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$300-400 gaming build, re-using some parts, upgrade later

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February 19, 2012 2:38:22 AM

OK, so I want to upgrade my computer which is currently an old Dell Inspiron 530:

An old C2D E4600 @ 2.40GHz
8gigs of ram
Radeon HD 5770 1gb
Upgraded power supply to 430watts
windows 7 64 bit

I can't really upgrade the Dell any farther, so I was thinking about building a new one.
However, for budget reasons, I was hoping to salvage what I can from my old comp and upgrade later.

I think I will keep: My 5770, my 430watt power supply, my hard drive, and my optical drive (as well as mouse, keyboard, monitor, speakers, etc)

I want this to be budget, but as upgradeable as possible in the future.

I want to spend most my money on the motherboard, and maybe on the CPU

I would like the motherboard to be upgradeable to Ivy Bridge if possible

Also a question:
1) I have never re-used a hard drive before. I am simply assuming that if I plug it into my new build it will just work, with everything installed already and everything. Is this true?


Approximate Purchase Date: Soon, but I could end up waiting if what I want isn't possible right now

Budget Range: $300-400 or less, preferably before rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, optical drive, hard drive, video card, power supply

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com (I would prefer to buy everything from one site all at once if possible)

Country: Oregon, USA

Parts Preferences: I kind of like this case unless you guys have better ideas:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Overclocking: Maybe

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe (it would be cool to have the option in the future)

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 and 1680x1050 (I have dual monitors)

Additional Comments: I want it to be upgradeable (preferably able to do Ivy Bridge)

Thanks for your help!
February 19, 2012 2:40:12 AM

Also, I could include a new power supply now, rather than later, if 430 won't cut it
February 19, 2012 3:04:26 AM

What is the 430W? If it is an Antec Earthwatts, it will be enough. If it is an old Thermaltake TR2 or CM it likely won't, especially if you want to overclock. The HD5770 is not a power hog though; a 500W Antec Earthwatts could run a pair in Crossfire. I would suggest upgrading to a single stronger card though, to avoid the microstuttering issue. You'll want at least 500W for that, possible 600W for any single card. Quality brands include Seasonic, Antec, Corsair, XFX, and Enermax/LEPA. The new Rosewill Hive and Capstone, and FSP Aurum, have also all received excellent competent technical reviews.

Check out Rosewill's gaming cases. They are of comparable or better quality. I used to buy CM cases until I got tired of their minor quality issues, even before I learned about the dishonesty. I switched to Rosewill and never had a problem. I also like Antec for cases, except their low-end VSK.
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February 19, 2012 3:21:35 AM

The power supply is a Thermaltake, probably a TR2 if I remember right. I know it's not great but it has worked perfectly for the last year or so I've had it.

I plan on keeping the 5770 for a while and upgrading it later.

Right now I want to focus on a good motherboard and a CPU that will be a big step up from my old C2D 2.4ghz

If I need a new power supply to do that, I will, but I was hoping to re-use as much as possible for now.

And I really do like the Coolermaster case, unless you have a specific recommendation for a similar or lower price.
February 19, 2012 3:24:23 AM

You will be able to reuse the hard drive..but as for just plugging it in, and working..I wouldnt count on it. Usually you have to reformat the drive, thus erasing all of the data on it.
February 19, 2012 3:27:24 AM

GI_JONES said:
You will be able to reuse the hard drive..but as for just plugging it in, and working..I wouldnt count on it. Usually you have to reformat the drive, thus erasing all of the data on it.


Oh well, that's what I was afraid of, but it's not a big deal I guess.
February 19, 2012 3:31:04 AM

So does anyone have a good recommendation for a nice motherboard that will be upgradeable in the future? I would be cool if it could upgrade to ivy bridge
February 19, 2012 3:46:10 AM

The mobo you picked is a little more upgradable; PCIE 3.0 with an Ivy Bridge CPU. If it's in your budget, don't see why not...
February 19, 2012 4:41:59 AM

I've never looked into low voltage before.

Is there any downside to it? Or is it just as fast, but just uses less power?
February 19, 2012 4:51:22 AM

Just as fast, uses less power, runs a little cooler.
February 19, 2012 5:19:54 AM

OK, so here is my current idea:

Case: 59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mobo: 121.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=13-157-...

Memory: 34.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU: i3-2100 for 109.99 after $15 promo code if I buy before 2/20
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=19-115-...

Total: 326.96

Is all this compatible, or am I overlooking anything?

Any suggestions like a good but cheap hard drive, optical drive, or power supply? Because I can re-use the ones I have, but I'd be open to good suggestions if it doesn't cost too much.
February 19, 2012 5:33:26 AM

Ok, OP, honestly, that Intel CPU is not bottlenecking your 5770 ATALL. I was going to tell you to get more ram but then i saw 8 gb. Seriously, in one or two titles like GTA4 and maybe SC2 you will see some improvement. Otherwise, for a 5770, there will be zero improvement. I suggest you wait a bit, coz in six months time you could buy same priced mobo with rich features like pci-e 3, usb 3 and sata 3. Right now, the cheapest baords for intel do not have these features. I sincerely suggest you wait out. It would have made sense if you were getting a more powerful GPU, but since you arent, i dont see any reason to change. GL!!
February 19, 2012 5:55:58 AM

wrazor said:
Ok, OP, honestly, that Intel CPU is not bottlenecking your 5770 ATALL. I was going to tell you to get more ram but then i saw 8 gb. Seriously, in one or two titles like GTA4 and maybe SC2 you will see some improvement. Otherwise, for a 5770, there will be zero improvement. I suggest you wait a bit, coz in six months time you could buy same priced mobo with rich features like pci-e 3, usb 3 and sata 3. Right now, the cheapest baords for intel do not have these features. I sincerely suggest you wait out. It would have made sense if you were getting a more powerful GPU, but since you arent, i dont see any reason to change. GL!!


But the motherboard I'm looking at does have pci-e 3, usb 3 , and sata 3, and is z68 and I could even upgrade to Ivy Bridge and an i5 or i7 at a later date if I want to. Unless I'm missing something?

And I could do this build and just replace the 5770 later in 6 months like you are saying.

And are you sure an old C2D E4600 @ 2.40GHz isn't bottlenecking me? Is there any way for me to test this? Because in a lot of games, I have noticed that lowering graphics settings rarely gives much boost in FPS, which led me to believe it was more of a CPU issue than a GPU issue (although every game I try is still pretty playable).

My real concern is that if I do anything better than a 5770 in my current set up then I will DEFINITELY bottleneck it. Which is why I thought I would upgrade the mobo/cpu now, so when better GPUs get affordable I can grab one and have it actually give me a performance gain.
February 19, 2012 6:36:44 AM

Actuallly, no , you will not have to reformat your HD if reusing. You may have to reactivate because Windows is dependent on the MB you had when you originally installed it. Delete all driver info before installing into new PC, ie, delete them before shutting down old PC ( old hardware info will conflict with new).
February 19, 2012 7:18:51 AM

danawesome89 said:
But the motherboard I'm looking at does have pci-e 3, usb 3 , and sata 3, and is z68 and I could even upgrade to Ivy Bridge and an i5 or i7 at a later date if I want to. Unless I'm missing something?

And I could do this build and just replace the 5770 later in 6 months like you are saying.

And are you sure an old C2D E4600 @ 2.40GHz isn't bottlenecking me? Is there any way for me to test this? Because in a lot of games, I have noticed that lowering graphics settings rarely gives much boost in FPS, which led me to believe it was more of a CPU issue than a GPU issue (although every game I try is still pretty playable).

My real concern is that if I do anything better than a 5770 in my current set up then I will DEFINITELY bottleneck it. Which is why I thought I would upgrade the mobo/cpu now, so when better GPUs get affordable I can grab one and have it actually give me a performance gain.


Ok, I think you mistook me abouth the mobo features(I should have been more clear),the same featured mobo that you are getting, you will get for much lower price then & also, you will save any money put into sandy-bridge, by straight away going for the ivy-bridge(you will also be relieved of bios update headaches then). And, I am certainly sure, your 5770 is not bottleneckd by the C2D, & if I were wrong, the bottleneck is surely not more than 2-3%. I own one 5770 and I have the Atholon II X3 425@ 2.7 ghz. My friend got a system for office use with an i5 2400 & I noticed ZERO difference when i put my card into his system to check it out. The tri- core is only slightly better than your cpu, plus i do believe Intel archs are more efficient. So, there you go. :)  Again, i am saying this for general titles like MW3, Crysis 2, BF3 etc. You will see some improvement in SC2 and GTA4, both of which are poorly coded anyway. :) 
February 19, 2012 2:59:22 PM

Wrazor, you have muddied a very clear pool.
OP, price changes are never a given. Some things go down, some go up. In the current economic climate, I would not bet on prices coming down any further, with the possible exception of hard drives; maybe. A HD5770 is not a bad starting point for a new gaming build; it should be able to play any game, and the settings you have to choose for the FPS you get will give a good point of reference if you want to upgrade. If, as you say, lowering graphical settings is not improving your FPS, then you do indeed have a CPU bottleneck, and an i3 is well above your old C2D: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-o...
February 19, 2012 3:46:38 PM

Hmmm... I am curious to figure out if my CPU is my bottleneck though...

I just played around a bit in Skyrim, and my CPU was usually 90%-96%, while my GPU activity only occasionally got up to 86%, and never went above that, and was usually in the 70% range. I also noticed that whenever my FPS dropped to irritating levels (28-35 FPS), the CPU was usually at like 98%, and the GPU around upper 70s or mid 80s.

Simialr results in Deus Ex

Judging by this, and the fact that backing off settings yields minimal improvement in FPS, especially MIN FPS, seems to me like I have a slight CPU bottleneck.

This is still consistent with Wrazor's personal experience, because his Atholon II X3 425@ 2.7 ghz is a little better than my C2D e4600 @ 2.4ghz

My CPU is a slight bottleneck, and his is just enough better than mine to relieve that bottleneck.

It actually seems like my CPU/GPU is a pretty good match. The problem is that I have absolutely no room for improvement.

If I go with the i3 build, then I can completely max out my 5770, which would only be a slight improvement over what I am doing now.

HOWEVER: after a few months I can get a new GPU, which my i3 could actually use, but would be completely wasted on my C2D 2.4ghz. I could also eventually get an SSD, and a new power supply, and maybe even crossfire another GPU.

So it seems to me like if I do my upgrade, then I have some future upgrade options that will keep me going for quite awhile, whereas my current system (which can play new games, but just barely) is absolutely maxed out and can go no farther.

I like the idea that in the future I can just pop in a new video card and have games improve performance, whereas right now I don't have that option.
February 19, 2012 3:57:56 PM

Yes, your system is fairly balanced, but the CPU is the weaker part. The i3 is very strong in games, and can handle a much stronger GPU. I think your upgrade plan is sound. Your selections of parts to re-use and those to replace make sense.
I do think your next replacement should be the PSU, before getting another GPU, but going from what you have now to an i3 may use less power, not more.
February 19, 2012 4:29:07 PM

Onus said:
Wrazor, you have muddied a very clear pool.
OP, price changes are never a given. Some things go down, some go up. In the current economic climate, I would not bet on prices coming down any further, with the possible exception of hard drives; maybe. A HD5770 is not a bad starting point for a new gaming build; it should be able to play any game, and the settings you have to choose for the FPS you get will give a good point of reference if you want to upgrade. If, as you say, lowering graphical settings is not improving your FPS, then you do indeed have a CPU bottleneck, and an i3 is well above your old C2D: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-review-o...


Fair point on prices never a given. But he would still be getting an Ivy bridge straight away when the time comes for the upgrade. Even if ivy bridge wont be a huge leap in performance, they will definitely be more energy efficient and theres also a 150$ ivy bridge quad in the making. If the i3 2100 is going to be realised when the OP gets a new GPU anyway, whats really the point of spending money now?
February 19, 2012 4:50:13 PM

It is always possible to wait for "better, faster, more." But is it worthwhile? An i3 is such a large jump over what he has now (SIX tiers on the CPU hierarchy chart, to #2), that any possible benefit of moving to the highest tier (available now, with an i5) does not seem to justify the wait.
With all the "quantitative easing" (basically, issuing worthless money) the parasites all over the world have been doing, I would absolutely not bet on prices being lower in three months. I'm also a big fan of energy efficiency, but I don't see the difference being meaningful; the i3 is already using only 65W max.
February 20, 2012 5:15:05 AM

All your points make sense, but theirs a 150$ 65W ivy bridge quad in the making. Will definitely be a better buy than i3 is today. Ofcourse, you can never go wrong with grabbing an i3 today, its one heck of a deal, but its not like the i3s are gonna dissapear in thin air in 6 months time? They will still be there and the OP has more options. I understand waiting is never the great thing to do, but he CAN wait. Thats my whole point. :) 
February 20, 2012 5:44:46 AM

After speaking with my wife about this, she seems to want me to wait, and doesn't think spending the 300-400 dollars right now is the best idea for us.

However, I might just do it anyway....

Oh, and Wrazor, what is this 150$ ivy bridge quad you mention? From what I've seen the Ivy Bridge lineup is almost identical in pricing and cores as the current Sandy Bridge lineup...
February 21, 2012 1:53:25 AM

Ok, so I'm trying to get my cost down to make my wife happy, and so I'm looking at cutting down on the mobo and down to 4gb RAM

What do you guys think about this (and it's all compatible and everything right?):

mobo: ASRock Z68M/USB3 LGA 1155 Intel Z68 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard, $84.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU: Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000 BX80623I32100, $109.99 after $15 promo code
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

memory: Kingston HyperX Blu 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model KHX1600C9AD3B1K2/4G, $25.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

case: Rosewill Blackbone Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mid Tower Computer Case, $39.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

shipping: $12.32

total: $273.28 shipped
February 21, 2012 2:38:34 AM

Everything seems well and good. You wont go wrong on this one. All the best buddy. Happy build. :) 
February 21, 2012 9:16:38 AM

That does look reasonable.
March 4, 2012 1:09:37 AM

Thought I would update now that I completed my build.

It turns out that even with keeping my 5770, my performance in Skyrim has increased fairly significantly.

With high settings and 1920x1080 I used to occasionally dip into the low 20s, now I rarely go below 35 fps, never go below 30, and usually am between 45-60.

My cpu usage never goes above 45%, and my GPU usage is maxed at 99% pretty much all the time.

Very happy with my build, and it shows that I really was CPU bottlenecked. Best of all, now I can get a better GPU as some point without being bottlenecked.

Anyway, here was my final build. It's a bit different than what I had been going with before:

mobo: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

cpu: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

memory: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
although one stick was DOA, so I am actually just running a single 4GB stick, which sort of sucks since that means it isn't running dual channel.

case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

psu: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

gpu: my old 5770

hdd: my old 500GB seagate
March 4, 2012 2:04:12 AM

Glad to see you got good results. At some point in the future, you will have the option of the GPU upgrade, like you said. Good deal!
March 4, 2012 2:28:28 AM

Right now I'm just deciding if I should order some more memory.

One of my sticks was DOA, and I don't want to bother to RMA since memory is not that expensive and I would have huge downtime waiting to get more shipped back.

So right now I'm running one 4gb stick, so it is only single channel :( 

Think I would see much improvement if I ordered new 8gb of memory to get dual channel working? Or is there not really much of a difference between one stick and two?
March 4, 2012 2:59:06 AM

Although I don't know, I believe it is only a few percent. You could always order a cheaper 2x2GB kit and put that in while you RMA the 2x4GB kit.
March 4, 2012 10:20:33 AM

The performance difference will be minimal between single and dual channel, something that you wouldn't notice unless running a benchmark. I would try to rma the one stick and run off the other in the mean time.
March 4, 2012 2:14:46 PM

Zooted, unfortunately I suspect that both sticks need to be returned on the RMA; that's what happened to me a couple of times when 1/2 sticks were DOA.
March 4, 2012 4:34:22 PM

Oh, didn't know that. I guess I have been lucky in the ram department. Never had to RMA any. (knock on wood)
!