Right ... it's getting to the time that I'm wanting to do a PC refresh. Not least because I was making a similar post to this, and lost the whole damn thing because the PC decided to lock-up on me. Highly irritating. By lock-up, I'm talking one of those things where the PC suddenly freezes, no response to mouse or keyboard, not even any response from caps lock. I'm going to chalk that up partly to the age of the machine; the motherboard is an ASUS A7M266, a first-gen DDR board which is ... erm .. several years old, anyway.
Now, as I run two PCs, one a 'games machine' which gets the newest and fastest bits, and then a 'day-to-day machine' (this one), which gets leftovers and the like, the upgrade is necessarily going to mean a new games box. From this machine, I'll take the dual-DVI Radeon 9600 graphics card (which runs a pair of 2001FPs), and probably the 120GB Seagate HDD too. Beyond that, other than the aforementioned antique motherboard, there's a 3Com PCI network card (because the motherboard has none onboard), a PCI firewire card (the motherboard has none), a PCI USB2 card (you guessed it, the motherboard lacks it, and indeed only has a miserly two USB1.1 ports), and a Philips Rhythmic Edge soundcard (does the job, nothing special, and indeed the motherboard doesn't have integrated sound either). There's also a 52x CD-RW, and a Adaptec 2940UW SCSI card with an AIT drive hanging off it. An AIT drive which appears convinced these days that 'all tapes are bad', so I'm figuring I'll forget it.
The current games machine is a Shuttle SN45G, (nForce2 400 chipset), which has an Athlon XP-M 2500+ in it. It has a gigabyte of nice GeiL Golden Dragon PC3200 memory, an 80GB Western Digital hard drive, a Pioneer slot-loading DVD-ROM, and a Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card. From this, I'll likely just take the SN45G and the Athlon XP-M, combine with the 120GB drive and Radeon 9600 in my day-to-day box, and add a DVD-/+RW drive. Ideally a silver one to match the box (probably the NEC 3520). I'll then get a gig of 'value' PC3200 from a decent vendor, and put that in too, leaving the nice Golden Dragon stuff for the new games box. So far so good.
The bit where I'm dithering is the new games box. Now, I'm convinced that for gaming, the Athlon 64 is the way to go. Equally, I'm a fan of Shuttle's XPCs, which broadly narrows my choice down to one of two (because I'm keeping my AGP Radeon 9800 Pro): the socket-754, nForce3 150 SN85G4, or the socket-939, nForce3 Ultra SN95G5.
Now, I accept that socket-754 is an evolutionary dead-end, and the nForce3 150 is an older chipset, which would initially lean me towards the newer box, where SATA is built-in rather than via a Silicon Image add-in chipset, the memory is dual-channel, and it's generally jazzier and newer.
On the flipside, the newer box has a drop-down faceplate that hides the optical drive when it's not in use, which is very nice, except that it won't work with a slot-loading drive. This is a bummer, as my DVD-ROM is a slot-loading model, and there's not really anything wrong with it that makes me feel the need to replace it.
This means that the SN95G5 would be significantly costlier; not only is it about £40 more expensive than the SN85G4, but socket-939 CPUs are more expensive too (to the point I can get a s754 Athlon 3400+ for about the same cost as a s939 3200+), and I'd have to buy a new DVD-ROM drive too.
I'm not especially worried that the socket-754 isn't likely to get faster CPUs; by the time I want a faster CPU in the games box, it'll probably be time for a new PCI-Express graphics card too, so it'll be wholesale refresh, and the new games box will become the new day-to-day box.
Shopping list for the new machine would then be a SN85G4, probably an Athlon 64 3400+, and maybe something like a basic SB Live! (on the grounds that nForce3's audio ain't as good as nForce2's, but I don't need anything particularly fancy. This is because this room is adjacent to the living room, and my wife tends to object to loud bangs and explosions from gameplaying - so I game with headphones ). The Live!, while - yes - evil and Creative - should be cheap, and work happily with games, which is after all basically what this machine's job is.
I'm just wondering whether there's anything I'm missing as to why I'd really be better getting the newer and updated SN95G5, or if I'm just being daft and would be better off saving money and getting the SN85G4. Just from typing this all in (twice), I think I've largely talked myself towards the SN85G4, so thanks for bearing with me so far and listening (metaphorically).
Anyone have any other thoughts, input, or whatever else to add?