I'm currently running a fairly old Dell Dimension 8100 1.7ghz p4 with 768MB of pc-800 RAM and a GeForce 3 64MB graphics card. Yeah, I know my kung-fu is weak, but what can I say other than that I'm a college student =P.
Anyway, I know I will be running this box (unless it dies on me) until the summer at the earliest, at which point I should be getting a new system (probably not top of the line, but solid). However, I am considering upgrading my graphics card now, as it seems to be the limiting factor for my system's performance. My question is this: does it make more sense to get a marginal upgrade now and upgrade again when I get my new PC, or should I go for something more top of the line now and just cannibalize it from my current box when I get the new one? The main things I am considering are these:
1. What will the limiting factor be? How much of an upgrade do I need to make before it's no longer the graphics card on my current system?
2. Just how beefy are the top of the line graphics cards anyway? I've heard that the top of the line stuff is pretty much beyond the current top of the line systems in general (for say, Doom 3 or Half Life 2).
3. How much of a net savings would I make by either path? It's entirely concievable that the top of the line card now would be more expensive than the same card 7-9 months from now plus a more modest card now. I haven't followed 3d card tech over the last few years since I knew I wouldn't be upgrading anytime soon, so I don't really know how the markets have been fluctuating.
Any and all advice as to what the most efficient path would be is most welcome!
1. What's limiting you depends on what software you're running. Are we talking Doom3? Then a graphics card would make the most difference. Are we talking Lock On: Modern Air Combat? A CPU is what you need.
2. The new cards are pretty amazing. That doesn't mean they're useless on a 2 Ghz machine though; once again, it depends on the game.
3. The most net savings?
OK, recommending something for you isn't easy, because both your graphics card and system are holding you back.
Here's what I'd do if you're upgrading on the cheep (it requires much tinkering with stuff, but that is good for you!):
1. Get yourself a nice Radeon 9550 (make sure it's got 128-bit memory) and overclock it to Radeon 9600 PRO speeds.
2. Your system ram is good, but that 1.7 Ghz CPU is really holding you back.
The good news: you can buy a socket 423 to 478 processor adapter for the dimension 8100 for $28:
The FSB of Dell Dimension 8100 is set at FSB 400MHz which can't be change, but you can get one of the P4 processors based on FSB 400MHz available at 2.0AGHz, 2.2GHz, 2.4AGHz, 2.5GHz, 2.6GHz, 2.8GHz. Not too shabby!
Socket 478 2.2 Ghz can be had new for $120, a 2.6 can be had for $147 on pricewatch. You're in business!
Cost for 2.2 CPU and adapter: $148
<b>Total cost for 2.2 CPU and Radeon 9550: ~$208</b>
Actually, I don't know if I'd bother with the CPU if you plan to upgrade your whole system next year, but the Radeon 9550 is a good bet if you want something to tie you over.
Remember, you can get about ~$20 for your Geforce3 on ebay, and your 1.7 will get you ~$50! So your total cost would come down to ~$138 with the CPU and card.