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Was just gifted a desktop--can I sexy it up?

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December 3, 2012 3:20:41 PM

I have been gifted a new HP Pavillion desktop tower. My budget for upgrades is maybe $250.

Here are the known specs (it isn't here yet but this is what I'm told).

Processor: AMD Quad-Core A8-5500, 3.2GHz

Cache Memory: 4MB on die Level 2

RAM: 6GB (expandable to 32)

Hard drive type/size: SATA (7200 rpm)/1 TB

Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7560D

Video Memory: Up to 3GB

OS: Windows 8 pre-installed

DVD drive: Double-layer DVD±RW/CD-RW


The desktop was purchased for just under $500 on a CyperMonday deal. I don't know about the power supply, it wasn't included in the emailed specs. Assume I'm looking at 400W or less, given the price.


We have an ancient Dell e521 (Windows XP) that runs the original, non-mod Morrowind at 19 fps and won't run Minecraft at all. It would be a real bonus if a little tinkering could turn this into a moderate gaming rig that will keep my son happy until he's at least old enough to mow the lawn and start earning enough for to build his own.

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December 3, 2012 3:39:35 PM

I think you can crossfire the IGPU with a HD6670. That would be the most profound upgrade in terms of gaming performance. I'd also swap the weird RAM configuration for 2x4GB. Add a SSD with the remaining budget ;) 
December 3, 2012 5:06:27 PM

Thanks, Finneous!
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December 4, 2012 4:11:02 PM

It arrived today--the PSU is 300W.

Finneous, would your recommendations change now that I know what the PSU is (and isn't?)
December 4, 2012 5:13:27 PM

Well, it's possible the unit isn't up to the task of powering a 6670. I might try it anyway - if the system becomes unstable get a better PSU. Overall my list of recommendations for sexying up your prebuilt would be the same. Getting a new PSU would affect the budget of course.
December 4, 2012 5:17:18 PM

Actually it's quite fine:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

Memory: G.Skill NS Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($31.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($97.99 @ B&H)
Video Card: MSI Radeon HD 6670 1GB Video Card ($49.99 @ Microcenter)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $204.96
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-12-04 14:17 EST-0500)
December 4, 2012 6:02:39 PM

I would second going with that 6670. It would be able to work in unison with the onboard graphics to get much better gaming performance.
December 4, 2012 6:48:49 PM

7750 is going to outperform a 6670, even with dual graphics and runs fine on 300w. Most benches show a 6670 in dual graphics runs roughly the same as a 6670 alone.

And if you are going to upgrade to a 430W, then don't mess around with low end card and just get a 7850, 650Ti or 7770.

I am sure the RAM is fine. Waste of money going from 6-8 IMO.
December 4, 2012 7:18:43 PM

It's going to be bargain bin RAM with 2x2 +2x1 - it'll work but it's far from optimal.
December 4, 2012 7:39:05 PM

expensive DDR 1333 doesn't run faster than cheap DDR 1333 and HP typically uses top tier chip suppliers to reduce returns. The only thing to gain is a fancy heat spreader.





December 4, 2012 7:53:43 PM

No, what you gain is a proper dual channel configuration and more RAM.
December 4, 2012 8:03:03 PM

If it's a pair of 2's and a pair of 1's, then it's already a proper dual channel config. If it is a single 4 and a single 2, then all they need is to replace one of the 4's with a 2 of the same speed and latency to make a Dual channel pair. 6 vs 8 only helps people who use more than 6GB of RAM, which is very few of us.

Not worth arguing, but I wouldn't wast my money on it when I could use that for a power supply, SSD or graphics card that will actually provide concrete improvements.

December 4, 2012 8:40:13 PM

Well that's a moot point - I wouldn't waste my money on a HP anyway. If I had one I'd consider changing the RAM, though. Heck, I'd consider changing everything :lol: 
December 4, 2012 8:52:42 PM

Re-reading the OP, it's already likely to be a huge step up. I wonder if he will need to do anything at all to it. A8 w/ 7560D is already a decent 720P gaming platform. He's currently running a PC that can't even run minecraft at all!

OK, new plan:

upgrade RAM to 8GB dual channel 1866, not different 1333. The 1866 has been shown to improve performance on the APU. Try out games using 720p resolution and see if it is meeting your needs. Based on where you are coming from, you are likely to be impressed with the computer as is.

If you still want additional performance gains or higher resolutions, swap out the power supply for a decent 400-500W unit and add a 7770 or 650 TI card.

IF you want faster booting and faster game loads, then you might try to use a SSD for your C: drive. It can be trick to implement since ssd are often too small for a direct image and prebuilts don't give you re-install media.

Really, though, I suggest you give it a try as-is. Those APUs are really pretty nice compared to where you are now.




December 4, 2012 10:28:25 PM

twelve25 said:
Really, though, I suggest you give it a try as-is. Those APUs are really pretty nice compared to where you are now.


True but where I am now is a very low bar. I have a vintage Texas Instruments calculator worth more than my Dell.

As a practical matter, I will have to give it a try w/o upgrades for at least a few weeks as my schedule isn't going to let me tinker much. But my hope is that I can add a few upgrades now when holiday rebates and sales are still in force.

Thanks for the advice, too, on the 1866. Do appreciate it!


December 4, 2012 10:39:03 PM

FinneousPJ said:
Well that's a moot point - I wouldn't waste my money on a HP anyway. If I had one I'd consider changing the RAM, though. Heck, I'd consider changing everything :lol: 


Maybe instead of upgrades, I'll just buy a really enormous monitor. Then I can impress everybody with the size of my Spider Solitaire deck. :lol: 

December 30, 2012 5:05:56 PM

UPDATE: OK, it has been out of the box for a few weeks now. My son is playing Minecraft and Morrowind with MGSO 3.0 with no problems. The fps on Morrowind is around 65. The only issue so far with speed is loading between cells. It takes a lot longer to get through doors in Morrowind than it used to but not so long that anybody is willing to gripe.

My son is now clamoring for me to get WoW and Skyrim. I'm holding off for non-tech reasons. (Gotta see how his grades handle having a new toy.)

!