Hey everyone, I'm new here and looking for some advice. Here is my current setup, which I have had for about 4 years (I added the second gig of memory about six months ago):
AMD 64 3700+ "San Diego" 2.2ghz (oc'ed to 2.5ghz)
DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D 939
2 x 512mb OCZ EL Plat rev. 2, and 2 x 512MB Patriot Extreme (2gb total 184-Pin PC 3200)
eVGA nVidia 6800GT
2 x HITACHI Deskstar 80GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s (in Raid-0)
NEC ND-3540A DVD Burner
OCZ 520w PowerStream power supply
Dell 21" widescreen LCD at 1680x1050 resolution
Lian-Li PC-V1200 ATX case
I've been noticing that my computer has been running a little sluggish lately. It takes like 15 seconds for iTunes to start up. I get blue screen of death when I keep the computer running for too long, even though I never have spyware or viruses. I think my overclock is pretty gentle, too. I think what I really need is at least 4gb total ram for today's applications. So, instead of scrapping 4 x 512mb sticks, and paying a lot for expensive 1GB 184-pin sticks... I'm thinking about upgrading to AM2/3 or i7. I would keep my case, hard drives (probably just use for extra storage), dvd burner, monitor, and if possible the powersupply.
My budget is flexible, but I'm looking to put in $600. I just want to upgrade with the best deal. I don't need to have cutting edge. For some background info, the only games I intend to play are World of Warcraft and StarCraft 2, when that comes out. I'd like to be able to play at near max settings on those games. Also, I do a lot of multitasking with browser/iTunes/Warcraft, so memory is probably going to be key.
Unfortunately, the socket 939 is a dead end. I remember having a hard time even a year ago trying to find a CPU for that platform.
I'm guessing you'd make good use of a quad-core CPU, based on what you're describing. Since you're considering i7 I guess your budget is good. You have three main options IMO:
i7 920/X58 board/6GB of DDR3 - fastest, but most expensive
Q9550/P45 board/4GB of DDR2 - almost as good, even better in some games, cheaper
Phenom II 940/790GX board/4GB of DDR2 - almost as good as the one above, cheaper
As for the GPU, I'd recommend a HD 4870 1GB. It's excellent bang for the buck.
The GTX 260 is also very good, but I still think the HD 4870 is better here because it supports Havok (which will make Starcraft 2 nicer) and because you can Crossfire it on all three of those platforms (X58, P45, 790GX).
A new hard disk like WD6401AALS ($80, 640GB) could also help there. I suspect it has a better average read-write rate than your RAID-0.
Current DDR 3200 not compatible with AM2. 2 X 2 GB kits of DDR2 are cheap.
AM2 780/790 with PII 940 would destroy your current system. Like make it hide in the closet.
But would I notice a significant speed increase by spending about $150 to replace my 4 x 512 sticks with 4 x 1gb stick? If I would, I might just want to milk this system a little longer. Then again, it would be another $150 wasted when I decide to upgrade the rest.
A i7 920/x58/DDR3 combination is not doable for $600-$175. It would consume all your $600 ($290 CPU, $250+ MB, $100+ RAM) and leave you to struggle with the old 6800GT. That makes no sense - the machine would still not be able to play any recent games properly.
X58 boards are designed for maniacs with 2 or even 3 video cards and with serious overclocking in mind. In your case, you'd pay for features you don't need.
Then there's also the fact that this is the highest-end product available and it carries an extra cost simply for the prestige.
AM3 is a bit too new so I don't really want to comment on it until I do more research. Right now I see a single AM3 quad CPU at Newegg, it's called Phenom II X4 810. It's a bit slower than the Phenom II 940, according to this review: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3512&p=1
It costs $176, a MB would be $140 (ASUS M4A78T-E AM3 DDR3 AMD 790GX), and it needs DDR3 which costs more than DDR2. On the whole, it costs more than the Phenom II 940 version and delivers less performance.
A Phenom II 940 + 790GX combo would be $343 (saves you $32 over the GA-EP45-UD3R/Q9550), the MB has more features, but the CPU is a bit slower.
I would go with a 790GX mobo but instead go with a 5400+ BE ($65-$70) and then wait for prices to drop on the Phenom II's. Sure you are getting a slower CPU but you also get somewhat of an upgrade path that can carry parts over to AM3 if you get an AM3 CPU for the AM2/AM2+ mobo. With a 4870 1GB, you will crash through WoW with all settings maxed or close to it.
That means you pay $70 and live with a slower CPU for a while, hoping that the Phenom II 940 will drop in the meantime from $230 to $160 just to break even. That is, if it drops to $160 you have lived with the slower CPU and went to the trouble of installing the CPU twice, all for nothing. Hmmm... this makes sense to me only if you expect the Phenom to drop way under $160 and to do it soon too. I wouldn't bet on it, TBH.
I'm actually really interested in the DFI LanParty JR X58-T3H6 ($229) now that Lian-Li has updated it's PC-V351 (see THW frontpage!). I might have to put off upgrading the video card so I can afford the i7 920. The only game I play right now is WarCraft 3 and that runs fine on my 6800GT. I also like the idea of staying with DFI since I've never had any problems with them. The problem is DDR3 memory is expensive for a 3 x 2gb kit, the best I could find is this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...