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How should I upgrade?

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July 11, 2009 11:59:03 PM

Hey everyone. Here are my rig's current specs -

C2D E4400
Gigabyte P35-DS3R (revision 1.0) ** This board only has 1x PCI-e 1.1 x16
Sapphire HD 4870 1gb
Corsair 2gb (2x1gb) XMS2 DDR2 800
Fortron Group 500w psu
Vista Home Premium 32-bit


I just bought the HD 4870 1gb and I don't feel like I'm able to get the most out of the card with my current configuration. Here's what I plan on doing regardless:

- Vista Home Premium 64-bit just came in the mail today, so I plan on installing that.
- Upping my ram to 4gb or more.

I use my rig for gaming and as an entertainment suite for my room. I run Media Center on my HDTV via HDMI, and have surround sound mounted around my room for movies. I often am recording tv programs / movies while I game, and I usually have multiple windows and programs open at once (and I like to switch between them if possible). I do all of my web design and audio / video editing on my Macbook just because I prefer OS X for that kind of work.

I built this system about two years ago, and planned on upgrading the cpu and gpu when I had more money. I just did the gpu, but the cpu has become a bit tricky. Here are the upgrade options I've come up with:

1) Stay with the LGA 775 socket and get a Q9550 (I've always wanted a quad cpu) and 4 - 6gb DDR2 800.

** This keeps me at dual channel for the ram (instead of triple channel), and keeps me at PCI-e 1.1 instead of 2.0.

2) Upgrade both the mobo and the cpu to i7, and get 4gb DDR3. This option is very expensive and slightly goes over my planned budget.

** This enables a new line of processor, triple channel ram, PCI-e 2.0 and potentially Crossfire if I get a board with two slots. Very expensive though.


So...if I went the cheaper route with option 1, would my system still be game-capable for the next two years or so? Do the benefits outweigh the price tag for leaping ahead with option 2?
Do you think the benefits of PCI-e 2.0 will fully emerge before the i7 becomes obsolete? Are the new i7 cpus even worth buying into? I would only be able to afford the entry-level one atm.

Thanks for any and all input on this. I've been going back and forth on this decision for awhile now, and would like to pick something soon. I know many of the benchmarks have shown the i7 processors as blowing away the Q9550 C2Ds, but has anyone owned both who could compare for me? I also realize that no one knows the answer to some of the above questions, but this is kind of a "what would you do" thing. Thanks again!

More about : upgrade

a b B Homebuilt system
July 12, 2009 2:27:47 AM

Honestly, if you can wait, see what the i5 can offer you later this year. You could get the q9550, but then you have processor that will outlast GPU and who knows what the next gen GPU will do or how it will work on PCIe 1.1. The PCIe 1.1 is more than enough for the 4870, its not till you get into double cards on one PCB that the 2.0 plays a factor. So you're fine there if you do go with a Q9550. If the next gen of GPU can't run on that mobo and the CPU is still kicking arse, then you are forced to sell the cpu jand start over or buy a new mobo with a dead socket. But getting 2 years out of option 1 is realistic.

If you go option 2, the i7 920 is a very capable processor and more horsepower than you'll use, so don't worry about it being entry level. It all comes down to your budget.
a b B Homebuilt system
July 12, 2009 4:30:33 AM

+1^ wait for i5 which if nothing else will adjust pricing downward, or i920.
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July 12, 2009 5:33:12 AM

I think it depends on your budget...the i5 will need a new MB, ect too, and unlikely it will be a whole lot cheaper than an i7 920 system if you shopped wisely. So you are looking at about a $225 upgrade if you go with option 1, or about $600 if you go with option 2. But to answer what seems to be your main question, the q9550 will definately get you 2 years out of your video card (unless you are running really high resolutions) and at that point you will have a really cheap upgrade path of an a new 775 MB with good OC abilities that supports crossfire and another 4870...in two years time that will be a very cheap upgrade that will net you a lot of performance and probably get you another 2 years out of your rig. Remember that to get the best price performance you usually need to be buying a generation behind the cutting edge. If price isn't that much of an issue, i7 is the way to go now.
a b B Homebuilt system
July 12, 2009 5:37:10 AM

The q9550 will either cost less after i5, or be replaced at equal cost with a superior performing i5 cpu.

Which is one of the points in favor of waiting just a couple months more. If you can.
a b B Homebuilt system
July 12, 2009 11:36:26 AM

I also just noticed, you've been running Vista. That uses up 1-1.5 gb of ram by itself so you've been trying to run all your multi tasking in 1 gb or less of ram. Adding a matching set of ram could also buy you some time on you're current system. The E4400 is a decent chip if you overclock it. Hopefully you have one of the early chips that OC over 3.0 on the stock cooler. The later batches hit the wall around 2.6-2.8. But you have the right mobo for OC'ing. So you're cheapest option would be ram alone and that might make it acceptable performance until you can jump the i-line processor. The other option which would be close in performance to the Q9550 would be a phenom II x4 system. A quad with a 790 mobo can be from $200 for a 920 (AM2+) to $300 for the 955 (AM3.) Check out the AMD 955 combos on the egg. Some great deals there.
July 12, 2009 2:05:48 PM

Thanks to everyone for their responses.

skora said:
I also just noticed, you've been running Vista. That uses up 1-1.5 gb of ram by itself so you've been trying to run all your multi tasking in 1 gb or less of ram. Adding a matching set of ram could also buy you some time on you're current system. The E4400 is a decent chip if you overclock it. Hopefully you have one of the early chips that OC over 3.0 on the stock cooler. The later batches hit the wall around 2.6-2.8. But you have the right mobo for OC'ing. So you're cheapest option would be ram alone and that might make it acceptable performance until you can jump the i-line processor. The other option which would be close in performance to the Q9550 would be a phenom II x4 system. A quad with a 790 mobo can be from $200 for a 920 (AM2+) to $300 for the 955 (AM3.) Check out the AMD 955 combos on the egg. Some great deals there.


Skora, I've been thinking about overclocking for awhile now, but I wasn't sure how to do it and maintain stability. Could you point me in the right direction for up-to-date info on how to do it with my cpu?

I game at 1280x1024 on my computer lcd, but I sometimes use my HDTV, which is 1920x1080. I'd prefer that my rig be able to handle that res, and the HD 4870 1gb has done well so far...I just don't think the processor is keeping up.
a b B Homebuilt system
July 12, 2009 3:08:28 PM

The sticky in the overclocking forum should be a great start.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/240001-29-howto-overc...

You can also do searches for overclocking on the DS3R and that will give step by step instructions too. I'd start with that. 3.0 ghz would be a great improvement. If you get a performance boost, pull the trigger to buy another 2 gigs of ram. Depending on what model you have to match, could be as low as $30 on the egg.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
Might be worth looking used too on ebay.

Yeah, that GPU will kill at the monitor and do well too for the TV.
!