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Gentlemen, lend me your ears...

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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January 11, 2004 12:11:01 AM

Hi!

I am about to blow all my cash on an upgrade for Halflife 2. I have about 450 UKP or 830 USD to spend and I am planning on making this upgrade last for a while.

I currently have:

2Ghz AMD Athlon
Gigabyte GA7VAXP Mobo
512 MB PC133 RAM (I hope its pc133, though I'm not sure)
XFX Geforce 4 ti4200
SB live 1024

I am thinking of buying the following:

1) A sappire (they seem to be priced well and get decent reviews) Radeon 9800 128MB (probably not pro or XT because I hear that the performance increase is quite slight, however if the performance increase per dollar (or pound) is worth it I'd be happy to spend the extra) Also I see that the sappire "all in wonder" 9800's are priced quite a bit higher than the regular ones, but can't seem to find out why. Any thoughts?

2) A new motherboard with 8X AGP for the 9800 & onboard LAN & maybe the new nvidia APU. Any recomendations? I can't seem to find good advice for buying new motherboards and I don't want to gamble. I want this to be my most well worked out upgrade ever!

3) (If not decent onboard sound) A turtle beach santa cruz sound card, because I am begining to wonder if creative labs really are the way to go.

That should leave me with a bit of cash to spare. Any suggestions on where it would be best spent? Anything I really should be spending more on? Aside from beer and pot?

Sorry if this seems like a bit of a ramble, but I'd like to make this upgrade last and am keen to spend my money wisely. I value your help, even if its just posting a URL to some source of information I have missed.

I want Halflife 2 to *gleam*. Then I will be truly happy.

thanks!

Also (I nearly forgot!) any cooling suggestions for the 9800, considering that I have shaky hands and bad eyesight :) ?<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by eyemessiah on 01/10/04 09:56 PM.</EM></FONT></P>

More about : gentlemen lend ears

January 11, 2004 1:32:29 AM

1. You may just be able to overclock the 9800 pro to XT standards, and maybe a non-pro to pro standards. The all-in-wonder cards give you TV card capabilties. So you can record TV to your computer. At least that is what I think I have heard...

2. Don't know

3. I have no experience but have heard that the Audigy 2 is the best, I know that there are lots of different versions, and I have no recommendations there...

Anxiously awaiting prescott....is it here yet?
January 11, 2004 3:36:09 AM

Wait till HL2 comes out, new cards will come out and the 9800Pro/XT's price will come down. Or you could get a newer card then...ATi's R420 is rumored to have twice the power of the 9700Pro.

If you really want to upgrade, a new motherboard, RAM and CPU would help in the meantime. It should also leave money leftover and time (to save more) for a kickass GPU/VPU in Q2.

No sense in buying an upgrade for something that isn't out (especially when a LOT of new stuff is coming out soon).

Maxtor disgraces the six letters that make Matrox.
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a b U Graphics card
January 11, 2004 6:05:11 AM

1.) good idea. You don't need an All In Wonder, all it does is add a TV-Tuner and remove the second VGA output.

2.) Abit NF7-S is well priced

3.) NF7-S has nForce APU.

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January 11, 2004 7:03:59 AM

1) I recomend you not buy a video card till one of two things happen. One, wait till HL2 comes out and has been reviewed so you can see how it performs. And/or two, wait till the next generation of video cards comes out this year.

2) My last 2 motherboards have been Asus and I have been very pleased with both of them so natrually I can only recomend you buy Asus. Also Asus has 3 year warrenty on both its Motherboards and Video cards.

3) I've yet to hear onboard sound that worked as well as my Soundblaster Live! Value card so I dunno what mobos have best onboard sound.
January 11, 2004 7:52:13 AM

personally id say

A64 xp3000+ about £160
asus k8v deluxe £110
Corsair XMS 512Mb DDR 400MHz PC3200 Cas 2 - Low Latency Platinum
£99.88
Creative Labs Audigy 2 LS £51.41 then wait till april as was said there should be new cards coming out
i use my onboard sound as the asus board has an spdif out which ive hooked up to my amp just in case you have one
January 11, 2004 8:30:29 AM

Are you sure about your mobo? The GA-7VAXP is a kt400 mobo. It can use DDR-400, has 8X agp and supports 333 fsb cpus? Is your proc an xp2000, an xp2400@ 2ghz or some other cpu @2 ghz? If you have an xp2000 on the GA-7VAXP mobo, you might want to grab an xp2500 and up the fsb to 177 or so, maybe even try it at 200. The kt400 is not an nvidia chipset, but it is still new enough.
January 11, 2004 4:25:55 PM

if you're not going with soundstorm, the nvidia APU, then get the turtle beach santa cruz, not creative crap. too many driver problems

do you have good speakers or headphones? because if not then you won't even be able to enjoy the sound

----------------------------------------------
this signature area is too dern short, no space to put your system specs
a b U Graphics card
January 11, 2004 5:23:21 PM

Just my opinion, but you have a nice system! The GA-7VAXP is a very nice mobo with AGP8X support, DDR400 support, USB2.0, ATA133 Raid, IEEE 1394. You have the Fastest KT400 Mobo available! I've used many of them. It uses PC2100, 2700, or 3200 DDR not PC133. You'd have to check what you have as you want PC2700 minimum and PC3200 minimum if you overclock. With bios ver F11 or newer you can put a Barton XP2500+, XP2800+, XP3000+ on it. And with that Dual bios and Gigabytes utility, you will have a simple time doing the bios upgrade. Just do not buy the XP3200+ (400 bus). If I were you I'd forget the mobo and just upgrade to an XP2500+ (or XP3000+) and when HL2 comes out look for a nice deal on a Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB. Or buy an XT that comes with HL2.

ABIT IS7, P4 2.6C, 512MB Corsair TwinX PC3200LL, Radeon 9500 Pro, Santa Cruz, Antec 1000AMG, TruePower 430watt
January 12, 2004 3:24:58 AM

>1. You may just be able to overclock the 9800 pro to XT
>standards, and maybe a non-pro to pro standards.

Great news. So I could save a few bucks there. Has anyone had much success overclocking the XTs?

>The all-
>in-wonder cards give you TV card capabilties. So you can
>record TV to your computer. At least that is what I think
>I have heard...

I see. I can quite happily do with out that.

>3. I have no experience but have heard that the Audigy 2
>is the best, I know that there are lots of different
>versions, and I have no recommendations there...

Yeah I have heard the same. However, I have had problems with creative cards in the past, and also heard that the audigy range suffer from some of the old problems. This may or may not be true, but I feel like maybe it time to try a different manufacturer anyway...

thanks,
January 12, 2004 3:37:02 AM

>Wait till HL2 comes out, new cards will come out and the
>9800Pro/XT's price will come down.

Anyone like to hazard a guess at how much?

> Or you could get a newer card then...ATi's R420 is
> rumored to have twice the power of the 9700Pro.

Wow.

http://www.geek.com/news/geeknews/2003Dec/bch2003121902...

Suggest these could be comming out around march. Just in time for HL2 I suppose.

>If you really want to upgrade, a new motherboard, RAM and
>CPU would help in the meantime.

Well thats the silly thing really. My machine is chugging along just fine. The only thing that gave it pause for thought recently was DXIW, and it was still very playable at about 30fps in 800x600. I had got used to high fps in four figure resolutions though, and the sudden drop made me start to worry about HL2 performance.

>No sense in buying an upgrade for something that isn't out
>(especially when a LOT of new stuff is coming out soon).

This is true. I hadn't realised that the release date had slipped so far now. Plently time I suppose.

thanks,
January 12, 2004 3:45:10 AM

> 1) I recomend you not buy a video card till one of two
> things happen. One, wait till HL2 comes out and has been
> reviewed so you can see how it performs. And/or two, wait
> till the next generation of video cards comes out this
> year.

:)  Unusually thrifty advice from a computer component message board. I expected you all you to tell me to spend as much as possible as quickly as possible :) 

When are we expecting this then? Does march sound realistic?

> 3) I've yet to hear onboard sound that worked as well as
> my Soundblaster Live! Value card so I dunno what mobos
> have best onboard sound.

I haven't *heard* the nforce APU, but I have heard very promising things about it. I have had plenty of bad experiences with onboard sound, but with its fancy APU the nforce chips supposedly perform as well as a discrete sound card without taking up a slot e.t.c.

Sounds good to me:) 
January 12, 2004 3:51:00 AM

>A64 xp3000+ about £160
>asus k8v deluxe £110
>Corsair XMS 512Mb DDR 400MHz PC3200 Cas 2 - Low Latency
>Platinum £99.88
>Creative Labs Audigy 2 LS £51.41 then wait till april as
>was said there should be new cards coming out

Sounds good to me, but the problem is that if I spend all my money now I am not likely to have enough by april to buy a graphics card. Which is why I was hoping to save my CPU and RAM. I am a graduate with massive debt and minimal income, and this is me spending the last money I am going to have for a while. However, by the time the new cards come out, I might be able to buy all the stuff you reccomend, and afford a nice new 3d card if prices come down a bit.

Just have to hide this money from my creditors for a few more months :) 
thanks,
January 12, 2004 3:56:33 AM

>Are you sure about your mobo?

No :) 

It turns out that I have the GA-7VAX, and my bro has the vaxp. My mistake. I am glad he has a decent mobo though :) 

> Is your proc an xp2000, an xp2400@ 2ghz or some other cpu
> @2 ghz?

Its a "says 2ghz on the box", but actually rates at 1737 or something wierd like that. Are the HL2 generation of uber-pixel-shading games likely to need more processing than my chip can provide? Buying a new CPU is dead easy though and pretty cheap per hz compared to a few years ago though!

thanks,
January 12, 2004 4:01:55 AM

> if you're not going with soundstorm, the nvidia APU, then
> get the turtle beach santa cruz, not creative crap. too
> many driver problems

Turtle beach was what I was thinking too. I went through a few creatives in the last few years and they were all a bit flaky. I'd like something solid and reliable that won't randomly try to deafen me with insane static screeching or wierd popping noises :) 

> do you have good speakers or headphones? because if not
> then you won't even be able to enjoy the sound

No I have cheapos. I'd be pleased enough if I could get a card I could rely on. Is it worth getting surround sound? Do many games make good use of it? I have a DVD player with a 6 speaker set up and I'm not even that impressed by the way movies make use of it!

thanks,
January 12, 2004 4:07:34 AM

> Just my opinion, but you have a nice system! The GA-7VAXP > is a very nice mobo

Thats it settled. I am going to steal my bros VAXP and swap it for my VAX :) 

Otherwise I will pass the advice onto him because when I show him these HL2 previews movies I just downloaded he is going to want to upgrade too. :) 

thanks,
a b U Graphics card
January 12, 2004 2:05:44 PM

Your GA-7VAX is basically just as good as your brothers VAXP but without the RAID. It will support the same CPU's and is just as fast. Seriously, consider Keeping that motherboard and upgrading your CPU, Video Card, and Ram if need be. A GA-7VAX, Radeon 9800 Pro, 512MB PC3200, XP2500+ (overclockable to XP3200+ settings in many cases depending on mobo and RAM)you will be all set for HL2, Doom 3 or anything else in 2004. Also note, I bet with those upgrades, your gaming machine would be faster than 90% of the people posting here.

Look at his Motherboards specs, why would people recommend he upgarde his Motherboard: If it has been a stable board keep it.
http://www.giga-byte.com/MotherBoard/Products/Products_...

ABIT IS7, P4 2.6C, 512MB Corsair TwinX PC3200LL, Radeon 9500 Pro, Santa Cruz, Antec 1000AMG, TruePower 430watt
January 12, 2004 2:11:15 PM

Was not impressed with OC on 9800XT. But I used stock kooling.
a b U Graphics card
January 12, 2004 10:33:24 PM

I read this again, and can't stress that if you are a graduate with massive debt and limited income, who wants a computer to play HL2, now is not the time to upgrade. Look for a deal on a Radeon 9800 Pro. Currently under $275 US. Your Motherboard is too good to replace unless you have unlimited income or a real need for more speed like Video editing!!! Keep the XP2000+ and your memory until after getting the new video card and determining whether HL2 is running up to your desires. Prices will go down, and you can later buy an XP2500+, XP2800+, XP3000+ depending on the prices then. The 2500+ is the best deal still now. ($90 retail). Look into the exact Ram in your system. It is DDR not PC133. If it is PC2100 (DDR266) you will want to upgrade that when you replace the cpu. If it is PC2700 or faster you will be all set. Why spend $800 for a game that isn't out yet? With a Radeon 9800 Pro you will be fine, and you have a system that can be upgraded beyond that too. So if Doom3 doesn't run as good as you want it to, buy a CPU then.

I shouldn't care if you waste your money, but it is driving me nuts that you feel you need to upgrade now for HL2 when your current system is so good. Maybe because I have built many GA-7VAX machines for people and they were decent gaming machines. I have a GA-7VAX in my home LAN with an XP2100+ and Ti4200. It is plenty fast for now with room to improve. Even someone with a GA-7VRX(P) KT333 is fine for now and they top out with a 266 bus chip, basically the XP2400+.

It's your money, but remember an NForce 2 with a Barton is only 5-10% faster than a KT400 with the same Barton in mosts tests. I hope someone else jumps in and backs me up here as you want alot more than you will need for HL2. And with the money you save not buying a mobo, you can buy that Santa Cruz (currently half price at $40 retail at Compusa) and either good headphones or some nice logitec z340 2.1 or z560 5.1 speakers. Or better yet put it toward the massive debt. :) 

ABIT IS7, P4 2.6C, 512MB Corsair TwinX PC3200LL, Radeon 9500 Pro, Santa Cruz, Antec 1000AMG, TruePower 430watt
January 13, 2004 12:59:34 AM

Wait for the game to come out. I know the money is burning a hole in your pocket, but you really should upgrade AFTER the reviews for the game are made and the game is on the market.

_________________________________________
<font color=red><b>ElectroDwarf loves Americans!</b></font color=red>
January 13, 2004 5:02:32 AM

>Was not impressed with OC on 9800XT. But I used stock
>kooling.

Whats the problem?

Instability?

I expect it runs pretty hot even at default speeds :) 

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by eyemessiah on 01/13/04 07:11 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
January 13, 2004 5:53:57 AM

>I read this again, and can't stress that if you are a
> graduate with massive debt and limited income, who wants
> a computer to play HL2, now is not the time to upgrade.

Roger. I can see that now. I guess I just got sucked into the whole "upgrade for HL2 & D]I[" hysteria. That and I got a crappy score in the new 3dmark :) 

Also, I blew enough dust off my mobo today to discover that it is infact a VAXP! I got suspicious when you mentioned RAID because I knew that I had that on my board.

Come to think of it I only thought I needed to toss out my mobo because on the web-based-performance comparisons thingy that 3dmark does it listed my AGP speed as 4x, which of course is the speed of the ti4200, not the maximum speed of the mobo itself. Silly me, I should have gone to the gigabyte website.

> Look for a deal on a Radeon 9800 Pro. Currently under
> $275 US.

Haha...

A quick comparison shop offers a sapphire atlantis 9800 pro 128 mb for 250 pounds, which is more like 460 USD!

We really do get screwed over gfx card prices in the UK.

> Keep the XP2000+ and your memory until after getting the
> new video card and determining whether HL2 is running up
> to your desires. Prices will go down, and you can later
> buy an XP2500+, XP2800+, XP3000+ depending on the prices

I think this is good advice. :) 

I wasn't going to upgrade my cpu because on the 3dmark performance comparisons pages, people with pretty much the same system as me + a 9800 were getting something like 6x+ better scores. But I suppose if I don't have to toss out my mobo then a cpu upgrade is fairly cheap and easy. Except for getting the catch on the heat sink down over the clip on the cpu seat without breaking something. That often seems tricky to me :) 

> It is DDR not PC133.

Quite true, my mistake.

> If it is PC2100 (DDR266) you will want to upgrade that
> when you replace the cpu. If it is PC2700 or faster you
> will be all set.

It is indeed 2100. I will sell it to my bro when I upgrade and replace it with some 2700+. As he is my younger brother he is prohibited by law from having a better comp than me. Therefore I sell him all my old stuff. That and he would not be safe with brand new components. A wee while ago I sold him my 1gig Athlon + mobo + 256mb ram + gf3 and one day he ran into his room and slipped on a magazine and effectivley dropkicked his machine while it was on, killing the gf3, the mobo and the ram! He is very unlucky. He rebuilt his machine temporarily with very old bits and pieces that were lying about the flat, but could only get his machine to run stably by balancing the case at about a 45 degree angle! :)  All this is true...

> Why spend $800 for a game that isn't out yet?

Yeah. The only game I am actually playing at the moment is DX1 so it would have been overkill! Really I just wanted to see the nature scene in 3dmark.

> I shouldn't care if you waste your money, but it is
> driving me nuts that you feel you need to upgrade now for
> HL2

Yeah I fell prey to the hype and "upgrade now!" propaganda. Thanks to everyone for getting my feet back on the ground!

> And with the money you save not buying a mobo, you can
> buy that Santa Cruz (currently half price at $40 retail
> at Compusa)

Hrm... I just did a few quick searches on UK component sites and there doesnt seem to be a single santa cruz in sight! I will try on the sounds cards board to see if anyone has any experience of buying them in the UK. That said US shipping usually isn't to pricy though...

> and either good headphones or some nice logitec z340 2.1
> or z560 5.1 speakers. Or better yet put it toward the
> massive debt. :) 

Haha. It will be speakers then! I owe somewhere in the region of 10k which is like 18000 dollars! Its going to take me some time to pay all that off so I need stuff to play with in the meantime. And once you get the spending done, between mainting, modding, overclocking and actually using your computer to play games you can get quite a lot of relatively cheap entertainment out of it. Once I get it upraded, I expect to only have to spend the odd bit on a fan here, or a game there and it will keep me going at no further expense for at least a year and a half. And tossing stuff about with that tractor beam type gun in HL2 looks worth the price of the upgrade on its own!

thanks again,
January 13, 2004 9:56:03 AM

Here is something you might check around for. Amd started locking the multipliers on thier xp2500 a while back. If you can find one of the old stock ( unlocked version) jump on it. They seem quite happy running at 2.2 gigs +, which is not too bad for a 50 quid bit of silicon.
January 13, 2004 3:13:34 PM

For gaming creative sounds cards are very very nice. For a serious audiophile they're not quite up to snuff, although the audigy 2 platinum is definetly a step ahead of the norm. Check out the sound card forum here for some suggestions from audiophiles (which, I'm not.) I do know the turtlebeach is pretty good.

The onboard sound on the nforce2 boards tends to be pretty good, but not quite as good as an audigy2. Shrug. It's still damn good especially being as its price is included in the board.

<A HREF="http://www.lochel.com/THGC/html/shadus.html" target="_new">Shadus</A>
a b U Graphics card
January 14, 2004 2:22:39 AM

Ouch on those UK prices. Sorry, didn't mean to rub in in. Hope you find some good deals sometime though.


ABIT IS7, P4 2.6C, 512MB Corsair TwinX PC3200LL, Radeon 9500 Pro, Santa Cruz, Antec 1000AMG, TruePower 430watt
!