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Given a choice: 1333 Mhz RAM or Radeon 5870?

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May 18, 2010 3:54:30 AM

I'm looking to upgrade from an 8-year-old Dell used most frequently for gaming (older games, for the past few years) and light multitasking. It's served me well, helped by the addition of some extra RAM and a GeForce6800 in 2006, but it's time to upgrade. I'm looking at Dell XPS 8100 desktops, but I've found that there are no configurations of them which include both a Radeon 5870 card AND 1333Mhz RAM. If I get the Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1333 Mhz, then the best video card available is a GTX260. If I get the 5870 card, then I'm forced to get 1066Mhz RAM. The only way to get both is to upgrade to an Alienware, and that's a ripoff even by my standards.

I'm leaning toward getting the faster RAM, since I'm trying to configure something that'll be fine for another 8 years and since I'd need to upgrade the video card at some point regardless of what card I get now, whereas I could hopefully keep the RAM and just add more as necessary. Before I make a final decision, though, I wanted to ask for opinions here. How important is RAM speed? Will dual channel RAM likely be easy to upgrade in the future? That's one problem I had with my old Dell...the RAM in that machine was RDRAM, so it ended up being pretty expensive to upgrade later because it lost out to SDRAM in the market. And I'm assuming that there'd be room enough in the case to swap in a meatier videocard in a few years, assuming I stuck with a single card.

And all that said...I've been hearing rumblings about USB 3.0 coming soon. Is that important enough that I ought to wait for it?
May 18, 2010 4:25:26 AM

RAM speed improves overall performance, but seriously at the end of the day if your primary goal for the machine is gaming then the video card is king.
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May 19, 2010 6:02:01 PM

Well firstly, a GTX 260 is a decent card, i have a GTS250 not XFX or SAPPHIRE its a standard graphics card and it plays all my games in maximum quality at 1920x1200 like ModernWarfare2 etc, and a GTX260 is even better, so id go with the better RAM since you dont really need that much of a powerfull graphics card anyway.
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May 20, 2010 4:49:29 AM

I guess its different for different countries.. In India, you can get a studio XPS 8100 only with a GTX260(as in, it is the best they offer), so no 5870 for me :p 

But I recently saw the 7100, with an AMD phenom II X6, and it offers me both - a 5870 and 1333MHz 6GB RAM.

And because its AMD, it's still cheaper than the 8100 with the same configurations.
By the way, do check the power supply of the 8100. As far as I know, it has a 350W power supply, and I'm pretty sure the 5870 needs more.

In case of the USB 3.0 issue, I would like to add that you can get PCIe cards in the market which will fulfill your usb 3.0 requirements, though personally I think it would be better to have a motherboard with usb 3.0 as a facility, and not just an option. :D 
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May 21, 2010 4:55:36 PM

The stock PSU for the 8100 is a 350 watt so you are right, if you put a 5870 in there without a new PSU it wouldn't end well.

Strangely enough, the 7100 with which the 5870 is an option only has a 460w PSU. So while you do get a fairly beefy GPU in that box they probably have to underclock the heck out of it to get it to run. I'd be concerned about long term stability.
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May 24, 2010 8:25:16 AM

As far as I know, dell puts a lower watt psu then what it really is. (460w PSU might be a 550w-600w)
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May 24, 2010 3:28:22 PM

I've heard that mentioned and I don't understand the logic to it. Most companies are very quick to take advantage of any sort of marketing angle to move their products. If Dell was putting 550 or 600w power supply units in their system, you can bet it would be in their marketing literature or technical info.
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Best solution

May 25, 2010 12:05:10 PM

Ignoring all the other chatter, replies to the original question:

USB3 is already available. If dell doesn't have it on offer, you can get a pcie expansion card with a nec usb3 chip on. It's fairly cheap too.

DDR speed is not important unless you want to overclock. I don't know if new dells can even do that, but old ones couldn't. With 1066 memory you cannot overclock, but if the computer can't that isn't a problem.

The graphics cards upgrade offers the best here-and-now boost. I'd either pick that, or be content with a geforce 260.

Fact is, that games are primarily developed for the aging consoles, so directx 11 is not immidiately a mandatory feature, and even the semi old geforce 260 can handle almost all games at reasonable speeds. It's better at AA than ati cards, and supports physx. That said though, current and last generation ati cards are notably faster per dollar than nvidias offerings.

If it was my money and I wanted to keep the system for that long, I would go for a 5850 or geforce 260 at most. Any better/more expensive and you'll not get proper value for your money. And the resale value of both cards will be in the gutter when you have to upgrade anyway. Which you won't have to until the next generation consoles are about to launch.

You're not an enthusiast that upgrades every year and needs/wants 3-4 graphics cards in your system burning wattage. Just get a decent current generation system (or last generation if nvidia), and you'll be quite happy for years to come.


And a tip about something you didn't mention : unless you go am3 or x58 there's a good chance you'll have to ditch your platform before it's time is up. I wouldn't aim for anything more than 5 years, and in 3 years at most I would look at upgrading the cpu to whatever decent 1 year old model is available.
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May 25, 2010 2:47:10 PM

According to Dell (I spoke to them yesterday about the power supply & the HD5870), when you select a system with the HD5870, they install a more powerful PSU for that system.

I suppose the only way to verify it would be to purchase a system. They support person I spoke to also confirmed another typo on their specs that claimed the HDD only had 1.56MB cache. The tech said the drives actually have a 16MB cache.
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July 16, 2010 9:01:16 AM

Best answer selected by buwish.
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