My first own upgrade

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My first own upgrade

Postby Nescio » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:57 pm UTC

Hey XKCD,

I'm looking at an upgrade for my ancient system. The main thing this system will do is running videogames. I'm probably going to pre-order BattleField 3 and I'd like to run that pretty decently. I started out with just CPU/GFX and adding in some RAM. Long story short, I ended up with this:

XFX HD 6870 1GB - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6814150521

AMD Phenom II X4 965 - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819103727

Aerocool VS-4 - http://www.alternate.nl/html/pcbuilder/ ... QXR58&cn=1

ASRock M3N78D - http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?model=m3n78d - can't find this guy on newegg

Kingston HyperX 8 GB DDR3-1333 Kit - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820104231

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I'm not from the USA so I won't be ordering from NewEgg unfortunately. I'll supply the links from the website I am ordering from, or where I at least found the parts, to make sure they're the same as the ones I linked on NewEgg. The links are the bottom.

Also, I will be keeping my HDD/PSU (it's 450Watt)/DVD reader/burner.

Do you see any major faults at first glance? Any parts that don't like each other so to speak? I already had to add the case because my old case probably can't fit the GFX I picked out.

Secondly, any recommendations, comments, any feedback at all really. Maybe bad or good experiences with certain parts, any reviews you've read. This is my first own selected system, so I'm open to all criticism.

Something I might consider is that the graphic card is a bit of an overkill compared to the other parts.

Something else is that a friend of mine has some bad experiences with XFX. According to him (so totally not based on a review or anything) is that they cheap out on materials. He might be full of crap though. He recommends this: Sapphire HD 6870 (http://www.alternate.nl/html/pcbuilder/ ... CXSW9&cn=1).

Lastly, does the brand of RAM matter a lot? I can find the exact same RAM but from G.Skill. Specs are otherwise the same. http://www.alternate.nl/html/pcbuilder/ ... n=BUILDERS - Read on another PC builder forum that Kingston has had some issues in the UK a few years ago, they recommend G.Skill now.

Anyway, this is a first sketch, so I'm just looking for some information or recommendations.

*Original links*
http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/Ge ... it/500711/? - RAM
http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/Mo ... den&l2=AMD - Motherbord
http://www.alternate.nl/html/pcbuilder/ ... QXR58&cn=1 - Case
http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/CP ... l2=Desktop - CPU
http://www.alternate.nl/html/pcbuilder/ ... n=BUILDERS - GFX
Nescio
 
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby 2.71828183 » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:38 pm UTC

Phenom II is pretty long in the tooth at this point. What you've selected will probably have the power to do what you want right now, but it isn't particularly upgradeable. On the other hand, it's cheap and trying to future-proof a computer is something of a lost cause from the start.

If you go with an AM3+ motherboard (if you can find one for relatively cheap), you'll be able to upgrade at least to Bulldozer, whenever that's eventually coming out. That investment is a gamble on whether Bulldozer will be worth upgrading to in comparison with Intel's offerings. If you can get a comparable AM3+ motherboard for little or no price premium over AM3, do it.

Intel, on the other hand, is the current performance leader and their prices reflect that (in motherboards too). Plus they keep changing sockets around, so while you might get higher performance from the start, it won't be any more upgradeable than AM3. If you care about power consumption (or relatedly, heat production and HSF noise), they're far ahead of AMD's offerings.

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RAM is RAM. Well, not precisely, there are QA differences, but go with the cheapest RAM that gets decent reviews (on Newegg, or whatever site you're buying from). Don't focus overly on the specs--DDR3-1333 or DDR3-1600 seem to be the price/performance sweet spot, but RAM speed doesn't have much impact on overall system speed. 8GB is a good amount.

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I can't say too much about the GPU, but if that's what you're going to use the computer for, that's the part you should spend money on. Looking at the price, it's not solidly into the "diminishing returns" portion of the price/performance curve, so I'd say go for it.

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I'm assuming your HDD isn't nearing the end of its life or running out of space, and you have the capability to back up any important data on it. You may have to reinstall your OS when you switch hardware (not that you necessarily will, but be prepared for the eventuality), and either way, it's a good time to do some software and data housecleaning.

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I'm also assuming your PSU is a well-built model and isn't nearing failure. Cheap PSUs tend to take other components with them when they die. If your PSU wasn't a cheap off brand when you got it, and it's not horribly clogged with dust or more than ten years old, it's probably fine. If it's old enough you may need a selection of molex->SATA power adapters. Make sure you also have the two 6-pin power cables the GPU needs. Buy too many adapters and you've almost made the price of a new PSU. Antec's EarthWatts line is probably a place to start for cheaper quality ones. Corsair also tends to have quality PSUs, and anything manufactured by Seasonic (including some Corsairs) will be excellent.
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby Nescio » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:08 pm UTC

Thank you so much for your reply, I appreciate it =)

I found another motherbord that is AM+3. I'm awfully confused by reviews on NewEgg. They give me a lot of mixed feelings, because there are a lot of people who simply have no cons and others who have them burn out after three days already. The motherboard I found isn't exactly the same as theirs, but it's the same type:

http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_AM ... ifications ASUS M5A78L

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813131728 <-- The NewEgg link. This is the microversion or something...

http://www.alternate.nl/html/product/Mo ... ket+AM3%2B - Alternate link, where I'm ordering from

I selected this one because it also goes up to 16GB, where as my old selection went up to 8GB only. If we're looking at mobo's to upgrade, I might as well take that variable along.

I'm going with AMD because I've had good experiences with them, and they offer a lot of power for not that much money, compared to Intel. At least, where I'm ordering from, Intel is often quite a bit more expensive for not much gain.

My HDD is still doing fine. It's got 80% of it's capacity still never used, so I'm not looking at replacing that at all.

I'm not sure about my PSU nearing failure, as I can't tell the signs. It's an Antecc Earthwatt (funny you should mention that) of the EA 650 series (650W). Here are some pictures of the stickers.

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/571/l1010976.jpg/
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/708/l1010981.jpg/

Might have to click for bigger size.

Any advice on that board?

edit: i noticed that the board " Supports CPU up to 95 W". I looked up my CPU and it says " Thermal Design power 140W". On the AMD website the NON-Black Edition says 120W. So is my mobo not capable of supporting the CPU? I thought AM3+ sockets always supported any AM3 CPU.

http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/ ... rison.aspx
Nescio
 
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby GeorgeH » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:21 pm UTC

Briefly:
-AMD rules the <$100 CPU space. Intel rules the >$200 CPU space. In between it can go either way, but Intel is typically better.

-Newegg reviews suck. You have to filter out DOAs (every manufacturer has them), people who bought the wrong thing but don’t know it, people who try to plug a GPU into a RAM slot, people who give five stars because it turned on, etc.

-I’d suggest ATX unless you want a smaller case.

-HDD capacity is irrelevant. 95%+ of the time when a PC feels slow, it’s because the HDD is slow. You can get a bunch of shiny new parts and not be all that impressed if your storage system is a bottleneck.

-Your PSU is probably just fine.

-You need a CPU that supports the wattage of whatever you want to get. It’s not just the socket, it’s the power delivery circuitry on the motherboard. On the low end, motherboard manufacturers often cheap out on that circuitry because they assume that the board will be paired with a low end CPU.
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby 2.71828183 » Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:16 pm UTC

Your PSU is likely fine, then. If it's really really dusty inside, and you are confident you can do it safely (remember, scary capacitors inside, don't touch anything electrical even when it's unplugged), you might try to blow out some of the dust. If you aren't confident, or if it's not that bad, don't mess with it.

To expand on a few things GeorgeH said: The difference between a HDD and SSD is amazing; more impact on performance in general usage than the difference between a low-end and high-end modern processor. I've heard it doesn't help gaming that much except during loading, because everything is in RAM when you're actually playing. (I'm not a gamer, so I can't comment from experience on whether the difference is notable.) SSDs are also expensive, so they may not be in your budget now. If that's the case, keep them in mind for possible upgrades. The difference between a low-end HDD and a high-end one is noticeable but not that big. The low-end slow HDDs are typically a laptop thing instead of a desktop thing--OEMs save money by including crappy hard drives. I don't see any percentage in replacing your current HDD with another HDD if it isn't full or failing. Don't overlook the contribution of software problems (e.g. a cluttered up registry, or unnecessary boot processes) on slow storage systems. Do have a current backup of anything valuable regardless of what storage medium you use and whether it's old or new.

Do get a motherboard rated to handle the TDP of the processor you put into it. In my case, I have an AM3 motherboard and a hex-core Thuban. The motherboard is rated to 125W TDP, and the processor is rated to (and uses) 125W TDP. Fine and dandy. I used to have a 95W TDP four-core in there, so when I changed to the more powerful processor, I noticed the audible difference in the chirping of the VRMs, which it didn't do on the less powerful processor. Not harmful, but slightly annoying for a build that's supposed to be silent. When I went to overclock the Thuban, I quickly ran into the thermal limits of the VRMs. Even with aftermarket heatsinks on them (which only helped marginally, they're in a dead airspace and I can't get decent airflow to them without adding noisy fans), they run hotter than the processor itself, and limited my overclock. I'm running 3400MHz with a 3800MHz two-core turbo--I could run 3800MHz on all six cores if the motherboard was up to supplying that much power. If you're not overclocking it's not a huge concern to have extra capacity (and personally, I don't think the cost/benefit is there to shell out on an expensive motherboard in pursuit of overclocking), but you don't want to be running over what the motherboard is rated for, if you can help.
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby Nescio » Sat Sep 17, 2011 2:07 pm UTC

Once again, thank you for your time:

I've considered overclocking, but with the motherboard I have it's probably not a good idea as you mentioned, with the aspect of heat.

I think I'll be sticking with the HDD I currently have just because SSD adds so much to my budget and I don't really consider load times very important. I've also read too many bad things about the reliability of SSDs.

You guys don't think my CPU is underrated compared to the GFX/RAM?

I could also go for AMD Phenom II X6 1055T, for 35 euro extra. It doesn't produce much more heat.

Do you think the 2 extra cores will help out with gaming or give me more possibilities for the future? As far as I can tell the 2 cores don't really add much for gaming. When I run a simulation on the system my CPU rates quite a bit lower than the rest of the system though.

Is it too slow?
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby GeorgeH » Sat Sep 17, 2011 3:41 pm UTC

If you buy anything Phenom II you’re basically buying a 4 year old CPU. That might not be a bad thing for a lot of reasons, but if you’re worried about future performance you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

The Phenom II X6 1055T would be a bad choice for a gaming machine. Games prefer fewer faster cores (i.e. a 4GHz dual core would typically be much better than a 2GHz quad core) and the 1055T’s 2.8GHz base clock isn’t ideal. My personal minimum for a gaming machine using a Phenom II CPU is 3GHz, and although the 1055T can turbo into that range I wouldn’t trust it. For most people just about the only Phenom II CPU that I can actually recommend buying is the X4 955. The 965’s extra 200MHz just isn’t worth it to me when you can trivially bump the 955’s multiplier to get the same thing.

All of that said, for gaming a 6870 is a midrange GPU that will be just fine with a midrange CPU like an X4 965. Most people with desktops (including gamers) have much more CPU power than they need. That's one reason why Intel and AMD are starting to focus more on power consumption than on absolute performance - most people have absolutely no need for a CPU that's 2x faster, but would be lining up around the block to buy a CPU that's 2x more power efficient.
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby Nescio » Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:25 pm UTC

GeorgeH wrote:If you buy anything Phenom II you’re basically buying a 4 year old CPU. That might not be a bad thing for a lot of reasons, but if you’re worried about future performance you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

The Phenom II X6 1055T would be a bad choice for a gaming machine. Games prefer fewer faster cores (i.e. a 4GHz dual core would typically be much better than a 2GHz quad core) and the 1055T’s 2.8GHz base clock isn’t ideal. My personal minimum for a gaming machine using a Phenom II CPU is 3GHz, and although the 1055T can turbo into that range I wouldn’t trust it. For most people just about the only Phenom II CPU that I can actually recommend buying is the X4 955. The 965’s extra 200MHz just isn’t worth it to me when you can trivially bump the 955’s multiplier to get the same thing.

All of that said, for gaming a 6870 is a midrange GPU that will be just fine with a midrange CPU like an X4 965. Most people with desktops (including gamers) have much more CPU power than they need. That's one reason why Intel and AMD are starting to focus more on power consumption than on absolute performance - most people have absolutely no need for a CPU that's 2x faster, but would be lining up around the block to buy a CPU that's 2x more power efficient.


Thanks for your reply.

I did some reading and most people said games currently don't utilize the extra cores and you'd benefit more from a faster core. All in line with what you just said =) I think I'll be sticking with the 965 because the site I'm ordering from barely has any price difference (like $10). I'm one of those "might as well get that then"-guys.

I was just thrown off a little bit by a few simulators that rated my GFX/RAM as 8-9 and my CPU as 6-7.

Thanks for all your replies guys. I think I'll be ordering soon and putting the whole thing together this friday with a buddy of mine who's pretty experienced when it comes to building computers.

I'll let you know if it works!
Nescio
 
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Re: My first own upgrade

Postby Nescio » Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:16 am UTC

System is running great ;D 35 celcius cpu on idle, GFX about the same. CPU is about 50-55 celcius when running hard, GFX goes to about 70-75 celcius on BF3 beta.
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