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Need advice on upgrading a year old system

Last response: in Systems
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January 21, 2010 11:10:03 AM

I'm new to the forums btw. Here's my system:

ASUS M3A78-CM mobo (got this, and the memory and processor, to replace a burned out mobo I got about five years ago)
Phenom X3 2.1GHz (I can't remember the model, but that's the original Phenom, not Phenom II)
memory:2GB RAM (1 stick)
on-board audio and video (the plan from the beginning was to get a new video card when I got some more funds)
Samsung 955DF 19" CRT
500GB HD (SATA, Western Digital or Samsung I think...)
18x DVD writer (SATA)
Antec case (an old one but it's plenty big, model 1040 or something(I think the model number 1040 may refer to the fact that it has 10 bays, including 4 large ones- for CD drives, etc.)- incidentally, I should have gotten a different mobo probably- mine is not full size ATX I don't think, despite what the salesman said)
cheap 300W PSU (got this at the same time as the mobo, processor and memory, just to replace a burned out Antec PSU that came with the case)
Windows XP and sometimes Vista (dual boot configuration)

OK. So what happened is that I wasn't following the hardware industry for a few years before upgrading to this set-up about a year ago. Now that I've been reading about hardware again since then, I definitely would have done it differently. Now I plan on changing just about everything, although slowly, as funds become available.

First off, I need a new hard drive. I'm battleing to keep some space open on my half TB drive so I plan my first purchase to be a 1TB drive, especiallly because I've all but given up on trying to back everything up on DVD's, so I need some space to keep valuable information from not being backed up in the near future.

Secondly, I plan to add in a new video card and PSU. I'm very limited in funds but I love the sound of getting one of those new ATI cards, maybe a HD5770 LIKE THIS with a power supply to match- hopefully I can get away with spending about $40-50 on a new PSU if I find a good deal. Something like THIS.

I guess next would be a nice but inexpensive LCD to go with that new video card. The right 23-24 inch LCD will support 1080p, correct? THIS looks like a deal too good to pass up. Am I missing any obvious problems here?

Then the memory. Then the processor. Then the mobo. In that order I think.

Why did I not get a pair of memory sticks? I don't know. Was that a sizable mistake. Too bad, because memory seems to be more expensive now, unless it's just because it's all DDR3 now. Is that why?

The processor: I knew Intel was winning the race a year ago, but not as much as you might think. The Phenom X3 was under $100 so I don't feel like I made a bad choice being loyal to AMD, although the Phenom II's look much better. What are my upgrade options here? I hope I can wait a while to upgrade this and probably the mobo because it's going to be a while before I have funds to get all of the above, not to mention a new set of speakers and a new printer. I didn't even mention those above because I'm just using what I've cobbled together for speakers and the printer isn't even hooked up. Unfortunately I have to dual boot with Vista and XP because no one bothered making new drivers for my printer and scanner. I am using the scanner, a Canon FB630U, through windowsXP.

Unfortunately I have to reinstall my OS's or figure something out because windows' dual boot utility messed up my system to where I can only use XP now. Long story.

Anyway, any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.







a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 21, 2010 12:11:58 PM

Alright, so to start you off with a great HDD. Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB. Right now, it's the fastest drive and one of the cheapest at $90. It's also hard to get ahold of, so watch it and buy it when it's in stock.

GPU: That's a good choice.

PSU: For $10 more, you can get an OCZ StealthXStream 700W. That would allow you to Crossfire later on.

Monitor: Looks good, but I'm not that great at picking monitors. Keep in mind that the 5770 will struggle a little with more GPU intensive games at that resolution. Obviously, if you were to Crossfire it down the road, that wouldn't be a problem...

After that, you'll need to probably replace the RAM, CPU and mobo at the same time. This is for a couple of reasons. AMD CPUs are on a new socket, the AM3, which now uses DDR3. So instead of buying obsolete RAM, you need to replace it with DDR3. Since you'll need DDR3, you need a board that supports it. The AM2+/AM2 CPUs do not work in the AM3 socket, but the AM3 CPUs will work in the older socket. So you could buy the CPU first, then the mobo and RAM together.

Keep in mind that if you're a gamer, the i5-750 is a great gaming CPU. If your entire budget is around $800 for the upgrade (excluding the monitor), I would go with the i5 over the AMD
January 22, 2010 7:02:06 AM

Great stuff. Thanks.

First off, I should mention that I don't really have $800 to spend on computer stuff. Well, I could...but then I'd have to not eat for a while or not pay the rent. ;) 

I can hopefully buy one thing at a time, as money comes available, so advice like the following is great- and I quote, "So you could buy the CPU first, then the mobo and RAM together."

Anyway, thanks for the advice on the HD. I see one at new egg HERE. I'll order one right away before they disappear. I don't know much about harddrives so what are the specs that makes this the best? Seek time? Should I be looking at any other specs too, just in case I can't get this one for instance? Cache size?
EDIT- I did some research and it seems to have to do with less heads and platters, correct? Plus it runs cool and quiet. It does sound like a great drive. I want two! Then the dilemma would be RAID 0 or 1. :) 

As for the power supply, that sounds good. I'm not sure if you meant it was $10 cheaper because you overlooked the rebate,(maybe on purpose? I only get those back half the time and can't really wait anyway, so if that's the case I'm with you) or if you saw the recertified one on new egg HERE. How do you all feel about recertified stuff, especially from new egg? Any experience or opinions? Sounds like a good deal and $85 for a PSU sounds a little high for me, although I guess it would satisfy the future-proof thing. I guess I'm hesitant because that ASUS PSU did fail after several years but maybe that's not the norm, and it lasted probably about five years so maybe I'm being unfair.

Since I've never had an LCD except on laptops, I assume what you mean is that they generally are at their best at their native resolution so that I'll want to play games at 1920 x 1080 mostly, correct?

Thanks for the advice on the processor. So I will probably get that first and then a new mobo and memory later. Could memory prices go down considerably in the next year? I know no one can see the future, but is it common for prices to fall as far as half what they were a year ago if you catch it at the right time?

As for the mobo/CPU, I'm kind of an AMD loyalist and with their new generation looking good it'll take a lot to convince me to switch, especially with an ATI GPU already in the box. Also, I was hoping to pay a bit less on the CPU. If I only spent closer to a bill rather than two would I be bottlenecking my system? Same question goes for a mobo. Can I get away with spending about $130? I'm pretty happy with my current mobo/CPU for another six months to a year and I only paid under $200 for the both of them. Am I fooling myself? Is the combo already going to be a bottleneck once I put that new GPU in? I did play through Crysis with my current set-up lol. And that's with the onboard graphics, which are equivalent to a Radeon HD 2400 or what ATI now calls an HD 3100. Yes, I had to set all settings to low in Crysis, but I got through the benchmark at 26 fps average in dx9 mode. I wonder how much better it would look in dx10 mode with all setting at max.

Thanks for the advice. I'm glad there are people here who enjoy talking about this stuff as much as I obviously do.(This was a long post, no? ;)  )
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
January 22, 2010 10:24:38 AM

Don't get a recertified PSU. It's not worth it. And the price of the recertified is $5 more than the new one with the rebate.

I don't know too much about monitors, but I assume you don't really want to go above the native resolution. So yes, you'd want one at 1920x.

RAM prices will always fall as picker sticks are always going to be coming out. As to when they'll go down and by how much, no one really knows.

CPUs are rarely the bottleneck in a PC. It's more likely that the GPU will always be the bottleneck. That said, you should always be the most powerful CPU you can afford, especially with AMD. The AM3 CPUs are pretty much spread out every $5-10 from $50 to $185. Right now the best one to buy is the X4 955 at $165. The top of the line one isn't the best because for $15 more you can get the i5-750, which is vastly superior.
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