AMD $550 Gaming Refresh

Like so many others I do a system overhaul every 3 or so years and I'm currently pushing into my 4th i'm over due. I plan to put the core of my current system in my HTPC, which means if my budget allows for a GPU than it must also allow for a PSU as my HTPC's PSU will not support my current 8800gts 320mb.

I game, I like pretty graphics, I like overclocking and I like future proofing as much as possible. I like to do a 'little system refresh' every couple of years that includes a 'new graphics card' and cpu. This means a quality Mobo that will last, a video card upgrade path that includes crossfiring, if it's worth it now, and a CPU/socket combo that lets me upgrade.

I'm an AMD fan, always have been and always will be so AM3 is my socket of choice, and i enjoy the ease of overclocking associated with the FX and BE processors. So 550x2, 730x3, or 955x4? Video card preference? Anything by XFX, double lifetime warranty and card upgrade paths plus superb customer service that I've witnessed first hand means I probably won't go with anything else. They've proven to me they are worth my business. Memory, PSU, Mobo? Eh so much has changed since i was a hardware junky that I really don't have any preferences here.

I've made a few mock up builds but because I've been 'out of the game' for a few years I'm rather clueless to what's a good deal and what's just throwing my money away. So i'll trust you guys :D

Current system: socket 939 fx-60@3.2ghz 2 gigs of DDR(not ddr2) asus a8n32-sli board, single 8800gts stock overclocked, corsair 550hx psu wrapped in a black lian li case. (htpc is in a silver lian li case :D)


Should I keep my 8800GTS XFX XXX 320mb? Is it being bottlenecked so severely by my current cpu/memory that I'd be happy with the performance post upgrade?

Which Processor? Will 2 cores be enough? Not much seems to use more and i do plan to upgrade the chip in a few years.

Should i crossfire in the future? Past experience, upgrading to a single 'next generation' card has for a few dollars more has been better than simply adding a second card at a lower price.

Which heatsink? I do like to overclock and Vigor Gaming doesn't seem to make a TEC cooler for this generation of chips.

Is 4gigs of ram enough/too much? 2 Gigs used to be the norm, has this changed? And with just 4 gigs of ram, will Win 7 64bit be worth it?

Any case fan recommendations? Fans in my Lian Li PC65B are getting old and never pushed much air anyways.


PARTS NEEDED: CPU, MOBO, RAM, Heatsink; if enough room in budget GPU and PSU


BUDGET RANGE: 500 (maybe a little more but not too much)


PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor, case, HDD, PSU/GPU if i replace one, i'd like to replace both



OVERCLOCKING: Yes, probably not crossfire or sli unless these new cards make it worth it


PARTS I HAVE: Lian Li PC65-B, Corsair HX550 PSU, XFX 8800GTS XXX 320mb, AMD FX-60@3.2ghz, Vigor Gaming Monsoon 2 Tec Cooler, 2 gigs DDR, Asus a8n32-sli Mobo, 2 5500RPM 320gig Sata drives

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Future proof as much as possible preferred, last upgrade i went from an athlon 3200+ on a 939 board to the best chip available for that socket 2 years later, fx-60 and upgraded from a 6600gt to a 8800gts

Any advice will be much appreciated.
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  1. CPU - $110

    Mobo - $120

    RAM - $83

    HSF - $34

    PSU - £100

    Graphics Card - $100

    Thats the best i could come up with for your budget. There you have 4GB DDR3 memory, a decent tri-core processor, brilliant PSU, very good mobo and a well rated graphics card for its price.

    However if you're into beefy gaming like crysis on full in HD then you're going to need to expand your budget for a better series card, maybe the new 5 series.
  2. Several Suggestions:

    First you need to decide if you want to pay a small premium to leave open the option to Crossfire. You will pay about $50 more total for a Crossfire capable mobo and larger PSU – an investment I think is worth it but you must decide for your situation,

    Second, read this THG review that happens to compare the X3 710 recommended above and the X2 550 and X4 620 alternatives I listed below. I would be inclined to go with the X4 620 but read the review as the others have some different advantages.,2439.html

    GIGABYTE GA-MA790GPT-UD3H AM3 AMD 790GX HDMI ATX AMD Motherboard – Retail
    AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Callisto 3.1GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Processor - Retail
    (Note this MOBO supports Crossfire – if you are sure you don’t want this you can save some here)
    Combo Deal $192 AR

    or Alternatively

    Same mobo with
    AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor – Retail
    Combo Deal $184 AR

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK - Retail $90

    XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 120mm Rifle CPU Cooler – Retail $27 AR
    (Note that if you are not going to OC you can use the stock HSF that comes with the CPU and avoid this cost. Also need to make sure this will fit in your case)

    Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V version 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC "compatible with Core i7/Core i5" Power Supply - Retail $80
    (Note this is large enough to support CrossFire or SLI – if you are sure you will not do that then you can get a smaller 450w-500w PSU and save a little)

    XFX HD-487A-YWFC Radeon HD 4870 512MB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail $125

    The total cost with the X4 620 mobo option is $505 – pretty good with the capablility to Crossfire and the faster 4870 video card.
  3. Both are very good suggestions, I wish an Athlon II Black edition processor would become available, that article proves that L3 isn't that much of a necessity. Anyone know if they are going to release a similar article with overclocking included? I'd be very interested in seeing what the 550x2 BE's overclocked benchmarks look like in comparison to the other chips.

    As far as crossfiring goes, is it worth it yet? Last time i really looked into it, the price/performance of adding a second 'older' card compared to just getting a 'new generation' single card solution made the single card a much better option. Unless things have changed in the last few years I probably won't be crossfiring.

  4. I think Crossfire has been worth it for quite awhile now. If you look at the THG September GPU buyers guide, they say the best buy in the $250 budget range is a pair of 4870s over any other cards you can buy for the same money today. The article states:

    "Do you want the performance of ATI's new Radeon HD 5870, but don't want to pay $390 for the privilege? No problem, just run a couple of Radeon HD 4870s in CrossFire. For $250, your performance will actually come close to that of the new Radeon HD 5870 on average. Just remember, you'll need a CrossFire-compatible motherboard and a decent power supply to take advantage of the savings.",2464-5.html

    What you are getting with Crossfire later are the additional advantages of being able to step up for a lot lower cost for the 4870 then while not tossing out the money already invested. You will get the performance you want now and later get to boost it to top flight status for only another $100 or so - or maybe less instead of buying another expensive card.

    Note that the CPU will easily support the 4870 and some faster graphics cards – but not high end or probably not Crossfire without some bottlenecking unless you OC. But to spend more on a CPU now – and stay within budget requires getting slower GPU and sacrificing performance now. You might consider spending a little more now – again if you want to Crossfire later – or upgrading the CPU later which you would need to do if you want a substantially faster GPU anyway.
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