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Upgrading my 7-year-old PC

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September 28, 2010 4:42:13 PM

Hi people,

(Un)Fortunately, it's time to upgrade my old P4 PC which has served its purpose for 7 1/2 years, and continues to do so. But I now face some "difficult" decisions.

The PC now lives in my parent's house, back in my home country, and I can't even talk on Skype with them as the computer can't handle that sort of stuff. I have recently become pissed at Intel for deciding to change the sockets(AGAIN), so I will be going for AMD on this one. But while reading through tom's hardware forum, I found out that the future Bulldozer platform MAY not be compatible with AM3 sockets, the only thing that delighted me when reading Bulldozer-related articles.

So what do you think : is it a good idea to buy a system now or should I wait until march-april 2011 to get one?

I came across this board : http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Asus-M4A78LT-M-LE-AMD-76...(OC)-SATA-3Gb-s-SATA-RAID-MicroATX-Onboard-Graphics

It seems a good choice, as the computer will mainly be used for office stuff and the occasional gaming when I'm at their place during the summer. I just want a snappy computer, which will handle most of the basic stuff. Together with an HD 5550 and 2 GB of cheap ddr3, would it do the job ? As for the CPU, I was thinking of an Athlon II x2 255, which I was planning to replace with a Bulldozer based one, but now I don't know if it will fit this board.

And another question: do you think the motherboard and CPU/GPU power connectors will change in the near future, thus making a PSU bought now useless ? I really doubt it, but it would be nice to hear some other opinions.

Sorry for the vast amount of questions, but I need some thoughts on this.

More about : upgrading year

September 28, 2010 6:28:07 PM

Just as AM2+ processors are compatible on AM2 sockets, I expect that the Bulldozer chip being AM3+ to be compatible on an AM3 socket but just limited to the AM3 socket specifications.

Regardless if you buy it now or half a year later, if you are buying in the budget region, the choices and prices will remain the same. The motherboard you selected is fine for your uses.

I would aim for an HD 5570 for not much more for better performance. Same with the processor, the Athlon x3 425 is not even $10 more. An extra core will be more useful for multitasking regardless if they run 300MHz slower. You won't even notice the difference. The 2gb ram would work, but go with a single 2gb stick so you can add another one in later for 4gb total.

It is very unlikey that the CPU/GPU connectors will change much if at all but with the new chips it may be possible. Regardless, I don't think the standard connections that have been around for so long will be phased out so quickly. Expect to to be around for at least another good 10 years or so.
September 28, 2010 6:50:12 PM

kureme is right, at this point, your 7-year old system is probably not really upgradeable. You're probably socket 754 on that CPU, which is dead.

Whats your available budget? a decent gamer can be had for $500, and a ok-for-a few-months (a year max) one can probably be squeezed into $400, assuming you have an OS to use.
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September 28, 2010 9:19:16 PM

AM3 CPUs will work on AM3+ boards, but AM3+ CPUs will not work on AM3 boards. If AMD had given Bulldozer AM3 compatibility as originally intended they would have had to cut some features that would have affected performance, or so they say. If you want the Bulldozer Compatibility then just wait for the new boards to come out in 2011
September 28, 2010 9:42:50 PM

My new system will keep nothing from the old one, apart from the case. I want it to be as cheap as possible. On scan.co.uk, I configured one for about 320-330 pounds.
That included the above-mentioned motherboard, an athlon II x3, WD caviar blue 500gb, 2 gigs corsair value, 5550 mobo and an ocz modxstream modular 500w psu(from amazon.co.uk). Which sounds to me as a pretty good deal.
But it would be really disappointing if AMD don't allow Bulldozer cpu's to work on am3 boards. Or at least stripped-out versions of it. Now, they're no better than intel.

I just came up with a new idea while writing this: if I just bought a second-hand Prescott P4 and a radeon hd gpu on agp, would this solve the problem for another 6 or so months ? My old mobo is an Asus P4P800.
September 28, 2010 10:58:29 PM

I'd suggest a Samsung F3 Spinpoint 500GB over the Caviar blue. faster for the same to slightly less. Go for 4 GB of RAM, not 2. get a 770 or 880 motherboard.

Bullbozer is designed to be compatable with Opteron. But hey, We're talking 4-6 months away for that, so decide if you want to wait that long or not.
September 28, 2010 11:16:36 PM

What's the difference between a 770, a 760G, an 880 ? Cause I can't see from the descriptions anything that can justify a 20+ pounds difference .
Which chipset (northbridge/southbridge ) has the option to unlock dormant cores, turning an X3 into an X4 ?
September 28, 2010 11:58:54 PM

ghost_florian said:
What's the difference between a 770, a 760G, an 880 ? Cause I can't see from the descriptions anything that can justify a 20+ pounds difference .
Which chipset (northbridge/southbridge ) has the option to unlock dormant cores, turning an X3 into an X4 ?
770 no onboard video, 760G has weak HD3000 onboard video, 880G has near top-end HD4250 onboard video. (most discreet cards blow away any onboard video, so ratings are relative).

Core unlocking will depend whether or not the manufacturer has added that option to the BIOS. You may find two boards with the same chipset, but one does not have the option to unlock cores. You have to do your homework.

Edit- the chipsets above have other differences (for example 880G is DDR3 only), but the primary difference is the onboard video.
September 29, 2010 8:49:53 AM

Well, I already plan on adding a 5550, so onboard graphics don't really matter at this point. The asus board I'm talking about is DDR3 as well, so on par with the other ones. I have to see whether or not it has the core unlocking option.
September 29, 2010 1:44:58 PM

Since the HD6K is coming soon and if your gaming needs aren't urgent the option of an IGP chipset and await developments is also an option - beats getting a HD 5550 which is not very good price/performance for gaming
September 29, 2010 2:06:52 PM

what about this board ?

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Gigabyte-GA-MA78LMT-US2H...

It has 4 ddr3 slots, esata, ACC and it's the same price as the asus.
I have Gigabyte on my core i5 system, and I'm pretty pleased with it.
Is it better than the asus ?

How good will the ati 3000 cope with modest hd tasks and videoconferencing ?
September 29, 2010 2:19:58 PM

760G chipsets/Radeon 3000 IGP are fine - if u dun need UVD or Universal Video Decoder which is present in other higher end IGP chipsets like 785G (HD 4200)/790GX (HD 3300)

If Blu Ray/HD DVDs are on the table i'd hit the latter 2

September 29, 2010 2:28:02 PM

Thanks for the info, batuchka.
What about that gigabyte board?
September 29, 2010 2:29:18 PM

If your intention is to hit a discrete anyway go for it ^^
September 29, 2010 3:05:43 PM

if you plan to use the integrated, go up to an 8xx motherboard. the 880 has an 4250 integrated, better than the 3000s on the 7xx boards.

Of course, anything in the way of a discrete card will be much better.
!