Okay guys, this is my very first thread on tom's hardware since the holidays are creeping up on us, i normally get some cash. I want to know if i should upgrade my rig. I have a Pentium 4 overclocked to 3.6 ghz with 4 gb of gddr2 800 ram. A 600w psu that pushes 22 amps on the 12 rail (single 6 pin) and a EVGA gts 250. I was wondering what should i upgrade first, and what to, price range (100-200 for cpu) (50-100 for psu). I was also wondering if i should get another GTS 250 or, go ahead and buy a single GTS 450 and hope to sli in the future. I have a 22" monitor 1650 1080. Please give me suggestions! and yes my mobo supports sli, actually tri sli
Your upgrade path right now is farily limited due to the older CPU/motherboard tech. If you want faster game speeds, get a GTS450, don't spend any money on anything else. Next I would get a nice new SATA drive, Samsung Spinpoint is a good pick I think. The drive will actually make the system more peppy if you are using a P4 era drive.
Then the next upgrade save up and get a new MOBO, CPU and RAM set. You can re-use the new video card and hard drive.
Don't upgrade the CPU now, you want to do the whole mobo, cpu, ram upgrade in the future. Just because you have a sata does not mean the drive is fast, especially if it came in 160 gig size. A new drive will be quite a bit faster and will carry over to a new system.
The thinking here is that the SATA and PCIe standards will be around for at least a few more years in modern systems so you can move the components to a new build. If you upgrade the P4 motherboard and components now, you are stuck in that era. For new items that will make your current system faster, drive and video card are the only things that I would buy.
If you want better performance, you need to know that your cpu is holding you back, and any new graphics card that you would get would be bottlenecked to the point that you likely wouldn't notice a performance increase.
As hang-the-9 said, you'll most likely have to do a platform upgrade (cpu, mobo, & ram) all at once, assuming your mobo doesn't support modern core 2s. You could, however, keep your ram and get an AM2+ mobo and an AM3 cpu (check compatibility before you buy), which would save you the money from the ram, though your future upgrade options would still be limited.
Your mobo supports the full line of S775 cpus. Though outdated, upgrading from a P4 would offer significant performance increases for a small amount of money. The Pentium Dual Core E6500, for example, gives you an extra core, plus nearly double the performance on a clock per clock basis in comparison to your P4. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
This would be the perfect cpu to tide you over until you have the money to rebuild your platform.
Although the other posters suggest upgrading your CPU, I don't think that's the most efficient way to go. You get a CPU for your current system, it won't fit in any newer motherboard. Yet a video card and hard drive will easily be movable for several years. There is actually a pretty simple way to find out if you are CPU limited in whatever you are trying to do.
Get a second 250, run it in SLI. If you don't see any speed increase, your CPU is holding the system back. And even this test won't be a waste. Now you have a SLI setup to move to a new system, and you know where the next upgrade would be.
But I would not just get a CPU, get a CPU/MB/RAM package.
He is already cpu limited; I had a similar situation. I have a Pentium D 940 (P4 based) @ 3.73 paired with an 8800 GT. When I got my new system, I threw my new HD 4870 in just for kicks; I maybe got one or two fps more than the 8800 GT. The short story is that netburst cpus don't have the muscle to drive high end gpus. Getting another card now would be a waste. I agree that he should migrate to a new platform all at once, but if he can't afford it, a new cpu will do him wonders, and keep the system viable for another year or so.