Thank you in advance for reading my post, and for any insight you might provide. I understand and truly appreciate the value of your time.
I'm a graphic designer, and I currently use this system (specs below) for both work and play. It was gifted to me by a generous client, and its reliability has been nearly unparalleled. I am interested in investing $200-350 before January 1st to upgrade the system to meet the higher demands of newer games, but reliability is key. I have multiple sclerosis, and I simply cannot afford signifcant downtime from an accidental catastrophic screwup. I would like to take advantage of any holiday/post-holiday Tiger/Newegg sales, if possible. I will likely be able to invest another $200-300 in late January/early February, barring an insurance premium hosing.
As far as technical proficiency, I spent the late nineties up through 2004 working for the IT department of a small dotcom (we morphed into a call-center of roughly 200 employees). I spent quite a bit of my time there working helpdesk, which primarily consisted of fixing (un-F*^%ing) our e-machine crapboxes. I also built a few rigs for my gaming needs. (Sadly, I actually waited in line to buy my first "real" hardware: a 3dfx Voodoo card for the earliest builds of Counter-Strike around the summer of 2000, I think. Great times.) Although I haven't built a rig from scratch in several years, I believe I am still proficient enough to do so.
As far as work demands, I typically use most of these programs (simultaneously):
• Adobe's CS5 Suite (typically PS and Illustrator)
• Office Pro 2007 (Outlook, Excel, Word)
• Chrome with a dozen extensions and multiple tabs, IE8, FF
• Winrar, Trillian, Notepad, etc.
• Media Player and/or iTunes to watch a show/movie while I work
I should mention that my company has provided me with Win7 Pro 64-bit, which I will install with your proposed upgrades.
As far as gaming, I stick with my primary 32" Sony Bravia 1080p monitor and play a mix of the new and old, from Fallout: NV to the old isometric RPGs, and I typically stick with the recommended settings, making adjustments to the aspect ratio only when needed. I don't really care about achieving maximum FPS or the extra shinies, and I can play most new releases on my consoles. As long as the game doesn't stutter, (I'm looking at you, TES: Oblivion), I'm happy.
Anyhow, my thinking is as follows: I know I'm grossly inadequate on RAM, but this mATX board only has two slots, so I thought I might as well wait to possibly upgrade to a larger standard ATX with four slots that will accomodate faster FSB RAM, and possibly an SLI-ready board. I don't have strong feelings about USB 3.0 or SATA 6, but if the price difference is negligible, I'm open to it.
Would maximum value be garnered by keeping the E7300 Core2Duo and upgrading the mobo and buying RAM? Or should I cut my losses and go with an AMD board and chip? (I can't shake the perception that AMD chips are hot and unreliable... Ages ago, we had some cheap early-gen AMD chips that you could practically light a cigarette off of, but I know times have changed.) I'm open to any suggestions and grateful for your time and consideration.
> Mainboard : MICRO-STAR INTERANTONAL CO.,LTD mATX MS-7528
> Chipset : Intel G31/G33/G35 (Microstar G31 mATX motherboard)
> Processor : Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 @ 2666MHz
> Physical Memory : 2048MB (2 x 1024 800MHz DDR2-SDRAM )
> Video Card : NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
> Hard Disk : Western Digital WD2500AAJS-00B4A0 (250GB 7200RPM SATA II)
> Hard Disk : WD 5000AAV External (500GB)
> DVD-Rom Drive : ATAPI DVD A DH20A4P
> DVD-Rom Drive : GHITS AZK9AN4HA
> Network Card : Realtek Semiconductor RTL8168/8111 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
> Operating System : Microsoft Windows XP Professional 5.01.2600 Service Pack 3 (32-bit)
> Tower: Ultra X-Blaster ATX Mid-Tower Black Case
> 500 Watt PSU
> Number of monitors : 2
>> Monitor Information #1
Monitor : Sony Bravia SNY9C01 32" 1080p 60HZ
Linked on : NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
Resolution : 1920x1080
Working desktop : 1920x1050
Main monitor : Yes
>> Monitor Information #2
Monitor Type : HN199D
Linked on : NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT
Resolution : 1280x1024
Working desktop : 1280x1024
Main monitor : No
The budget will decide almost everything. You can obviously benefit from upgrading your CPU + Motherboard + RAM. Look for combo deals on www.newegg.com (and choose either in combo or separately whichever is cheaper) and choose the components.
I recommend at least 4 or 6gb (triple channel) memory and at least an Intel i5 CPU with compatible motherboard for you. You already have a decent graphics card, you can always go for SLi buying another one.
Rest all looks good to my eyes - remember, you will need a slightly bigger power supply if you decide to go with SLi.
Newer components tend to be way faster, and at many times you will find loss of reliability and a jargon about compatibility. It is a fact, and we live with it today. Please choose your memory modules matched to the motherboard.
If you look at my signature, you'll see my system's specifications - your components can be similar to that for an excellent value for the performance gain for your applications.
My upgrade budget will be roughly $200-$350 by December 31st, and another $200-$300 by January 31st. I can always wait and combine the two at the end of January, but I'll miss the potential small tax write-off of the first upgrade. Would it be better to wait and buy everything at once?