Major System Upgrade - AM2+ vs AM3


Skip to THE BUILD to jump the history drivel.

I've currently got a system based on the Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 3800+ (2 GHz, not overclocked). It's been rock solid over the last couple of years, but has recently begun to crash more and more frequently when under load, especially when warm (it invariably crashed when my AC was off, but not always if on). When I say warm, I mean the CPU is sub 50 C, so by no means hot.

Over the weekend I rebuilt it, removing dust, adding case fans, improving ventilation and fixing the dreaded spaghetti. Things have improved since then, but I do still get 4 - 5 crashes per week, plus the machine is unbearably noisy due to all the extra airflow. During the rebuild I came across 3 swollen capacitors that are likely causing my stability issues. Grumble.

(secretly I've also been feeling that it's become a little slow and dated for my liking, but don't tell anyone!)

So it's time for an upgrade. I'm going to do this in stages:

Now: Motherboard, CPU, RAM
Soon: New Graphics card + 2x 24 inch LCDs (currently I have 2x 19 inch on a Geforce 7400GS).
A little later: New 2x 2TB HDDs in RAID 1 + a fast SSD for the OS (currently I have 2x 500 GB).

My Case and PSU still have room to grow, so I'll stick with what I have on that front.

I like to support the underdog (AMD) and consider Intel's i7 platform overpriced for my needs. I am not a gamer and don't intend to overclock anything. I need a snappy, quiet, reliable workhorse that will last me 2 - 3 years. I do quite a bit of encoding, en/decrypting, hi-res photo editing and the odd bit of movie editing.

I'm a Ubuntu man so I should be fine with 4 GB RAM. Sadly I don't live in a place with a great selection of components, but I have narrowed things down to the following options:

AM2 Option:
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 940 (3.0 GHz) AM2
RAM: Kingston HyperX 1066 DDR2 (2 x 2 GB)

AM3 Option:
Motherboard: GA-MA790FXT-UD5P
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 955 (3.2 GHz) AM3
RAM: Kingston HyperX 1600 DDR3 (2 x 2 GB)

Price difference: ~GBP 50.

- AM2 or AM3? Is the price difference worth it?
- Which CPU Cooler would you recommend (no overclocking required, needs to be as quiet as possible)?
- Any other comments on the components listed?
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  1. Best answer
    The PII X4 955 is a very good option and has a stock speed of 3.2GHz, which would help increase in performance and the stock cooler that comes with the 955 is better than the previous stock coolers...So first check out its noise, then get an aftermarket cooler if you are not satisfied...

    As you would not be gaming and not overclocking, you wont need the 790FX at all...change the mobo to this...

    It would perform very well and would cost considerably less...thus not increasing the overall system cost...
  2. +1 agree that 790FX way overkill for your needs- in fact i run Ubuntu fine on 780G/790GX IGP builds and that would suffice. Many have also done Fedora, Win 7 and Xubuntu fine on HD3300 as well hehe It can do dual LCD set ups and Toms actually did a quad LCD set up with the addition of a ridiculously cheap HD3450!,1785-6.html

    So i would go something like

    ECS BLACK SERIES A790GXM-AD3, stick to HD3300 IGP
    G skill 2 x 2 DDR3 1333
  3. Thanks for the replies!

    Definitely an interesting point, the overkill motherboard! What attracts me about the high end board is the unusual two onboard gigabit NICs - I probably should have mentioned that I play with LTSP quite a bit - having the extra one onboard saves me a PCI space.

    I have a spare PCI NIC from my current PC, but it's not gigabit. Will have to see if the cost of a gigabit NIC is less than the differential between the two boards in the local market.

    Other than that, DDR3 isn't worth the extra cost currently?
  4. Actually if you see DDR2 and DDR3 RAMs don't have much cost difference as it was before...And DDR3 is the future and DDR2 RAMs are slowly exiting...So in future if you want to upgrade your memory, by that time, DDR3 would be mainstream and DDR2 would be legacy components...
  5. If you aren't going to overclock, don't pay more than an extra ten pounds for a Black Edition processor. They are only ~8% faster (200mHz), don't pay much more for them. If you can be persuaded to overclock, it's a (much) different story.
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