What to upgrade first?

By Bazz · 29 replies
Dec 1, 2011
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  1. Hey, first post here on techspot.
    With the up coming holiday season I'm looking to get some of the bargains and upgrade my pc.
    I wanted to get some unbiased advice (As opposed to say someone in PC World trying to sell me something) on which components of my PC I would be best to upgrade in order to keep up with the recommended specs for high definition games. Games like World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3 and such.

    Motherboard: Asus M3A78 PRO (Not crossfire compatible)
    Processor: AMD Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition
    Memory: 4GB DDR2
    GPU: ATI Radeon HD 5770
    PSU: 600W OCZ ModXStream Pro
    Monitor: HannsG HG221A
    HDD: 250gb
  2. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    What resolution are you playing at?
    EDIT: I see your monitor runs at 1680x1050

    MW3 - https://www.techspot.com/review/464-modern-warfare-3-performance/

    Skyrim - https://www.techspot.com/review/467-skyrim-performance/

    And any new mid/high end card will deal with WoW without too much problem (although crowded cities are always a FPS killer).
    Personally I'd go AMD 6950 or Nvidia GTX 570, then after other upgrades including a mobo that can run Crossfire/SLI, you can always grab another one later for a decent performance boost when the single card starts to struggle with future titles. And depending on budget you could always grab another 4GB stick of ram depending on your current config (1 x 4GB or 2 x 2GB).
  3. Bazz

    Bazz TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I only just noticed your edit. Thank you for the fast responce.
    In light of your reccomendations I just want to confirm I have everything right before I click to buy.
    Sapphire 11187-00-40R HD 6970 2GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
    4GB kit (2GBx2), 240-pin DIMM, DDR2 PC2-5300 memory module
  4. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    In that case you could get an SLI/Crossfire capable motherboard and another 5770. Not sure how well Crossfire works with Skyrim. And what sort of performance 2x5770 actually gives.
  5. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    What memory do you currently have in your PC?
    2 x 2GB? If so then that 2x2GB would be the memory upgrade you would require, assuming the motherboard you have runs Dual Channel memory. But it probably isn't going to give you a massive upgrade. What is the price of the ram? (I checked a website in UK and 2 x 2GB DDR2 was the same price as 2 x 4GB of DDR3).You would probably be best just getting the 6950/6970 and then upgrading platform(motherboard, cpu and ram) in the future. I believe DDR2 ram is/was more expensive than DDR3 that newer AMD and Intel platforms run.
    Also wait for a few more responses before you buy anything :)

    Also take note that my edit hadn't correctly updated to show the Skyrim 1680 benchmark results.
    And that the benchmarks are run on an Intel i7 2600K test system. So your system might not get quite that high FPS results. Just that the GPU is the most obvious part to upgrade :)
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,715   +3,693

    If you did decide to purchase new memory modules, I'm wondering if you would benefit from faster modules. The PC2-5300 is the slowest memory mentioned on the support pages.
  7. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    I'm guessing that is the type Bazz already had. Don't think there is any benefit to mixing faster memory with slower memory but a good point all the same.
  8. Bazz

    Bazz TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Well the GPU I'm looking it the 6970 is on amazon and it's £280. There seems to be a few models and also the 6950 which is anywhere between £209-£250.
    Beyond installing it i'm not that knowlagable on what the major differences are.

    As for the memory

    Memory Type: DDR2 PC2-5300, DDR2 PC2-6400, DDR2 PC2-8500, DDR2 (ECC)
    Maximum Memory: 8GB
    Currently Installed Memory: 4GB
    Total Memory Slots: 4
    Available Memory Slots: 2

    Is what i currently have according to the crucial upgrade advisor tool.

    Also very random but I just noticed Arris your from Aberdeen and so am I small world. Lol.
  9. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 718   +236

    Ok so unbiased advice:

    Your computer is about 4 years old with that hardware right?
    You cant upgrade your CPU, board doesn't support it.
    I'm going to guess windows XP? so you cant go over 4gb ram anyways.

    The only things you can really upgrade is your video card and hard drive (250GB? eeeeeew it must be 10 years old?!)
    So go for a midrange card like a geforce 560/570 or AMD 6950/70 (I think -not a big amd fan)
    Also get a proper hard drive thats not going to die on you in 2 weeks time maybe get a SSD since you don't seem to need the space anyways. A cheaper Vertex 2 should make a huge difference for your pc.
  10. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,715   +3,693

    M3A78 PRO shows support for "AMD Phenom II X6 1100T" which is nearly 2.5 time the performance of "Phenom X4 9550".

    As for the OS, that is correct, I never thought to question about the bit version. I actually assumed Windows 64-bit with 4GB memory and a DirectX11 graphics card.

    Altough XP does have a 64-bit version that would see all 8GB memory. In any case a 64-bit version would be needed to see any extra memory purchased.
  11. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 718   +236

    I stand corrected, I did not think the older boards designed for the 4 digit CPU's would support the new 3 digit ones.

    Is the 6 core cpu really worth it, I'm pretty sure I saw loads of tests where the older quad core 955/965 phenoms did better in pretty much everything.
    Something like this is just 130$'ish: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103808

    Still the two things that really bother me is the 250hdd(assuming its not a 240gb SSD typo) and the old vid card.
    Thats where I'd focus first.
  12. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    For the majority of games the hex core won't make all that much difference over the quad core. Hence why my recommendation to upgrade the GPU.

    Hey Bazz, small world indeed. I assume you are buying your parts online and not any of the stores in Aberdeen. Everest Computers on Holburn street isn't bad. But other than that I've not bought much from any other store. And usually "off" line purchases have been smaller items like fans, crossfire bridges, peripherals.
  13. Bazz

    Bazz TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I actually got my PC 2 years ago built by north east peripherals on george street. The HDD was sold in the "package" and I never really thought about it tbh. I don't have to many games or music so i'm not even at half capacity at the moment anyway.
    I later bought the psu and gpu online.
    I have windows 7 64bit installed which I get free from being a studant. :)
  14. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    What to Upgrade First ?

    Not a good time for an upgrade.

    My choice would be to replace the 250 GB hard drive since it appears to be 4 years old...

    But the prices are so high right now... resulting from the flooded hard drive factories of Western Digital, Seagate, and Hitachi in Thailand that have halted most production...

    Your hard drive could last another three years or it could go bad tomorrow... My guess is you have maybe a year to go... but I would replace that before I spent money elsewhere.
  15. Bazz

    Bazz TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Well the specs for my HDD which i could find are



    Deskstar P7K500

    HDP725025GLA380 (0A35399)

    Bare Drive


    SATA 3.0Gb/s


    7200 RPM


    Physical Spec

    Form Factor

    Manufacturer Warranty

    3 years limited

    3 years limited

    And it is a discontinued model.

    I'm on the fence weather to go with the 6970 or GTX 570. I really don't think I have the ability to get a whole new motherboard cpu and all that at the moment so I'm thinking perhaps the HDD GPU and the Ram upgrade? Is it possible to maybe replace the existing ram or something to make it somewhat viable?
    It would be nice to run skyrim in ultra mode but I don't have a grand to spend atm to do so. :)
  16. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    The Hitachi hard drives are reportedly a LOT better than they used to be... but you could not prove it by me... Our shops find the Hitachi hard drives, of a variety of capacities, last about two fewer years than a Western Digital or a Seagate... We have had much better luck with Samsung... and no worse luck than that provided by Hitachi... But it has been so long since we risked buying one that they may have improved their quality control enough to make them a good bet.
  17. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Unless you are running out of space there is no reason to buy a hard disk at the current high prices. It isn't going to noticeably improve gaming.
  18. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Google released a white paper after investigating the various brands it used in its servers and if I recall correctly Hitachi were the most reliable brand they used -- interestingly I'm pretty sure Seagate suffered the most failures across its world-wide deployed server farms.

    I've searched in vain for a link but it appears its now dead on Google's end. Someone here might have a local copy or a link to one working though.

    I also recall the white paper suggesting that increased disk temperature did not necessarily result in an increased failure rate either. But it also noted the "sweet spot" for disk temperature was 35-45'C.
  19. Mizzou

    Mizzou TS Enthusiast Posts: 823

    I agree with Arris that upgrading your graphics card would be the best move although it is a tough call between these cards. I would check a numbers of reviews to see how each card performs for the games that you play the most (or plan to purchase) and go with the one that works best for you.

    Just noticed your post count and wanted to say welcome to Techspot :)
  20. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    This one is several years old, is it the one you are referring to?
  21. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +10

    That would be a very positive surprise, but I doubt Google could run an effective report... takes two years to know the difference between a Hitachi and a Seagate or Western Digital. What tech services does Google run. I cannot find any info on their work on line... except that they replace their hard drives yearly. Where would we find more info on this? Whatever... it is likely that they use contract services with the expensive reinforced drives with heat sinks, as most companies do.

    We send a lot of work to companies that run rescue and recovery businesses to retrieve data lost from failed hard drives on a contract basis for businesses and legal firms. Seagate has been first for two years, Western Digital is Second, and Samsung is third on Desktop models. While on laptops, Toshiba is first, Western Digital is second, Seagate is third in reliability... unless that has changed in the past 11 months... since they only report once a year... and only to their clients. Of course, Hitachi started having massive failures 2002 through 2005, and actually tried to get out of the hard drive business but could not find a buyer.
  22. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    It's 0C where me and Bazz are in the world today, don't think my disks are going to be happy :p

    Bazz, I've bought from North East in the past but mostly parts that I haven't wanted to wait for to be delivered. These more "specialist" shops are useful but they still don't have a huge array of performance parts in stock. I'd pop by Everest on Holburn (at the Trinity Hall / Trades building) as they seem to have a good selection of component. Probably not quite as good a price as online but worth a look if you'd like the parts in your hands asap :)
  23. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Possibly. Though I'm almost certain they compared brands of hard disks and I do see any listed when scanning that document.

    Unless I'm thinking of something else.
  24. Bazz

    Bazz TS Rookie Topic Starter

    I checked out the everest website and there pretty competitive as far as I can tell for prices I couldn't find a site which was far cheaper and of course I can just walk in an buy it this weekend which is convenient.
    After reading reviews I think I'll go for this 9950, £255 sticker price but I can get the VAT back so it's really only £200 which is just like if I was buying the next gen of console every couple years. It's better than giving in and getting skyrim for my 360.. That would be a shame. :p
    And for £20 a stick I'm just going to get 2 of these, I somtimes have like WoW + Firefox/Youtube + another game + what ever else running at the same time and I think any boost in memory would help.
  25. Arris

    Arris TS Evangelist Posts: 4,730   +379

    Definitely for switching since you don't then have to switch stuff out of memory and back in again all the time. Hope the 6950 can give you a good boost without needing a platform upgrade :)

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