I've been out of the loop on building workstations for a bit now, last build was 2006. I'm outdated on the technology and was looking for a bit of assistance.
My current rig is a dual-core setup that wasn't a very good build to begin with in my opinion. From this setup, I'd like to carry over the following items.
PS: CORSAIR HX850 (CMPSU-850HX) 850W ATX12V 2.3 / EPS12V 2.91
Case: Mid-Tower ATX
HD: 500GB 7200 SATA
GPU: XFX PVT70GUDF7 GeForce 7800GT 256MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 SLI
OS: Win XP 32-bit
I'd prefer to move up to a Quad-Core setup. I'm not sure whom's leading (AMD / Intel) in the CPU department these days. I'm not really partial to either so price/performance would definitely be the main factor.
I'd like to stay under $500 overall. That's the reason I'd like to carry over the video card if it wouldn't be THAT big of a bottleneck. I currently run D3 on low/med settings decently. If it would just ruin the setup, I'd upgrade the card as well.
SSD isn't necessarily a MUST HAVE for the OS partition, but I wouldn't shun the thought.
4GB of RAM should be sufficient since it's rather cheap.
Other than that, I can't really think of anything I have to have. I'm looking to upgrade the heart now and move the addons up in steps so to not blow my monthly budget too bad.
I appreciate any and all feedback and input. Links to help educate me on some newer technology would also be appreciated.
A PhII quad is roughly 5-10% faster than an AthlonII quad at similar clock speeds in gaming --- but the bottom line in modern gaming is ...
it's the video card ... and you can't really top the HD6950 at that $200 price point.
Fantastic information thus far and truly appreciated. I have a few questions from reviewing your findings.
The motherboard (Gigabyte good ) has PCI 2.0 and the GPU is 2.1. From my understanding, this will not be an issue as the slots have the same performance?
The CPU / DVD combo...A+ find! Reading about that CPU, it seems to be an extremely well performer for the price point. Will the stock HS/Fan be sufficient with some thermal grease or is an aftermarket highly recommended? I have 4 fans and a slot cooler currently in the tower if that makes a difference.
The memory, while $30 for 4GB is fantastic, I'd probably do 4 sticks to fill it up.
The GPU looks to be worth the penny as well.
I added (74.99) Crucial M4 CT064M4SSD2 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) for my OS from a friend being in my ear about how much faster the system runs with a SSD. Will my SATA 1.0 HD have any issues with the 6GB channels now? I'm guessing my speed will just drop to the 1.5ish GB? Any feedback?
For a total of 571.77 shipped, with SSD & 8GB RAM, I'm fairly pleased with this setup.
In your opinion, what would be a comfortable gaming timeline for this system before a re-haul would be warranted? My thinking is $500 ~ 1-1.5 years vs $700 ~ 2-2.5 years kind of deal.
With an SSD your system will boot faster, and programs will load much more quickly. On typical day-to-day, light, general stuff (email, browsing, office stuff, etc.) you will not notice a great deal of difference.
I'd hold off on the after-market cooling until you have a chance to bench your new CPU. The C3-stepping PhII965BE is as good as it gets from a 'mature' process. You may find 3.8-4GHz with a minimal boost in volts -- let''s say 1.375v VCore. A bunch of folks are landing there, with load temps in the low- to mid 50Cs (max temps are 60c+). If heat becomes an issue, you may add a fancy new HSF at a later time.
A 32-bit OS will not recognize more than 4GB (actually, because the OS reserves memory address space, with a 32-bit OS your system will not have more than 3GB available for apps and gaming). Not really a huge issue unless you are a serious multi-tasker. A 2x4GB kit would leave room for further expansion in the future in the 4 DIMM slots, OR you may snag something like the Crucial Ballistix 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1866 for $35, and manually tweak your memory in the BIOS.
The higher-speed RAMs may need to be 'down-clocked' to 1600MHz due to the memory controller on the PhII965BE, but 1866MHz memory will work just dandy in a year of so with a new AMD Pilerdriver CPU (or maybe, even, Steamroller!) when you are ready for a cost-conscience upgrade.
Also, the higher speed RAMs will allow for some fancy OC'ing. The AMD system at stock clock runs 200MHz. A 'Black Edition' has an unlocked CPU multiplier, meaning you may raise it above the stock '17' (17x200MHz=3.4GHz for the PhII965). You could go 19x200MHz for 3.8GHz, OR, 17x233MHz for 3.96GHz!
This transfers stress from the CPU to the motherboard (that GB can take it ), and typically allows higher over-clocks (maybe that after-market cooling is not such a bad idea, after-all!)
Your RAMs also work via the system clock using 'dividers' (don't ask me why we call them that). DDR3 1600 is 8x200MHz. If you leave the RAM divider at *8* with the system clock at 233MHz, your RAMs will be running spec speed 8x233MHz or 1864MHz (close enough).
No worries about the PCIe 2.0
AMD Piledriver CPUs will be rolling out quite soon. In a year or so they will be hitting that 'sweet-spot' as AMD drops prices to move out inventory in anticipation of Steamroller. What is a $250 CPU in the Summer of 2012, becomes a $150 (or less!) CPU in the Summer of 2013. Thank you, AMD!
The new AMD Radeon graphics (code name: Sea Islands) 8xxx-series GPUs will arrive in the Winter of 2013, so things will get very interesting for your upgrade path next Fall. The 'new-price' smell of the 8xxx-series GPUs will be worn off with likely deep discounts by then.
You will be faced with the decision of finding a second HD6950 (it will have to be 'used') on the cheap for Crossfire (no worries whatsoever with the HX850 PSU), or jumping ahead 2 graphic series to the Sea Islands GPUs (actually, quite a good move from an upgrade standpoint to skip a series). BUT, a new Piledriver CPU in the Fall of 2013 with a used HD6950 may likely be had for $250 or so, total. That's quite cost effective. Decisions ... Decisions ...
I hope I didn't dump too much on you -- fire away with any other questions.
I'll pass on the SSD if I'm not going to see a boost in gaming performance. Boot and load times of apps aren't a necessity.
With passing on the SSD and the 32-bit OS I'm sporting; Win7 may be a better choice. My only fear is not being able to load Win7 on a 2nd/3rd computer using the same disc as I was with my XP (legit copy) disc. When I include multiple computers, these are computers in my household. I belive in MS's eye's though; this is still pirating, however, I'm not 100% sure on this. If applicable, do you have experience with this?
I never really delved into overclocking my systems in the past, so doing so now wasn't really a requirement to what I build. However, tinkering is something I enjoy and from your posting, I believe it would be worth a shot for the giggles.
It seems the 1600 would be sufficient for this system build; the 1866 would be sufficient for this system and a possible re-build within 1.5 years as well? Bumping to the 1866 would be cost effective to me in this situation. Throttle the 1866 back for this build and then let it loose with a new CPU?
With that AMD Piledrive/Steamroller...I'm going to say that would require a new motherboard as well? Different socket type/bus speeds/etc I would think would be an "assured" thing?
With upgrading at that point, having the option to go 2 paths is more than sufficient in my opinion. CPU and GPU to bring the system up to par for the next 1.5 years is a fantastic setup.
You've been a fantastic source of information.
A Windows OEM OS license is keyed to the specific motherboard, and may not be installed on another rig. If you have a failure issue with the motherboard and an OEM license, you may replace with motherboard of similar design and chipset (no slide-ways 'upgrades').
A retail OS license may be used multiple times BUT when installing on a new rig, you must remove the OS from the old rig.
Piledriver AM3+ CPUs should be a drop-in up-grade to the Gigabye GA-990XA-UD3 AM3+ 990X (with a BIOS update). The jury is still out on Steamroller CPUs, though they seem to fit in the AMD timeline for declared AM3+ motherboard support. That is, of course, as weak a Steamroller guarantee as I can make!
DDR3 1866 RAMs will most likely work with a bit of tweaking in the BIOS when matched with the PhII 965BE. Worst case is you simply change the 'divider' in the BIOS from 9.33x to 8x, and run them as DDR3 1600.
Over-clocking is simply 'free' performance. I don't go crazy with it -- I keep my volts down, run cool and enable all power-saving features.
But ... ... I do occasionally like to give things a major crank. In the interest of science and technology, of course!
I remember now, my XP disc came with 3 licenses. That's why I was able to do the installs without registration issues. With Win7 only coming with 1 license, I may give Ubuntu a try. I've been looking for a reason, this could be it.
I believe I could handle tweaking the RAM setting for the 1866 to work. If I have too many issues, I think I know of a good place to ask questions! I'll switch to the 1866's for the future usage.
What does the PC(14900) vs PC(15000) exactly mean? I'm guessing some of the timing math?
A question from the PhII to Piledriver; will the CPU require the same number of cores? IE, the PhII will be a Quad; when I switch to the Piledriver, will I need to get a quad as well? I see there are 8-core chips already out there.
I'm feeling so old talking about this new technology.
Future Piledriver CPUs will be available in multiple core varieties and there should be no restrictions as to the installation of any specific unit in your motherboard.
There is now a $20-off promo code (EMCNBJN46) on the PhII965BE valid thru 08/12/2012. I just snagged one, along with the Gigabyte GA-990XA-UD3. I suspect the 965s will soon be slipping out of sight, so keep an eye out before they all get gone.
I have no idea why RAMs are ID'd in that fashion must be secret code!
GIGABYTE GA-990XA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990X SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
SAPPHIRE 11188-22-20G Radeon HD 6950 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card (OC Edition)
Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model BLT2KIT4G3D1869DT1TX0
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade
OCZ Vertex 4 VTX4-25SAT3-128G 2.5" 128GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Deneb 3.4GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ965FBGMBOX
The promo for the PhII doesn't work with the combo DVD, so I stuck with the DVD.
Since I'm going with the Win7 Upgrade edition, I bumped my memory to 8GB. I did stick with the 1866 though and will probably be posting in a few days looking for tweaking help, haha.
I went with the SSD, even though I thought against it. My wife wants a NAS for our video's and pictures. Getting the sSD will allow me to network out my 500GB WD to provide for her. If the wife ain't happy, I ain't happy!
Wisecracker, thank you again, you've been a fantastic resource. Is there something I need to do on this thread to give you some kind of credit for your posting?
Good luck! No 'credit' necessary. I don't have a preference between the Sapphire or XFX HD69502GB -- either will be a gaming monster that should meet your needs for quite a while, and each has dual fans. XFX used to have a double-lifetime warranty (they would cover the card even when sold to someone) -- not sure if they still do this. Just be sure either will fit in your case -- they're 10-inches long!
Each is quite efficient and can take a nice OC ...