My last complete system was 2007 or so, but have added a couple items since. It does pretty well for what I need, but as with everyone here, I am always looking for ways to make things a little bit better. I also don't like to be too far behind the curve even if my system is not the fastest out there. My current setup is the following:
Cooler Master Centurion 5 Case
AMD X3 720BE (OC to 3.3ghz)
Arctic Cooling Freezer64 pro
Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe Motherboard (this one)
XFX GTS250 1gb (this one)
6gb Corsair XMS DDR2
WD 640gb black
WD 1tb green (for backups and video storage)
I do moderate gaming when I have the time. Mainly TF2, Modern Warfare, BF Bad Company 2, Company of Heroes, etc. also a reasonable amount of HD video editing. My display is a Samsung LCD at 1440x900.
I would like to know more information on the following:
1) This is my main question... Would I see much of a performance benefit to upgrading my motherboard to an AM3/AM3+ board? Currently I have an AM3 processor running in an older socket. My last upgrade was removing the X2 6000 that I had and updating to the 720. As far as PCIe goes, I don't think that my current board supports the newest standard. I do not have the money to do a full system at this time, but I have been considering a new motherboard if it would open up my current bandwidth constraints a little and be a solid board for future use. I know I would have to buy new RAM, but at current DDR3 prices I did not think that would be a big spend. I would be interested in spending around $80-100 for newer MB with similar features, plus whatever deal I could get on maybe 8gb of RAM. Seemed like that would be reasonable given what's on newegg these days.
2) How far can I upgrade my current GPU before needing to consider a PSU upgrade? Depending on the wattage calculator I have used it looks like I may need a new PSU if I want to get anything better down the road. I know that Corsair is highly rated, but how close am I to the ceiling?
I appreciate any suggestions, but please nobody tell me to just get a new i7.
Let me know if I left anything out that is needed on the specs, etc. Thanks!
I ran my current Phenom II X4 840 on an AM2 board before my current AM3+ board and saw no real world difference at stock speed(my old board was not a great OCer). Benchmarks told me the HT Bus was slower, but once I upgraded to the new board and DDR3 I did not notice.
I mainly upgraded because I wanted to move to 16gb ram for virtual machines and other things I do besides gaming. I also wanted USB 3 and SATA III, both of which have turned out to be very marginal improvements. I did have a SATA III drive briefly, but my current Samsung SATA II is faster.
I also did not see any noticeable improvement in PCIe 2.0 0ver 1.0. although I think I did get a few extra points on benchmarks.
I would opt for one more 2gb stick of ram to even up at 8gb just to keep things neat and tidy. Tom's did a study a while back about 8gb being the sweet spot for 64 bit Windows, especially Win 7.
On the video card front, here is another Tom's chart. General rule of thumb is you have to go up three rungs on the chart before noticing any real improvement. In your case, a GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6870 would be a decent upgrade although the 560 Ti is rated better. Your PSU should handle any of them. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/fastest-graphics-ca...
A new motherboard and new RAM would maybe add 5 - 10% FPS with regular CLs or maybe a little more with RAM that has low CLs (more expensive). If you go for it, I would consider going with the lower CL to get the maximum benefit from the change over.
I would go up to 8GBs of RAM too like tlmck said. Windows just does better with even numbers of sticks on boards with even numbers of slots.
tlmck - thanks for noting your experience with moving to AM3+/DDR3/PCI2.0. I had been wondering whether seeing marginal gain on the sockets would make upgrading a disappointment in the short term.
As for CPU, I just moved up to the Phenom II x3 720BE in 2011 when I caught a great deal on OEM. Only paid 50 and it was a noticeable increase from previous. I was not looking to upgrade again for a little longer if able. If anything, I was wondering if I would be able to unlock the 4th core using a new board. Also, It looks as if the 720 falls fairly high on the ranking chart that you noted, correct?
Raiddinn - 5-10% increase would fall in line with what I was expecting. At the higher end do you think that would be visibly noticeable during gaming or mainly benchmarks as tlmck ran into?
Also, I am running Win7 64 bit and 2x2gb and 2x1gb sticks of RAM if that makes any difference. Are you suggesting getting rid of the 1gb sticks and going 4x2gb? Would I be better off just spending money on DDR3 instead?
The core unlock thing is a crap shoot even with the right motherboard from what I understand.
Obviously if you went to DDR3 you would need a new motherboard. I think the move to 8gb would be just a slight improvement. I just with I could remember what that old Tom's article said about 8gb. I searched, but not very hard. I did remember thinking at the time though about the LGA 1366 Intel boards being configured for triple channel and thus you would up with 3, 6, 12, etc. gb of ram so who knows?
I do agree that the first step would be the video upgrade. For whatever card you select, I would do a Google search of the name and part number along with something like "in a PCIe 1.0 slot". This should bring up any number of hits. I suspect most of them will be like "losing 10fps in Crysis 2! My world is coming to an end!" or some such. However it may bring up some incompatibility issues, you never know.
I do know my card is PCIe 2.1 compliant and I ran it without issue in 3 different 1.0 slot motherboards(2 AM2, and 1 AM3) without issue. My current board is AM3+ with a PCIe 2.0 slot. Of course my 6670 is not a power hog by any stretch, so this may have helped. I just know the performance difference is negligible.
The motherboard will need something called UCC if you want to try to unlock cores with it.
As tlmck mentioned, you are rolling the dice with trying to unlock cores, anyway.
There is a certain demand for an x3 processor based on its price and marketing and so on. There are also a lot of chips made by AMD that are 4 core chips, but some small defect in one of the chips causes it to fail in testing so AMD can just disable it and sell it as an x3.
The demand for the x3s tends to be greater than the number of failed chips, which means AMD deactivates a good core on a 4 core chip and sells it as an x3 to meet the market need for x3s.
Some people have estimated that there are about 2 good cores locked for every 1 bad core locked in this way, so that is a guess at the average odds of UCC being able to unlock an x3 to an x4 (or an x4 960T Zosma to an x6). Still, that is a quite solid set of failure odds, keep that in mind.
The benchmark results for the RAM isn't really that important. At the high end if the system is so bogged down as to be getting 20 FPS then going up to 22 FPS is hardly going to be noticeable. Similarly, the difference between 60 FPS and 66 FPS is also hardly noticeable.
All that really matters is being able to move from somewhere close to 30 upwards to somewhere closer to 60. In that regard, 30 --> 33 isn't that great, but it would likely be noticeable. From 55 --> 59.5 would also be a nice change.
That being said, just plain changing the game settings is going to make a much larger difference in accomplishing such a thing. Turning off AA, for instance, tends to give people a lot more FPS.
5 - 10% more FPS for a whole system during a game is a pretty sizeable upgrade, though, and shouldn't be taken lightly.
I used to have 23 FPS on Furmark with a 4870 card and I got a 6850 and it immediately went up to 33 FPS and the difference in smoothness with undeniable. Admittedly that is a lot more than a 10% difference, but the point is that when you are under 60 FPS any additional FPS tends to be pretty nice.
If you are over 60 FPS, then its pretty nice to be able to add better graphics and still be above 60 FPS.
I wouldn't go spend boatloads of money if I were you to get 10% more FPS, though, if it were me.
I would start saving up for the next whole new core if it were me (processor, motherboard, ram) without trying to spend too much to continue supporting the current setup.
As far as the RAM goes, it is generally a good idea to have every stick of RAM in the computer exactly the same. If you do that, it maximally helps you to avoid problems. That being said, it probably isn't worth throwing away RAM over. If you had 3 slots of 2 and 4 slots available I would say to get the other slot of 2, but with no slots available you should probably just stick with 6GBs.
If you want gaming performance, your best bet might really be a better video card. The price on 6850s and 6870s should be coming down shortly when AMD 7000 series cards start hitting the market in force.
I'll have to give the MB/RAM update some further thought on whether it is worth the investment.
For comparison's sake I have a GPU question based on you guys thinking that may be best value vs moving to AM3...
The gtx 460 here or gtx 560 here seem to be similar on the specs. I know that these particular cards have higher clocks, but they seem pretty close to me. What's the major improvement with the 560? Would the 460 be a decent enough jump?
Also, both note a minimum of 450 watt of power. Am I cutting it too close with only a 520 power supply? tlmck seemed to think it would be ok, but anyone else confirm?
They specify 450w expecting that some large percentage of the people will buy sucky PSUs. The ones that say 450w, but which only really put out 300w.
The 520w will work unless you plan to do a lot of OCing.
The 192 bit graphics card will perform measurably worse than the 560 with 256 bit if you are maxing the cards out. Also, I think the 560 is using a better manufacturing process as well. That means a more powerful card that uses less power.