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Old 12-25-2005, 04:03 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Looking to upgrade...

Alright, with this year's Christmas money having come in, I'm looking at my options for upgrading my computer. But, honestly, I have no idea what's good, let alone what is a good price/performance compromise! So, I'm hoping for a little input.

Right now, I am running on a GeForce3, an Athlon T-bird 1.4GHz CPU on an MSI K7Master mobo, and 512MB DDR RAM.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough to get a new mobo, CPU, AND GPU. So, the first question is, do I get a new CPU/mobo or do I get a new GPU first? It will likely be at least 6 months to a year before I can get which ever part I don't get now. One other thing to keep in mind is that the AGP slot on my current mobo is 4x, so it seems to me getting a new GPU now instead of a new CPU/mobo would be the less effective route.

Note: I'm speaking in terms of gaming and other video intensive things, such as watching hi-res HDTV video files (the 700MB/hour ones). When it comes to the other things I do on my computer - browsing the internet, writing papers when I'm not procrastinating, etc, my current setup is obviously decent enough Let's put it this way: I'd like to be able to play Doom 3 and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with reasonable graphics settings after my upgrade and be able to play them with high graphics settings after completing the second phase (whichever part that may be).

So, do I go for a CPU/mobo upgrade first or a GPU upgrade first?

Second, if I should go for a CPU/mobo upgrade first, what are your recommendations? I know that I want an AMD processor. What I don't know is if I want to go 64-bit or not, nor do I know what is really considered a reasonable price/performance compromise these days.

A few things to note: I would like any part I get to be able to last 3+ years with livable performance. I'm a patient person, and I've lived with my 1.4GHz and GeForce2/3 (made the switch to 3 last year for free) machine for about 4 years now. The performance is only recently starting to bother me as it is only recently that most new games are simply not playable on it. Another thing to keep in mind regarding the mobo is that I have no interest in SLI. By the time I'm capable of utilizing any SLI capabilities, I'll need a new mobo and CPU anyway. PCI-e is not particularly important to me either. If I can choose between two comparable motherboards, only one has PCI-e and the other doesn't (and is cheaper), I'd go for the cheaper one. Since I plan on utilizing the parts I get in this upgrade for 3+ years, I can get whatever my next GPU will be in AGP and by the time I get one after that, I'll likely need a new mobo and CPU again anyway.

So, what's the word on the mobo market? What's a good balance between price and performance?

Hope that's enough info to get some helpful responses...if you need any more, just ask, and I appreciate the help

EDIT: Oh, and I have no interest in overclocking.
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Last edited by SecretMethod70; 12-25-2005 at 04:08 AM..
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Old 12-25-2005, 04:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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You may have a tough time stretching a new video card another three years. In three years everyone will be using PCI-Express and the old AGP cards simply will not be able to keep up.

I don't know what kind of budget you have, but my suggestion would be to gut it. Get yourself a rock solid motherboard (processor make of your choice, although I generally prefer AMD for towers and Intel for laptops) and couple it with the cheapest cpu and RAMyou can find for it and a budget model video card (sub-$100). Even the current budget cards ought to outpace your GF3 in terms of performance and by building around the motherboard instead of buying the motherboard to suit your other components you'll allow yourself the greatest amount of flexibility.

I've always done well by ASUS boards. My local shop will sell me an A8N-E, an Athlon 64 3000 and an ATI X300 for under $400 CDN. The board gives you all the latest standards (socket 939, PCI-E x16, etc) and the bare bones components on those standards clock in pretty cheap, giving you a nice performance boost and allowing you to upgrade as needed (and as cash on hand allows). You should be able to get similar components in the brands of your choice at around the same price, expecting $400 CDN to equate to about $300 US.
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:10 AM   #3 (permalink)
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What's your price range? Many people say they don't have a big budget and don't expect a good computer, yet their price range is $1000-$1500 USD, which in reality will buy an incredibly good PC.
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Old 12-25-2005, 06:24 AM   #4 (permalink)
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No, the most I'm looking to spend is about $500...really not enough to really upgrade every component, just either the video card (on which I'd like to go no lower than an nvidia 6800) or the CPU/mobo. (Sorry, forgot to mention how much I was looking to spend)

As for the parts lasting me three years, remember, I'm only just now getting impatient with my GeForce3. I realize every part I get now will almost certainly be on its last legs 3 years from now (relative to what the market looks like). It's much easier for me to go big now (and again when I finish upgrading the rest within the year) and live with it for a few years than make a bunch of small, cheap upgrades every year.
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Old 12-26-2005, 12:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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What about your DDR memory; How fast is it? Most new CPU's work best with DDR400 or even DDR2. DDR266 or 333 will probably work, but should lower the overall performance.

...or where you planning on getting new memory too?

(Some personal experience with graphic cards: I bought a radeon 9800 pro about 18 months ago. At that time it wasn't the best of the best, but close. At this time, I have to turn down some visual eyecandy in modern games. I doubt I'll be able to keep it going for a full 3 years... I don't think a Nvidia 6800 will do much better.)

(Oh, and Doom 3 runs fine here. I dread oblivion, though.)

Last edited by Dragonlich; 12-26-2005 at 12:15 AM..
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Old 12-26-2005, 03:11 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Good point about the memory I only have 512 anyway, so it wouldn't hurt to upgrade it in the first place, but memory isn't really that cheap. Worst thing would be if I had to use my old memory and upgrade that later as well, but if I can significantly upgrade the CPU, mobo, and mem in $400-500, that would be great.

As for the video card thing...do you think games advance at a much faster rate now than they have for the past 4 years. I suppose they probably do, so I guess my overall point is that I'd like to be able to stretch as much life out of whatever I upgrade to as possible.
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Old 12-27-2005, 12:14 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SecretMethod70
...

As for the video card thing...do you think games advance at a much faster rate now than they have for the past 4 years. I suppose they probably do, so I guess my overall point is that I'd like to be able to stretch as much life out of whatever I upgrade to as possible.
Games advance at a faster rate because video cards advance at a faster rate. Back in the olde days, when you bought your GF3, there wasn't really any other choice. A lot has changed since; we now have competition, which forces videocard makers to improve their cards continually. The games take advantage of that. And once in a while, Microsoft creates a new DirectX version, with more features, which will only run properly on the latest cards.

(Case in point: when playing Call of Duty 2 with my 9800 pro, I can choose to have it run on DirectX 7 and DirectX 9. With similar detail levels, DirectX 7 runs fine at 1024x768, while DirectX 9 only has decent framerates at 640x480.)

My advice (for what it's worth): only think about getting videocards that run the latest DirectX version. In that segment, get a card that gives good value for money. If you were in Euroland: most decent cards (used to) cost between 150 and 250 euros. You do the math.
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Old 12-27-2005, 01:38 AM   #8 (permalink)
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yeah, I'm planning on the video card costing about 250-300 dollars, which is another reason I figure it's best to upgrade the other components first. They'll (theoretically) last longer and I think provide a greater overall improvement to my computing experience (albeit, while not improving gameplay all that much for the time being).

So, any recommendations? I'm not really sure how important it is to get a 64-bit processor these days (keep in mind I'll be using the same processor for at least a couple years). How much stuff really takes advantage of it right now? Is an Athlon64 3000+ considered slow these days? Again, I don't know. When I got my 1.4GHz processor, it was considered pretty fast - the AthlonXP didn't even come out until about 4 months later.
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Old 12-27-2005, 06:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
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The 64-bit processor really won't be useful now - there aren't enough 64-bit native drivers to support all of your hardware, so for the most part you'll be running them in 32-bit emulation mode, and none of the games (that I can think of) are compiled for 64-bit, so tehy'll also be in 32-bit mode.

The 64-bit processors are nice, yes - and I have several friends who have 64-bit gaming machines, but you can get the same performance out of your typical high-end 32-bit machine, at the moment.
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Old 12-27-2005, 03:11 PM   #10 (permalink)
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500 is plenty to replace all 3 and get new memory, as long as you don't try to go bleeding edge. Try this layout straight from newegg:

AMD Athlon 64 3200+.....................................................$162
DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D mobo.................................$132
PNY Geforce 6600GT 128MB.............................................$122
CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB DDR 400 ram (Dual Channel)....$76

Total:$492

and thats just with a quick look and 1 bundle deal (cpu/gpu). If you take some time, you might be able to come up with an even better configuration for that kinda cash. Good luck to ya, I'm going through the same process myself.
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:05 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikilidstrom
500 is plenty to replace all 3 and get new memory, as long as you don't try to go bleeding edge. Try this layout straight from newegg:

AMD Athlon 64 3200+.....................................................$162
DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D mobo.................................$132
PNY Geforce 6600GT 128MB.............................................$122
CORSAIR ValueSelect 1GB DDR 400 ram (Dual Channel)....$76

Total:$492

and thats just with a quick look and 1 bundle deal (cpu/gpu). If you take some time, you might be able to come up with an even better configuration for that kinda cash. Good luck to ya, I'm going through the same process myself.


New egg is one hell of a good site but i wouldnt bother with a DFI motherboard thats a bit pricy. get a gigabyte motherboard from them good brand low price. If not gigabyte a asus would be a good choice. The few extra features are most likely not going to be anything you would use. spend about $75 on one and put another $50 into a better video card or a slightly better processor. Corsair valueselect ram is great btw. just put two gig of it into the system i just built. ( all ordered from newegg) If you want you could hold off getting ram if yours is good enough to keep and put even more into the vid card and cpu. 512mb is still enough to get by but you will need to add more sooner or later.
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:31 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I agree with plaid. Since you'll be gaming I'd hold off on the RAM & bump up a notch on the video card. A 6800 would make a larger difference than faster RAM and 6800GT's start at ~$210. Later you can spend $40 windfalls for fast 512MB sticks. Video cards don't lend themselves to incremental upgrades.
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