Best Gaming Performance Upgrade

I'm a bit of a cheapskate. I don't have money to throw around. So, I bought a Dell 531. Since I had a monitor, speakers, mouse, keyboard...I just got a refurb tower. Works very well and I am quite pleased. Yes, it is limited (no bios changes and the cases are a bit small), but I was able to add a Antec TruePower 550W PS and a MSI 8800 GTS 320mb vid card (got new off ebay for $150).

So, here is where I stand:

1) The processor is an AMD x2 4000+ (2.1ghz). If I step up to the 5200+ or 5600+, would I see a dramatic performance increase in games like CS:S, DOD:S, Crysis (if I decide to purchase it), COD4.
2) Is the 5600+ (with a 2mb L2 cache) that much better?
3) I have 3gb of 667mhz ram. Will 800mhz ram make a big gaming/performance difference?

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  1. The CPU is probably holding your GPU back a little, but I don't think you'll see a night and day difference unless you get a 6000+. Anything less would probably be a waste of money, but it's up to you. As for the RAM, I doubt that would impact your gaming much, if any at all.
  2. Didn't think the RAM speed would matter much. But I am reading alot about the processor speed holding back the GPU. Since the 6000+ just dropped to $170, I might as well spend the extra $40 and go for that. Now I have to decided if I need to replace the stock cooler. Finding a cooler that will fix/work on this Dell will take some investigation.

    Thanks for the response. I spend $60 on 2gb of 667mhz RAM and I didn't want to feel like it was a waste. Looking back, I should have bought 800mhz, but just didnt think it through.
  3. So I say..."why not?" Right now, on, you can get the 6000+ for $159. Thats a sick price. I also got a Zalman 9500 LED cooler. There are some nice Blue LED lights built into the rig already.

    Based on about 10 benchmarks and other game tests, I could see a 20-30 FPS boost across the board, as well as greater overall PC performance.

    So, instead of getting RAM and the 5400+ or 5600+, I went with the 6000+ and a better cooler!

    Down the road, I will go for the 4gb of 800mhz RAM.

  4. Nice! That Zalman is rather large though, hope it fits. Then you're in business. :D
  5. AMD's AM2 CPUs are much more sensitive to memory speed than intel, in fact if you utilize DDR2 667 vs 800 you would see a drop of anywhere between 5-15% performance of your CPU (On average in games it's usually around 10%), which under my eyes is an unnecessary loss of precious performance.

    I'd say the best thing you can do is get DDR2 800 ram and wait until a new CPU comes out (And as things are looking like now, I'm not referring to the Phenom... AT ALL)
  6. I read some posts on Dell Forums specific to my system. Several people have added this exact cooler. If it doesn't look like it will fit, I will send it back. I read another posts saying the factory installed works just fine. Based on the size specs and requirements, its about the same size as my current cooler, and my current cooler has a little wiggle room. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    I hear ya on the RAM, and thought about it. But at the end of the day, if I can increase my CPU speed by almost a full GHZ, that would show far more benefit. Yes, I will loose some performance. And eventually I will kick it up to 800mhz.

    As for waiting, I have read the next generation of AMD processors will have a new socket type (AM3/AM2+). What I have read about the Phenom so far didn't impress me much.

    For $159, I can bump my current processor 900 mhz... That sounds good to me.
  7. Yeah, do the CPU upgrade. The ram can wait. I am not saying you won't see ANY benefit from getting DDR2 800 Ram (or more of it, 4 gig). But, I bet you won't see more than a 5% increase in performance, if even that much, if you got the faster ram. Unless you are specifically trying to up your scores in synthetic benchmarks, you wouldn't even notice the difference, either.
  8. i would upgrade both memory and cpu and as far as cpu goes....get the 6000+. i find that corsair memory works nicely with amds.
  9. both? this guy is trying to keep the upgrades cheap. the 8800GTs just came out. you could buy a factory overclocked one for about $260. shame you can't change multipliers on the dell mobo or i'd say stock cooler plus the fastest 65nm black edition processor you can afford. it'll stay cool and quiet and be alot faster. All things being equal, check the specs on that BIOS/mobo to make sure a 6000+/6400+ will be supported. these days its not so much an issue but you never know...
  10. No, just upgrade the CPU, the ram will not help that much. Like everyone else said, the CPU will bottleneck your GPU, so focus on getting the best CPU for your money, and you should see a noticable increase in FPS. Good luck.
  11. Well, I got the processor last night. Not sure how it got here so fast. Installed it last night... All I can say is WOW!

    1) It does work. I even put in the heat sink/fan that came with CPU (better construction and obvioulsy built for that CPU). I have got NO warning errors/startup issues like some Dell owner report with non-Dell fans. The only "issue" would be the fan speed changing pretty frequently. I can hear is change speed. Is that normal? Do I have to worry? Should I check the connection? The temp of the procssor was 33c idle and 45c when gaming for over an hour.

    2) Just a couple of figures to throw at you....
    - CS:S was averaging 70 FPS, now im at 110.
    - DOD:S was 55 FPS, now im 101 (peak fps before was 155, now its 216!!!!)
    - COD:4 loads insanely fast. Runs so freaking smooth. Dont have a FPS number, but I can see the difference. There is no lag whatsoever.

    3) I OC'd my MSI 8800 GTS 320mb to 640 core clock, 940 mem clock. Its running a bit hot (65c), so I am going to tone it down now that I am getting much better performance now.

    So, if the changing fan speed isnt an issue, then I am set. Wow am I set. I have these games cranked up to max settings as well.

    At the end of the day.... $265 for the Dell, $50 for the Antec TruePower 550w PS (with MIR), $150 for the Vid Card, $60 for the extra 2gb of ram, $150 for the processor. $665 for this kind of performance! Don't know if you can top that. BTW, the Dell came with a 16x DVD/RW, Roxio Burning Software, and Windows Vista Premium, and a 250gb 7200 rpm drive. It was a return Dell. Why spend $500 for it new when you can get a return for 1/2 the price!!!!!!!!!!

    Again, if the fan isnt an issue, I am EXTREMELY happy.

    Thanks again all!!!
  12. Glad to hear that the upgrade was worth it.

    As for the fan speed, the new CPU is probably running hotter than the old one. Do you have any fan settings in your bios? Otherwise, you could try a program like Speedfan (though I haven't used it in Vista, so I don't know if it will work for you). With Speedfan, you can set the fan speeds and the "danger" points a little higher, so the fan will hopefully kick in not as much.
  13. I tried installing Speedfan last night. It will work with Vista, but won't work on a Dell unless it auto-detects your Mobo. It didn't read any of the sensors at all.

    HMonitor did. But it only picked up CPU1 and CPU2. Nice thing was, at times, you could see that there might be a slight difference in each CPU temp, and the temps were changing based on load.

    The BIOS is basically locked. You can change a couple things, but very little.

    Now, Dell has released a brand new BIOS upgrade. But I am a little scared to run it. And not sure if it will allow any additional access to things like voltage, fan speeds, etc etc. I know there are some CPU settings available (Cool 'n Quiet).

    I guess at the end of the day, the change in speed could be a little annoying, but is anything at risk of being damaged? I play my games with headphones on, so really, I never hear it.

  14. I bet it's just Smart Fan in the BIOS changing fan speed as CPU temp increases. If anything this should prevent damage.
  15. Well that sounds great! Then, this was a fantastic upgrade that worked out. Only problem with Dells... You cannot guarantee this success for every 531 owner. The model number on the board is ASUS, which might be the reason I had great success.

    However, I really think Dell is coming around. I was able to install a non-Dell PS, non-Dell RAM, a pretty nice vid card, a new CPU and a non-Dell CPU Fan with NO issues!

    If Dell is smart, they would start making more PCs like this. You would grab more customers like me. Those who enjoy a solid performing PC who don't want to spend a TON of money, yet, down the road or right off the bat, want to put some mods on it.

    I am very happy. Again, thank you all for the feedback. The online community here and on Dell's site have been such a huge help for an intermediate nerd like myself!

  16. Yeah, I'm happy to hear they aren't using all proprietary parts like HP. It's always nice to be able to go outside your retailer to get parts should one fail (or in your case, just want to upgrade w/o buying a whole new PC). That's why I got some family friends to stop buying HP because if something went bad... they had to wait 3+ weeks for a replacement part when it should take 3 days.

    I'm glad to see how well everything went though. Enjoy the new parts! :D
  17. Thanks! I priced my rig directly through Dell. $1009 WITHOUT tax or shipping. They HAMMER you on RAM. $250 for a 2gb upgrade (2x1gb). Thats insane. You can buy the same lower-end Crucial RAM (no heatsinks) for $25 right now.

    I can't wait for the wife to go to bed tonight! I know that sounds bad. But thats when I get to game.

    Later on!
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