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Upgrading to make 2 computers - gaming rig and media center rig - CPU?

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January 5, 2012 4:00:03 PM

I recently began upgrading my computer, starting with the motherboard, RAM, and an SSD. I still have my old CPU and GPU and I have been debating what processor to upgrade to next that will not bottleneck my system. My ultimate goal it to completely replace my old computer so that I can have two computers - one gaming system - one media center system. I know my old system works great as a media center system (dual tv tuner, using Windows Media Center).

Here is my system so far:
mobo: MSI 970A-G45 (AM3, AM3+) $69.99 after rebate
RAM: Corsair Vengeance DDR3 8GB 1600mHz 9-9-9-27 timing with 2T command rate (running at 1333mHz w/ my current processor, but also running at 1T command rate with slightly worse timings like 10-11-10-something, $29.99 after rebate)
ssd: Corsair Force 3 90GB SSD (550mbs write, 500mbs read), $99.99 after rebate
hdd: Two 500gb Seagate 7400rpm HDD's (from old system)
cpu: Athlon II X3 440 3gHz (unlocked core, runs as Phenom II X4 B40, 4 cores, overclocked to 3.3gHz, but no L3 cache)
gpu: Diamond Radeon HD 5750 (from old system)
os: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OEM
case: CoolerMaster Elite 430 (with additional 120mm fans)
psu: Antec 630 Watt (with 2 pci-e connectors)
hsf: CoolerMaster Hyper N520

With this system, I can run StarCraft 2 in high mode w/ no issues. I can also run Battlfield 3 in medium settings with no issues. Just for kicks, I bought both the MSI 560ti OC (1GB DDR5) and the MSI 6950 OC (2GB DDR5) and SC2 ran in extreme graphics with no issues and BF3 in high with pretty much no issues (except every time a big explosion happened right in front of me the game would crash... I blame BF3 though). I returned both because I just didn't do enough research at the time.

So I know in my old mobo (gigabyte ga-ma78lmt-s2h, AM2 and AM3 acceptable, DDR2 only) I have 4GB DDR2 800mHz and with the old CPU (unlocked but not OC'd) and the Radeon 5750, Windows Media Center works great (I have Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit installed on this system). But games not so great (SC2 and BF3 work best in low graphics mode). Windows Media Center even worked fine with the onboard graphics card with the unlocked Phenom II X4 B40 3gHz processor.

My question isn't straightforward though. I want to have two working systems. I know my old system will work with the old processor and onboard graphics. I know my new system plays my current games well enough (though looking to get Mass Effect 3 when that comes out, and probably Diablo 3... not really into MMORPG's though which I hear are CPU-heavy). So, here are my options:

Option 1: Buy a new CPU for my new gaming system
Problem: I would keep my old GPU for my new gaming system, and just use on board graphics on media system. But are the current AM3+ or AM3 processors worth spending the money on right now, or should I wait for Piledriver?

Option 2: Buy a cheaper, older CPU for my old setup for Media Center (this will get my by until better CPU's come out)
Problem: What if I spend the $60 or so on a cheap dual core AM3 processor and it isn't good enough? At that point, maybe I should just buy the FX-4100 for $100… but is the FX-4100 okay for games and at least a little future-proof with a nice vid card like the 560ti or 6950? Which I couldn't buy for another few months due to funds. But would the FX-4100 bottleneck a the 560ti or 6950?

Option 3: Upgrade both my CPU and GPU right now
Problem: Limited on funds to $200-250, which means something like an FX-4100 and a 6850… but will that be okay for future games? Are those two even a good matchup together? Which bottlenecks which?

NOTE: I already installed the Windows 7 64-bit OEM so I am stuck with my current mobo, which means AM3 or AM3+ processors only.
a b à CPUs
January 5, 2012 6:25:15 PM

I don't think you'd be able to get a gaming computer off that with a budget of $250 and still have a working computer.

Your best option is to build a new pc is you want gaming performance and use your entire old pc as a media center given enough money.

the 5750 isn't really worth it to bring to a new system for gaming. I'd say buy a 6850 and an cheap laptop as a media pc but that'd still be $500.
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a b à CPUs
January 5, 2012 6:36:17 PM

I like the FX 4100/HD 6850 option. As far as future proofing, neither one will fit that task. As an upgrade option though, thats pretty good.

There are new architectures cioming out for both AMD and Intel in the next 6 months, in addition to new graphcijs card families from both AMD and nVidia. However that is something that is always gonna happen, so everyone's hardware becomes obsolete in a few months anyway.

If you want to stick with AMD, I would invest in an APU platform. This is where AMD is going to be placing an emphasis on, not on bulldozer. Grab an A75 motherboard, and an unlocked CPU (A8 3870 or similar) and invest in a decent graphics card in a month or two.
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a b à CPUs
January 5, 2012 6:40:44 PM

your not stuck with anything. just cause you installed windows 7 doesnt mean you cant use that license on another computer. you most likely have 1 license but that doesnt mean that you cant install it on more then one computer. you just cant have it on more then one computer at once. you can uninstall/delete the whole hard drive and re install it on another.

im with esrever you should save up and buy what you need/want instead of wasting money now on band aides.
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January 5, 2012 7:25:27 PM

I bought Windows 7 OEM, which only allows installation on one system, with the unique identifier being the motherboard... at least this is what Microsoft says about OEM software. They say you can upgrade everything else but the mobo. That being the case, I'm stuck with the MSI 970A-G45 which supports AM3 and AM3+ processors.

I don't think a cheapo laptop is the way to go. And I didn't mean to make it sounds like I am only going to use the 5750 - I know this GPU is pretty outdated. What I wanted to know is which processor I could upgrade to that would not bottleneck a nice video card in the future, or is it even worth it with the AM3 AM3+ socket mobo I have? Is my current processor good enough for a nice video card (i.e. 560ti or 6950) or will it bottleneck it?

Also, I already have pretty much a working media center PC, it's just missing a processor. My current processor worked well enough that it could utilize the onboard graphics for the media PC. My question related here was around if I should buy a cheapo processor for the media PC and keep my current processor (later to upgrade the vid card to a 560ti or another nice vid card - assuming my current processor doesn't bottleneck that GPU). OR if my currrent processor does bottleneck a nice vid card, then I was thinking maybe I should upgrade the CPU... but to what? Given that I'm limited to AM3 or AM3+.

Sorry, I tried to be as clear as possible with my question, it's a little convoluted.
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January 5, 2012 7:49:35 PM

buzznut - if I upgrade to FX-4100, I don't have to get another vid card right away. That was just a thought of mine. If I get a new processor, what I really need to know is what processor to upgrade to now (not looking for top of the line, don't need an FX-8150 or 1100T etc etc, just good enough for games). And then LATER I could upgrade my vid card to match the CPU. I just don't know which CPU to go to so that I'm not bottlenecked on the vid card. Again, this is just for games, so I know in the games I play (SC2, BF3, later Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3) they are more vid card dependent.
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a b à CPUs
January 5, 2012 8:40:42 PM

I think you should upgrade your cpu to a phenom II x4 and enjoy a nice bump in performance also get a fan so you can OC.

the 960t is $125 and a hyper 212+ is $30 would make a powerful system that won't run into bottlenecks as often by there are always exceptions in specific games but those games you listed will have no problem.

An AM3+ is still good and since AMD will not make an AM4 board any time soon its the newest avaliable. Don't invest in bulldozer yet as the current CPU aren't worth it over the phenoms.

since you aren't doing video editing as a primary objective 6+ cores are not needed so I suggest the a quad core which will still have plenty of performance for at least a few years. Most games run on 2-3 cores today with some able to run on more so a quad core is best. In general use you'd not see a difference between a quad core or a 6 core as they are all very fast for media and internet.

If AMD does release a good bulldozer you'd be able to upgrade once you save up after you buy your GPU.
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January 5, 2012 8:52:39 PM

esrever said:
I think you should upgrade your cpu to a phenom II x4 and enjoy a nice bump in performance also get a fan so you can OC.

the 960t is $125 and a hyper 212+ is $30 would make a powerful system that won't run into bottlenecks as often by there are always exceptions in specific games but those games you listed will have no problem.


@ esrever: is the 960t really a bump up from an unlocked Phenom II X4 B40 (3.0gHz, no L3 cache) for games? I assume I could overclock the 960t a lot more than the Phenom II X4 B40 (which I have OC'd to 3.3gHz - runs @ around 60C during load). And I do have a pretty nice fan (listed above... CoolerMaster N520, large heat sink, two fans), so I should be able to OC another processor with my current air cooling.
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a b à CPUs
January 5, 2012 9:14:53 PM

the L3 would help in gaming and you'd be able to OC to 3.8 no problem if needed so its still quite an upgrade.

I didn't notice you already had an fan so yea, you should have no problem with an 960t OC.

I guess you don't need to upgrade if you don't want to as an gpu upgrade would bring you more performance and you'd still be able to run a 6950 with only slight bottlenecks.
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January 5, 2012 9:32:22 PM

esrever said:
I guess you don't need to upgrade if you don't want to as an gpu upgrade would bring you more performance and you'd still be able to run a 6950 with only slight bottlenecks.


That's the answer I'm afraid of! I need another processor so I can get my media PC rig up and running, BUT I don't want to waste $100-$200 on a CPU that will only marginally operate better for games than what I currently have. I should have researched more before I bought my mobo... I thought for sure the AMD processors out now were hands down better for gaming than what I currently have. It wasn't even a question in my mind... I guess it should have been! Then again, I doubt I would have thrown down $300+ for a mobo/cpu like the i5-2500k. That's just too much for me.
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January 6, 2012 5:42:18 PM

Best answer selected by heron44.
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