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  1. #1
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    (Advice on) Upgrading my PC

    I have had for a while now a wish to upgrade my computer, or some part therein so as to enable better/further gaming. I am, however, not exactly the most confident in what part is failing me for now and where I should start the upgrades -- and because I am not quite sure I want to put money into everything there, I was hoping that you could either support my thought (based on the specs below) or say why I am wrong.

    Now, the OS is a Windows 7 Professional (64-bit),

    And the computer specs can be given as:

    Motherboard: ECS GF8100VM-M5 (V1.0)
    2.00 GB RAM installed
    AMD Athlon 7750 Dual Core Processor @ 2.70 GHz
    NVidia GeForce GT 220

    Now, my original thought was that performance is most hindered by the CPU-GPU combination here, but then I realized that having games on top of Windows 7 would probably ask for more say 4 GB of RAM (and more likely 8 would not hurt?).

    Therefore, if I asked what would be the most cost effective upgrade would that be an upgrade in the RAM to 4/8?

    Or would it make more sense to try changing the other components?

    Thanks for anyone who has a thought on this. :)



    [If it is relevant at all, then I mostly steer clear of any FPS and am more of a strategy game player so one of my hidden objectives is to make my computer Rome 2 ready by the time that comes out next year -- but that's around a year away still so might be a bit of an early idea there.]

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    Ram is so cheap now days. The spec site for your MOBO says "Support DDR2 1066/800/667/533/400 DDR2 SDRAM" and up to 16gb. You'd get two 4gb sticks for 8gb total for about €60-€80.

    It all depends on how much you want to spend though and how long you want the PC to last going into the future.

  3. #3
    RAM isn't as important as the CPU/GPU - However as Jesus Phish said, it's really cheap nowadays. However, both the GPU and CPU are getting on now, especially the GT 220.

    What games would you like to run, and at what quality?

  4. #4
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    Well, I would like to be able to have Rome 2 run at nearly the very best quality when it comes out but that's then. Until that time, my main games that I play are SOASE which does not have very high graphics requirements and Shogun 2 which has relatively speaking, reasonable ones no doubt. But if I wanted to run Shogun 2 on nearly the very highest without losing out on anything else, what would that take me? Command and Conquer 4 might also factor in the thoughts, but that runs relatively well even now... and while Shogun 2 does run then it does come up with the low performance crashes so is more of an important upgrade.

    But again, if it is spending 60 and upgrading RAM for say a reasonable upgrade and getting somewhat better performance compared to 300 for a very good upgrade and very high performance which would last, I guess I'd need to think about it for a moment. Going above 300 would be very unlikely though.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    If going above 300 is an issue then a RAM and GPU upgrade would help with an improvement alright. There's not much else you'll get upgraded under that limit though. If you're not interested in playing something like Borderlands 2 with full physx enabled and all the sliders to max, then no you don't need to spend a tonne of money.

    You can also do it in stages. You could get the RAM or GPU first and see what difference it makes. Then if you're not happy with just that or think you want more, get the other.

    But definitely think about what you need and what you want.

  6. #6
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    With a GPU upgrade here though, would it not be somewhat necessary to go for a new motherboard first (which would bring up the costs)? But if it isn't, say I upgrade RAM now, GPU after I find the next batch of money, CPU even later, would that work taking into account that this is a AM2+ socket motherboard and probably the better as well as more cost effective units are now rather for AM3+ (and as far as I know they are not backward compatible, or did I get that wrong?)? Because it would be exceptionally silly for me to get something that fits this motherboard now, only to end up changing all of it in say a years time because the CPU upgrade would need a new motherboard.

    And what would you say is the difference with the rest of the specs staying the same but RAM going from 2 GB to 8? I have no real experience based on which I could estimate this, which is one of the factors making it more difficult for me to understand the actual options I have.

  7. #7
    If you want to upgrade the CPU to someone decent then unfortunately you'll need a new motherboard, which adds cost. It is an upgrade you'll need to seriously consider in the near future though if you want to play Rome 2 on max.

    The problem about upgrading RAM now is that it will be a waste of money, as you'll need to replace it when you get a new motherboard; the motherboard you have now only supports DDR2, whereas all new motherboards will need DDR3.

    I would strongly recommend saving up for a bit and try to spend a bit more on getting all 3 upgraded.

    Edit: I didn't notice that the motherboard was AM2+, I originally read it as AM2.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    You could get some decent bundles for under 300 which would give you a newer MOBO, CPU and RAM. They might not come with a graphics card though. So you could if you like, get a bundle like that, then later buy a new graphics card and in the mean time use your current one.

    I believe that AM3+ on some MOBOs are backwards compatible with AM2/2+, but don't quote me on that!

    The biggest/hardest components to change are usually the processor and mobo, because one will limit the other because of socket types.

    You're not going to get anything mega for your budget, but you'll get improvements and by the sounds of it you're happy enough with decent performance?

    Look around on Dabs, Overclockers etc for bundles.

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus_Phish View Post
    Ram is so cheap now days. The spec site for your MOBO says "Support DDR2 1066/800/667/533/400 DDR2 SDRAM" and up to 16gb. You'd get two 4gb sticks for 8gb total for about 60-80.

    It all depends on how much you want to spend though and how long you want the PC to last going into the future.
    No you wouldn't. DDR2 is more expensive than DDR3, especially when you're talking 4 GB DIMMs. Cheapest 2x4 GB kit on amazon seems to be 75.

    I'd go for 2 x 2 GB instead. Much more reasonably priced, and the difference between 2 and 4 GB is bigger than the difference between 4 and 8 GB.

  10. #10
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    Very well, thanks guys. It is a bit mindboggling to just keep an eye on everything for me, so I appreciate your words of advice. :)

    With respect to a MOBO-CPU-RAM combo, what would be the suggested options (if we'd keep 300 as the limit here)? Would I be easily available to use the current GPU on the new creature or would that require some maneuvering as well?

    I've taken a look on Scan at some of these based on the Hard Choices posts over here, and that led me to think of some creatures until I noticed that I'd probably have to keep to a microATX which the author didn't really include in his discussions (or rather, all of his suggestions were for ATX which makes sense as long as there's no previous limiting factors).

    Also, I am a bit uncertain about whether I need to keep to AMD products if I'm already changing most of the equipment there?

    Any idea how well any of the "prebuilt bundles" would work (keeping to Scan thus far)? They have a range at their site http://www.scan.co.uk/3xs-overclocked-bundles

    Some of them look good to my eye, but my eye is rather untrained so I am a bit afraid of anything like this (well, I imagine a bundle trap...). Say changing some creatures on the 3XS Edge, how would that work out? Although probably I have to keep the ATX/mATX in mind here as well?

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus groovychainsaw's Avatar
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    Well, I came up with the below quickly, for 305 from scan. Upgrading the motherboard makes life easier, as I couldn't even find new AM2+ CPUs anywhere mainstream, but it does bump up towards your price ceiling. The 650GT has a fair bit of grunt for gaming, the CPU I'd head towards an i5 if you could squeeze a bit more out of your budget, but I don't think the below would be a bad system (all copied and pasted from scan, so you can check the parts out using the parts numbers). The 8GB is super cheap, you could stick with 4GB for about 15 if you wanted to shave another 15 off. I think if you don't upgrade both the CPU and GPU, you'll be bottlenecked with something like shogun. The memory will probably have the smallest impact, unless you are doing something very memory-intensive.

    Graphics:
    LN46903
    1GB EVGA GTX 650, 28nm, PCIe 3.0 (x16), 5000MHz, GPU 1058MHz, Cores 384, DVI/mHDMI
    Motherboard:
    LN43804
    Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H, Intel Z77, S 1155, DDR3, SATA 6Gb/s, SATA RAID, PCIe 3.0, D-Sub/ DVI/ HDMI, Micro ATX
    Memory:
    LN39754
    8GB (2x4GB) Corsair DDR3 Vengeance Jet Black Low Profile, PC3-12800 (1600), Non-ECC, CAS 9-9-9-24, XMP, 1.5V
    CPU:
    LN36723
    Intel Core i3 2120, S1155, 3.3GHz, 5GT/s, HD2000 IGP 850Mhz, 3MB Cache, Core R 33x, 65W, Retail

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rider View Post
    With respect to a MOBO-CPU-RAM combo, what would be the suggested options (if we'd keep 300 as the limit here)? Would I be easily available to use the current GPU on the new creature or would that require some maneuvering as well?


    Also, I am a bit uncertain about whether I need to keep to AMD products if I'm already changing most of the equipment there?
    If you swap the motherboard and CPU, you can keep using your old graphics card easily. There's also no particular need to stick to AMD, and most tend to go with Intel these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by groovychainsaw View Post
    CPU:
    LN36723
    Intel Core i3 2120, S1155, 3.3GHz, 5GT/s, HD2000 IGP 850Mhz, 3MB Cache, Core R 33x, 65W, Retail
    If you're going with an i3, go for the i3-3220.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    If you want to just upgrade Mobo (mATX), CPU and RAM, here's my recommendation:

    MSI B75A-G43
    - 57.30

    Intel Core i5-3350P - 132.85

    2 x 4 GB Corsair Vengeance Low Profile DDR3-1600 CL9 1.50V - 30.96

    Total price of 221.11 leaves room for a somewhat entry-level graphics card, but you could keep using your old one while saving up for a more midrange graphics card.

    Either a Geforce GTX 650 or a Radeon HD 7770 would do well at their ~90 price point, but trading up to a Radeon HD 7850 for another 50ish really does make a world of difference.

  14. #14
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    Okay guys, thanks a lot for these suggestions. I am trying to understand them now to see what they actually are. :) I also did a bit of number crunching to see if the 300 pound limit I said was reasonable with what I think I can spend, and I agreed although with the potentially relevant difference that there's not too much problem if I head above for a reasonable upgrade (God help me if I go over 350 though). Based on what you guys have said previously then, would something like this be a good buy from a price/value point of view:

    Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H Intel Z77 Socket 1155 Ivybridge - 82.52
    8GB (2x4GB) Corsair DDR3 Vengeance - 31.99
    Intel CPU i3 3220 Ivy Bridge Dual Core - 94.19
    MSI Overclocked Radeon HD 7850 AMD - 134.98

    This would come to a total of 345 or so based on the prices on Scan. Would it be a reasonable deal in your opinion for the performance upgrade it would achieve? And, could I be relatively certain at this handling most of what I'll want to throw at it (at relatively high graphics/performance settings) in the next two years or so with respect to an average RTS game?

    Also, might be a bit of a silly question but is there any way to be certain that this new MOBO will be fully compatible with the old power supply unit? Also, will changing all of this hardware require a reinstall of Windows afterwards, or will it be possible to just plug the HDD back in and it should work fine?

    And, I noticed once again that the GPU's are produced by a number of different companies even for a similar model -- is there anything that I should avoid or are they all relatively similar?

    Thanks

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Buying that Z77-based motherboard is a bit of a waste of money with a Core i3 CPU. You could drop it down to a cheaper B75 or H77 alternative and spend the leftover cash on maybe getting up to a Core i5. Though then it does end up slightly over 350 with a Radeon HD 7850.

    As for compatibility with your old power supply, that's pretty much ensured by the ATX specification. Unless your PSU is literally ten years old. The more relevant question is whether it has enough power and enough 6-pin PCIe connectors for the graphics card.

    If your Windows is an OEM version, you will have to buy a new OS when you replace the motherboard. If it's a full retail I *think* it will keep working without a reinstall.

    And as for the brand of graphics cards - there are differences, but they're usually not dramatic. Just a little variation in how good/loud the cooler is and what exact outputs it offers (DVI, HDMI etc.).

  16. #16
    Activated Node rider's Avatar
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    Something like this Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3H you mean? I think the only relevant thing I lose is the RAID capability, and that would give me around 26. And say... keep that at the same CPU then and end up spending less, or go to the limit again with something similar to this i5 3450 ?

    For finding it out about the PCIe connectors, would I need to look in there or is there a place in the computer systems where it would display the power source information? I've never needed to look for it before, but I would hope it at least says on itself.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rider View Post
    Something like this Gigabyte GA-B75M-D3H you mean? I think the only relevant thing I lose is the RAID capability, and that would give me around 26. And say... keep that at the same CPU then and end up spending less, or go to the limit again with something similar to this i5 3450 ?

    For finding it out about the PCIe connectors, would I need to look in there or is there a place in the computer systems where it would display the power source information? I've never needed to look for it before, but I would hope it at least says on itself.
    Yeah exactly. You also lose a few other little perks, but none of them are likely to make a difference for you. Only one SATA3-port instead of two (fine, regular HDDs don't need more than SATA2 anyway, and those are still plentiful); no overclocking (fine, these CPUs don't really overclock anyway); no Intel SRT (SSD caching - it's usually better to just use it as a regular drive anyway).

    The Core i5-3350P I suggested earlier is a slightly cheaper Core i5-3450 which just has the graphics part of the chip disabled. That's fine when you're using a dedicated graphics card anyway.

    As for the power supply, it might say on the label, but don't count on it. If you can make out the brand and model name then the info is only a googling away.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    Your budget is equivalent to - $490
    Unless prices of the core i5 2500k are way out of proportion in your region, I recommend:

    Intel Core i5 2500k ~ $220
    EDIT:
    MSI Z77A-G41 ~ $90
    G.Skill Ripjaws ~ $40

    That leaves... $140

    Graphics card:-
    This is a tough one. With $140 left you will have to go with AMD.

    If you can up your budget by $60 though, there are some nice options:
    Geforce GTX560 Ti ~ $200
    Special offer on GTX 480 - $200

    The GTX480 is a tremendous card, though it has crap cooling on it which tends to get very loud. Still, for $200 you're getting GTX670 performance so a great deal if you can find it at that price.
    Last edited by mashakos; 04-10-2012 at 07:08 PM.
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  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mashakos View Post
    Your budget is equivalent to - $490
    Unless prices of the core i5 2500k are way out of proportion in your region, I recommend:

    Intel Core i5 2500k ~ $220
    ASUS P8H61-M ~ $65
    G.Skill Ripjaws ~ $40
    The i5 2500k is 167 ~ $270. Besides, you're mixing a CPU unlocked for overclocking with a motherboard that doesn't allow overclocking, which means wasting money.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sakkura View Post
    The i5 2500k is 167 ~ $270. Besides, you're mixing a CPU unlocked for overclocking with a motherboard that doesn't allow overclocking, which means wasting money.
    oh yeah, I forgot that the h61 motherboards are gimped. Will have to update my post.
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