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Upgrade of existing core parts for multimedia/creative work

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July 15, 2010 2:16:36 PM

Hi all. Looking for some advice on upgrading my system with the purchase of a new set of the main parts, and would really appreciate some advice/guidance from you knowledgeable folks.

I'll fill in the template first...

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: next 3 months
BUDGET RANGE: 300 UKP for new mobo, cpu and gfx... (400 including Win7 Pro for 64bit)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Adobe Creative Suite (design/graphics/photo editing/web dev), virtualbox + OSX, video encoding, itunes, web browsing... potentially some gaming but not essential... e.g. Assassins Creed II (i.e. none of yer massively multiplayer or online FPS time-sinks!)

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, RAM (3 x 1GB for the moment, trusting this will still work and I can upgrade the RAM later)
EXISTING PSU: Antec TruePower 430W

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: http://www.overclockers.co.uk (where I bought current parts, 6 yrs ago!)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK

PARTS PREFERENCES: currently running AMD, but open to Intel after reading up a bit... see below...

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680x1050 x2 (dual monitor setup!)

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

Mobo, CPU and Gfx are currently:
- Asus K8N-E Deluxe nForce3 (Socket 754) Motherboard
- AMD Athlon 64 3400 (Socket 754) - Retail (CP-071-AM) x 1
- Sapphire ATI Radeon 9800SE 128MB DDR TV-Out/DVI (AGP) - Lite Retail

I was initially thinking of a straightforward (?!) upgrade to another AMD setup:

Asus M4A87TD Evo AMD 870 (Socket AM3) DDR3 Motherboard - £84.99
AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz (Socket AM3) - Retail - £128.99

...which comes to £214 vs. £280 for the following intel based kit...

Asus P7P55D-E Intel P55 (Socket 1156) DDR3 Motherboard [90-MIBBN0-G0EAY00Z] - £126.98
Intel Core i5 750 2.66GHz (Lynnfield) (Socket LGA1156) - Retail - £153

- - -

To go with either, will this gfx card be good for running a dual-monitor setup? Could I get away with less, or should I go for more?
XFX ATI Radeon HD 5550 1024MB GDDR3 PCI-Express Graphics Card [HD-555X-ZHF2] - £61.99

- - -

Although I've loved my AMD setup and it's been a faithful servant ever since I built it, having seen the benchmarks here (and following page) I'm seriously considering a switch to a Core i5-750 based setup, as it seems to blow the similarly priced Phenom II X4 out of the water (ok, that's maybe a little harsh, but there's some big differences in the sizes of those bars!)

Would also maybe shy away from AMD Phenom after reading about higher power consumption, as PC is often left running during the day.

I'm assuming just a new board, cpu and graphics card will give me a big performance boost for relatively little outlay... but...

1 - Will my current PSU be OK?

2 - Is the proposed new graphics card beefy enough to run a dual screen setup? (and would it be capable enough for games like Assassins Creed II, should I ever get the time!?)

3 - Could I keep my existing gfx card to run a 3rd 'child' monitor? (why not! the more screen real estate the better!)

4 - I'd like the upgraded kit to be relatively future-proof for the next 6 years, hence looking at a motherboard with the new SATA and USB3 spec... anything else I need to consider in terms of future-proofing?

5 - Assuming I should go for Windows 7 to take advantage of 64bit at this stage? I'm thinking this is a no-brainer especially where Adobe CS4 apps are concerned.

6 - Nearly forgot! I'd like to look into running VirtualBox and OSX etc. for dev purposes, and to re-introduce myself to the Mac environment which I last used regularly about 10 years ago. This requires Hardware Virtualisation, yes? Assuming the above kit would be good for this?

Am I missing something obvious - is there something else I may need if I'm switching from AMD to Intel (besides flame-proof pants)? :p 

Thanks in advance for any tips or suggestions to help me make up my mind.

- Dave.
July 15, 2010 4:11:00 PM

1. Yes
2. Won't run games too well, definitely not on dual screens. For your resolution, single screen you'll want a 5750 at least, but since that thing is a horrible value for it's cost, I'd say get a 5770. It's actually only $10 more for cheapest 5770 in us than 5750.
3. Not really, Xfire runs at speed of slowest GPU. So combining current one with old GPU won't work. However, the 5xxx series do have 3 outputs so you can run 3 monitors with just 1.
4. Stick to AMD if you wanna upgrade CPu w/o a new mobo. Intel releases new sockets with new CPU's.
5. yes. Adobe products are some of the few software that's already programming in 64bit.
6. Should be.
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July 17, 2010 8:19:19 PM

Thanks, hadn't seen your replies (thought I would've got an email to notify me but hey ho!)

I'm leaning towards the gigabyte motherboard you posted (although from the spec it doesn't seem to have SATA 6GB?) Not a deal-breaker I guess, as I could always get a separate card in future for that if needed.

Thanks also for the tip on the 5770 gfx card - looks good.

Thanks again for the reply!
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July 17, 2010 8:46:19 PM

Argh I'm getting confused with motherboard choices. The original one I posted was an ASUS, for intel 1156, and had SATA 6GB... but again only has 2 PCIe 2x slots.

If there's no reason I absolutely should get a board with 3 PCIe 2x slots, I think I'll stick with my original choice, as it's also cheaper.

Shout if that's a mistake, please :) 
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