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Build/upgrade help, questions about the finer points (FSB, overclocking, etc.)

By DastardlyDan ยท 27 replies
Dec 11, 2010
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  1. (I apologize in advance for any typos I don't catch and fix. I'm trying to type with a wrist brace on)
    * What are you going to use the PC for? Gaming
    * How much is your budget? Not yet known, depends on tax return
    * Where are you located? (a.k.a. fill out your profile) Indiana
    * Are you willing to buy online? Yes, frequent Newegg user
    * Are you going to re-use any parts from an earlier build? Yes, I am only upgrading my current system. Looking to buy at most RAM, Video card, Hard Drive, and monitor
    * Do you need other peripherals like a monitor, keyboard and mouse, among others? Will be reusing what I have, except maybe the monitor.
    * Have you already bought any parts? Not yet
    * Do you have an Operating System (OS)? Yes, Windows 7 64-bit
    * Will you need any aftermarket cooling, such as a CPU\GPU cooler or a watercooling setup? Not sure yet.

    Hi all. Tried some Google-fu, but didn't find anything that really answered my questions. I want to upgrade my system this spring (primarily for gaming), and I want to have a better understanding of what FSB is and how it affects my system before I go and spend my money. I don't feel I need help with specific item recommendations; rather, I would like some questions answered so I can make a more educated purchase when the time comes. Here are some detailed stats for my system, including pertinent information that I have questions about:

    Front side bus:
    Up to 5200MT/s HyperTransport 3.0 Interface

    Dual-channel memory architecture,
    4x 240-pin DIMM slots, max supported 16GB unbuffered EEC and non-EEC DDR3 1800 (O.C.)/1600 (O.C.)/1333/1066 MHz

    I will NOT be replacing motherboard this spring.

    AMD Phenom II x4, Quad-Core 2.8 GHz. 4000MHz HyperTransports
    L2 Cache: 4 x 512 KB
    L3 Cache: 6MB

    I will NOT be replacing the processor this spring.

    There are several things that I do not understand about these two products; I bought them on the recommendation of a friend who knows more about this stuff than I do, but was not interested in explaining them at the time. Now I want to know what this stuff means before I buy anymore. Here are my following questions:

    What is Front side bus, exactly? I understand that it is the speed, and that you want the MHz to match, but beyond that I know next to nothing.

    What are Hyper Transports? Is this (5200 on the motherboard) a maximum threshold, or a recommendation? At 4000MHz, is my processor sub-par or within parameters?

    What is the 1800(O.C.) and 1600(O.C.) on the motherboard? I know it has to do with the front side bus, but I don't know what the (O.C.) stands for. I would guess that it means overclocked, but I do not know. When I bought RAM, I went with the 1333 because I did not understand this (O.C.) stuff. I am looking to add more RAM, or even replace the current RAM, possibly up to the max of 16 GBs.

    For the record, I'm not interested at this point in overclocking. This is due to the fact that I don't know what overclocking is or how to do it. I would appreciate a description of what overclocking is and how it affects my system, but I don't think I will worry about doing so.

    What are the L2 and L3 Cache? What do they do, and how do they affect my computer's performance?

    With the processor, I do not see anything about a frequency that matches the motherboard or the RAM. How do I determine what frequency my processor works at?

    Thanks in advance for the help!
  2. JMMD

    JMMD TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 840   +6

    All of this information is already available online so it doesn't make sense to repeat what's available.


    AMD uses HyperTransport to replace the Front-Side Bus in their Opteron, Athlon 64, Sempron 64, Turion 64, Phenom and Phenom II families of microprocessors.

    In personal computers, the front-side bus (FSB) is the bus that carries data between the CPU and the northbridge.

    This should explain DDR3:

    What is the 1800(O.C.) and 1600(O.C.) on the motherboard?
    The motherboard supports Overclocking up to those speeds.

    What are the L2 and L3 Cache?
    L1 is closest to the core, typically smallest and fastest. L2 is typically bigger and slower, and 'further away' (both physical, distance, and in latency). L3 is even bigger, slower and further, etc.
  3. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Okay, so the way I understand it now, my motherboard can handle 1333 MHz RAM as-is. It could handle 1600 and 1800, but only if I manually change some settings to overclock it. Is that correct?
  4. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,974   +74

  5. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Excellent! Thanks again for all the help!
  6. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,397   +37

    I didn't quite understand this; would you mind elaborating a bit?

    Also, I feel you may also need a new PSU, especially if you are looking to get a more powerful video card than the one you currently have. What PSU do you currently have and how much time have you had it for? A brand name and model number would help us tell you whether or not it'll be good enough for an upgrade.

    Also, do you typically use your PC 24/7?
  7. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I was unfamiliar with Hyper Transports and what they were. I remember back in the day that a processor had a front side bus as well; they do things differently now using Hyper Transports. So I was looking for something that doesn't exist anymore, basically.

    My PSU is a Rosewill RD400-2-DB, with a max capacity of 400W.

    I don't use my PC 24/7, but I am on it daily. It spends as much time in sleep mode or off as it does on.
  8. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,974   +74

    I have to agree with Rage on the PSU. What video card are you going to run?
  9. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I don't know what video card, yet. I was trying to get some questions answered before shopping. I'm running a 512 MB video card now, and I'd like to upgrade to at least 1 GB.
  10. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,974   +74

    Then you will definitely need a better, more powerful psu.
  11. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,397   +37

    The memory on the card doesn't matter as much as the type of card. A 1GB 9500GT is very inferior to a 256MB 8800GT, for example.

    For gaming at any resolution below 1920x1080, a GTX 460 768MB or an HD 6850 (depending on your budget) is good enough. At or above 1920x1080, again depending on your budget, you'd have the GTX 460 1GB, the HD 6870, and the GTX 570 to choose from, in order of ascending price.
  12. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Unfortunately, I'm not that knowledgeable about video cards at this point, either. What should I look for when trying to determine what video card is best for my current needs? Besides my desired screen resolution, I mean. Why would the 256MB card be better than the 1GB card? What do I look for?
  13. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,397   +37

    Look for reviews on the video card you're considering and see how it fares versus other competitors (most reviews compare the card's performance to a variety of others to show how well it cam compete with other cards). The review doesn't need to be manufacturer specific (i.e. if you're considering the MSI GTX 480, you don't need to only read reviews of the MSI GTX 480, any other GTX 480 will perform the same, unless the MSI card in question is overclocked or has different specs such as more onboard memory etc.), so Google away!
  14. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Sorry I've been away so long! I've been really busy lately. Happy New Year!

    After doing some research, I have a preliminary list of what I plan on buying later this spring. Here they are:

    Video Card: ASUS GeForce 450; http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814121394

    RAM: 8 GB total (2 pairs) Crucial Ballistix Tracer (Red LEDs); http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148340

    Monitor: ASUS 23" LCD; http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824236059

    2 Case Fans: Intake: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835150115
    Exhaust: http://www.noctua.at/main.php?show=productview&products_id=12&lng=en&set=1

    I have yet to look for a hard drive.

    Feedback would be greatly appreciated!
  15. Mizzou

    Mizzou TS Enthusiast Posts: 783

    If you're going to be gaming at 1920x1080 you might want to consider a little bit stronger graphics card, here's a link to a review by TechPowerUp for a wide range of games. Shows what kind of relative performance you can expect from the ASUS ENGTS450 DirectCU TOP, the test setup is using a Core i7 920 overclocked to 3.8GHz so your numbers would likely be a bit lower with the Phenom II.
  16. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Okay, after furthur research...

    Here are the changes I am looking at getting this spring:

    Video Card
    RAM (2 pairs, total of 8 GB)
    External HDD for backup
    Intake fan
    Exhaust fan

    What I'm keeping from my existing system:
    Optical Drive

    I also have the stock case fan, that I might put in the front of the case (in front of the HDD bays), and an 80mm case fan w/LEDs that I might put in the secondary side vent, though I don't know if I will need that much intake. I would prefer to keep the intake lower than the exhaust. I also have a PCI-slot wireless card.

    As previously stated, I need a more powerful PSU to handle my upgrades. However, beyond a rough idea of how much wattage I will need (I'm thinking the 600-700 range) and the quantity and types of pins, what I need to look for.

    I know I need:
    601-700 watt range
    20+4 pin main connector

    For type, I know I have an ATX case and board, but do I need an ATX12V?
    How do I determine the number of +12V rails I need?
    Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
  17. Ritwik7

    Ritwik7 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,657   +9

    What's your budget for the parts that you're going to buy?

    A single 12V rail with high amperage is good enough.
  18. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    In general, my budget is under $1000. As I said, I pretty much have most of my parts picked out. In addition to everything I linked before, I found this:

    Modular PSU

    I actually might look at downgrading my video card to save a bit of money...my bill right now is close to $900 before shipping, and I would really like to drop it further. Just about anything I buy will be an improvement over my current video card, so I will be happy with anything I get. If I find I need to upgrade after a year, then so be it.

    So does it appear that this PSU will meet my needs? I think it will, with room to build on.
  19. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,974   +74

    The Corsair HX series is a very nice offering. I just built a system using their 850 HX and it came loaded with cables. It will do you quite well.
  20. Ritwik7

    Ritwik7 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,657   +9

    Don't downgrade your GPU. Stick with the GTX 460 at least since your primary purpose is gaming. Instead of the Corsair 850 get the 650HX. It will do good enough even if you decide to go SLI/CF.
  21. Great1122

    Great1122 TS Enthusiast Posts: 109

    Before purchasing the gtx 460 please consider these cards:
    SAPPHIRE 100315L Radeon HD 6850 1GB 256-bit GDDR5: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102908 dimensions 6.5 x 3.5 x 11.5 inches ($180,164 after mail in rebate).
    HIS H687F1G2M Radeon HD 6870 1GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161349&cm_re=6870-_-14-161-349-_-Product ($215, $195 after mail in rebate,). Dimensions 9 x 4 x 2 inches
    HIS H685F1GD Radeon HD 6850 1GB http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161348 ($175, $160 after mail in rebate)

    By the way if you're willing to shop on amazon, all these cards are available there with the same prices and rebates and with free shipping; just copy and paste the name of the card on google and look for the amazon link.

    Also:All the mail in rebates end by the 28th of February, so if you have the money, I suggest you buy the card now, if you want to buy any of these cards, also you get a $10 newegg gift card on any of them if you buy by the 28th of February; The date applies for both Amazon and Newegg.

    All these cards outperform the gtx 460 by a lot, and all these cards are cheaper, as long as they fit there's no reason not to get them, unless of course you go down to a $100 video card range. "I know I need: 601-700 watt range" Why? That's a sufficient amount of wattage for an sli or cfx, but if you're looking to OC, a 500+ watt psu would suffice,please correct me if I'm wrong.
  22. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I got that rough idea by using the guidelines found here. I decided to be on the safe side and go higher on the estimates, to make sure I don't undercut myself for one. For two, I understand that a PSU works most efficiently when operating at less than a full load. Also, a stronger PSU will more likely last me through another round or two of upgrades. Especially if I get a high quality one.
    I readily admit I may have overestimated by quite a bit.

    Thanks for the vid card recommendations. I will check those out before I make a final decision!
  23. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I made my final choices, and ordered the parts! I should be receiving them in the next week.
    I've already taken some before screenshots from CPU-Z and my WEI, as well as organized everything from my drive that I want to transfer to the new one I'm getting.
    I can't wait!
  24. Great1122

    Great1122 TS Enthusiast Posts: 109

    You're not using full load on all the parts all the time,so your psu wouldn't have to use your psu at full load unless your playing something with amazing graphics or doing multiple things at one time, but it's better safe than sorry, so I get your reasoning there.

    By the way could you list the final specs of your build?
  25. DastardlyDan

    DastardlyDan TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Sure! I'll give you some before, and then update with the after once I get it all put together.

    Gateway CRT Monitor (came with the Gateway computer I bought in 2000)
    Old Video Card
    Old PSU
    CPU (I'm keeping this)
    Motherboard (I'm keeping this)
    Optical Drive (Keeping this)
    4 Gigs RAM
    Also an old 160GB HDD, I think it's a 5400 RPM.

    My current WEI:

    What I bought:
    Video Card
    External HDD (for backup)
    RAM, 2 pair for 8 Gig total
    Exhaust Fan
    Intake Fan

    All of this is in my Thermaltake SopranoRS case. I can't wait to see how much my WEI will change!

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