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Best price-to-performance upgrade for my machine

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March 8, 2011 2:24:30 AM

Hi all,

I have a PC that is getting a little long in the tooth. I kind of want to bump it up a few notches, at the least possible price (prefer to stay <$200). My primary need for performance boost is gaming (I play a lot of strategy like Civ V and RPG like Fallout series). I upgraded the video card to a mid-range Radeon HD 4770, which is probably OK relative to the rest of the system. What do you guys think? What's my best option? I think I need to upgrade the CPU, but that entails a motherboard upgrade. If that's the case, what's the best bang for ~$200-300? Here are the specs:

(OS: Windows 7)
- Dell Dimension 9200 (prebuilt but I am capable of building/adding)
- 2 LGA 775 CPU Sockets
- Dual Intel Core 2 Duo 6700 @ 2.66 currently occupy the sockets
- ATI Radeon HD 4770
- 4GB RAM (not sure of speed)

Thanks for your advice!
March 8, 2011 4:12:08 AM

Hello TVJ;

Please run CPU-z and get a specific ID on that motherboard (mainboard) in that system.
http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html

Motherboard MFGR & Model,
BIOS Brand, Version and Date
Graphic Interface version


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March 8, 2011 6:09:43 AM

yes, please run CPU-z or provide some more info. Not much to go on.
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March 8, 2011 10:56:51 AM

OK, thanks for the link to CPU-Z. Here are the details (I think I got everything important here):

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 ("Conroe") Socket 775 LGA

Motherboard Manufacturer: Dell
Model: 0WG855
Chipset: Intel P965/G965 rev. C1
Southbridge: Intel 82801HH (ICH8DH) rev. B0

BIOS
Brand: Dell Inc.
Version 2.5.3
Date 11/22/2007 [this appears to be the most recent]

Graphic interface
Version: PCI-Express
Link Width x16. Max Supported x16.

Memory: DDR2 ; 4GB
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March 8, 2011 11:29:42 AM

My first thought on seeing that 965 was - Great! lets find a fast quad core CPU.
But then I was shocked to see that the Q9650 3.0Ghz CPU was still @ $339
That's more expensive than the top Sandy Bridge quad core that every one is drooling about. Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) $329


And the C2D E8600 Wolfdale 3.33GHz dual core is $290. In spite of it's 3.33Ghz speed this is more of a sideways upgrade than a leap up in performance. Not worth $300 IMO.
I did find an E8600 for around $195

Ebay has a C2D E8600 @ $122. Q9650s are all above $300.

I can't seem to find a CPU upgrade that makes sense. Have you gone into the Dell forums and seen what other Dimension 9200 owners are doing for upgrades?
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March 8, 2011 12:56:16 PM

WR2, I totally agree there's no CPU upgrade that makes sense. That seems to be the consensus amongst other owners of this machine. Unfortunately, it was purchased (not by me) at the end of its lifecycle, so the upgrade path sucked. It's too little bang for the buck to snap in any other compatible processor...So the question is, could I get a motherboard/CPU combo that I could replace my current one with, for < $250 or so total, which would also be a substantial upgrade and give me an upgrade path?

Thanks for your advice.
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Best solution

March 8, 2011 4:33:48 PM

Anything that will fit inside the $250 budget is again at the wrong end of an upgrade path.
AMD is moving to AM3+ very shortly
and Intel has moved on from 1156 and is on 1155 now with it's Sandy Bridge CPUs.
Both of those are DDR3 boards so we're talking CPU/MB/RAM upgrades at the minimum.

THG: Who's Got Game? Twelve Sub-$200 CPUs Compared

AMD Athlon II X3 455 Rana 3.3GHz Triple-Core CPU $89
MSI 760GM-P35 AM3 AMD 760G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $70
WINTEC AMPX 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM $43
~$202 plus any taxes & shipping CPU comparison: Core 2 Duo E6750 - 2.66GHz vs AMD Athlon II X3 455 - 3.3GHz
In spite of the extra CPU core and higher clock speed this is just a marginal upgrade. And if the dormant 4th core is successfully unlocked and can run stable (never a guarantee that's possible) it doesn't help as much in gaming as it would in media creation/video encoding.


Core i3-550 Clarkdale 3.2GHz 1156 73W Dual-Core CPU $130
GIGABYTE GA-H55M-S2V 1156 H55 Micro ATX Motherboard $80 $10 rebate
WINTEC AMPX 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM $43
~$253


Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz 1155 Dual-Core CPU $130
MSI H61MU-E35 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $85
WINTEC AMPX 4GB DDR3 1333 RAM $43
~$258 Core 2 Duo E6750 - 2.66GHz vs Core i3 2100 - 3.1GHz

Even slipping in the least expensive SandyBridge for which there is an upgrade path isn't a slam dunk. It kind of highlights how good the C2D CPUs were. But this jump up over the Core i3-i5 first gen CPUs into the 2nd.

It will improve the CPU situation, but Im thinking it won't give you the increased performance you'd expect due to the video card staying the same.



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March 8, 2011 4:45:31 PM

WR2, thanks a ton for this advice! It sounds like perhaps I should just wait until I'm ready for a full CPU/MB/RAM combo upgrade; maybe when AMD launches AM3+ and pending numbers on those looking like they're worth the cost. Thanks very much for sharing your wisdom.
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March 8, 2011 4:45:42 PM

Best answer selected by teejayvee.
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