I have a general "what to upgrade" question, not really a "new build" one. I want to upgrade my PC, but don't know which part I should upgrade first. Here's what I currently own:
Dell XPS 710
Usage: Intense video games
Board: NVIDIA nForce 590i
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz
RAM: 2x 1GB DDR2 667Mhz
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTX 768MB
Price range for upgrade: $500-800.
I think these are the three basic options:
1) Add a 2nd 8800 GTX card. Should be no problem since the mobo is SLI capable. And I think my PSU can handle it.
2) Faster CPU. I know my mobo can handle Intel quad processors.
3) Faster RAM, which means another mobo since mine only goes up to 667Mhz.
My question: Which should I do first or do at all? Which would give the biggest performance boost?
And lastly, here's some more tidbits (might help): I've been away from the computer world for quite some time and don't know what's new and hot, so I don't know if my suggestions are still applicable now. Last I heard, my 8800 was still top-line and 1GB cards were experimental. Now, I hear ATI has many 1GB's and there's the 9800's! Anyway, I say this because I don't know if something out there (like those new cards) would be better, although I doubt it would warrant the extra price.
The locked bios and exclusions that Dell left out of the chipset options make me suggest a new cpu/mobo for the best option. I have ran an 8800gtx back to back with a newer 1 gig geforce GTX 260 and the change is noticable but not earth shattering.
The phrase "intense video games" is a little vague after reading that you have been away from your computer for a while... playing wow or Left 4 Dead on a 19" monitor at 1680x1050 versus Crysis or Dirt2 on a 24" at 2560x1600 is a big difference in system requirements. Some more specific game preferences would be helpful.
If your just into gaming it is hard to beat the bang for the buck of a quad core Phenom setup.
Although at $189 the I5 cpu from intel is a good upgrade path choice, get a mid-range mobo and good memory then in 6 months to a year upgrade to an I7 cpu when the prices fall.
Initial cost of the intel system will be higher as your looking at $500 ($90 more for an I7) for Mobo/Cpu/4 gigs ddr3 but I think it will have a longer upgrade life with this setup.
As far as the video card I would make due with what you have! Ati is the champ right now but NVIDIA will be coming out with their new GPU in 3 months and the graphics card wars will begin with the current $300+ cards dropping well under $200 by May
The link for the charts http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/ is a good place to start as they have done all of the hard work for you and you can get a good look at price vs performance and what the top performers are in each price group.
Wow! This was the perfect answer. Thank you, Tremec. I'm going to concentrate on cpu/mobo!
Haha, I should have realized ~2 years is a big leap for video games. For the record, I meant Crysis. I'm more partial to framerate than graphics, but my dream is still being able to have BOTH, especially with Crysis. Someday...
Also, thank you for directing me to those charts. It's exactly what I needed, and it was right under my nose! My life just got a lot easier.
You're going to need to concentrate on a new case and power supply as well.
The Dell case and motherboard are BTX, you can't just install an off the shelf board.
The Dell psu has a non standard 20 pin power connector instead of the standard 4 or 8 pin ( could be modded to make it work though ).