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Best upgrade options for old Athlon 64 desktop?

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November 13, 2009 5:05:50 PM


Hi folks,

I'd like to upgrade my aging desktop. It currently consists of:

- Gigabyte GA-M55PLUS-S3G mobo

- AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (2.4Ghz)

- Corsair TX750W PSU

- 4Gb DDR2 RAM (2x1G PNY PC2-5300, 2x1G Kingston PC2-4300)

- 1Tb Seagate boot disk, 400Gb & 160Gb Seagate data disks, all SATA

- Plextor SATA DVD-RW drive

- Radeon HD 4350 gfx (1Gb RAM)

- Windows 7

- Sun 23" widescreen LCD monitor (1900x1200) (not a great monitor, may go back to my Samsung 21" and add a second 21" display)

For whatever WEI is worth, it scores my system as:

Processor: 4.3
RAM: 5.6
Graphics: 3.6
Gaming: 5.8
HDD: 5.9

Primary usage is photo editing (Lightroom & Photoshop), general desktop (Firefox/Thunderbird/iTunes), and light gaming (I might do more gaming if I had a more capable machine).

It seems pretty obvious that the two upgrades that will benefit the most are Graphics, and CPU/Mobo/RAM.

The CPU feels sluggish, not surprising given that its single-core. The task mgr shows CPU usage to always be at least 50%, and it's very often pegged at 100% just in general usage of firefox & itunes, nevermind when I'm editing phtos.

For CPU/mobo/RAM, I'm looking at one of the Intel i5-750 CPU/mobo combos on newegg.com ($~330), and 6Gb of DDR3-1333 (~$125). I probably don't really need more than 4Gb (I'm usually running at ~60% of memory in use), but it can't hurt to have some headroom.

Graphics are not an area I'm very familiar with at all (I only recently upgraded to the Radeon 4350 from the on-mobo gfx). I am also not sure of the degree to which Lightroom & Photoshop will make use of the graphics card (I'd hope they would use it heavily, but I do not know).

A recent TH budget graphics card article (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-graphics-card,2464.html) suggested that the best bang for the buck at around $200 (which I'd like to keep the gfx budget under) is 2x Radeon 4850 cards in Crossfire, but I'm a little concerned about the lack of dual 16x PCI-E slots in the P55 mobos. An article on anandtech indicated that it does make quite a difference to be running 2 cards in 8x vs. 2 in 16x. Given that, would it be better to get one of the 4850 X2 Radeon cards ($230)?

I will be upgrading in two phases, one for CPU/mobo/RAM, another for GFX.

What would you do?

Sorry for the long post, but thank for any advice on what I should upgrade, and to what spec.

Regards,
Adam
a b B Homebuilt system
November 13, 2009 5:41:23 PM

A cheaper route would be to just upgrade the CPU to a dual-core processor.

Newegg currently has the AMD Athlon X2-6000+ OEM for $56 (free shipping). You'll probably need to do a BIOS update for the processor to work on your motherboard (but it is compatible). You'd also need some thermal paste (under $10) and reuse your current CPU heatsink.

With that processor, you could drop in a decent graphics card (like an HD5770) and have a solid gaming system.

All totaled, you're well under $250.

-Wolf sends
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November 13, 2009 8:11:51 PM

Quote:
It all depends on how much you want to spend.


About $600 tops for everything.

You can go i5 or Phenom 2 or Athlon 2. The new Athlon X3's cannot be beat for the price and would be 2 more cores than you have now. said:
You can go i5 or Phenom 2 or Athlon 2. The new Athlon X3's cannot be beat for the price and would be 2 more cores than you have now.


I think I'd rather go for quad-core, as I don't upgrade at all often, so when I do, I like to aim for the high-mid-range.

I would recommend a single fast graphics card like the HD5850 over 2 older slower cards.

Not sure about photoshop video requirements but if you want to get into some newer games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare or STALKER or such you should get a decent card that will last you at least a couple years. said:
I would recommend a single fast graphics card like the HD5850 over 2 older slower cards.

Not sure about photoshop video requirements but if you want to get into some newer games like Call of Duty Modern Warfare or STALKER or such you should get a decent card that will last you at least a couple years.


HD5850 looks rather nice and has good reviews, but at $260, is about $60 more than I'd like to spend.

Thanks for the reply.
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November 13, 2009 8:13:19 PM

Wolfshadw said:
A cheaper route would be to just upgrade the CPU to a dual-core processor.

Newegg currently has the AMD Athlon X2-6000+ OEM for $56 (free shipping). You'll probably need to do a BIOS update for the processor to work on your motherboard (but it is compatible). You'd also need some thermal paste (under $10) and reuse your current CPU heatsink.

With that processor, you could drop in a decent graphics card (like an HD5770) and have a solid gaming system.

All totaled, you're well under $250.

-Wolf sends


Always appreciate budget-friendly suggestions, but since my main apps (Lightroom & Photoshop) are multi-threaded, I think I'd like more cores to play with.

Thanks!
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Best solution

a b B Homebuilt system
November 13, 2009 8:41:30 PM

If you are running a 4350, a 5770 will be a huge improvement.

$600 price range for Motherboard, RAM, CPU, GPU

i5 CPU ($200)
Gigabyte P55 Motherboard + 4GB GSkill DDR3-1600 RAM ($200)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
XFX 5770 ($175)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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November 13, 2009 8:50:57 PM

Note that all of the GPUs suggested here are gaming cards. Photoshop will not use your GPU to its advantage.

Edit: I missed the sentence about light gaming. If that's the case, I also suggest the 5770.
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November 14, 2009 3:07:03 PM

frozenlead said:
Note that all of the GPUs suggested here are gaming cards. Photoshop will not use your GPU to its advantage.

Edit: I missed the sentence about light gaming. If that's the case, I also suggest the 5770.


Actually according to Adobe, Photoshop CS4 does have some GPU acceleration. From http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/405/kb405745.html:

Quote:

Hardware/Application Combinations and Available Functionality

* A) Basic GL Drawing
Panning, Zooming, Rotating, Direct to Screen Non-Color Matched.
* B) Basic GL Drawing with Color-Matched Direct to Screen 3D
Panning, Zooming, Rotating, Color-Matched Toned Direct to Screen 3D
* C) Advanced GL Drawing
Panning, Zooming, Rotating, Accelerated Color Matching, Toning on Card
* D) Advanced GL Drawing with Color-Matched Direct to Screen 3D
Panning, Zooming, Rotating, Accelerated Color Matching, Toning on Card
...
Windows: Shader Model 3.0 + OpenGL 2.0 card + 128 megs of VRAM or greater

* <= 256 Megs
o Photoshop Standard supports D, defaults to A. Please note, Windows XP supports A. It does not support GPU resource virtualization.
o Photoshop Extended supports C
* > 256 Megs
o Photoshop Standard supports D
o Photoshop Extended supports D
* > 512 Megs: Uses more texture memory to better handle larger images.

So the question is: do the Radeon 5770 & 5850 support OGL2.0? I haven't seen it mentioned for any of the Radeon cards I've looked at, although ISTR seeing it listed for some Nvidia cards.

Thanks!
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a b B Homebuilt system
November 16, 2009 5:10:46 PM

Quote:
The 5850 will drop in price soon
I dont know why you think that. Either the 40nm chips are passing and being made into 5870s or are junk. With the yields having fallen when production ramped up the 5850 supplies may be problematic for some time.
http://www.anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=654



5770s support Open GL 3.1 (I assume its backward compatible).
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