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Upgrade Advice (MB/CPU/RAM/GPU) - Phenom II or Core i7?

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July 13, 2009 4:55:23 PM

Good morning/afternoon/evening to all. I am trying to figure out the best bang for the buck for an upgrade. Here is my existing core setup:

Asus M2N-E AM2 Motherboard (BIOS ver 1013)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ (2.9GHz Dual Core) AM2 Processor (Stock Fan/Heatsink)
OCZ 4GB (1GB x 4) Platinum Rev 2 PC2-6400 (CL5; MB Limitation) Memory
Sapphire Radeon X1950 Pro 256MB PCI-E Video Card

NOTE: I've never overclocked any components in my current system and I have no intention or need to do so in the future. I'm sure this will have some bearing on the upgrade path and hardware choices.

NEEDS:

General Use (ie; email, web, office suite, etc)
Gaming (the usual; crysis, far cry 2, fallout 3, gta iv, etc)
Ocassional A/V Transcoding
Watching DVD/BluRay Content

I'm unable to play GTA IV with anything above low settings due to the lack of a quad core processor primarily, so I don't play it, as that would ruin the experience. I would like to play it though.

I am a download demon and speed freak (internet connection wise) so I tend to fill up my system with tons of content all the time. Because of this, I'm constantly using apps related to downloads (ie; newsbin, quickpar, winrar, winzip, sfv checkers, etc).

Any suggestions? I don't have a pre-set cap on cost, but I want it to be reasonable. I'm in no urgent need to do an upgrade right now, but perhaps later this summer. I'm aware that a decent Phenom or Core i7 setup (MB/CPU/RAM) will cost around $515 and $615 respectively from the egg.

I've been monitoring all the chatter in the forums and articles over Phenom vs Core i7. At this point I'm up for either. What I don't want is a system that is going to cost me too much and one that is going to overheat and/or burn up either idle or during use in an office that averages an ambient room temperature range of 75F to 80F during the summer months. I have no desire for advanced cooling systems, so it has to run well and cool using conventional cooling methods (ie; fan/heatsink/arctic silver). Please begin the advisement... :-) Thanks!

-- MaSoP
July 13, 2009 5:34:09 PM

i7 from the information you're giving us.
July 13, 2009 6:09:41 PM

Helloworld_98 said:
i7 from the information you're giving us.


Anything more specific? If I go with i7, it would certainly be the 920 model. Any suggested cost-effective motherboards? I've had issues with Asus the last few years. The A7N8X-E Deluxe and M2N-E both have oddities. The A7N8X-E had issues with Barton 3200+ processors, running at 333 and 400MHz FSB and the M2N-E has voltage limitations forcing high end memory to run at slower CL ratings. I'd like to try out a board that has no such issues. I've thought about Gigabyte and DFI but would like to hear others opinions, especially those experienced with the Core i7 platform. How about a good deal on an effective after-market cpu cooler (fan/heatsink) to pair with a i7 920? Thanks for the input.

-- MaSoP
Related resources
July 13, 2009 6:31:00 PM

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

An excellent and modest-priced air cooler that includes mounting hardware for LGA1366 (i7). I overlocked my i7 920 to 3.4 GHz and have not experienced more than high 70s running Prime95 in ambient temperatures similar to yours. At stock speeds I don't think you'd have anything to worry about there.
July 13, 2009 6:55:09 PM

andune said:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

An excellent and modest-priced air cooler that includes mounting hardware for LGA1366 (i7). I overlocked my i7 920 to 3.4 GHz and have not experienced more than high 70s running Prime95 in ambient temperatures similar to yours. At stock speeds I don't think you'd have anything to worry about there.


Ok, cool. So, I've got an i7 920 and a Dark Knight cooler added to the list. Now I need a solid motherboard that doesn't cost over $200. I don't want top of the line or anything. I do want something solid, reliable and with room to upgrade. I hate tossing out (or selling) motherboards in order to upgrade, lol.

Eventually I'll want to go 64-bit and have over 4gb of memory available, once the majority of my apps work under a 64-bit environment. For now, I'm going to be stuck at 3.5GB available of however much I buy. I'm assuming 6GB would be good for starters (2gb x 3) as some would argue most won't see a performance difference between 6GB and 12GB. Any specific brand/speed? The default (native, non-oc) for a Core i7 920 is PC3-8500 according to intel. Again, no need to OC. Thanks!

-- MaSoP
July 13, 2009 7:36:56 PM

To answer what you asked for "bang for the buck", I'm actually surprised that the members are recommending i7 over Phenom II. I think it's more about bragging rights than anything. That and there seem to be some speculative questions about the shelf life of the LGA1366 slot since i5 is using something different (yes I know i5 isn't the successor to i7, just a different product family).

But the absolute largest gain from your current rig would be to upgrade your graphics card. A Radeon X1950 Pro just won't cut it anymore. Follow the June/July Tom's Video Card Purchasing article and go to your preferred pricing range; GTX 260s are getting really affordable these days.

Since you say that you don't need to upgrade ASAP I would recommend getting a high-end video card for now and see how it works with your current rig. If/when it feels inadequate then you can make the cpu/mobo jump and perhaps i5 will be released by then.
July 13, 2009 8:09:16 PM

Katsushiro said:
To answer what you asked for "bang for the buck", I'm actually surprised that the members are recommending i7 over Phenom II. I think it's more about bragging rights than anything. That and there seem to be some speculative questions about the shelf life of the LGA1366 slot since i5 is using something different (yes I know i5 isn't the successor to i7, just a different product family).

But the absolute largest gain from your current rig would be to upgrade your graphics card. A Radeon X1950 Pro just won't cut it anymore. Follow the June/July Tom's Video Card Purchasing article and go to your preferred pricing range; GTX 260s are getting really affordable these days.

Since you say that you don't need to upgrade ASAP I would recommend getting a high-end video card for now and see how it works with your current rig. If/when it feels inadequate then you can make the cpu/mobo jump and perhaps i5 will be released by then.


Thanks for the reply. Well, games that rely more on multi-core processors are something I'm unable to fully utilize or play. I know upgrading the core of my system for a single game makes little sense. I've researched and determined a couple graphics cards to pick from. The two cards that stick out for my price range are...

The Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 1GB for $150

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The eVGA GTX 260 Core 216 896MB for $185

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I've been dealing with the bottleneck of my video card for the last 6-12 months that I have owned it. I originally had an asus x1950 pro but had to send it out for replacement. I had the sapphire I got from ebay for $30 a while back for crossfire but realized after the fact that my system didn't support crossfire. I've been using the sapphire one since. I'm putting all things into consideration. Obviously for gaming in particular, a newer video card will make a huge difference, though not as much of a difference on cpu heavy games which is why quad core comes to mind.

The other thing I'm worried about is going with a quad core processor, effectively getting a lower clock rate (ie; 2.5ghz x 4 vs 2.9ghz x 2) so single core apps will at least in theory run slower than on a dual core with faster cores. Am I right about that? I need clarification. I know cache makes a difference too. Thanks.

-- MaSoP
July 13, 2009 9:50:48 PM

masop said:

...

The eVGA GTX 260 Core 216 896MB for $185

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

...

The other thing I'm worried about is going with a quad core processor, effectively getting a lower clock rate (ie; 2.5ghz x 4 vs 2.9ghz x 2) so single core apps will at least in theory run slower than on a dual core with faster cores. Am I right about that? I need clarification. I know cache makes a difference too. Thanks.

-- MaSoP


Here is a GTX 260 for $145 after MIR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Yes, single-core/threaded apps would run slower on a quad at 2.5. Unless you're moving to Intel which seems to get better performance per clock out of its chips than AMD. (I may be corrected by someone with more knowledge on this).

But anyway you're on the right path wanting to upgrade to 4 cores. My experience of running a Q6600 at stock 2.4 with Vista 64-bit produces AMAZING desktop responsiveness compared to anything else I've touched. Quad core really frees up the system for heavy multi-tasking.
July 14, 2009 9:02:42 AM

with amd 955 and XFX 4870 im getting an average of 60fps with 1400x900 and everything on high.
July 14, 2009 2:50:16 PM

For your i7 CPU (if you go that way), I'd buy from MicroCenter.com since their price is $80 less than the old standard newegg.
July 14, 2009 2:58:25 PM

skornel said:
For your i7 CPU (if you go that way), I'd buy from MicroCenter.com since their price is $80 less than the old standard newegg.


Yep. I already posted a price alert message in the cpu area earlier regarding the pricing. It's a steal for those in the market for the i7 platform. The Phenom II X4 955 is now $215 at the egg this morning as well which is also a tight deal for the amd camp. I'm still on the fence as to what i'm going to do. I still don't know what motherboard to consider if I did go with a 920 with the dark knight cooler. Checking the egg, nearly all of the x58 based boards have bad ratings for various reasons. This is making me hesitant to jump right now. Are there any other socket 1366 based boards besides the x58 based models? I'm still considering just going with the one suggestion to get a more powerful graphics card and wait for a major upgrade. The Radeon HD 4870 1GB or the GeForce 260 Core 216 896MB are the 2 primary candidates right now if I go that route.

-- MaSoP
July 14, 2009 3:08:18 PM

masop said:
Yep. I already posted a price alert message in the cpu area earlier regarding the pricing. It's a steal for those in the market for the i7 platform. The Phenom II X4 955 is now $215 at the egg this morning as well which is also a tight deal for the amd camp. I'm still on the fence as to what i'm going to do. I still don't know what motherboard to consider if I did go with a 920 with the dark knight cooler. Checking the egg, nearly all of the x58 based boards have bad ratings for various reasons. This is making me hesitant to jump right now. Are there any other socket 1366 based boards besides the x58 based models? I'm still considering just going with the one suggestion to get a more powerful graphics card and wait for a major upgrade. The Radeon HD 4870 1GB or the GeForce 260 Core 216 896MB are the 2 primary candidates right now if I go that route.

-- MaSoP


I went with the EVGA x58 and I've had zero issues. I don't game and I don't overclock as a rule. I've played with overclocking using the eLeet software but that's all; just playing, always work with stock clock. I've gone up to 3.0 GHz with standard voltages. When I set the memory to 2:12 for 1600 (8-8-8-21), the board defaulted the DIMM voltage to 1.7 so I cut it back to 1.6 as recommended by memory manufacturer, GSkill. That's the only caveat that I've seen with the board. I bought all my parts back in January and built it on Super Bowl Sunday. No issues with any component yet; not even Vista 64-bit SP1.
July 14, 2009 3:13:12 PM

don't trust newegg reviews, the majority or the bad reviews are there because you're more inclined to complain publicly than praise a product publicly.

and also I'd guess more than 75% of the people that write newegg reviews don't know anything about what they are complaining about.
July 14, 2009 3:23:14 PM

Helloworld_98 said:
don't trust newegg reviews, the majority or the bad reviews are there because you're more inclined to complain publicly than praise a product publicly.

and also I'd guess more than 75% of the people that write newegg reviews don't know anything about what they are complaining about.


I'll put that into consideration. Some of the things people complained about were board layout, etc. I was looking at the Asus P6T SE and it has 4 of the 6 SATA ports horizontal instead of vertical. I can see why they did that after seeing how close they are to the pci-e slot for the graphics card. I wouldn't complain just because of that, lol. Oh well. I'll figure something out. :-) Thanks for the reply.

-- MaSoP
July 14, 2009 3:35:32 PM

masop said:
Ok, cool. So, I've got an i7 920 and a Dark Knight cooler added to the list. Now I need a solid motherboard that doesn't cost over $200. I don't want top of the line or anything. I do want something solid, reliable and with room to upgrade. I hate tossing out (or selling) motherboards in order to upgrade, lol.

Eventually I'll want to go 64-bit and have over 4gb of memory available, once the majority of my apps work under a 64-bit environment. For now, I'm going to be stuck at 3.5GB available of however much I buy. I'm assuming 6GB would be good for starters (2gb x 3) as some would argue most won't see a performance difference between 6GB and 12GB. Any specific brand/speed? The default (native, non-oc) for a Core i7 920 is PC3-8500 according to intel. Again, no need to OC. Thanks!

-- MaSoP

Below are 3 mobo's I consider to be the best in your price range. One is under 200 and the other two are a little bit over.

ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard $169.99 ETA:07/16/2009
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA 121-BL-E756-TR LGA 1366 Intel X58 Micro ATX SLI Micro Intel Motherboard $209.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA 141-BL-E757-TR LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX X58 SLI LE Intel Motherboard $239.99 ($219.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Combo Deal for mobo/cpu
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

DDR3 Triple Channel Ram, below are some Corsair and OCZ Ram that I would suggest you get for this build.


CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1333C9 $114.99 ($104.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate Card) Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C9 $114.99 ($94.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate Card) Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ XMP Ready Series 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3X1600LV6GK $104.99 ($94.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Also, I would suggest you either use Windows7 RC1 (64-bit) for now, then buy a retail copy of this below when it comes out, that way if you have to upgrade parts or want to move it to another computer you do not have to contact MS for new key-code and it lets you choose between 32 or 64 bit OS.

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Full - Retail $199.99 Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
July 14, 2009 4:02:24 PM

Yoosty said:
Below are 3 mobo's I consider to be the best in your price range. One is under 200 and the other two are a little bit over.

ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard $169.99 ETA:07/16/2009
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA 121-BL-E756-TR LGA 1366 Intel X58 Micro ATX SLI Micro Intel Motherboard $209.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EVGA 141-BL-E757-TR LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX X58 SLI LE Intel Motherboard $239.99 ($219.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Combo Deal for mobo/cpu
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

DDR3 Triple Channel Ram, below are some Corsair and OCZ Ram that I would suggest you get for this build.


CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1333C9 $114.99 ($104.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate Card) Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model TR3X6G1600C9 $114.99 ($94.99 after $20.00 Mail-In Rebate Card) Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

OCZ XMP Ready Series 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Low Voltage Desktop Memory Model OCZ3X1600LV6GK $104.99 ($94.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Also, I would suggest you either use Windows7 RC1 (64-bit) for now, then buy a retail copy of this below when it comes out, that way if you have to upgrade parts or want to move it to another computer you do not have to contact MS for new key-code and it lets you choose between 32 or 64 bit OS.

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Full - Retail $199.99 Free Shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Thanks for the reply. The ASRock board is sold out. The corsair memory sounds good, as does ocz. I'll probably never end up making up my mind, LOL!

As far as Windows 7 goes, I've got the RC on my box at home along with XP Pro in a dual setup with XP being the primary. I will go to 7 once it is available, but not likely 64-bit because most of my apps won't run on 64-bit. I'm aware of the VT capability of Windows 7 for XP apps, but I don't think that helps with the 32-bit vs 64-bit compatibility issue, just with the O/S difference.

-- MaSoP
July 14, 2009 4:18:47 PM

masop said:
Thanks for the reply. The ASRock board is sold out. The corsair memory sounds good, as does ocz. I'll probably never end up making up my mind, LOL!

As far as Windows 7 goes, I've got the RC on my box at home along with XP Pro in a dual setup with XP being the primary. I will go to 7 once it is available, but not likely 64-bit because most of my apps won't run on 64-bit. I'm aware of the VT capability of Windows 7 for XP apps, but I don't think that helps with the 32-bit vs 64-bit compatibility issue, just with the O/S difference.

-- MaSoP

Then if you will not be going to 64-bit OS. Then you would be better off with 3x1gb kits, like these below.

CORSAIR DOMINATOR 3GB (3 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit $86.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

mushkin 3GB (3 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 998678 $79.99 ($69.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You do know that you can still use 32-bit apps in Windows 7. There will be 2 types of Program Files in it. like Visat 64-bit has. Right now I am doing alot of Adobe PhotoShop editing with my Vista 64-bit system and also on Windows 7 RC1. The more ram you have the faster the encoding goes. :wahoo: 
a b B Homebuilt system
July 14, 2009 4:24:26 PM

I'd be interested to know what applications you have that don't work with 64-bit Windows. The only applications that plain won't work are VERY old 16-bit ones that should have been put out to pasture a long time ago. I've been running 64-bit Windows for quite a while and never had an application compatibility issue. I run a lot of 32-bit software. Have you tried all your applications on 64-bit Windows 7?

I think putting a 32-bit OS on a new i7 build is just silly. i7+6GB RAM+64-bit OS is where it's at.
July 14, 2009 6:24:45 PM

Yoosty said:
Then if you will not be going to 64-bit OS. Then you would be better off with 3x1gb kits, like these below.

CORSAIR DOMINATOR 3GB (3 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit $86.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

mushkin 3GB (3 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model 998678 $79.99 ($69.99 after $10.00 Mail-In Rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You do know that you can still use 32-bit apps in Windows 7. There will be 2 types of Program Files in it. like Visat 64-bit has. Right now I am doing alot of Adobe PhotoShop editing with my Vista 64-bit system and also on Windows 7 RC1. The more ram you have the faster the encoding goes. :wahoo: 


Some 32-bit apps absolutely refuse to install on a 64-bit o/s, compatibility mode or not. I've ran into one of them on XP 64-bit, but that issue may not be an issue in 7. I haven't tried that out. I'm aware of the ability of a 64-bit o/s to run 32-bit apps. It's getting them installed that is the big question mark. As long as there is a processor with VT capability, Windows 7 will emulate XP for compatibility which is a good option to have. I'd go 64-bit if all of the core apps I need run, as I would like to have access to more than 3.5GB of memory.

-- MaSoP
July 14, 2009 6:50:37 PM

shortstuff_mt said:
I'd be interested to know what applications you have that don't work with 64-bit Windows. The only applications that plain won't work are VERY old 16-bit ones that should have been put out to pasture a long time ago. I've been running 64-bit Windows for quite a while and never had an application compatibility issue. I run a lot of 32-bit software. Have you tried all your applications on 64-bit Windows 7?

I think putting a 32-bit OS on a new i7 build is just silly. i7+6GB RAM+64-bit OS is where it's at.


Well, I built a system with windows xp 64-bit installed for my brother in-law. He was unable to get his dsl working because the verizon software rerquired in order to activate the service refused to install. We called verizon and they said it isn't compatible with x64 edition. This is probably a dead issue these days, as I have not tried any of my apps on windows 7 x64 yet. I've only tried a couple freeware apps on my test install, before I reverted back to x86 on my dual setup. What I am going to do once I get my hands on Windows 7 x64 is the following:

1) clone my existing boot drive to the 2nd pc
2) remove references to windows xp (ie; files, folders, etc)
3) install windows 7 x64 with all available updates and drivers
4) install all of the core apps I use (25-50 as a baseline)
5) test the system as-is and see if all the apps run well
6) if all goes well, I will run microsoft sysprep on the drive
7) clone existing xp boot drive
8) clone the windows 7 drive over to my existing xp boot drive
9) enjoy having a fresh, more capable o/s (vt, dx10, etc)

It will be an interesting experience seeing how everything goes. With my existing processor (Athlon X2 5600+ AM2) and mainboard supporting VT, I will be able to utilize the XP compatibility mode feature to help ensure most, if not all of my apps should run on 7. I'm hoping for the best.

The current estimated ETA for Windows 7 RTM (not retail or oem) is by the end of July, if not earlier. I can hardly wait, as I've been running XP 32-bit for the last 7 years. :-) I will have a complete clone backup of my entire system (all 4 drives) as I do monthly, before going to 7. That way I'll have a straight forward "plan b" incase things don't go as excpected.

-- MaSoP
July 15, 2009 6:45:52 PM

Yoosty said:
I think this article will be some insight for you on VT in Windows 7, but you most likely will have to go with Win7 Po version.

Windows 7 RC New Features in the Spotlight: XP Mode and Virtual PC

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Windows-7-RC-New-Feature...


Well, considering I've been using XP Pro, it would make most sense to go with 7 Pro if possible. The extras you get for ultimate (over pro) aren't worth the cost for me, as that is the edition everyone has been testing with the RC out. Pro it is. :-)

-- MaSoP
July 17, 2009 2:03:37 AM

If you're still on the fence about platform, you might find this recent article helpful:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/phenom-versus-i7,23...

As one of the posters above noted, the AMD option may save a bit of money now, but I and many others are of the opinion that i7 offers greater value if you're doing more than pure gaming.

Also, the cooler I mentioned previously has mounting hardware for both i7 and Phenom II socket types - didn't mean to imply it was only the former.
!