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System Upgrade

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July 27, 2012 11:38:25 AM

I am currently running a Win7 x64 system with an AMD X3 2.9GHz CPU with 4GB RAM and an ATI HD 5570 with 1GB VRAM on a 19" widescreen monitor. The system is just a little over two years old, but still works great except as noted below.

I am a light gamer (WoW, SWTOR, Diablo3). I am an amateur radio operator and use my computer for light contesting and digital modes. I also do some light audio dubbing and video editing and I edit and publish a small (four page) monthly newsletter. Of course, there is the obligatory usage of web browsing, email, word-processing, etc.

My current system runs pretty good on everything except SWTOR and D3. D3 actually stutters a bit and crashes at times - I have to run the settings down, but it is playable. I like to have my cake and eat it too when it comes to gaming - form *and* function.

Approximate Purchase Date: e.g.: Before August 1st.

Budget Range: ~$1000 After Rebates; After Shipping. If I don't need to spend this, I won't spend it. That's just the max. No need to buy stuff just to get it.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Desktop system, gaming, amateur radio apps, video/audio editing/dubbing, watching movies, desktop publishing, web browsing, email.

Are you buying a monitor: Yes

Parts to Upgrade: CPU, RAM, video card, monitor. Power supply is:
Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Do you need to buy OS: No

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com or amazon.com depending on who is the least expensive after rebates and shipping.

Location: Tuscaloosa, AL (we only have a Best Buy and I hate the store except for browsing - I will not purchase from them).

Parts Preferences: Prefer XFX video cards, but their latest are AMD-only video cards. AMD is my preference on both CPU and GPU, but this is not "written in stone."

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Your Monitor Resolution: I would like to get to either 1920x1080 / 1200 from 1440x900

Additional Comments: Basically, I just want to know if upgrading from the following is worth my effort:
From:
AMD Athlon II X3 435 Rana 2.9GHz Socket AM3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX HD-577A-ZNDC Radeon HD 5770 XXX Edition 1GB 128-bit DDR5
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ViewSonic Value Series VA1912wb Black 19" 5ms Widescreen LCD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

To:
AMD Phenom II X4 965 AM3 3.4Ghz 512KB 45NM 125W 4000MHZ
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002SRQ214/ref=ox_sc_s...

8GB G.Skill DDR3 PC3-12800 1600MHz Ripjaw Series
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00339X1EM/ref=ox_sc_s...

XFX ATI Radeon HD7950 3 GB DDR5
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00713RT62/ref=ox_sc_a...

Dell UltraSharp U2412M 24" LED LCD Monitor - 16:10 - 8 ms
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005JN9310/ref=ox_sc_s...

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: SWTOR at low to medium settings. D3 stutters and crashes.

More about : system upgrade

July 27, 2012 11:59:39 AM

I think what I'd recommend for you is a more incremental upgrade. Just get a new monitor and a new video card. Your processor is not the greatest thing in the world, but if you're gaming at 1080p and the two games are SWTOR and D3, you really don't need some world-beating CPU. Save the money for a more substantial upgrade (when you also upgrade your CPU) down the line. (This is informed partly by the Tom's article at SWTOR release: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/star-wars-gaming-te... )

You could get another 2x2GB of your existing RAM (assuming your mobo has 4 slots) to get to 8GB. That will save you a few bucks. There's nothing wrong with your current RAM. In fact, 8GB is widely acknowledged to be "overkill" right now, and you could get away with 4GB (or 6GB) for now.

I don't have any special insight into what monitor to get; I'll leave that to someone else. Basically I always just look for a cheapish 5-egg monitor on newegg.

As for video card upgrade--some people might tell you to go nuts and get a 7950 or something. You could do that, and if you want to spend just north of $300, get the twin frzor 7950 and use it with glee until the end of time. But if you're playing SWTOR and D3 at 1920x1080, that is overkill. Instead, given your AMD preference, I'd get either a 7850 for about $240 or this 6950 for $190: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... If you want to go lower, get a 6870 for about $150 post-rebate.

A 7850 is a solid choice, and it's slightly better performance than the 6950 at lower power consumption. It also overclocks better. So if you want to spend a few extra bucks, it's a good choice.

Anyway, if you got another 4GB of RAM, the 7850, and the monitor, your overall upgrade would be under $500. You can save the rest of your money to upgrade your CPU and mobo later.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 27, 2012 12:35:54 PM

I am in general agreement with motorneuron on doing some incremental upgrades first. Your PSU is good for any single card, so you can leave that alone.
I am puzzled by one thing though...is your current video card a HD5570 (first sentence) or a HD5770 (in your From: section) ? I could understand a HD5570 having difficulty at 1440x900, but I'd expect a HD5770 to do a lot better. If you have the stronger card and are experiencing stutter and lag in D3, it could be any number of other things, from your Internet connection to outdated drivers, malware, and/or background processes.
Especially if you have a HD5570 though, buy a stronger card; the money won't be wasted because you can take it with you if/when you rebuild. If you'd rather keep costs down, I'd suggest a HD7850 at most, perhaps a HD6870 (and the 1920x1080 monitor). Run that in your system and see how it performs. You might be happy and stop right there.
As many AMD systems as I've built, I have a hard time today recommending another one if you are starting fresh. If you're "almost happy" with the video card upgrade though, you might then upgrade your CPU to a 965BE. Make sure your motherboard supports at least 125W CPUs, preferably higher, because you'll want to overclock it. Yes, you will. The 965BE is only one tier higher than the X3 435, but overclocking will easily get you at least one more tier, maybe two. Add a $30 CPU cooler such as a Xigmatek Gaia for enough cooling to reasonably expect to get up to 4GHz from the 965 without too much effort.
If the graphics card upgrade alone really didn't make much difference (i.e. you're not "almost happy" with it), then it would probably be best to just bite the bullet and rebuild using an Intel i3-2120 or better (at this point, I'd opt for an i5, but you know your budget).
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July 27, 2012 4:09:39 PM

Quote:
I am puzzled by one thing though...is your current video card a HD5570 (first sentence) or a HD5770 (in your From: section) ?


Sorry, it took me a bit to see my mistake. I have the HD5770.

I run very little extra on my system. I do run a cloud backup client. I will try turning that off. However, I don't think this will relieve the crashes. What do you think?

I appreciate both recommendations. I'll do the incremental upgrade with the monitor, video card, and maybe the RAM and purchase more later if needed.

Thanks,
JB
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 27, 2012 9:01:45 PM

Check your Event Logs and see if they indicate the cause of the crashes. Are there error messages?
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July 27, 2012 9:30:28 PM

Get the 965 and a 7950. I've got a 965 clocked up to 3.8Ghz, and the northbridge pumped to 2.4Ghz and its sufficient for current games. It will last at least for another year. And in a year, Haswell and Piledriver should be out. When the PS4/Xbox whatever comes out then it might be worth looking at CPU upgrades. Right now, get a solid foundation and forget about it. For the GPU, get an OC 7950 and pump it up further. Sapphire is a good brand.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 27, 2012 10:25:08 PM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K 3.3GHz Quad-Core Processor ($169.99 @ Microcenter)
CPU Cooler: Thermaltake Water 2.0 Performer 81.3 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($52.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($114.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($43.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($102.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Hard Drive: OCZ Vertex 3 60GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Video Card: MSI Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card ($304.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion ATX Mid Tower Case ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: OCZ 800W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($63.98 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: Asus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS DVD/CD Writer ($16.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $975.89
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-27 18:24 EDT-0400)

Thats pretty much as good as it gets for your budget.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 27, 2012 10:25:24 PM

ugh without the power supply
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July 28, 2012 7:07:24 AM

Forget the 2500, the 3570 is what you should go for. Mystery why you'd buy older hardware.
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 28, 2012 8:49:23 AM

Smeg45 said:
Forget the 2500, the 3570 is what you should go for. Mystery why you'd buy older hardware.


Because it runs cooler, hence better overclocking. Also there isnt much of a performance difference between the two.

And lets be honest here, 2500K just sounds cooler than 3570K does.
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July 28, 2012 12:10:12 PM

Quote:
2500K just sounds cooler than 3570K does.
:) 

Going to do this incrementally and see what I get with this two-year old machine.

A couple of things I did though (I'm just not much of a tweaker on newer systems. I used to do it and I quit.):

1. Adjusted the timing on my RAM. My MB is a Gigabyte MA790GPT-UD3H (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...). I went into the BIOS and adjusted the timing on the RAM from Auto to Manual. Most of the timing was correct except for the last number - it should have been 2T (whatever that means). I also adjusted the voltage on the RAM from 1.75 (auto) to 1.5 (recommended). I didn't notice any significant change by doing this. According to Gigabyte, this MB will support Phenom II X6, but I cannot find those anywhere.

2. I turned off my cloud-based backup while playing. This didn't really seem to change anything.

The incremental updates I purchased were:

1. XFX Radeon HD 7850.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I know the Sapphire was recommended. I had a problem with a Sapphire card and I like the XFX warranty (although I've never had to use it).

2. Dell U2312HM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I decided to go with the 23" vs. 24" due to current desktop real-estate. I will have to do some re-arranging once it gets here. After taking the 24" dimensions into consideration, I was going to lose more real-estate than I wanted (you've got to see my desk to really understand).

At this point, after my mail-in rebate on the video card, I have spent just shy of $500. If I do decide that I'm not quite happy with my upgrades, I'll upgrade my CPU, I may just go with a quad-core Intel. Yep, I'll have to purchase a new MB - so be it.

Thanks for the system config. I found that website - very nice. I used to use pricegrabber.com, but they fell out of favor for me for some reason that I now forget.

JB
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a b B Homebuilt system
July 28, 2012 3:59:25 PM

Nice choice on the video card; I like the three XFX cards I'm running now. My primary rig has a HD7870 in it, but I see a possible HD7850 for the backup rig.
I have one 23" monitor, but when I wanted another, I got a smaller, 21" model for the same reason you did; I've pretty much run out of desk real estate. I actually prefer the smaller one.
I used a similar Gigabyte 790GX board for my wife. That was probably four or five years ago, so it was AM2+. That last "2T" number is command rate; 1T is faster, but may not be stable on a lot of systems, especially with reduced voltage.
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