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mdbleeds 12-20-2010 05:24 PM

PC needed
Bit of an out of touch PC gamer here, I bought a decent rig in 2006 which was then top of the range (£1600) but have since been dragged off onto the xbox due to friend peer pressure! My graphics card died 6 months ago, and after the bake in the oven trick which extended its life for a few months it finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. I had a 8800gtx which back when I got the PC was the dogs proverbial, as I couldnít be bothered messing around with drivers and compatibility I opted for an overclocked BFG 8800gtx to replace it with, this whole ordeal made me realise how much I missed messing around with my PC and decided I should maybe think about upgrading my old beast to compete with todayís standards.

What I want to know is, bang for buck, how much performance can I eek out of £250? Iím not a diehard modder and do not know everything about everything, I would say my knowledge is moderate and Iím looking for some pointy heads to kick me in the right direction!

My current spec is:

Dual core E6600 overclocked to 3ghz
4GB ddr2 RAM (4x1gb Geil, @ 400 mhz)
Asus P5k motherboard (ddr2 only)
BFG 8800gtx OC2 Graphics
400gb SATA Drive
620w Corsair PSU
CoolerMaster Case

What I was looking at upgrading was my RAM to 8Gb and 800hz or 1066hz (no idea what models are best nowadays, never been into overclocking ram either?), buying another BFG 8800gtx OC2 Graphics and running in SLI (opposed to buying one of the newer GTXís as the 8800s are really cheap nowadays and still pack a punch), a new HD, maybe a seagate barracuda. Wasnít looking at new processor as the E6600 runs quite well and probably more OC potential than what Iím running at. Comments please?

Few key things I always wanted to ask, is it worth upgrading to ddr3 motherboard? Do I need to look at water cooling or extra fans if running 2 8800gtxís in SLI (they are mammoth cards and run fairly hot), is my PSU ok?

Baring in mind I only have a £250 budget, what should I be concentrating on?

I use the PC mostly for building websites, but looking to get back into a little more gaming so its speed for everyday use and FPS for DX9/10 games.

Cheers all!


Chris 12-21-2010 12:57 AM

If I were you, I'd invest in getting an SSD. Dollar for dollar it's the most noticeable upgrade you can make for a computer. Windows will load waaaay faster than you thought it could. Load times in games are a fraction of what they were. Something like the OCZ Agility2 I think would be in your price range. I'm not really sure how expensive the tech market is in Europe, as we're based in the US. You can use the SSD as the primary boot drive and then your 400GB drive for storing data.

If you did opt for a second 8800GTX, your current power supply should be able to handle it, but I wouldn't put much more on it after that. As far as cooling goes, you listed a CoolerMaster case. They usually make pretty good stuff, but I don't know if you have a mid tower or a full tower. That can make a difference as far as airflow is concerned. If it's a full tower, you'll probably be fine on stock cooling as long as you're not doing some crazy overclocking (if memory serves, I think you could get the E6600 up to 3GHz on stock voltage). If it's a mid tower, you may start running into thermal issues, as those cards do put out a ton of heat.

If you use you machine for website building, I'm guessing you're probably using some combo of Photoshop and Dreamweaver or equivalent (maybe you're an kind of guy). You may see a little bit of a boost with more RAM, but it probably wouldn't be as noticeable as getting an SSD. Photoshop loves using SSD's for scratch space.

I think I've answered all of your questions. Let me know if you have any more. We're always glad to help

mdbleeds 12-21-2010 11:06 AM

Hi there! Thanks for the response, some great info there.

Iím going to let myself down here with a dumb question, but what are solid state drives? Like I say Iíve been away from the scene for some time so I either missed it the first time around or itís a relatively new thing?

I did some digging and found the OCZ vortex 2, which was reviewed along with the agility, link below, is that correct?

If I use the SSD for booting, Iím assuming I would have to port windows over to this drive? Is that easily done?

The coolermaster case is a mid tower, not full, so assuming I go for another GTX what cooling do you suggest I get? I heard of some back plates that separate the heat from the graphics card from the processor, I also guess sticking some fans on the GTXís in SLI wouldnít work due to the size?

Is the E6600 still ok? I lost touch when all the quad cores started coming out, now I see triple cores etc etc, am I sat on a naff processor here or does it still do ok in todayís world? Would the RAM upgrade be any good for gaming? Even if it was just swapping the 400ís for 800ís??

If the SSD is £90 that leaves £140 left over, so I could do the additional GTX, some sort of cooling and a better Ram in the price range but not if you donít think it is worth it?

Cheers for the help so far, fantastic tapping into all this knowledge, really appreciate it.


Chris 12-21-2010 11:11 PM

Don't feel bad if you don't know everything about everything. That's why we're here :D. Solid state drives use technology that is very similar to USB flash drives. There are zero moving parts in the drive, so they are far more reliable than normal hard drives. The upside is that you are able to get read and write speeds that are significantly faster than any regular hard drive. The downside is that they're still pretty pricey because they're so new.

The SSD that you picked out should work fine for what you need. You will need to port windows over in order to use it as a boot drive. This can be done with software. Some programs that do this are Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image. Drive Image XML is a free program that will do it also. I haven't used it personally so I can't tell you how good it is. Most of the programs are fairly intuitive to use and shouldn't give you any problems. If so, there are plenty of people that have done exactly what you're trying to do on the internet.

If you do still want to get another 8800GTX, I would be worried about thermal issues. Different motherboard manufacturers have their PCIE slots laid out differently, so it's hard to say if adding another fan in the case would have enough room to move air over the cards, or if the cards will just be too close together. It may be worth it to just get a full tower, if you can afford the desk space and the cost.

If you're running 8800GTX's, your E6600 shouldn't really be a bottleneck if you're running it at 3.0 GHz. Most games aren't fully utilizing more than 2 cores yet anyways. If you can afford it you could pick up a cheap quad core for under $150 (£114 I think).

RAM speed does make a difference with gaming. I had actually forgotten that they made 400 MHz DDR2. Upgrading to either DDR2 800 or 1066 would be a noticeable upgrade for you.

Quick recap. You should upgrade your hard drive to an SSD and upgrade your RAM to something a little faster. A single 8800GTX should be enough to play most new games on medium to high settings.

Let me know if you have any other questions, we're always happy to help.


mdbleeds 12-22-2010 06:31 PM

Hi Chris,

Thanks again for the reply!

I will definately be purchasin the SSD off the back of that and will see if I get the free software to work for me when porting, if not then I dont mind coughing up if the benefits are that compelling!

Based on your comments, i have had a look at some better RAM, I have bought the following:

Do you think 4gb would be enough? I got the 2gb slots so I have 2 spare, would I be better flogging the 4x1gb sticks of 400hz or keeping 2 of them and using the other slots, or would that bring the speed of the reapers down?

Was thinking about your comments with the GTX's, you have definately put me off sticking 2 in and hoping for the best! After a quick scour around I found the below, if I stuck one of them on each do you think that would be enought to keep it cool?

By the way, silly question here again, but what would happen if it overheats, what exactly is going to fry and die and what is resurrectable as such?

Cheers very much for the SSD explanation! Sounds very impressive, a quicker windows load time would be a huge bonus!

Cheers Chris,


mdbleeds 12-30-2010 07:16 PM

Hi Chris,

Sorry to be a pain.

I made a mistake with quoting I had 4gb at 400mhz, they were actually 800mhz but pcu-z was reading them at 400mhz which I am told I need to multiply by 2!

Anyway, the OCZ ram, I assume, would be a better option. Strangely, since putting in my 4gb of OCZ (2x2gb) my 3dmark06 score went from close to 12,000 to 10,000, I am rather shocked! Would there be any reason for this? Hope I haven't wasted my money here!



mdbleeds 12-30-2010 07:27 PM

just to add.

I went from these:

to these:

I have noticed on one of the comments that I need to OC the latency settings to get 4-4-4-12, on the box they run at 5-5-5-x. My old geil ran at 4-4-4-x, could this be the problem that I am dropping points on 3dmark?

Is it easy to OC ram in the BIOS?


Chris 01-05-2011 12:26 AM

Sorry for not replying sooner, been busy with holidays and hangovers. The usual for a hardware reviewer.

As far as overheating goes. It's kind of a shot in the dark. Some components fail more gracefully than others. Overheating failures can vary from doing an emergency shutdown and being generally ok, to just outright frying. Other components will run fine for a while at above average temperatures, but will have a shortened lifespan. It's really hard to determine what any one piece of hardware will do in that situation.

The cooler that you were looking at is for a watercooling system. It would be useless unless you already have an existing watercooling system that you can splice it into.

The RAM that you bought is considered enthusiast RAM. If it's like the Reaper RAM that I just recently reviewed it doesn't have an XMP (it basically tells the BIOS to run at the higher performing settings). You will need to manually set the timings for the RAM. Depending on the BIOS on your mobo this can either be pretty easy, or a huge pain in the ass. If you are going from the Geil to to Reaper RAM that you had in the links, they are the same speed RAM (both are DDR2 800MHz), which may be another reason why you're not seeing improvements (it's not actually a significant upgrade going from one DDR2 800 set to another DDR2 800 set). You may have wasted your money if those are the exact ones that you had.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.


turneranthony 05-15-2011 06:15 PM

Can i ask what is needed to be upgraded so that my games could run smoothly? i have athlon x2 processor, 2GB RAM , ati radeon 3600 series 1gb

Ilya 05-18-2011 05:58 AM

That's a loaded question and there is no short response.
It depends on what you're looking for exactly. The newest games that are coming out in recent months and are DirectX11 based? Then you'll need a total rehaul of the system. Right now I suggest going with Intel's Sandybridge 2500 processor and a supporting motherboard. A P67 chipset motherboard seem to be the best option today to go with that processor. A Graphics card such as ATi 6870 which gives best bang for the buck in my opinion(anyone welcome to argue that).

4 gig of ram, in todays gaming standards is a minimum.

In reality if you looking to spend very little I'd say that your bottleneck must be the graphics card. A cheap upgrade to that should give you a decent performance boost.

For the ease of understanding how the ATi's graphics cards are numbered you should look at the first two numbers. First one being the generation(graphics API support, memory type or other HW updates) and the second being is the "series" of the generation which usually represents the power of the video card(clock speeds and number of processors) and often the driver type to download. Third number simply further breaks down the power but to a lesser degree. In other words an ATi 5850 is still more powerful than ATI 5770.

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