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Looking for upgrade advice

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November 4, 2009 10:35:17 PM

I'm looking for some advice about upgrading my system. I've been building PCs for a few years now, but I'm not terribly knowledgeable and kind of just figure things out as I go. Last year I put together my first gaming-capable computer using recycled and new parts. It's been running fine, but with the holidays coming up (and some potentially awesome sales) I've been wondering if it might benefit me to upgrade some of my components.

My machine is primarily used for gaming, but my goal has never been to be on the high end of the spectrum. While running games at max settings is always nice, I'm comfortable with being somewhere in the middle if it avoids burning a hole in my pocket.

This is my first time posting so forgive me if some of my specs aren't clear.

IN9 32X-MAX 680i
e4300 Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz (OC'd to 3.0)
A-DATA 2x2GB DDR2 800
Zotac 8800GT 512MB 700MHz
Cooler Master Real Power Pro 750W

I game on a 19" monitor at 1440x900

Just curious if anyone sees any blatant room for improvement, or any obvious reason to upgrade any of my components. I'll be off to live in Europe soon, and the euro is a killer for all tech related items, so if there's an upgrade worth making I'd rather do it before I'm over there.

Thanks!

More about : upgrade advice

November 4, 2009 10:44:44 PM

mortonww said:
If you wanted to sink $130 into it, I would think to go ahead and upgrade the graphics card to a HD Radeon 4850 1 GB.

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

Should improve your gaming performance more than changing out any of the other components.


Thanks for the reply! That was one of the options I was looking at; however I was thinking maybe the 4870 based off the Graphic's Card Hierarchy Chart on this site, simply because it's 3 tiers up form my own (I do everything by the book, lol). Would that be worth the extra $$ over the 4850?
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a c 113 B Homebuilt system
November 4, 2009 10:47:31 PM

That's not bad really. You could get the biggest boost from a GPU upgrade for sure.

The first really big jump in performance I see would be this XFX 4870 at $125
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

And probably anything beyond that you would want to go with a larger monitor first.

Now, if you are playing strategy games mostly, then a stronger CPU might be in order first.
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 4, 2009 10:51:03 PM

Yeah, the 4870 is another great choice. It's more powerful than the 4850 and at $125 it's definitely a better choice than the 4850 I linked. I didn't really check to see how much more the 4870 was than the 4850, but since it's nothing, go for it. I originally said 4850 because of your resolution, but yeah.

EDIT: Oh, I see. That 4870 is the 512 version. That's fine. You won't run into problems at 1440x900
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November 4, 2009 11:01:51 PM

Thanks again for the quick replies guys.

I'd read about the benefits of CPU power to strategy games, so I guess I should have mentioned that I'm primarily an FPS gamer. Sorry for not mentioning that sooner.

I'd like to avoid cornering myself with regards to my monitor resolution if possible, because there's always the possibility that it could become a potential upgrade in the near future (6 to 8 months?). While I'm not going to go out and prepare myself to go SLI, I'd be willing to dish out an extra $30 for a higher end card (like the 4870 at 1GB) if it meant that I could handle higher resolutions a little bit better, instead of going with something that only performs well under 1440x900.

Of course, maybe this isn't worth doing? Is there really a noticeable difference between the 4850 at 1GB and the 4870 at 1GB? Or even between the 4870 at 512 and at 1GB?

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a c 113 B Homebuilt system
November 4, 2009 11:24:56 PM

At the resolution of most 22" monitors, 1680x1050, the 1GB version of the 4870 will begin to show better FPS. with a 24" monitor it becomes pretty much needed, or at least desirable.

I think you will get the best performance though from a 4870 512MB compared to a 4850 1GB, in most games at most resolutions anyway.
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 4, 2009 11:30:07 PM

If you're thinking of going higher than 1680 resolution, maybe even check out a 4890.

Do you know if your motherboard supports SLI? I'm wondering if you couldn't just find another 8800 GT for a reasonable price on ebay and add it to your current system. Not sure if that will tax your processor to the point that it's a bottleneck, though.

EDIT: hmm, maybe not. 512 video memory might be a setback at 1920.
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November 4, 2009 11:32:34 PM

Well the extra 512mb in the 4870 will definitely help out with playing games at higher resolutions (like 1900x1200 and higher)...especially when you want to be cranking up the graphics settings as high as possible...but to just give you an example of how powerful the 4870 is, I can game at 1900x1200 on my 24 inch monitor perfectly fine with my 4850 512mb and my AMD Athlon X2 6000+ ...most of the settings I use are usually maxed out or close to max (depending on the game)
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November 4, 2009 11:41:16 PM

I doubt I'll be going up past 1680, simply because of space and money constraints. My board does support SLI, but from what I've understood, after fishing around online, two SLI 8800GTs would really only give me a boost at higher resolutions, and would be kind of pointless at 1440x900. If this is true, then I'd much rather upgrade to a higher end GPU.

Thanks for the breakdown Proximon, that helped put some things in perspective. If I do upgrade my GPU I'll probably end up going with the 4870, and it'll just end up being a choice between the 1GB and 512 models.

But what about my e4300? Seeing as its the oldest piece of hardware in my setup, I'm kind of surprised it's still holding up so well. Would I have reason within the next year to upgrade?
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 5, 2009 12:04:20 AM

No. No. No.

Your CPU is incapable, despite being overclocked of handling much more than you have now.

Your system is what most people should aim for and that is BALANCED. What this means is that some games will be CPU limited and some games will be GPU limited.

Throwing in a better video card MAY make a SMALL improvement in a few games but it will be minor. My advice is save your money up for a better computer and in the mean time play the games that run nicely on the system you have. There are lots. Try the new Torchlight for example.

Even Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 will play quite nicely on your existing system.
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November 5, 2009 12:13:27 AM

photonboy said:
No. No. No.

Your CPU is incapable, despite being overclocked of handling much more than you have now.

Your system is what most people should aim for and that is BALANCED. What this means is that some games will be CPU limited and some games will be GPU limited.

Throwing in a better video card MAY make a SMALL improvement in a few games but it will be minor. My advice is save your money up for a better computer and in the mean time play the games that run nicely on the system you have. There are lots. Try the new Torchlight for example.

Even Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 will play quite nicely on your existing system.


When you say better computer, are you talking about an upgraded CPU or a complete overhaul to the entire system? Also, I appreciate your game recommendations, but I should clarify that I'm not running into problems right now (however Shattered Horizon just came out, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to run that very well). I'm more or less just asking the question, with my current setup, if there's anything I should consider upgrading.
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November 5, 2009 2:23:26 AM

I agree with photonboy. Rather leave your PC as it is now until you absolutely have to get a new one. Then get a completely new PC. I'm not one for upgrading too much.My old AMD Athlon 3000+ is still running most things and it's nearing 7 years old. I put a new video card in it 3 years ago, but other than that i haven't really done anything to it. I just bought an i7 920, 4GB 2000+ Ram, dual 1TB HDD's running RAID 0, dual GeForce GTX 260's. I intend to use this exact PC for at least 4 years. I might upgrade Ram and video cards after 4 years but the rest will last 7 years again. Notice my new system is not the top of the range, but it's the cheapest high-end rig I could put together. Also... I get to use my old PC, whereas if I upgraded I would only have one PC to use. I really do recommend a new PC in a year or two. Watch the market. wait till all the new technology gets to about 5 months old. After that the prices start to drop, and you can get bargain buys.

In the end it's up to you. Those are just my thoughts.
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Best solution

November 5, 2009 3:21:47 AM

I'd buy a new monitor and just rebuild with new mobo, cpu, ram and GPU later down the road. A 8800gt will power games at 1920x1080 at medium to high settings.
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