM

Thanks for the replies guys, its really helpful. I had a look at my mobo's box and it just said 800mhz and only AM2, I didn't think to check the website (lesson learned!).
So if I flash my bios to the latest version, my mobo should be able to take the phenom and 1066mh ram, which effectively solves all my issues and saves me alot of money. I just get a new processor and the new ram as I wanted to all along, but I dont need to get a new mobo or gpu or anything, and thus can save £££'s by just buying budget for Rig B.

Thanks again for your advice.
January 3, 2009 1:16:27 PM

Can someone just confirm that my mobo can handle the phenom and 1066mhz ram for me, because the link someone helpfully posted above kinda confuses me. Half of the specs say it can only do 800mhz and socket AM2, and then in the writing under other headings it says it can do the AM2+ and 1066mhz ram! I don't want to commit and then be disappointed.