What to upgrade?

Hi everyone, first time poster here so take it easy :P

I am looking to upgrade my computer and I know a little about computers but there are so many options out there it can be quite intimidating for a rookie.

My current setup:
ASUS m4n68t-m v2 motherboard
ATI Radeon 5450 512mb Graphics card
4 gb DDR3 RAM
AMD Athlon II X2 250 processor

I know I need to upgrade the graphics and I would like to bump up the ram to 8gb. I was thinking of getting the Radeon 6850 because I have heard that it competes and in some cases surpasses the 7770 series. My budget for graphics card: 100-160 ish.

This is the RAM I was looking at buying but other than the DDR3 I have NO idea what to look for in RAM.

Should I upgrade my processor as well? The I5 is borderline over my price range.. the I3 seems to fit the bill but in that case.. will I have to replace to I3 shortly?

This is my first time upgrading a computer so any tips/advice would be greatly appreciated.

14 answers Last reply
More about what upgrade
  1. I SHOULD mention that I do not need to run games on Ultra to feel happy. Mid-High settings will be a huge upgrade for me on games such as the new Tom Clancy Future Solider.. a lot of RTS.. things like that.
  2. What kind of budget total are we talking?

    I know you said your graphics card budget is max 160. But I think upgrading the Athlon II dual core to a Phenom II quad, with a strong video card would allow you to keep your motherboard would be a better option.
  3. Well, I was thinking about a better CPU, but how exactly does it contribute to the system? I know RAM is how many things you can have open at once, and the graphics card is the visual display, does the CPU just make things run faster in general?

    Looks like the Intel Core I3 goes for 120 ish and the Phenom X4 goes for 150 ish. Is it going to be that much bigger of an upgrade?

    http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103923 I assume this is what you were referring to?
  4. Alrite..Well to go with an i3 you're looking at a new motherboard.

    As far as the impact the CPU has on the system, for gaming, not nearly as much as the video card. The 6850 is a decent video card, but I think you could do better. I'd say you could go with something like a Radeon 7850. Its going to game better than an i3 with a 6850.

    And no you don't need a PII975 like I have, I bought this CPU before I really understood that the 965/975/980 are all essentially the same CPU, just different clock settings. Since all of them are overclockable, its very easy to get say a 980 model (3.7GHZ) at the price of a 965.

    Like this:

    As far as the i3 vs the Phenom II a 3.7GHZ, its a bit of a tradeoff. The i3s individual cores do perform better than Phenom IIs individual cores, but where the difference comes in is the i3 only has 2 cores, the Phenom II has 4.

    Now, not all programs can use 4 cores of a CPU, currently Battlefield 3 is pretty much the only game that can trully make use of a quad. However, you may find this changes as time progresses. Also again, going with an i3 involves getting a new motherboard, which could cut into your budget of getting a better video card.
  5. Addition: A little bit more info on the graphics card and how it impacts the system: A graphics card is essentially a processor with its own RAM to handle the video rendering. Now, for a gaming system, a video card has the utmost concern since games by design are visual experiences.

    Some games can be taxing on a CPU (Starcraft II and Metro 2033 are a couple games that give the CPU a workout for example) , but generally when faced with a tight budget, you're better off going with a cheaper CPU so that you can go heavier on the video card.
  6. Ohh. I see your point. The I3 is incompatible with my current Motherboard. You are suggesting I get the aforementioned Phenom X4 processor with my current motherboard. Which leaves my choices with either 120 for the phenom or 120 for the I3 + 100 for a new motherboard.

    The 7850 is quite a nice graphics card, but the 6850 is over 100$ cheaper. Am I going to see a huge performance difference than just upgrading to the 6850, more ram, and a new processor? I've only played games at 1280 resolution and the 6850 seems to be quite good at 1920x1080. The big concern, will it run current new games well? Or is it really worth the extra cashola to go bigger.

    PS: I really appreciate all of your help! I find everything very helpful
  7. Yes exactly.

    Its up to you. You did say that you don't feel the need to run games in ultra settings, so under that logic yes the 6850 will handle the job for you. However, with the 7850, you more than likely could have ultra settings in most if not all games.

    Really what it comes down to is how much time you want to get out of the system, and keeping current with new games as they come out.

    Heres a comparison of the 7850 vs the 6850:

    Now if you wanted to go with the 6850, I would at least consider the 6870, its not very much more in price over the 6850:

    And you're welcome as always.
  8. As far as upping your RAM, I'd need a little bit more information on the RAM you already have in your system to tell you what to add with it. If you could the Brand and model number of the RAM currently installed.
  9. I would like this upgrade to last a few years, 2-3. Will the 6870 be able to keep up with that?

    I just checked the Ram... I have 2 - 2gb sticks of Kingston KVR 1333D3N3N9 12G DDR3 1.5v
  10. Yes, a 6870 should be able to give you that assurance.

    As far as the RAM, since your board only has 2 slots for RAM (I assumed it had 4) Yes, the RAM you're looking at should work.
  11. Well shucks. This is going to be more simple than I thought, ha ha.

    Processor: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103727&Tpk=965 (The phenom)
    Graphics Card: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161396 Radeon 6870

    How does this sound? I'm not sure why there are several different brand names for the graphics cards. Also, these are the best prices I could find. (I live in Canada) Any other websites you might recommend?
  12. I'm not too familiar with the Canadian market being in the US. Although from what I do understand NCIX, TigerDirect and Newegg are the big-boys.

    The reason there are several different brand names for the same graphics cards is because AMD/ATI Radeon and Nvidia manufacturer the GPU (graphics processors) and their affiliate companies (Sapphire, XFX, Zotac, Gigabyte, etc) put the final product together (heatsinks, fans, etc) and provide the warranty and customer support.

    But in terms of video cards ultimately there are 2 manufacturers of video cards, Nvida and AMD. Just like with CPUs for computers you have Intel and AMD.

    Although lately Intel has been playing around with their own graphics. (The Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Core processors (like the i3/i5/i7s) have the graphics built right onto the processing unit and use the RAM to provide the actual memory for the work. While the CPU side of Intel definitely are stronger than any CPU AMD makes, Their onboard video chips still are getting their butts whooped by AMD's Llano:


    But I digress, yes those 2 upgrades would improve your current system performance substantially. RAM you could probably get away with without upgrading it, but it wouldn't hurt.
  13. No kidding? Wouldn't that be like a laptop inside of a desktop? lol.

    Thanks very much for everything, this is solid information =)
  14. No problem, and AMD Llanos can indeed be found in laptops. Unfortunately, Intel does currently outsell AMD about 5 to 1 in the market. Although if I were buying a laptop without a doubt I would be buying one with a Llano rather than an Intel.

    It indeed does amaze me that Intel is still able to hold the laptop market when AMD has a better product for the purpose.
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