Hello all. Was planning on going PII x6 for a while, decided to be cheap. Running a Dell Optiplex 745 upgraded w/8GB DDR2-800, 2x WD5000AAKX SATA drives, and Radeon 5450 650/800Mhz, using stock Pentium D 945 (3.4Ghz, dual-core, 4MB cache) on Win7 Enterprise 64-bit (re-branded Ultimate), onboard audio and NIC.
So far I can play all the games I have (Morrowind 1600x1200, max settings), Civ4 (1280x1024, max settings), Starcraft (800x600 I believe?), Oblivion (1280x1024, max view distance, medium quality), and Starcraft 2 (1280x1024, low settings).
My current upgrade path includes one component monthly. My next upgrade is a Core2 Q6600, which should be substantial, but won't boost my graphics settings as the 5450 is very limiting.
So, my next upgrades after include a high-quality 650W power supply, and then a new video card, then a quality 1920x1080 LCD.
But which card?
My goals are to be able to run SC2, Oblivion, and Civ5 (will be buying Civ5 after the upgrades) at 1920x1080. Anti-Aliasing is not really a necessity as jaggies aren't a real issue even at 1280x1024, at the full HD resolution this should be almost non existent w/o AA. I'd like to be able to max out said games otherwise (maybe even play TES5-Skyrim w/possibly reduced settings).
So far the bare minimum I'm seeing is a Radeon 5670 or a GeForce 450 w/a 1GB buffer.
At this point I've read many reviews, consulted Tom's VGA charts, and shopped Newegg (my preferred supplier). I'm left without a solid answer though, as recommendations vary from 5670s all the way up to 6870s, or GTS450s up to 560Tis.
I'm willing to spend up to $200 on the Video Card, and my minimum requirements are SC2@1920x1080 maxed (for except AA, that would only be a bonus)
I am curious on why the Q6600 while it certainly could handle those games the CPU itself is quite aged and last time I checked is still quite pricey. I understand you may not wish to have to buy new ram as well but at this point I am guessing you will likely have to buy a new motherboard. While the CPU you are looking at are the same socket there is no guarantee that your CPU is supported. Sadly Dell and other companies stick horrendous motherboards into their builds and then bios updates to support newer CPU's tend to be nonexistent. My advice is that you don't do this blindly and make sure whatever mobo you have in there is indeed capable of using the Q6600. If not I suggest just making a more modern build.
The q6600 isn't a good choice for a dell that is likely incapable of overclocking because the stock clocks are so slow. Since almost all games only use 2 cores you wouldn't see much if any gains in performance. I would start by upgrading the video card in your system, and to max out those games you will need a minimum of a GTX 460 1gb (not SE). Then if you decide you still want to upgrade you proccesor look for an e8400 or a q9450 (if your motherboard supports it).
Q6600 does work in this board. I've been speaking with others that own the Optiplex 745 Mid-Tower design w/Q65 chipset and some upgraded to Q6600s on the original as well as the latest bios. That won't be an issue, and won't run me more tan $100-$105 dollars. The performance upgrade, even though the Q6600 runs at 2.4Ghz will be quite good as it's a quad-core C2D with a large, shared 8MB cache and 1066Mhz FSB, whereas the Pentium D 945 is just two P4 Preslers glued into the same socket (2x2MB caches, cache coherency between CPUs takes place over the 800Mhz FSB instead of directly, only two threads, low IPC, etc).