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 Post subject: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:44 pm 
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Posts: 2
5 years ago as a student I built my own tower PC to run rendering programs like 3Ds Max and use AutoCAD and Photoshop for presentations. At the time, the best CPU I could find (and afford) was a Xeon server system so I went for it and traded silence for performance (students don't sleep much anyway). These days, I rarely do more than stream TV on the iPlayer but I do occasionally use Photoshop still and I've noticed the PC begin to struggle during 'heavy' tasks.

So I'm thinking about my options for upgrading. I only ever included 2GB of RAM but there are 16 slots on the Motherboard so my first thought was to just buy a couple more sticks. But now I'm wondering about bottlenecks, FSB's and whether it would make much difference. I use a core i7 at work with 8GB RAM and an SSD drive. In comparison my homebrew is left for dust...Maybe it's time for a motherboard and CPU upgrade too. I'm trying to avoid starting again from scratch.

I'd appreciate your suggestions on best 'bang for buck' (I didn't really know what I was putting together at the time).

My current setup is as follows:
Intel Xeon E5320 Quad Core CPU (1.86GHz)
Supermicro X7DAL-E
2x Corsair 1GB FB-DIMM DDR2-667
620W ENERMAX MODULAR ELT620AWT power supply
160GB SEAGATE SATA2 ST3160811AS
NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GS
Windows 7 Pro (x64)

Thanks in advance,

Tom


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 4:10 pm 
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Location: Monterey Bay, CA
Photoshop + Win7 will need more than 2GB. Pop that up to at least 4GB and see if the slowdown goes away.

If you want to build a new system, throw a budget out there. Is performance still the driver or do you want to quiet things down? FYI, that Xeon has about the same processing power at a Sandybridge based Pentium 620....the sytem probably has half the processing power due to disk thrashing (lack of RAM). Given the G620 as a starting point, how far up this performance curve do you want to go for photoshop? If the G620 benchmarks at 25.6s in this test, without bottlenecks, figure your Xeon (with 2GB RAM and ancient/slow HDD) is in the 50sec range. If it's mostly used for HTPC purposes, then the i3-3225 is a good fit (~$125, benchmarks at 17sec). If you want more Photoshop oomph, then move up to an i5-3570 (~$220, 11.3sec).

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:26 am 
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Location: UK
Another reason for a new system rather than upgrading:
DDR2 RAM is much more expensive than DDR3. Even going to the trouble of putting an extra 2Gb in doesn't make a huge amount of sense if you then end up replacing the whole system.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:47 am 
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CA_Steve, edh,

Thank you for the swift replies. edh has hit on my central dilemma which is that I don't want to waste too much money on DDR2 if it will be obsolete when I inevitably overhaul the system. That said, another 2x1GB sticks won't break the bank.

To answer CA_Steve's question, yes I'd definitely like to quieten things down (and use less power if possible), haven't had a chance to play with the performance curve properly yet but at first glance it looks like I'd notice an improvement in pretty much every category over my existing CPU with any other chip currently on the market. I'm guessing that by buying into a core i3, i5 or i7 chipsets though, I would be immediately be looking at new motherboard, and RAM plus I'd probably throw in an SSD for good measure. A quick glance online suggests this would be in the region of at least £400 for reliable name components of a decent spec. Not unaffordable, but I don't want to upgrade just ahead of a new chipset release if there will be a marked improvement with the new range.

I think I'll probably just add another 2GB of DDR2 for now and see if this takes the edge off the slow performance and then review it again in a few months. Any news on the Haswell chips - would these be worth waiting for in 2013 or are they only for Gamers?


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:27 am 
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Haswell: It's coming out in Spring 2013. I'd wait for another quarter to let the inevitable mobo/firmware bugs be worked out. The big improvement over IVB is on the graphics side as well as vast improvements in power management. However, there's some good stuff happening on the CPU side including a doubling of cache bandwidth. Figure the usual 10-15% bump in CPU performance over the last gen to be conservative.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on upgrading a self-built PC
PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:10 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
Haswell: It's coming out in Spring 2013.


Well I wouldn't be surprised to see Haswell slip beyond Spring - well what I define as spring anyway. Haswell is Q2'13 as far as I know, and Q2 includes June. So July or August wouldn't be a big slip. Anyway my reasoning is that Intel are slapping their competition silly in desktop processors, there's no real reason for them to hurry to replace Ivy Bridge.

Just my hunch. I certainly wouldn't expect Haswell on the desktop in March/April.

Mobile is a different story.


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