I am about to embark on a a bit of an upgrade mission and I would like to gain opinions from those users more experienced than me.
The board I have right now is, not the best, in all honesty. So I started to read reviews and comments from users to help me decide on the best options for an upgrade. I have a reasonable budget, but like most it's not limitless. I've planned to do a staggered upgrade of the whole system over several months (pay cheques), in a way that I don't have to buy everything in one go and similarly I don't have the agony of having to buy parts and leave them sitting around for months until I have bought everything I need before I can use them.
I started off by upgrading my CPU from a low end Core2Duo to a Core2Quad (Q8400), the new CPU fits my existing board so it was just a simple straight swap and 10 minutes the PC is back up and running.. : )
I'm now looking at upgrading the board and RAM, with a new case and some extra cooling, then further down the line i'll look at beefing up the Graphics.
I'd like a decent, reliable board, with good overclocking potential. I'm looking at around the £100 mark for the board and say around £70/80 for RAM. After reading a number of reviews and comments from the guys on here I was looking at the Asus P5Q Pro. Not the newest, best or most expensive board, but one which seems to receive a lot of favourable feedback. I was also then looking at a 4GB kit of OCZ Gold PC2-8500 (C5) RAM. In total this worked out at a shade over £160, which suits me fine.
Graphics wise, I currently use a single 512Mb Sapphire X1950 Pro, so looking forward to the future I would see myself probably picking up another one of these and running them in Crossfire, and then sometime after that probably upgrading both of these. Currently I use 2x19" Monitors, but I may look at replacing these with a single large widescreen. So basically i'm keen to find a crossfire solution that will eventually support a couple of beefy crossfired cards on a large monitor and when that time comes I don't really want to have to go down the route of upgrading the board again.
So reading on, it seems that while the P5Q Pro supports crossfire and appears to have dual 16x PCIe channels, once setup in crossfire I can only utilise 8x PCIe... Now, whilst this probably won't have a noticeable difference on the smaller monitors with the x1950's, when the time gpu/monitor change time comes, the performance drop becomes noticeable.
It was suggested that going for a X48 board would be a wiser choice because of the true dual 16x PCIe channels, which lead me to look at the Asus P5E3 Pro. The X48 chipset obviously supports DDR3 (as apposed to the DDR2 of the P45), so a different RAM setup is required. Now, I can't really consider a tri-channel solution right now, so I settled my ideas on dual channel, and a reasonable buy seems to be a 4GB kit of G.SKill Ripjaw PC3-16000 (C9). Clearly these timings are higher than the DDR2, and whilst not being anything of an expert in RAM, I still considered this to be superior. Hopefully that is a correct assumption?
This little lot comes to £185, which is just £25 more than the DDR P5Q Pro solution, and seems (to me of limited knowledge) the obvious choice, but my questions to the community would be:
Firstly, is this board a worthy choice over the P5Q Pro?
Will the increase in cost result in a performance increase?
Will the newer setup of X48 and DDR3 be a more futureproof option?
Any comments, or advice from the community to help me (as a fairly inexperienced upgrade/overclock/hardware person) would be greatly appreciated. I am relatively new to this (hardware) as I am a software developer by trade, but I'm a quick learner and a technical thinker so I am sure that with a bit of help I can make the right decisions.
It seems that info on (and owners of) this board are very thin on the ground. This makes me a bit nervous and somewhat reluctant to buy it. At least with the P5Q there is an abundance of info and guides from other users...