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Upgrade Advice X2 4400/M2N-SLI/8800GT to Core i7/GTX 560 Ti or..?

Last response: in Systems
June 3, 2011 7:23:54 AM

Hi all, I build my last system 4 years ago and it has served me well for a lot of time but now it has become the "minimum requirements" of the latest games!

My Current setup is:
  • AMD X2 4400+
  • Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe
  • Nvidia 8800GT
  • 2GB RAM (2 sticks)
  • HDD x 3 (1TB + 2x160GB RAID0)
  • Corsair TX650W PSU (see here)
  • Microsoft X6 / X8 Keyboard & Mouse
  • Cooler Master Storm Scout Cabinet Modded with Fans/Leds/Cathodes (see pics, blogpost)
  • Antec Lansing Expressionist Ultra Speakers
  • Logitech RumblePad 2 + Joystick
  • LG 23" LCD Monitor-TV + Samsung 19" LCD
  • Numeric UPS

    Purpose of my Rig: (I am a practical person)
  • Watching HD Movies, Music
  • Overclocking in the future (is i7 overclockable?)
  • Playing Latest FPS/RPG/Racing/Adventure games at High and Extreme settings and high resolutions
  • Some Photo/Video editing with lots of Media Storage
  • Low power consumption when High performance not needed. e.g. watching movies
  • Multiple connectivity like dual Monitors, Multiple USB, eSata, Wifi/LAN etc
  • Be able to do all that for years to come

    I have been upgrading non core components slowey and Only the core components are outdated. Now I want to upgrade them. I want high performance and longevity but also in a economical package. I have learned that there is no point to get hardware like a high end motherboard supporting SLI if I am not buying 2 Gfx cards with it. As I bought the Asus M2N SLI Deluxe thinking that I will later get another 8800GT but that never happened as it was not available after a couple of years or so.

    So I want to upgrade such that I get the most bang for the buck and still be able to comfortably play all games on high res high settings but not have a ton of features that I will never use like SLI. So, From what I can tell based on my research: (I am a bit rusty on the latest and the greatest hardware)

    Upgrade Option 1: Upgrade GFX + CPU + RAM + MOBO
    This is a simple one. Just need to choose the right components:
  • Core i7 2600K (seems fast and not overly expensive)
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM (which brand is speedy and economical?
  • Asus Mobo (P8P67 PRO, P8Z68-V, ... something without SLI.??)
  • MSI GTX 560 Ti (one of the Overclocked one)

    I like the feature in Asus Mobos where we can switch between Hi Performance and Low Power footprint and the Switching between intel 3000 onboard GFX and the main PCIx GFX etc as well as the SATA 3.0, BT Go and the snazzy BIOS etc. But there are so many chipsets that I am lost on how to choose the right mobo for me. I want a mobo with useful features and longevity so one of the latest chipsets wold be ideal. I just know too little about the Core i7 world like the chipsets and various cores etc..

    I dont need SLI/Crossfire and I have had good experience with Nvidia and Asus so I prefer these brands for the GFX and Mobo but please let me know if another brand offers nice options.

    The big disadvantage for this option is it is very very costly and all expenses are bulked together!

    Upgrade Option 2: Upgrade the GFX + CPU(AMD) + RAM but not the Mobo
    I have been lucky that my Mobo has active support and community so it is able to support CPUs well beyond its original estimate. It is possible for me to upgrade to a Phenom II X4 CPU (max 3.4Ghz 4 cores) but I am not sure how viable it is as the bios update for the motherboard is beta and will always be IMO. A lot of people see success and bugs both with that upgrade.

    I addition I can upgrade to 4GB and get one the faster GFX cards like GTX 560 Ti. I know there will be bottle necks (like the GFX-CPU link running slow as the mobo is limited and outdated RAM etc) but I dont know if it is a big enough bottleneck. so I need advice if this option is worth exploring.. It is also very economical to me.

    Upgrade Option 3: Upgrade the GFX (MSI GTX 560 Ti) Only (is it even possible?)
    This is the most economical but gives me the option to be able to wait a few more months before upgrading to a Core i7 and related components. I know the CPU and everything else will be a major bottleneck.. but if I am able to play Crysis 2 with a OCed CPU (I have good experience) then I can live with that. But I dont even know if There might be any compatibility issues with using such a new GFX with old hardware...

    Please help !! :oops: 

    Sorry If the format is wrong or the section is wrong or there are too many questions but I am returning to posting in this excellent forum after a long time. Thanks you in advance.
    a c 90 B Homebuilt system
    June 3, 2011 1:00:08 PM

    Hello vaibhavgarg;

    You're in the right section for upgrade advice. And you've done a great job thinking things through and laying things out your options.

    Option 3: I don't think there is any downside to giving this a shot. All version 2.0 video cards like the GTX 560ti are backwards compatible with ver. 1.0 x16 PCI-e slots like your M2N-SLI Deluxe motherboard has. The CPU/GPU link through the ver 1.0 x16 slot is about the same as running at x8 in a ver 2.0 PCI-e slot - a very small performance penalty.

    June 3, 2011 1:16:43 PM

    ^Thanks! but do you think just a new Graphic card like GTX 560 Ti 1GB or HD 6950 2GB would provide enough of a gaming boost..? perhaps I can also add some cheap RAM as well and go up to 4GB...Would Crysis 2 and other 2011+ games behave well ? Would the 4400+ be too slow of newer games..?

    I have been reading up and the MSI HD6950 2GB Twin Frozr III/non-OC is looking better and better to me.. Specially the ability to unlock and do some major OCing with the help of the massive heatsink..!
    Related resources

    Best solution

    a c 90 B Homebuilt system
    June 3, 2011 1:40:48 PM

    vaibhavgarg said:
    ^Thanks! but do you think just a new Graphic card like GTX 560 Ti 1GB or HD 6950 2GB would provide enough of a gaming boost..?
    I'm certain with the new video card you're also going to start lusting for the new CPU/MB/RAM combo as well.
    But you have to start somewhere and it's an easy place to start.

    Best Graphics Cards For The Money: May 2011
    The Radeon HD 6950 2 GB is the top recommendation in the under $300 graphics card category. And the
    R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition is an excellent choice.
    MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III Power Edition Unlocking Guide

    Given the attention to detail you've put in that sweet Storm Scout case mod I'm thinking you'll end up with hardware inside that as sweet as the case.
    IMO thats a i5-2500K CPU with either Z68 or P67 motherboard.

    But it's OK to go ahead and get the video card now - do some testing and benchmarking to see what kind of results you get (by playing games of couse).

    So when you do decide to finish upgrading you'll have a good baseline benchmark of where the GPU upgrade took you, and also where the full upgrade took your performance.
    June 3, 2011 1:57:50 PM

    This sounds like a plan!

    I have been getting similar advice from my buddies. I am almost sold on the MSI 6950 2GB Twin frozr III but I also came across that guide and found that the links from MSI were broken leading me to double the authenticity of the article..

    This might be a silly question but what happens if I plug in both my 8800 and a new 6950? Would things blow up or nothing will happen..I am curious?
    a b B Homebuilt system
    June 3, 2011 2:56:56 PM

    Your power supply should be able to handle the demand from both GPUs. You could actually use the 8800 as a PhysX card (I believe it is supported), but that will only marginally improve your performance.

    I agree with what WR2 suggested. You can easily just drop in a new GPU, and upgrade the CPU/mobo/RAM later . You WILL be bottlenecked by the older platform, but you should still see a decent improvement with a new GPU.

    I'd also recommend a 6950 2GB (I have a reference MSI 6950 2GB). The reference models are also unlockable to 6970s with about a ~80% success rate.
    June 4, 2011 3:23:28 AM

    I suppose I can get better value from the 8800GT if I can sell it somewhere as it is still good enough for a casual gamer..

    I am also choosing the MSI 6950 2GB Twin frozr III because if it I fail to unlock it then I can still get a good boost by simply OCing it.
    a c 90 B Homebuilt system
    June 4, 2011 3:25:36 AM

    vaibhavgarg said:
    I am also choosing the MSI 6950 2GB Twin frozr III because if it I fail to unlock it then I can still get a good boost by simply OCing it.
    A good plan - at least until the warranty runs out.
    a b B Homebuilt system
    June 4, 2011 3:49:24 AM

    vaibhavgarg said:
    I suppose I can get better value from the 8800GT if I can sell it somewhere as it is still good enough for a casual gamer..

    I am also choosing the MSI 6950 2GB Twin frozr III because if it I fail to unlock it then I can still get a good boost by simply OCing it.

    You should be able to sell the 8800GT pretty easily; a lot of people either still have old rigs or want PhysX cards.

    I didn't think you could unlock the Frozr 6950, but after looking it up I guess you can. Probably because there is a Frozr 6970.
    June 14, 2011 3:49:40 AM

    Best answer selected by vaibhavgarg.