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Should I upgrade to quad or do something else?

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April 17, 2010 3:04:54 PM

Hi all,
I have almost three years old rig, upgraded at the times. Current configuration is as follows:
MB: MSI P43T-C51 (brand new)
CPU: Intel E4400, default clock + speed step, works for 2.6 years @1.2 - 2.0Ghz
RAM: PQI 4x 1 GB DDR-2 800 CL5, default clocks
GPU: MSI N9600gso 512, default clocks, got it in November of 2009
HDD: Samsung F3 1Tb
DVR: Pioneer 212
Case: Chieftec DX-01-BD-U with 400w PSU (GPS-400AA-101A, I think but not sure)

I need this computer for 1. new games (really important), 2. photo editing and 3. amateur video production (not so often). It served me well for now, but PSU is too weak since I've installed 1Tb drive (had to take 2x 160GB drives out or it would shut down on it's own every now and then).

My plan is to get Corsair 650w TX which would enable further upgrades.

Since I have no money to get completely new computer (i7+ddr3 or AMD based) I was wondering how to keep this one in shape for incoming games (because, that puts the food on my table), and make it even better for photo and video editing. This would have to be done in small steps (one new thing per month). My first idea was a quad core processor (s775), but I don't really know if I need one...

Was looking at q8300 which is affordable, but it has no x64 virtualisation and I do use VirtualBox now and then, it would be nice to have access to x64 guest systems. q8400 and q9400 are just about 20 euros apart here, so q9400 seams like something to go for, and it does have 6 MB L2 cache. I could maybe wait some time (not in a rush really) and get q9550 which seams like the -top dog- from what I could afford.

On the other hand, q9550 is 210 euros here (q9400 is 155), and I could get Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 1GB GDDR5 VAPOR-X for just about 150, and that seams like better upgrade for gaming, doesn't it? That would left me with 50e to get more RAM... (which I plan to buy somewhat later in any case...)

I mean... there are maybe three games that use more than two cores... But since this computer would be used for 2 or three more years for gaming, maybe quad is the way to go... And even the games that use only 2 cores would see improvement from higher clocks... OR should I just go for GPU and overclock my e4400 up to 3Ghz?

So, you see, I am confused and need your advice :) 

Thank you for reading and taking time to answer ;) 

More about : upgrade quad

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April 17, 2010 3:21:49 PM

Hello and welcome to the Tom's Hardware Forums!

Good call with the PSU. I don't trust the ones that come with cases. :p 

Dual cores are slowly becoming like the single cores of yesteryear. Quads are the new norm. I would recommend a quad because many applications are utilizing multithreading.

The Q8300 comes in two flavors: with VT-x and without VT-x. If it has the virtualization instruction set, then it can emulate pretty much any other instruction set is has for the guest OS. But it's not worth the risk, and it's old.

I would really recommend the Q9550 if you don't plan on buying another computer within a year or so. The q9550 is very similar in performance to an i7 920/930 because of it's 12 megs of cache.

If you can't afford it, then a Q9400 might do, but I believe the Q9550 is worth the investment.

I own the sapphire 5770. It's a great card. A 5770 is comparable to a 4870. And for 150 euros, it's worth it.

Also, when you're upgrading your CPU (if you upgrade), you might want to get faster 1066MHz ram, to avoid a bottleneck.

Good Luck!
April 17, 2010 3:22:26 PM

Buy a new GPU (AMD) and try and get a quad core on eBay.
Related resources
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April 17, 2010 3:23:15 PM

doive1231 said:
Buy a new GPU (AMD) and try and get a quad core on eBay.

With ebay, you have a 50/50 chance of getting something working or not. I've heard stories of people who even buy hard drives from ebay (and yes, they work), but I'm not willing to take the risk.

Just my $.02.
April 17, 2010 3:40:32 PM

Zinosys said:
I would really recommend the Q9550 if you don't plan on buying another computer within a year or so. The q9550 is very similar in performance to an i7 920/930 because of it's 12 megs of cache.

If you can't afford it, then a Q9400 might do, but I believe the Q9550 is worth the investment.

I own the sapphire 5770. It's a great card. A 5770 is comparable to a 4870. And for 150 euros, it's worth it.


Well, I could afford it if I save some money for two or three months in a row... And, If I'm already going for a quad core, why not take the better one, if there's only 50e difference in price. That was my reasoning to begin with, but was unsure if I'm thinking right, or just going over the hedge... If you say IT IS worth it, than I will save the money and get one :) 

And, I can always get new GPU later this year... maybe even wait to see will 5770 price drop when nVidia decides to show their Fermi in action...

Ebay is out of the question because I live in 3rd world country and can use only local stores and distributors, ordering something from outside the country would mean paying more for taxes than for the product itself...

Thank you for the advice.
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April 17, 2010 6:13:15 PM

Hello again!

You might find this helpful: http://anandtech.com/bench/Product/76?vs=50

How much money is between the q9550 and q9400?

You should decide if it's worth it or not.

There are a few 5770s with comparable coolers that might be cheaper where you are, like the MSI 5770 HAWK and the HIS IceQ 5. Waiting for the price to drop really depends on how long you're going to wait. I really don't expect to see anything change significantly until june/july.

BTW, out of curiosity (if you don't mind saying) where are you located anyway? :) 

Cheers.
April 17, 2010 7:10:43 PM

Well, q8400 is around 140 euros, q9400 is around 160e, and q9550 is 210e...

I think I will go with q9550, so I could alt-tab between games and Ubuntu x64 virtual machine with no waiting, or need to dual boot :)  And to be safe for some time, that's the reason I'm upgrading at the first place.

5770 price... I'm getting new PSU this month, and than I have to save for a while for the CPU... at least by the end of July... so GPU prices can change a lot until I get money for one (august/September)... but that's OK, since 9600gso is working fine at the time... that's the good thing with sticking to the same socket - I can use all my components until I replace them one by one...

Thanks for the URL, that comparison table was just what I needed...

I don't mind saying, I live in Southeastern Europe, in the country called Serbia. That's where women are hot, music is loud, US dollar/euro all mighty, and retailers are scum :) 
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April 17, 2010 8:44:56 PM

Cool. I would have gone for the Q9550 as well. Definitely worth it for the price.

Mmm. Alright. I think that's a good plan. You'll definitely be able to squeeze a few years out of your computer this way.

PSU, then CPU, then GPU. That works. It's pretty logical to me!

Ah, Serbia. The description made me laugh. :) 

Cheers, and good luck with your upgrades!
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April 17, 2010 9:09:16 PM

I have a Q9400 and it works very well. Mine overclocked to at least 3.8GHz in my tests. I've been running it for over a year now at 3.4GHz. I don't think you would see that much difference between the Q9400 and the Q9550. To some extent it will be the luck of the draw as to which chip will overclock better than another. It's not out of the question that you would find a Q9400 that could run faster than a Q9550. But the trick to overclocking either of these chips is your ram. These chips have low multipliers so your ram needs to be pretty fast. If your ram isn't so fast you might look for a dual core processor with higher multiplier, even something like the real cheap E5200 can help you because it can be overclocked a lot.

As for 2 cores vs. 4 cores, some games will use more than 2 cores but also check into your video editing software, some of that uses more than 2 cores.
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April 17, 2010 9:19:23 PM

I have an E5200, and it's pretty overclockable. I got it to 3GHz on stock volts, stock cooler, but the temps were a little high. I keep it at 2.8 24/7 undervolted and with the stock cooler.

Somethinghere, if you want to OC, your best bet is to get an aftermarket cooler to disperse the heat effectively.

The 12 megs of cache in the Q9550 will definitely help a lot. You could look at it both ways. An OC'd Q9400 is better than a Q9550, but a OC 9550 > OC Q9400.

If you want to OC, as cadder said, your RAM is important, and also your cooling.

If you use singlethreaded applications and don't multitask too much, fast dual > slow quad. But if you want to multitask (providing you have a good OS) or use multithreaded software, then slow quad > fast dual, definitely.

Cheers.
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April 17, 2010 9:30:14 PM

Don't forget microcenter has Q9550s for under $200 so see if you have one near by!
April 17, 2010 9:30:55 PM

Well, if I'm already paying for q9xxx, and not saving some money by getting one of the q8xxxx-s, then I'll get q9550 and sleep well.

I think it will work with my current RAM at default clock, and later I can get some Kingston/Geil/OCZ with 1066/1333 clocks if I decide to overclock it...

When I mentioned overclock in original post, I was talking about e4400 OC vs q8300/8400 default, which was something I looked at in the beginning... But since q8xxx is out of the question now, so is overclocking the current cpu...
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April 17, 2010 9:55:46 PM

Alright. Sounds fair. Don't forget, when you install the Q9550, change your memory mutliplier to adjust your RAM.

G.Skill (as i've heard) has some good ram on the cheap.

Rendition is owned by Crucial too. It's the same RAM, but I think with a limited support policy.

Cheers.
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