Looking to upgrade.. Maybe.. Help me decide.

Current system:

Gigabyte MA790X-UD4P
AMD Athlon II X3 425 @ 3.4gHz
4GB (2x2GB) G.Skill PC2-8000 @ 1050mHz
MSI Nvidia GTX260 SP216 @ 650mHz/1100mHz

The system runs well enough in any games I play, but I can see it starting to age. These are a few of my concerns:

- Having no SATAIII support on the MoBo is what has kept me from picking up an SSD (along with the steady decline in prices) but my WD 300GB Velociraptor RAID 0 keeps me satisfied.

- Lacking the 4th core on my CPU, as well as the L3 cache, is starting to become noticeable during multi-tasking or high-stress situations. My MoBo is capable of unlocking the 4th core in my CPU, but I had nothing but instability when attempting to do so.

- The overclocked 260 is still pretty powerful... I honestly have no complaints about it's capabilities aside the fact that it isn't a DX11 card - and I know I'm 'missing out' on some eyecandy in current games like Battlefield 3, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Metro 2033, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and the upcoming MechWarrior Online.

Taking all that into consideration I came up with 4 distinct upgrade 'packages' all conforming to the same budget. So here's what I had in mind...

Option 1:

Newegg currently has an ASRock 970 Extreme3 motherboard for $67.49 - plus I would need to pick up some DDR3 (being that my current MB only supports DDR2) - I decided on a set of 2x4GB CL8 PC3-12800 by Mushkin for $54.99. Having 8GB means I could use the proprietary ASRock XRam software to set up a RAM Drive. Also with this new motherboard I set myself up for future AM3+ CPUs and the option to pick up an SSD to make full use of the onboard SATAIII controller. The question is; is this the time to take a step toward 'future' upgrades? Or would I simply be better off waiting?

Total: $122.48

Option 2:

Bite the bullet and pick up an SSD + internal card for SATA III support. Choosing a reasonably priced mid-range SSD like the Mushkin Chronos 120GB @ Newegg for $92.99 and a Highpoint PCIe SATA III card for $18.99. That $18.99 is essentially a throw-away whenever I do decide to upgrade the MB, but for the time-being it would let me have a peace of mind installing my OS on the SSD and not worrying if today is the day my RAID fails.

Total: $111.98

Option 3:

As much as I'd like to spend the extra money to get a video card I know for certain will be a major upgrade over my 260... (I'm looking at you, 560TI) it's just not in the budget. So I could just... wait, or maybe watch eBay like a hawk until I'm able to pick up a used card under $150 or... avoid driving myself crazy and just look into all the flavors of GTX460 there are out there. In my initial searches for deals I've come across a few of the more impressive variants like SOC and FTW around $120... but without being ready to commit to a miniscule upgrade - one that admittingly wouldn't be for the long-term - I'm not so sure I'd be comfortable pricing one specifically. On the other hand, I know I could go with a 6850/6870 from AMD (losing the PhysX support) in the same price range, if not cheaper.

Total: $100-120

Option 4:

Tiger Direct has a sale on the AMD 965BE for $89.99 - I could jump on that in the next day or so, and start with a CPU that's +1 core, +6MB L3 on my current CPU.. then OC it the extra 400-600mHz. Alternatively, I have an option to buy a NIB AMD 960T for $95... which may or may not have the same OC potential + extra cores. More of a gamble - but also not strictly time-sensitive such as the case with the TD sale. Both of these come in well under the ~$125 budget, so I could spend the extra on some fancy new thermal paste and a pizza for benchmark day.

Total: $90-95

So, what would you do?
5 answers Last reply
More about looking upgrade maybe decide
  1. If you want to be more set for the future then get a new cpu,gpu, and mobo
  2. I guess I should've included...

    TLDR; $125 Budget, which (1) upgrade to get?

  3. TLDR???
  4. You don't really need Sata3 to enjoy an SSD thoroughly, if your inclined towards getting an SSD, don't bother with the Sata3 controller (especially if you think you'll upgrade within the next year on the mobo).

    Given your budget, I would go with the SSD if anything at all. You sound like your happy with your computer generally, an SSD should improve responsiveness, boot times etc. A cpu would be a close runner up, but it's an incremental improvement that you may throw away later with a new build.

    If all you really need is to sate your desire for an upgrade, the SSD is the only thing you can future-proofedly carry forward to a new build in a year or so. Otherwise, I would just save the cash now and make an effort to start allocating funds towards a more size able upgrade. (I would try to get 300-400 together and get a nice GPU or new mobo+cpu+ram).
  5. Well, the 'piledriver' series of CPU will be out 'some time' this year... which makes ~1 year before there is a substantial budget/mid-range option available for an upgrade. That's time enough for there to be a new motherboard chipset available as well. It's definitely a debate over immediate gratification vs future spending.

    This is exactly why I'm ~2 years behind the curve.

    On a side note: While I am satisfied, in general, with my PC performance.. I admittingly play games at Med-High settings on a 19" 1440x900 monitor. When I play on my 23" monitor at 1920x1080 I notice a substantial slowdown. This 'slowdown' is also prevalent in multi-monitor activities such as <-- Low GFX Game + Multiple-Tab Browsing/Music/Coms --> which is the evidence that both my GPU and CPU are having a hard time keeping up with me when I'm settled in for an extended PC session.

    Hence, the upgrade options I presented will all have some form of affect on my immediate situation as well as dictate a future upgrade path.
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