Upgrading from a Q6600

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Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:53 pm

Hi folks,

I'm looking for some advice on an upgrade. Here's what I'm currently running:

  • CPU: Intel Q6600
  • Mobo: nForce 680i
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2-800
  • GPU: 8800 GT 512MB
  • HDD: 1TB WD Black, 250GB WD 2500YS
  • Case: NZXT Zero
  • PSU: Rosewill 850W
  • Display: 1680x1050
  • Speakers: Logitech 5.1 (analog connectors)

My usage is mixed. I'm a programmer and a gamer. I don't play many new games, but I'd like to when I get better hardware. I often have several games running simultaneously, e.g. TF2, Minecraft and three instances of EVE-Online. Those games have grown ever more memory- and graphics-intensive, and my machine just doesn't cut it anymore. I like to dabble in 3D modeling and video editing, and I would love to have a computer that can record video while I play games. I want solid support for virtualization, including VT-d. I'm willing to overclock, but I won't be pushing my limits and I won't pay a large premium for it. I would prefer to run at near-stock speeds with a stock cooler, if possible. My current machine is very noisy and very hot, so I'd like a change in that respect. I'm currently using the slower 250GB HDD as my system drive (don't ask) and when I upgrade I'll be switching to the 1TB, which so far has served as a storage drive. I'd like to purchase in the next 1-3 months.

CPU

It seems reasonable to grab an Ivy Bridge CPU. Looking at the features chart, I think I want either an i7-3770 or an i5-3570. I'm not interested in the K-series chips since they won't have VT-d support and I don't care much about overclocking.

Is there any reason to go SB instead of IB? Which of those two IB CPUs do you recommend? (The big difference looks to be hyperthreading, which might be helpful since I plan to do a lot of virtualization.)

Motherboard

The Z77 boards look pretty solid. I particularly liked the MSI board, but I don't understand the difference between the five-ish MSI boards on Newegg. What features should matter to me, and why?

RAM

When I first built my current machine, I started with two 1GB sticks. About six months later, I bought another two. I'd like that same kind of flexibility, and I tend to use a lot of memory. To those ends, I think I want a 2x8GB DDR3 kit. I want to buy with a later upgrade to 4x8GB in mind, so I'm concerned about memory speeds. How fast can I go with four DIMMs, given that IB only has a dual-channel controller? Is there any point paying the premium for memory faster than DDR3-1600? Any specific product recommendations?

GPU

My 8800 GT is the single-slot kind, and it's loud. I hate it. I want something much quieter. I suspect a typical double-slot cooler will do just fine, but I just want to emphasize that I do not want another wind tunnel in my machine.

I'm sort of an Nvidia fanboy. I will consider AMD cards, but it'll take a really good reason to convince me to switch. One important feature is digital audio directly over the GPU's HDMI output, but last I checked, both vendors supported that.

My graphics demand isn't huge, but like I said, I might want to play some newer games. As crazy as this sounds, if I get an IB chip with the HD 4000, could I use that for a little while and think about getting a GPU later? Will it handle the games I play? (The most graphically demanding are probably BF:BC2, EVE-Online and Portal 2.) Otherwise, I was looking at a GTX 560 (non-Ti). Is 1GB video memory enough? I'm only driving a single 1680x1050 screen at the moment, but I can also imagine wanting to drive two 1980x1050 or 1980x1200 displays (both with games like EVE) with this machine.

HDD

I'll be switching to the 1TB WD Black for my system drive. I'm considering picking up an SSD, but I'd like to see how my budget shapes up. If I do get an SSD, I'm not cutting corners; I want something with a good capacity (>200GB) and very high speeds.

Case

The NZXT Zero has given me a few problems (and it's big) but I think I'll keep it for now. I did have some electrostatic issues; the panel on the motherboard side seems to be warped a little convex, and I sometimes had issues where walking near the machine would cause it to shut down. This seemed to cause some related motherboard issues where I had to remove the CMOS battery for an hour before it would start up again. It's not a continuing problem, and it never caused any permanent damage.

PSU

This Rosewill supply seems solid, and I've never come close to pushing its limits with my current build. It's probably saved my components on several occasions, because I sometimes run my machine in a rural area where the power quality isn't great due to frequently-falling trees. More than once, the power has dipped for a good half-second and my computer has stayed on. I don't expect a new build to exceed 850W, but do I need to worry about connectors? Age? (It's about 4.5 years old.)
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:32 pm

I'm in your boat, currently rocking LGA775 and a QX9650. Probably going with the i7 IB K-series and a Z77 board, but I won't finalize component selection till the boards mature a bit.
A couple points of feedback, though:

Any decent 2x8GB kit should be good to start you. Don't worry about timings so much as in modern builds it hardly matters. "Performance" memory is almost useless these days - and especially since you don't plan to OC, almost anything will do. I like Corsair's memory kits.

Why not keep your 8800GT for awhile till the Kepler variants start trickling down? Even if you don't plan on going Nvidia, that should drive prices down some. I'm mad at AMD for awful driver support lately, more so than Nvidia.

SSD, SSD, SSD. Get something inexpensive for a boot/important app volume, and run the 1TB sidecar. An example is the Intel 520 60GB SSD for a little over a hundred bucks:
http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Series-2-5- ... 070&sr=1-9 There are many other options in that size or price range, but almost all have the Sandforce controllers. <-- Edit: I didn't ignore that you said you didn't want to cut corners on an SSD, but there's simply no need for all of your programs to run on one, nor should a large portion of it be devoted to a pagefile, or working area for editing/modeling programs. 60GB is more than adequate; I have less than 30GB used on a nice, trim Windows 7 Ultimate install plus plenty of apps.

Try using an SSD equipped machine for awhile and then try going back to mechanical.

My only other strong objection is you calling a Rosewill PSU solid. Please spec a Corsair, Seasonic, (some) Antec, or another reputable PSU. I haven't seen anyone i'm wild about ODM a PSU for Rosewill, ever.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:13 pm

Majiir Paktu wrote: CPU: I want either an i7-3770 or an i5-3570.
I agree.

Majiir Paktu wrote: Motherboard: The Z77 boards look pretty solid. What features should matter to me, and why?
Do you want ATX or Micro-ATX? Either one can be adequate for an enthusiast's PC. How many PCIe X16 slots do you need (2 or more if you subscribe to either SLI or Crossfire-X insanity)? Do you have any legacy PCI cards or are all of your expansion goodies of the more modern PCIe variety so that you can avoid having legacy PCI slots on your new motherboard? Besides the requisite USB3 ports, do you need eSATA or Firewire?

Majiir Paktu wrote: GPU: I'm sort of an Nvidia fanboy. I will consider AMD cards, but it'll take a really good reason to convince me to switch.
GeForce GTX680 is awesome. If you cannot find one in stock or if you don't want to spend over $500 on a graphics card, the other gaming GPUs worth considering at this time are Radeon HD7950 ($380 for stock 800 MHz or $407½ for a 900 MHz version) or Radeon HD7850 ($247½ for stock 860 MHz or $267 for a 975 MHz version). The GeForce GTX680 and Radeon HD7950 are serious overkill for your small 1680x1080 screen. The alternative is to soldier on with your old GeForce 8800GT until NVidia finally releases a new mid-range card. I would not buy a previous-generation 40nm graphics chip now that 28nm is here.

Majiir Paktu wrote: HDD: I'll be switching to the 1TB WD Black for my system drive. I'm considering picking up an SSD, but I'd like to see how my budget shapes up.
You want a 120+ GB SSD for your system drive. Use the 1 TB drive for storage.
Do you need a new Blu-ray drive?
Do you have a TV tuner card or are you using a network device?

Majiir Paktu wrote: Case: The NZXT Zero has given me a few problems (and it's big).
If you go the Micro-ATX route, something like the Antec NSK3480 is compact on the outside but able to handle decent sized components on the inside.

Majiir Paktu wrote: PSU: This Rosewill supply seems solid.
I have no experience with Rosewill power supplies. An Antec EarthWatts EA-650 Green for $65 is a good deal on a quiet PSU. If your old power supply has enough capacity on the +12V rails, you can easily adapt old 4-pin hard-drive power connectors to PCIe or other newer connectors.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:34 pm

Thanks for the comments.

thegst wrote:Why not keep your 8800GT for awhile till the Kepler variants start trickling down? Even if you don't plan on going Nvidia, that should drive prices down some. I'm mad at AMD for awful driver support lately, more so than Nvidia.


JustAnEngineer wrote:GeForce GTX680 is awesome. If you cannot find one in stock or if you don't want to spend over $500 on a graphics card, the other gaming GPUs worth considering at this time are Radeon HD7950 ($380 for stock 800 MHz or $407½ for a 900 MHz version) or Radeon HD7850 ($247½ for stock 860 MHz or $267 for a 975 MHz version). The GeForce GTX680 and Radeon HD7950 are serious overkill for your small 1680x1080 screen. The alternative is to soldier on with your old GeForce 8800GT until NVidia finally releases a new mid-range card. I would not buy a previous-generation 40nm graphics chip now that 28nm is here.


Even $300 seems like too much to spend on a graphics card, but I'm pretty out of date. It sounds like I should be waiting; how long should I expect to wait? Should I be looking for something like a GTX660 (so long as it's not one of Nvidia's infamous rebrands)?

thegst wrote:SSD, SSD, SSD. Get something inexpensive for a boot/important app volume, and run the 1TB sidecar.


I'll look at it and see how it compares price-wise. The HDD is definitely a big bottleneck in my system. I'm more willing to compromise on size, but I don't want an SSD that pulls ~200MB/s. I want to be in the five hundreds for both read and write.

JustAnEngineer wrote:Do you need a new Blu-ray drive?
Do you have a TV tuner card?


No and no. (To elaborate, I don't have a Blu-ray drive, but I'm not really interested in one. That's also an easy upgrade later with little impact on my other component choices.)

JustAnEngineer wrote:Do you want ATX or Micro-ATX? Either one can be adequate for an enthusiast's PC. How many PCIe X16 slots do you need (2 or more if you subscribe to either SLI or Crossfire-X insanity)? Do you have any legacy PCI cards or are all of your expansion goodies of the more modern PCIe variety so that you can avoid having legacy PCI slots on your new motherboard? Besides the requisite USB3 ports, do you need eSATA or Firewire?


I was planning on ATX, but I hadn't really considered Micro-ATX. I'm only planning on a single GPU, but I'd hate to feel limited. I don't currently have any legacy PCI cards, and I don't plan to. I don't need Firewire. eSATA would be nice, but if it saves me money I'll drop it. I'd like an x1 PCI-E slot available so I can get a sound card. What does Micro-ATX get me? I have a Full-ATX case currently, so going Mid-ATX would feel like a decent shrink. Aren't there cooling concerns with Micro-ATX?

JustAnEngineer wrote:I have no experience with Rosewill power supplies. An Antec EarthWatts is an affordable quiet PSU. If your old power supply has enough capacity on the +12V rails, you can easily adapt old 4-pin hard-drive power connectors to PCIe or other newer connectors.


thegst wrote:My only other strong objection is you calling a Rosewill PSU solid. Please spec a Corsair, Seasonic, (some) Antec, or another reputable PSU. I haven't seen anyone i'm wild about ODM a PSU for Rosewill, ever.


It's not that old—it has SATA and PCI-E power connectors. I don't think I could run two graphics cards with two 6-pin connectors each, but I don't plan to.

My current PSU is overkill on my system, so I'd hate to toss it out. I don't have to buy Rosewill again, but I'm not crazy about replacing it right now.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 7:56 pm

I'll echo JAE's opinions, but I have a few comments to add:

If you're interested in virtualization (how is that not a word?), definitely go for the i7-3770. While the i5-3750 will still be plenty fast, the four extra 'virtual' cores provided by Hyper-threading are much more likely to be of use; it's one of the few instances where I'd recommend spending the extra ~$100.

RAM is easy, especially if you're not overclocking. Grab a 2x8GB 1600MHz kit from Corsair or G.Skill, and call it done.

If you're not interested in overclocking, almost any board will do! MSI is a fine board manufacturer, but you can make your decision based on the connections you'll need such as expansion slots and ports, and then by price without worry. I will say that ASUS probably has the best fan controls of the bunch, but it'd behoove you to check out reviews of relevant boards.

I agree with keeping the 8800GT on board; otherwise, grabbing something from AMD or Nvidia in the upper-mid-range today would more than suit your needs, especially at 1080p or less. Checking out reviews of the latest cards on this site and others will give you a good idea of the performance you'll need, and which card will turn out the lowest noise levels. I can say that the GTX680 is really an outstanding choice if you choose to put one in your budget, especially with the stock cooler which simplifies the overall cooling setup you'd need.

For the hard drive, do note that WD's Black series are a little louder when used as a system drive- but should be fine when used as a storage drive. Just understand that when we emphasize using SSDs here, it's because we use them too, and they're definitely worth it. Samsung's 830 seems to be a favorite, and Intel's 520 series shouldn't be overlooked.

Since your case is fairly personal as you have to look at it every day, it's always hard to make a blanket recommendation. If you like your current case, stick with it, and just get something inexpensive to transfer your old system into. If you do want something new, definitely look at the Antec JAE suggested!

The power supply is probably the most important component that many people overlook. Your 850watt unit is so overkill that it's not even funny, yet having so much extra power is probably what's kept it running well for so long (Rosewill isn't known for reliability). Since you don't need more than 550watts for your proposed system, being generous (the system in my signature maxes out at 500watt with Prime95 and Furmark!), I'd definitely recommend that you look at the brands/models suggested by thegst and JAE.

Last thing: Budget! You may be willing to commit as much as you have to, but having a budget allows us to help you focus your priorities!
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:00 pm

Majiir Paktu wrote:Even $300 seems like too much to spend on a graphics card, but I'm pretty out of date. It sounds like I should be waiting; how long should I expect to wait? Should I be looking for something like a GTX660 (so long as it's not one of Nvidia's infamous rebrands)?
GeForce GTX660Ti (based on a new GK106 GPU) is rumored to be coming in Q3. If we're all lucky, this will be the card that drives Radeon HD7850 (Pitcairn) pricing below $200. For your quite small 1680x1050 resolution, a Radeon HD7850 is more than fast enough.
http://techreport.com/articles.x/22573/12

Majiir Paktu wrote: What does Micro-ATX get me?
It's 2.4" narrower, has two fewer PCI slots and is probably $10 less expensive than a similar ATX motherboard.

Majiir Paktu wrote: Aren't there cooling concerns with Micro-ATX?
Most ATX cases will accept Micro-ATX motherboards (do be careful of the standoff locations). I've got a Micro-ATX board in my P182 case. Some Micro-ATX cases have cooling problems, but the Antec NSK3480 is pretty decent. With a total volume of only 25 liters, it's fairly compact.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:33 am

Looks like you won't be waiting long for the 28nm Kepler variants.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5784/nvid ... 640-gt-630

An example of a PSU that I recommend: http://www.amazon.com/Seasonic-80Plus-M ... 944&sr=8-1

$90 is reasonable for that level of reliability. 100% Japanese all-solid (no electrolytic) caps. It's modular, 80Plus, and has a 5 year warranty. I am confident that there aren't too many better PSUs out there for your build.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:46 am

Majiir Paktu wrote:
thegst wrote:SSD, SSD, SSD. Get something inexpensive for a boot/important app volume, and run the 1TB sidecar.


I'll look at it and see how it compares price-wise. The HDD is definitely a big bottleneck in my system. I'm more willing to compromise on size, but I don't want an SSD that pulls ~200MB/s. I want to be in the five hundreds for both read and write.



I'm going to second (third?) the suggestion of an SSD in a new build. You could spring for a smaller/cheaper (60gb) drive and use the SSD caching built into the Z77 chipset, but I would rather see you get a decent 120+GB drive and not have to mess around with that. I just saw on slickdeals today you can get a 120GB Intel 520 drive for $150 without any rebates or other silliness at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Series-2-5- ... B006VCP7NQ
I believe that would meet your 500/500 criteria without having to "risk" going with an OCZ or Corsair (and their less than stellar track records) and the new lower prices removes Geoff's reservation about recommending it. Personally I have the Crucial M4 and love it. While it doesn't have a 500/500 rating, it has been extremely reliable and regularly comes close to the $1/gb territory. Just about any recent and reliable SSD is going to make a tremendous difference vs. using a mechanical drive. One other viable candidates in my mind is the Samsung 830. Any and all would serve you well.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:51 pm

Airmantharp wrote:If you're interested in virtualization (how is that not a word?), definitely go for the i7-3770. While the i5-3750 will still be plenty fast, the four extra 'virtual' cores provided by Hyper-threading are much more likely to be of use; it's one of the few instances where I'd recommend spending the extra ~$100.


Do you have anything to back that up with? I run an E8400 (Core2 Duo) and I'm far from CPU bound when running up to 6 VMs. Memory was killing, maxing out my board to 8GB helped a lot with that, and now I'm usually just hard drive performance-bound.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:18 pm

Majiir Paktu wrote:One important feature is digital audio directly over the GPU's HDMI output, but last I checked, both vendors supported that.

Majiir Paktu wrote:Display: 1680x1050
Speakers: Logitech 5.1 (analog connectors)

Majiir Paktu wrote:I'd like an x1 PCI-E slot available so I can get a sound card.


?

So you're going to ditch the speakers and/or display and get a new monitor that does HDMI? Or is this also for output to a TV? I'm confused by your stated equipment in contrast with your required feature and future sound card plans.

Also, in regards to nvidia and HDMI, looks like at least someone is havin' problems:

http://techreport.com/discussions.x/228 ... 481#633481

I sure as hell won't be buying Nvidia again, since they can't seem to figure out how to get their drivers to work correctly when sending audio through HDMI to an A/V receiver. 30% of the time that I wake my HTPC up it loses the audio completely, forcing a reboot.
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Re: Upgrading from a Q6600

Postposted on Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:00 pm

absurdity wrote:
Airmantharp wrote:If you're interested in virtualization (how is that not a word?), definitely go for the i7-3770. While the i5-3750 will still be plenty fast, the four extra 'virtual' cores provided by Hyper-threading are much more likely to be of use; it's one of the few instances where I'd recommend spending the extra ~$100.


Do you have anything to back that up with? I run an E8400 (Core2 Duo) and I'm far from CPU bound when running up to 6 VMs. Memory was killing, maxing out my board to 8GB helped a lot with that, and now I'm usually just hard drive performance-bound.


Absolutely not, except for common sense. And even if I did I don't know the OP's VM workloads, and I don't know if he/she does enough to be able to tell the difference!

What I do know, is that a large part of VM/OS work will be integer bound, where it *may* take advantage of HT. The point of my comment is to communicate this.
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