Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

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Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 1:22 am

Welp, it's that time again (finally). My current system (GA-P35-DS3R + E6750) has served me quite well, but I've finally got some money to put towards a modest upgrade and so here's what I've planned out so far:
Code: Select all
MOBO    GA-Z77-DS3H                               $105
CPU     Core i5-3550                              $210
RAM     Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600   $ 55
GPU     8800GTS 640GB                             $  0
HDD     WD 640GB                                  $  0
HDD     WD 500GB                                  $  0
SSD     Crucial m4 64GB                           $ 80
SOUND   Xonar DG PCI                              $  0
PSU     Corsair 520HX                             $  0
CASE    Fractal Define R3                         $  0
OS      Windows 7 Pro                             $  0


Trying to keep this upgrade in the vicinity of $500 which isn't much, but then I don't need to replace quite everything as you can see with the various $0 components. Some notes and questions:

  1. Ordering online as I'm in the middle of nowhere.
  2. Not going to overclock, so no K series CPU necessary. I'd rather have the virtualization features of the non-K parts.
  3. I have the Z77 board in there despite the no-overclocking because at the time I'm writing this it's actually slightly cheaper than the H77 board on NewEgg when factoring in the shipping. If the price disparity is noticeably reversed when I order, I'll just get the H77 version.
  4. Prefer a board with a PCI slot due to the Xonar DG.
  5. SSD will be used solely as a cache drive with SRT; 64GB max.
  6. Not really sold on an SSD yet; the m4 just seems to be popular lately. I hear Samsung and Intel drives are technically superior, though, and I may bump it up if something's on sale. Can anyone tell me what specific series and/or models I should be keeping an eye on?
  7. Don't mock my 8800GTS. I'll be upgrading that probably after summer since it's usually too hot to game, and I usually just don't feel like it during then. Not a big priority since my gaming time has been very low lately.

Anyway, I'm not really married to anything on the shopping list just yet so feel free to offer any and all suggestions if you think it fits my criteria better (or whatever). It's been a while since I've built a machine so I figured I better get some opinions and advice before I do anything.
jbweb
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 1:47 am

Do you live near a Micro Center?
http://www.microcenter.com/at_the_stores/index.html

Micro Center has much better deals on processors + motherboards than Newegg does.


You could spend $10 less on your memory.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820233180
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6820233186
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 1:59 am

Do you live near a Micro Center?

Nope :(

Thanks for the tip about the memory. They were all around the same price the other night. I'll just pick the cheapest color whenever I go to order.
jbweb
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 12:34 pm

Personally, I think you're doing the SSD wrong. A 64GB model is generally enough for Windows7 plus a basic range of standard applications, and will give your system a much bigger kick in the pants as a system drive than as a cache drive. Only thing to double-check is that your system hasn't inadvertently been set up with hibernation enabled (Win7 should auto-disable when clean-installed on desktop hardware), as you'll otherwise end up with a HIBERFIL.SYS locking up space on your system drive equal to your installed memory.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 1:19 pm

I agree with ludi on using the SSD as a system drive not a cache, but I wouldn't go less than 90GB both for having some extra space to play with and because of performance. When you dip below 90GB, you start to lose the parallelism that makes SSDs so good. (besides super low access times, you get that with any size) You can get sandforce SSDs for $1/GB or less. Here's a Force 3 90GB for $85 after MIR or you could pony up a bit an get a 120GB Agility 3 for $105 after MIR. I've seen both of those drives priced lower, but that's a pretty average price for them nowadays. As I say all the time, ANY SSD (even previous gen. or SATA 2) will be MUCH more responsive than a mechanical hdd as many reviewers worth their salt will point out during the review. Don't get too hung up on raw numbers. Even the slowest SSD can be many times faster than a hdd.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 8:41 pm

Thanks for the comments guys. I really like the idea of a cache drive and want to play around with it, but since I have money left in my budget and I think my usage patterns favor having an SSD as a system drive (I play games one or two at a time at most already), I might just grab something like a 128GB drive and go all out with it.

That seems to be the best place to put extra money, honestly. ~$100 more for a hyperthreading CPU is a bit too much considering I don't use enough stuff that could make use of that (or, rather, don't use that stuff enough). Not sure what a more expensive board gets me since I don't plan on running SLI or overclocking. Honestly don't see what good 16GB of RAM would do, either.

So, yeah, I think you guys might have talked me into it.

While I'm here, what's the sweet spot for video cards today? I know the (nVidia) 600 series just came out but I didn't see any 650 or 660 level parts. So does that mean the 560Ti is going to pretty much be the go-to card to fit that bill for the rest of the year?
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 9:52 pm

jbweb wrote:While I'm here, what's the sweet spot for video cards today? I know the (nVidia) 600 series just came out but I didn't see any 650 or 660 level parts. So does that mean the 560Ti is going to pretty much be the go-to card to fit that bill for the rest of the year?
Radeon HD7850 for $247½+ currently has no credible competition for less than $299.99.
Here's Tech Report's review.
Here's a hot-clocked (975 MHz) version for $267.

If that's not enough for you, you'd have to pony up $410+ to get a GeForce GTX670 or spend $300+ to get a previous-generation GeForce GTX570.

GeForce GTX660 is due in the second half of the year.

If you do decide that you want a previous-generation GeForce GTX560Ti they've recently dropped to as little as $212½.
i7-4770K, H70, Gryphon Z87, 16 GiB, R9-290, SSD, 2 HD, Blu-ray, SB ZX, TJ08-E, SS-660XP², 3007WFP+2001FP, RK-9000BR, MX518
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Tue May 15, 2012 10:45 pm

jbweb wrote:Thanks for the comments guys. I really like the idea of a cache drive and want to play around with it, but since I have money left in my budget and I think my usage patterns favor having an SSD as a system drive (I play games one or two at a time at most already), I might just grab something like a 128GB drive and go all out with it.

Funny you should say so because my system (i2500k) uses an 80GB Intel 320 as the Win7 drive and two 1GB Spinpoint F3 mechanicals, one of which houses the Steam folder. Using Windows7 and applications installed on the SSD is a lot like using a fast smartphone or tablet, while Steam games are not appreciably hindered by the mechanical drive -- I think having lots of RAM is more important there.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Sun May 20, 2012 10:55 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:Radeon HD7850 for $247½+ currently has no credible competition for less than $299.99.

That's an amazing all around card for performance/price/power/heat/noise. The only thing that gives me pause is the "Radeon" part. But since the numbers at least are so damn enticing, it demands a new batch of questions:

    1a. What's the state of the graphic drivers for AMD (relative to Nvidia)? I remember loathing CCC back in my 9800XT days, and the iffy drivers were a large part in shuttling me into a 8800GTS upgrade. But it's been a long, long time since then. I remember a recent AMD driver snafu with RAGE when it came out, but I haven't really kept up otherwise.

    1b. Does anyone know how well Radeons support older titles? From time to time I like loading up older games (think System Shock, Thief, Planescape, Anachronox, etc.) and I seem to recall people on forums having more issues trying to get their nostalgia fix with Radeons.

    2. How does current crop of Nvida vs AMD stack up in terms of features? I know the 3xx beta drivers for nvidia have new features like Adaptive VSync and FXAA. And I guess Nvidia has PhysX, for whatever that's worth. Can anyone give a summary of how the two compare and differ in terms of feature-set (gaming related or not)?

    3. Also, is there an AMD/ATI equivalent of Nvidia Inspector?
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Wed May 23, 2012 5:01 pm

jbweb wrote:How does current crop of Nvida vs AMD stack up in terms of features?


Can't really comment on current Nvidia drivers and applications, but the only part that really matters is that Nvidia has no sub $400 current-gen video cards while AMD does. This pretty much makes all of your other questions moot when looking for a card in the $250 range - unless of course you could find a used GTX 580 for close to that price. At $400, however, the GTX 670 becomes pretty compelling.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Thu May 24, 2012 11:23 am

jbweb wrote:What's the state of the graphic drivers for AMD (relative to Nvidia)? I remember loathing CCC back in my 9800XT days, and the iffy drivers were a large part in shuttling me into a 8800GTS upgrade. But it's been a long, long time since then. I remember a recent AMD driver snafu with RAGE when it came out, but I haven't really kept up otherwise.

A non-issue. AMD and Nvidia's driver programming is roughly equal in quality (and equal in bugs, when they occur) and has been for several years now. Usually they don't get the same kinds of bugs at the same time, so one or the other might be in the tech news at any given point, but otherwise...meh. Also, automatic recovery from a graphics driver lockup is now an integral Windows feature, so a mild lockup is usually not fatal the way it used to be.

IOW buy your card based on best hardware at your price point, then download the most recent reference drivers and call it a day.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Thu May 24, 2012 12:45 pm

ludi wrote:while Steam games are not appreciably hindered by the mechanical drive -- I think having lots of RAM is more important there


This is true, SSD's give very little benefit on frame rates in games, although TR suggested that they might reduce glitches (can't find the article, but they showed it using BF3), and level load times would be reduced compared to a hdd.
Just to clarify, "lots of RAM is more important there" means 8GB is plenty for games.
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Thu May 24, 2012 8:23 pm

What about open-world RPGs like Gothic 3, Morrowind/Oblivion/Nehrim/Skyrim, etc, where they seem to load content dynamically as you traverse cells and whatnot. Do SSDs make a noticeable impact in those scenarios? Anyone have any first-hand accounts of this?
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Re: Need advice upgrading my ~5 year old machine

Postposted on Sun May 27, 2012 1:14 pm

Upgrade complete! Here's the final listing and some notes for... I dunno, anyone who's curious or in the same position I was in:

Code: Select all
MOBO    GA-Z77-D3H                                $110
CPU     Core i5-3550                              $210
Cooler  Cooler Master Hyper 212+                  $ 20
Corsair Vengeance Low Profile 8 GB DDR3 1600      $ 50
SSD     Samsung 830 128GB                         $109
Jerky   Tillamook Country Smoker Beef Stick       $  1


My $500 upgrade budget well spent. :wink:

Some notes:

  • I went with the Z77-D3H over the Z77-DS3H because, as far as I could tell, it seemed pretty much like a superset of the DS3H except with some better cooling, extra USB2 ports, and MVP for just a few extra bucks.
  • The CPU cooler was on sale, cheap, very good reviews. I wouldn't drop $40-60 on a cooler when I'm not overclocking, but $20 for better temperatures and a quieter system seemed like an easy call. Plus it might even run faster if it enables Turbo Boost more often.
  • Low Profile RAM because it was cheaper and wouldn't interfere with my heatsink. Plus it doesn't look as silly.
  • Saved about $20 on the Samsung 830 and it knocked it under the $1/GB threshold. Installed Windows 7 in under 10 minutes. All around awesome experience thus far.

Only glitch I had was a BIOS thing; for some reason when my PlayStation 2 Controller + USB Adapter is plugged in, I can't get into the BIOS. It just sorta freezes mid-load when I try to boot into it. Not sure what's going on with that, but I'll just make a note that I can't get into BIOS when it's plugged in. Not a big deal. I'll write an email to Gigabyte and see what they say about that.

Just finished about 12 hours of HCI MemTest-ing (4 instances) with no errors. Temps seem to max out around the low-50s so far, and that might drop a bit once the thermal compound settles in a bit. I will need to buy some type of SATA power extension adapter to reach up to my DVD/RW. And I think I'll buy a low-speed Yate Loon 120mm to put in the other mount in the front of my case for positive case pressure and some hot summer insurance.

Other than that, I'm very pleased and smooth sailing so far! In a stunning reversal, my hard drive now leads the way at least in my Windows Experience Index (7.9) over the rest of my components. My trusty 8800GTS, of course, bringing up the rear (6.8). Now I'll watch the tech deal sites for a heavily discounted 7850 or perhaps try and survive until the 660 series comes out.

Thanks again for all the feedback!
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