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Discrete GPU or APU or Upgrade Existing C2D System?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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October 30, 2012 8:38:55 PM

I'm looking to (finally) upgrade my old desktop to an "OK" gaming rig, Plex Media Server, and general workstation. Not looking for anything fancy, just some good CPU power for video transcoding/streaming to my Roku, some mild gaming, and a little overclocking fun. I have three main options I'm looking at, and all cost around $600:

1. Keep my old Core2Duo 2.66ghz, 3GB DDR2, Gigabyte Micro ATX Mobo: Add a 128GB SSD, a 1TB HD, and a Radeon 7850 GPU.
Upgrade Wish List - $350

2. New FM2 APU Build: AMD A10-5800k, FM2 Mobo, 8GB DDR3 1866, 128GB SSD, 1TB HD
Newegg APU Wish List - $570

3. New Discrete Graphics Build: AMD Phenom 965 BE, AM3+ 990FX Mobo, Radeon 7850, 8GB DDR3 1600, 1TB HD, 550W PSU
Newegg Discrete GPU Wish List - $661


Other info:

Time Frame for Purchase: Within 2 weeks

Overclocking Important: Not unless I can do it well on stock cooling

Budget: $600 or so

Games Played: Civ5, Starcraft II, TF2, BF3(future purchase), Dirt

Monitor/Resolution/Quality: 22" widescreen, 1680x1050, medium

Other considerations:
I'd like this to offer a good upgrade path into the future, so am leaning away from a low end i3-3220 build, but am not opposed if it's within budget. I'd like to upgrade the CPU and GPU in the future if I come across a game that I absolutely MUST experience at high quality. But overall the games I currently play do not require eye candy and are either strategy or older FPS games.

At this point it seems stupid to upgrade a long-dead C2D system with DDR2, as it will likely be bottlenecking the SSD and new GPU. But who knows maybe someone here will convince me otherwise.

Cheers, and thanks in advance for any help and advice you can offer!

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a b U Graphics card
October 30, 2012 9:23:15 PM
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I upgraded my C2Q system with some good stuff and it still never felt any faster. Then I got an i5 and it was like night and day. I'd start over at this point.

Going AM3+ is not bad now that the latest FX processors are actually good. But I wouldn't get a cheap 760 chipset board. Make it something a little more modern like a 990 or 870 chipset. I wouldn't go with an APU if you want to be able to have an upgrade path, as the A10 is pretty much going to be about as fast as that socket will handle.

i3 (or P2 850) would be nice because you could get the ability to upgrade to i5 or i7 quad cores later.

Don't you have a hard drive from the C2D system you could use? That would save almost $100 to get you a nice graphics card.


October 30, 2012 9:33:41 PM

twelve25 said:
I upgraded my C2Q system with some good stuff and it still never felt any faster. Then I got an i5 and it was like night and day. I'd start over at this point.

Going AM3+ is not bad now that the latest FX processors are actually good. But I wouldn't get a cheap 760 chipset board. Make it something a little more modern like a 990 or 870 chipset. I wouldn't go with an APU if you want to be able to have an upgrade path, as the A10 is pretty much going to be about as fast as that socket will handle.


Couldn't have said it better myself.
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October 30, 2012 9:37:57 PM

twelve25 said:
I upgraded my C2Q system with some good stuff and it still never felt any faster. Then I got an i5 and it was like night and day. I'd start over at this point.

Going AM3+ is not bad now that the latest FX processors are actually good. But I wouldn't get a cheap 760 chipset board. Make it something a little more modern like a 990 or 870 chipset. I wouldn't go with an APU if you want to be able to have an upgrade path, as the A10 is pretty much going to be about as fast as that socket will handle.

i3 (or P2 850) would be nice because you could get the ability to upgrade to i5 or i7 quad cores later.

Don't you have a hard drive from the C2D system you could use? That would save almost $100 to get you a nice graphics card.



I do have a couple 320GB drives and a 500GB but they're about 4 years old, same as the rest of the current system. Is an SSD not a good upgrade over a traditional hard drive?

Thanks for the advice on that 760g motherboard, I'll nix that and find something else. What do you think about a Radeon 6850 or 6870 card? The budget can move a little bit if it's going to give me a big performance jump.
a b U Graphics card
October 30, 2012 10:23:58 PM

SSD is a nice luxury item that helps your computer feel faster. It makes windows boot faster and program installs and launches just zip by. But once windows is booted and your programs are installed and launched, they do nothing. After the first launch, Windows uses prefetch to load them in extra RAM anyway, which is faster than an SSD. So for a budget build, I'd leave out the SSD until you had everything else you wanted that is "real" performance. If you have to skimp on a video card to get the SSD, that's not a good trade, IMO.

What you might do is to get the SSD, but then just use your existing drives. The SSD will speed up the stuff that counts and you can use the old hard drives for media and other bulk data. That would save the $100 from the 1TB drive and let you put that toward a better video card and motherboard.

You can probably find a good power supply for $40-50, too.

So I'd say:

Pentium G850
budget z77 board
Radeon 7850
8GB DDR3
128GB SSD
500W 80 Plus PSU
October 30, 2012 10:29:23 PM

Thanks again for the replies! I've updated my "discrete graphics" wish list according to the recommendations. Dropped the SSD, replaced the 760G mobo for a 990, and added an HD 7850. Also increased the PSU on that list from a 450W to a 550W, and hopefully that will be sufficient. It increases the cost by $100, but I can always keep using my old hard drives for now and upgrade later. I actually just remembered I have 2 old Raptor 10k 75GB drives sitting on the shelf. Maybe I'll make those my system drive in RAID0 and use the two 320GB for a storage array.

Here's the new build as it stands at $661:
AMD Quad Core 3.4Ghz Phenom BE
2x4GB DDR3 1600
Radeon 7850 2GB
1TB Hard Drive
Gigabyte AM3+ 990FX Mobo
Rosewill Capstone 550 Watt PSU
a b U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 2:35:28 AM

Looks pretty good! That's going to be a lot more than an "OK" gaming rig. That should play most games quite well up to even 1080p.

If those raptors are still in good shape, those would be a great boot drive. 10K drives in a RAID 0 should be very fast, if you aren't concerned about reliability. I might make the C: partition about 100GB so you could transition easy to a 120GB SSD easily in the future.

I think you are spending too much on the power supply. There are much better deals out there, like this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

or others like the Antec Eco 520W or Rosewill Green 530W that are both under $50. If your existing power supply is 450W or greater, you probably don't even need a new one at this point.

.
October 31, 2012 2:36:57 PM

Right now I've got a Thermaltake Purpower 500 NP. I'm sure that would be fine for a lower power card, but will it be enough for a 7850 and several hard drives? On the 7850 page, a 500W PSU is the minimum listed. I also don't think it has an 8-pin CPU plug, just a 24-pin for the motherboard.

Here's a link to the specs: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
October 31, 2012 2:43:23 PM

That's not a bad Antec PSU by the way, but I loathe non-modular PSU's. Such a mess when it comes to cable routing.
a b U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 4:51:38 PM

500W is plenty, so as long as it has all the plugs you need, you should be fine. That's a decent PSU.

The 7850 says 500W, but AMD likes to be conservative. The card has a TDP of 130W and you will likely never even hit that. So with a 125W CPU and 130W GPU, you are only at half the output of a 500W unit. Hard drives and such aren't even going to hit 100W.

I prefer modular too, but I was just trying to help you stay cheap! :) 
October 31, 2012 5:22:35 PM

Thanks again for all your replies and help, I've settled on a build. I've had to cut some corners on "wants" but overall I'm going to end up with a decent gaming box that I can upgrade in the future if necessary. I've opted to drop the 7850 in favor of the 560 Ti SSC, which is just a tad slower. I've also dropped the modular PSU and between those two items that leaves room for the 128GB SSD. I'll be using my existing drives as storage for now, until I fill them up.

So here's the build:

ASRock AM3+ AMD970 Motherboard
AMD Phenom 965 Black Edition 3.4Ghz
2x4gb DDR3 1600
EVGA Nvida 650 Ti SSC 1GB
128GB Samsung 830 SSD - O/S Drive
2x320 GB, 1x250GB Sata drives for storage (already have)
Antec 650 watt PSU
ASUS Sata DVD Burner
a b U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 5:29:14 PM

Not bad, but I'd still say your existing PSU is more than capable. That would get you up to a 7870 or 7850 by dropping that, but it's certainly up to you. The after rebate deal on that Antec is pretty sweet right now. 650 Ti is not a bad card at all, but it is a while tier below the 7850. You are probably looking at a 20%-25% performance loss.









October 31, 2012 5:41:58 PM

Unfortunately, my PSU doesn't have the new CPU power plug. And I also need to use it for another build for my mother in law. And as for the video card, I don't really need high resolution/quality so I think the 560 Ti will be more than enough.
a b U Graphics card
October 31, 2012 6:08:36 PM

Cool. I think that should be a killer system. Those 650 TI's come with a hot new game, Assasin's creed 3, which is a really nice bonus.

If you aren't in a hurry, keep your eye open for a 7850 1GB deal. I got mine for $160 and it had a $20 MIR I forgot to send in! :) 
October 31, 2012 10:38:51 PM

Just for kicks I added a Cooler Master Hyper 212 fan/heatsink. From what I've read the 965 can run a little hot, and I do want to see how far I can push the overclock. Now just have to endure the torture of waiting for brown santa to show up with my parts!
November 8, 2012 1:45:44 AM

Best answer selected by TwoHeadsBrewing.
November 8, 2012 1:48:56 AM

Just wanted to follow up and report on the system: It's great so far!

OC'd to 4.0ghz with the Hyper 212 and it hasn't even gone above 50C. Haven't tried to OC the 650 Ti since I'm not yet playing anything that needs any extra juice. Also, the quad core has resulted in much faster video transcoding and Plex streams movies to my Roku in under a second from clicking "Play". On call counts, it work as desired, so thanks for the input!
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