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Wanting to upgrade, but novice at choosing parts

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March 27, 2010 7:54:19 PM

Hi. I'm a complete novice at choosing parts. Used to know what I was looking at, but I've been lazy and depending on friends for upgrade advice the last 6 years. Now being urged to do it alone. :p  So even reading through here, I dunno what I am looking at really. Everything seems so much more complicated now. Sad, I know.

Here is what I have.

ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe Motherboard
AMD Athalon X2 dual core BE-2400. MMX 3DNow (2CPUs)
4 gig DDR 2 RAM
Nvidia GeForce 8600GT with 512 integrated RAMDAC
Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card (I don't use the built in one)
2 HDs one Seagate 400 Gig, one Hitachi 500 Gig (Seagate died under warranty, Hatachi replaced it till I got new from Seagate)
DVD/CD RW

PSU 400 watt Antec Earthwatts

PC is for gaming, writing, using voice dictation software for writing at times, and running CAD software for mapping spaceships and rooms, and Crime scenes.

I want to be able to run games for the next couple of years without upgrading. I am choking playing Mass Effects 2 - it is laggy and a PITA when trying to link circuits in the game to crack stuff open. :( 

Went to Fry's Electronics to eyeball what they had, and they said no need to move yet to DDR3 ram for my needs. If this is wrong, please tell me.

So please, recommendations, guys. Not putting a budget on this cos I can get parts over time if need be. Not wanting cutting edge gear.
a b à CPUs
March 27, 2010 8:00:30 PM

The main thing you should do is update your graphics. Games/CAD are mainly processed in the graphics card, so a new one should help you last a year or two longer.

A new CPU will also help with dictation software.

A good GPU would be an ATi 5xx series card. What to get depends on your budget. 2 5770s in crossfire is the best possible combination (better than 5870, comparable to GTX480, but for $200 less). But for Xfire, you have to make sure your mobo is crossfire-ready.

DDR2 should last you a while, but the problem is it's getting more expensive, so upgrading is going to be hard.

Cheers.
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March 27, 2010 8:28:03 PM

Never had an ATI card, always had Nvidia. So I read up on them. Seems ATI now supports DX 11, and Nvidia to date (new card out soon?) only supports DX 10. New games will use DX 11 soon.

I also play Everquest 2 and it has problems with Crossfire - that's 2 cards used in synch, yes? Not that dedicated a gamer that I think I need to go that route...

Watched You Tube review of 5770 & 5750. How much ram on them? Is it 1 gig? What's 128 bit mean? Sorry to be so dumb on the specs. They both perform well, but the 5750 is more my price range if it would do.

Are you saying my board is OK for now and I only need to upgrade the chip? What chip would I go for, please?
Thanks for the info so far.

Oh, still using Win XP Pro SP 3, but may move to Win 7 now the worst bugs seem to be out of it.
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a b à CPUs
March 27, 2010 8:58:10 PM

Nvidia's DX11 card just came out, and the cheapest one they offer is the GTX 470, at $350. Two 5770s in crossfire are better than a GTX 480, for that matter, and are still $50 less than a 470. I used to go Nvidia until the GeForce 9 series. I liked the Radeon 4000s.

The 5750 and 5770s come (reference) with 1GB of ram, and a 128-bit wide bus to the ram. (like 64-bit vs 32-bit). An overclocked 5750 can perform the same (if not better) than a reference 5770. Just make sure it has a good cooler.

I would still recommend the 5770 because the price gap is so small (~$10).

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

A good CPU for the money (an AMD person will have to verify if it is backwards-compatible):

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

The board is old, but there is still some juice left to be squeezed out of it. In other words, it's OK for now, key words being for now. A year or two later, you should do a complete upgrade.

If you have the budget for a new PC now, that wouldn't be a bad idea either.
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March 27, 2010 9:06:28 PM

First of all don't be lazy. Even though you have a decent AM2+ board, the best it can do is a Phenom 9950, with a BIOS update of course. No Phenom IIs for you. While 9950s are mostly out of stock, you can still go with a 9850

9850 OEM $101
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As for your graphics, you should go with a DX11 card. Since you have an SLI board, you cannot crossfire like Zinosys suggests, but going with a single 5850 should be more than enough GPU power for now. Besides, you wouldn't get any benefit of a GTX 470 over a 5850 without a more powerful CPU. You can overclock the 9850 to squeeze more power out of it, but at best you may get it up to 3.0GHz.
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March 27, 2010 11:02:45 PM

Thanks to you both for the suggestions.

Meh, don't like combos, I prefer to get individual components that are best for me..
Besides it has stuff bundled I really don't need at all.
I have 4 gig DDR 2 good RAM - don't need to replace it.
I have 2 HD amounting to 700 gig, I don't need a new one. Both were got late last year so pretty new.
That saves $115 straight off the 2nd option. Not sure at all about the Asus video card they suggest... Will only buy a known make like Nvidia or Ati chipsets.

OK the Ati 5770 is not that much more, agreed. I go with that.

Seems changing the motherboard is best option, so suggestions on that please and a chip to go with rather than shoeing in a new chip to the existing board?

I will probably have to upgrade my PSU as the 400 watt one was the best I could do when my 600 watt died a couple years ago. This is the first chance to upgrade since then.
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a b à CPUs
March 27, 2010 11:55:07 PM

megamanx00 said:
First of all don't be lazy. Even though you have a decent AM2+ board, the best it can do is a Phenom 9950, with a BIOS update of course. No Phenom IIs for you. While 9950s are mostly out of stock, you can still go with a 9850

9850 OEM $101
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As for your graphics, you should go with a DX11 card. Since you have an SLI board, you cannot crossfire like Zinosys suggests, but going with a single 5850 should be more than enough GPU power for now. Besides, you wouldn't get any benefit of a GTX 470 over a 5850 without a more powerful CPU. You can overclock the 9850 to squeeze more power out of it, but at best you may get it up to 3.0GHz.

Ah. I was under the impression that AMD's sockets were backwards-compatible. (AM3 CPU on AM2(+)). I guess I was wrong. :whistle: 

Yes, I was wrong again. Nvidia chipsets don't support crossfire. :pfff: 

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With the Phenom megamanx suggested, you should be able to juice a couple more years out of the board. If you were to get a new mobo, I would have suggested DDR3 because it is becoming cheaper than DDR2, and you would also have to get a new processor. If that's in your price range, go for it.

For your PSU, go here: http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp

Remember to take into account efficiency as well. (wattage * efficiency/100 = suggested wattage).

Cheers.
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