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Upgrade advice for year old system build

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January 23, 2011 7:10:02 AM

Hi folks!

So I built myself a budget/entry level system about a year ago and I'm feeling like it's about time for a good bump in performance. As the build stands now:

AM3 Athlon II X2 240 2.8 Ghz

2X1GB GSkill DDR3 1333 9-9-9-24

MSI NF750-g55 Motherboard w/integrated nVidia graphics

450W PSU that came with the case

I'd like to move to 4GB of RAM and, more importantly, I need to get a better PSU in the system (to be fair it has treated me well so far, but I wouldn't want to throw anything more at it). So...

Question 1: How big a PSU do I need to feed a Phenom II X4 BE (haven't decided between 955 or 965), for now 1 GTX 460 1GB with every intention of going SLI in about 6 months, 4GB of RAM, and maybe a modest raid array? I'm not sure how much impact this will have but it seems worth mentioning that my case has the PSU mounted at the top and it seems like most of the PSUs I see have nice big fans mounted in the top of them.

Question 2: I'm think at this point I'd be better off to shelf the current 1GB sticks and go with a pair of 2GB sticks that are pretty OC-friendly. My current understanding is that my performance might not be as good if I were to simply get a second set of of 1GB sticks and run all 4 channels as opposed to running a pair of 2GBs in dual channel. Is this assessment correct or no? Does anyone have any recommendations for a reliable, OC-friendly, dual-channel 4GB kit if I am correct? If I happen to be wrong what recommendations might you have?

I do plan on overclocking and adding a second video card some time down the road. Intended use is gaming and a little movie watching. I also live in the U.S. just in case anyone would need to know those things for a recommendation or whatever.

I think that covers it so if anyone has any recommendations or general advice I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thanks.

P.S. Doing a little reading around here seems to suggest that DDR3 1333 is somewhat of a "sweet spot" in terms of reliability and performance. Is that correct? Also, what is the difference, if any, between PC3 10600, 10660, and 10666?

Thanks again.

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January 23, 2011 9:29:06 AM

I'll address the ram first. You should look for DDR3 ram with lower timings CAS 9 is high for 1333 ram. DDR3 1333 with lower timings can perform better than 1600 ram at CAS9.
Get 2X2GB. best deal, and the speed will be fine.
Don't worry about overclocking the ram too much. With AMD you'll find that lower timings are going to help more than the speed you'll achieve with FSB overclocking. That is where Intel systems shine, AMD has never been much good at FSB overclocking.

For a single GTX 460, a 500 W supply is sufficient as long as it is a decent quality. For SLI/crossfire you'll need more like 650W. It looks like you have a sli chipset..

If you are using integrated graphics, then the GTX460 will be an incredible increase in gaming power. You may find that it is unnecessary to go with sli. It depends on your resolution desired as well, but the GTX 460 will handle most games easily up to 1080p.

I think the graphics card is the biggest thing to upgrade here.

For the CPU, it is now recommended that you have at least a triple core, and a quad wouldn't hurt. The X3 can be had for around $75 with a decent clock speed. The X4 will help multitasking and future proofing a bit.

Here's a suggestion:
AMD X3 for $75 or X4 955 for $145. Keep iin mind the X4 will not give you twice the performance but has the added benefit of an unlocked multi for overclocking ease.
Get a solid PSU. If you want to keep the sli option open, look at the Earthwatts 650 or a similar power supply from corsair or seasonic. Also Coolermaster has a few units in the 600W range that are nice. .

Get the GTX 460 1 GB. Don't get the SE edition.

Get 4 gigs of ram and you can sell your current sticks.
January 23, 2011 1:55:17 PM

I would suggest the Athlon II x3 with a 750w or better PSU for sli, and 1333 cas 8 or better 2x2 GB RAM. The Athlon is a great price/performance chip, and will have the chance of unlocking the 4th core.
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January 24, 2011 2:22:29 AM

So, based on the advice you guys have given me (thanks again for that) so far I think I've got my choices narrowed down to a few different options.

PSU:

CORSAIR Enthusiast Series CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC

or

Antec TruePower New TP-650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V V2.3 / EPS12V V2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC

maybe even

Thermaltake TR-700P TR2 BRONZE 700W ATX 12V V2.3 / EPS 12V 2.91 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

Do those look like good potential choices for PSUs? I wouldn't mind having a PSU with a higher 80 certification but it seems like everything that's rated higher than bronze is also a modular PSU and I don't really feel like that's something I need. I wouldn't mind paying more for one certified silver or gold if I didn't think most of that price premium was going in large part to the modularity.

Does anyone else think it would be worth the extra money for one with a better efficiency rating? Do the ones I have picked look okay or are there any alternate suggestions?

I appreciate everyone's help so far. I'm still working on narrowing down my choices as far a RAM goes.
January 24, 2011 11:30:16 PM

I think I've finally got some decent choices as far as my memory goes now:

OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3P1333LV4GK
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBXH
Patriot Viper II Sector 5 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model PVV34G1333LLK
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL7D-4GBRH

That last GSkill ripjaws kit isn't in stock on newegg anymore but I've found at least one other place online that has it available for the same price. Either way those four kits look like the best choices I could find based on their timings so far.

Sidenote: I would have expected those kits to be more expensive than they are based on the timings that they have. Am I missing something or is it just supply and demand working in my favor?

As far as CPUs go I think I'm gonna go with this one:

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ965FBGMBOX

I was looking at the customer reviews for the 955,965, and 970 and it looks like the most overall positive experience comes from the 965. I also wasn't convinced that the extra $20 would have been well spent for an extra 100Mhz for the 970 over the 965. Couple that with all the reviews saying they're getting OCs up to between 3.7 and 3.8Ghz on the stock cooler (even though I'm definitely gonna go aftermarket) and that extra $20 dollars doesn't look like a wise bet since I don't plan to really push the limits with my overclock. If I can get around 3.8 to 4.0 and be fully stable with no or very little voltage increase (the way I'm understanding it so far that's what really shortens the CPU's life, right?) I'd be more than happy.

Please feel free to share any thoughts or criticisms that you guys have so far, or any alternate suggestions or advice. I'd really appreciate the help.

Now I'm gonna start shopping for graphics cards.
!