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Upgrade gaming build - $100-200

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August 16, 2012 12:36:58 PM

I'm building a new system, and I'm planning to give my old system to my boyfriend to replace the even older system I gave him 3 years ago when I built this one.

He has a really limited budget, but I'd like to suggest one or two upgrades (under $200) that will help keep it running respectably for another year or so.

Current specs:

Asus M4A77TTD
Phenom II x2 550 Black Edition Callisto, stock cooler, unstable when OC'd, not unlockable
4GB RAM
Radeon HD 4650
Corsair 650W PSU
WD Black 500GB 7200RPM (3 years old, seems healthy enough)

Current performance: Runs Skyrim at 15-25fps on low at 720p windowed mode, WoW at 25-60fps on medium at 1080p fullscreen

Will be used for: Older games (mostly WoW), word processing, web browsing, all at 720p

Preferred Retailers: Newegg, Amazon

I think most people would probably assume the highest priority is the GPU, but I don't think it needs to be great to do WoW; it's managing playable framerates at 1080p, and his monitor is 720. A really low-end graphics card would probably do the trick, but I don't know which one.

I actually think the CPU is the biggest issue, especially since I can't get it stable at any OC. But I feel silly telling him to upgrade the CPU and leave that godawful GPU in there.

If you had to pick one component to upgrade for under $100, what would it be?
If you could do two components under $200, what would you do?
Is there a way to upgrade two components meaningfully at under $150?
a c 106 B Homebuilt system
August 16, 2012 12:46:39 PM

For $200, I would suggest getting a Phenom II x4 965 and a small 64GB SSD for a boot drive.
AMD Phenom II x4 965. $110
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OCZ Vertex 4 64GB. $75
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Total: $185

That will give you the most noticeable performance boost.
SSD will make it boot much quicker, while the CPU will give you ample upgrade path later, as it wont botteneck any GPU's you put on it (its also a decently good CPU at this price range).

Gaming wont be improved by much, but if its already doing a decent job of WoW and that's all he's going to play, you wont need to upgrade the GPU.
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Best solution

August 16, 2012 1:00:58 PM

CPU:$109.99 AMD Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz Quad-Core BE CPU OEM and Thermaltake CL-P0503 70mm CPU Cooler Bundle
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

GPU: $99.99 MSI Radeon HD 7770 R7770-PMD1GD5 Video Card - 1GB, GDDR5, PCI-Express 3.0(x16), 1x Dual-link DVI-I, 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, DirectX 11, MSI Afterburner
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
That will give you the most noticeable performance boost. Get a SSD later down the road this is what i would do anyway good luck!
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a c 106 B Homebuilt system
August 16, 2012 1:20:43 PM

regina_49 said:
CPU:$109.99 AMD Phenom II X4 965 3.4GHz Quad-Core BE CPU OEM and Thermaltake CL-P0503 70mm CPU Cooler Bundle
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...

GPU: $99.99 MSI Radeon HD 7770 R7770-PMD1GD5 Video Card - 1GB, GDDR5, PCI-Express 3.0(x16), 1x Dual-link DVI-I, 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, DirectX 11, MSI Afterburner
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/ite...
That will give you the most noticeable performance boost. Get a SSD later down the road this is what i would do anyway good luck!


I was actually going to suggest the HD7770, even down to the MSI model. But I thought that since the existing graphics card is already sufficient and the BF seems to be tech illiterate, he will probably appreciate that he can get to his gaming faster than 10 more FPS.
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August 16, 2012 2:05:39 PM

I really like the idea of the SSD, but I'm scared of installing anything he could break. He's at that dangerous level of tech literacy where he actually does things to his computer but doesn't know how to recover.

That's actually one of the reasons I want him to upgrade this. It works fine for me, but it's delicate, it needs just the right settings...it's perfectly happy with max textures and view distances and particle effects, but it implodes if you so much as consider adjusting shadows or AA. And it can run 15 tabs of Firefox, WoW, and Photoshop CS6, all at the same time, but try running Eclipse, Daemon Tools, or Open Office and it cries like a little girl.
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August 16, 2012 2:22:26 PM

Do you have a Microcenter near you? The CPU being suggested current goes for $20 less at one near me. Chances are you can find good instant and rebate deals there that would take the price down. Most of their deals are only in-store, so it's entirely conditional on having one near you.
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August 16, 2012 2:33:56 PM

No, no Microcenter. The only brick-and-mortar computer store we can really get to without spending more than $20 in travel costs is Best Buy.

No hurry either though - he can easily wait for a good online deal. This rig is a giant massive upgrade from the previous (Athlon 64 3200+, 2GB, Radeon X1600XT) pile of steaming crap that's still somehow functioning for him.
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August 16, 2012 3:08:39 PM

Best answer selected by kaels.
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