Upgrading an old workhorse (opinions appreciated)

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
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Hello everyone,

It's been roughly 1.5 years and my trusty ol' AthlonXP's are starting to get long for this world (mainly because of Doom!) and I've got that upgrade itch again. I've been lurking, posting, and researching for price-vs-performance and have settled on some options. As in the past however, you've all steered me in the right direction and helped illuminate some potential pitfalls so I'm running this past everyone to see what you all think.

Please don't hesitate to post any critque's, comments, suggestions, or even praise! Everything helps because I don't have the financial resources to screw this up!

Here's what I CURRENTLY have on my main PC that is staying...

360w Enlight PSU
52x Samsung CDRom
52x32x52x16 CDR/DVD combo from Liteon
40gig 7200rpm 2m cache WD HD
5900XT GeForceFX (BFG)
SB Audigy 2
Floppy Drive


The second PC that is receiving some love has close to the same stats, a few differences...

360w PSU
52x CDRom
4x2x24x CDBurner (mainly used as secondary CDrom atm)
60gig 2mb 7200rpm HD (manufacturer is long forgotton)
Radeon 9700Pro
SB Live 5.1
Floppy

I am currently upgrading to THESE components (all being purchased via Newegg).

AMD Athlon64 3200+ CPUs (retail)
1 gig of Mushkin PC3200 DDR Ram
Soltek SL-K8AN2E-GR nForce3-250gb Mobo
(the first PC is also receiving the item below)
120 Seagate PATA 7200 8MB cache HD
(not sold on SATA yet due to install issues/price etc).

Here's my list of questions...

1. Will the RAM cause any issues w/ the mobo+cpu combo? I didn't read any, but never hurts to ask and it's expensive.
2. How is the Soltek board? I know there's a cheaper Chaintech, but I wanted the gigabit lan (I dunno why tho, sounds neat) and I don't care for ASUS or Abit as high end brands. In fact, my Epox has worked flawlessly but I read about some issues w/ their nForce boards and MSI = crap. I've seen two go bad on friends recently, one Via chipset one nForce! The bit about MSI is personal opinion that can't be swayed, sorry :)
3. Is the Seagate a decent PATA HD? I've *always* used WD since my first 386DX/40 and they've never failed me, but I read some bits about the Seagate being slightly faster AND quieter (my current one is a noisy S.O.B.), also it has a 5 year warrenty (not that I'll ever exercise it).
4. Will the PSU suffice? It's a decent one that's available on Newegg currently and I've read about others being able to use A64's w/ decent branded (Antec, etc) 350s. I really can't afford much more so I'm hoping I can get by w/ these.
5. Is the nForce chipset better/worse/etc than the Via? I've used Via for awhile and I've been lucky enough to get their second revisions on the boards I have so I've never really had issues, but I'm interested in the nForce and especially the gigabit lan, any comments?

All totaled, those items come to just over $1000 to upgrade both PCs at the same time. I HAVE to do the wife's while I do mine so cutting one down to help the other is not possible.

I appreciate the time you all give me in replies and take them very seriously. Any comments are extremely grateful! Thanks in advance!
 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,375
142
116
Originally posted by: Lokan
Here's my list of questions...

1. Will the RAM cause any issues w/ the mobo+cpu combo? I didn't read any, but never hurts to ask and it's expensive.
2. How is the Soltek board? I know there's a cheaper Chaintech, but I wanted the gigabit lan (I dunno why tho, sounds neat) and I don't care for ASUS or Abit as high end brands. In fact, my Epox has worked flawlessly but I read about some issues w/ their nForce boards and MSI = crap. I've seen two go bad on friends recently, one Via chipset one nForce! The bit about MSI is personal opinion that can't be swayed, sorry :)
3. Is the Seagate a decent PATA HD? I've *always* used WD since my first 386DX/40 and they've never failed me, but I read some bits about the Seagate being slightly faster AND quieter (my current one is a noisy S.O.B.), also it has a 5 year warrenty (not that I'll ever exercise it).
4. Will the PSU suffice? It's a decent one that's available on Newegg currently and I've read about others being able to use A64's w/ decent branded (Antec, etc) 350s. I really can't afford much more so I'm hoping I can get by w/ these.
5. Is the nForce chipset better/worse/etc than the Via? I've used Via for awhile and I've been lucky enough to get their second revisions on the boards I have so I've never really had issues, but I'm interested in the nForce and especially the gigabit lan, any comments?

1. Mushkin has excellent compatibility, and the company has been around for a while. I don't see any issues with the RAM.
2. I've heard good things about the Chaintech and EpoX (apparently very good at getting high FSBs), but not much about the Soltek. I'm sure the board will be stable, but I don't know much about their BIOS options.
3. Seagate is a great brand. Quiet, fast, and the 5 year warranty is a good thing to have (even if you say you won't use it). Hitachi/Maxtor would be good alternatives as well.
4. Quality over Quantity when you consider PSUs. If they're a good brand with good ratings on each rail (Enlight is a quality brand IMO), you won't have any problems.
5. I think NForce3 is better than VIA. I like their drivers better, and the feature set is better too.

All that talk about Doom3 and no 6800? :D
 

jacktesterson

Diamond Member
Sep 28, 2001
5,493
3
81
You will love that Soltek board. I've been buying Soltek boards for 4-5 years and never once an issue. O/c well, lots of features, excellent support and stability and good pricing

why mushkin? how save some money and go with OCZ

Edit: Soltek boards are just as rich in overclocking features i Bios as the other boards and they overclock well
 

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
305
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Wow, I was just reading jpayton's update guides and already some responses!

1. No 6800 atm as money is tight enough. And I figure a 6800 would be overkill seeing as I only have an AthlonXP 2400+ atm and my wife as an 1800+!

2. Mushkin because I've heard of them. Will I have compatability issues w/ OCZ, and are they available at Newegg?

Thanks for the comments on the nForce and Soltek. I've never used them either.

A quick note about the CPU. I don't plan to overclock. If anything, I *might* decide to try for the 3400+ speeds, but most likely won't.
 

jpeyton

Moderator in SFF, Notebooks, Pre-Built/Barebones
Moderator
Aug 23, 2003
25,375
142
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Originally posted by: Lokan
Wow, I was just reading jpayton's update guides and already some responses!

1. No 6800 atm as money is tight enough. And I figure a 6800 would be overkill seeing as I only have an AthlonXP 2400+ atm and my wife as an 1800+!

2. Mushkin because I've heard of them. Will I have compatability issues w/ OCZ, and are they available at Newegg?

Thanks for the comments on the nForce and Soltek. I've never used them either.

A quick note about the CPU. I don't plan to overclock. If anything, I *might* decide to try for the 3400+ speeds, but most likely won't.

Well with a A64, I'm sure your 5900 or 9700Pro will be able to run at 1024x768 HQ, which is still great.

OCZ makes good memory too. What kind of Mushkin RAM were you going to get (that determines whether the OCZ is cheaper or not).

I guess it's confirmed Soltek is good!
 

dmw16

Diamond Member
Nov 12, 2000
7,608
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I'd say that is a nice upgrade. Let me see if I can add anything to your questions, although the answers may not be in any order.

> RAM: Mushkin is a great way to go. there are some cheaper brands out there, but the price difference between Mushkin and some of the cheaper ones is only about $10 for a 512MB stick, so I dont see any reason to go cheap. I am assuming you are getting the Mushkin value stuff. If you were gonna get the high performance stuff, then I would change to the value stuff, the more expensive stuff generally isnt worth the cost.

> HD: As said above, Seagate is great, and you cant beat 5 years!

> Motherboard/Chipset: Soltek is fine. I have used both the Via K8T800 and the nForce3 250 and I definatly like the nForce. I had an nForce2 before this and that was great. Also, if you are doing any overclocking, the AGP/PCI locks on the nForce will be better.

> CPU/Overclocking: I think if money is an issue, your best bet would be an A64 3000+ and shoot for 3200+ speed overclocks. Seems that the 3000+ is the A64 sweet spot.

I also agree that there is no need for a 6800 right now. Those are solid performer video cards you have and the upgrades you are making will let you get in on the Doom3 thing. You may wanna think about a video upgrade when the 6600 line comes out. If they dominate the budget market like the 6800s are dominating the higher end market, then they will be great cards. It's also much appreciated that you take everyone's opinions seriously :) Good Luck.
 

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
305
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Originally posted by: dmw16
I'd say that is a nice upgrade. Let me see if I can add anything to your questions, although the answers may not be in any order.

> RAM: Mushkin is a great way to go. there are some cheaper brands out there, but the price difference between Mushkin and some of the cheaper ones is only about $10 for a 512MB stick, so I dont see any reason to go cheap. I am assuming you are getting the Mushkin value stuff. If you were gonna get the high performance stuff, then I would change to the value stuff, the more expensive stuff generally isnt worth the cost.

> HD: As said above, Seagate is great, and you cant beat 5 years!

> Motherboard/Chipset: Soltek is fine. I have used both the Via K8T800 and the nForce3 250 and I definatly like the nForce. I had an nForce2 before this and that was great. Also, if you are doing any overclocking, the AGP/PCI locks on the nForce will be better.

> CPU/Overclocking: I think if money is an issue, your best bet would be an A64 3000+ and shoot for 3200+ speed overclocks. Seems that the 3000+ is the A64 sweet spot.

I also agree that there is no need for a 6800 right now. Those are solid performer video cards you have and the upgrades you are making will let you get in on the Doom3 thing. You may wanna think about a video upgrade when the 6600 line comes out. If they dominate the budget market like the 6800s are dominating the higher end market, then they will be great cards. It's also much appreciated that you take everyone's opinions seriously :) Good Luck.

I was actually waiting to see how the 6600 performs vesus a 6800plain or GT, $500 is just too much to spend on a video card imho.

-About the Mushkin RAM, it's $75 @ newegg and here's the specs...
Manufacturer: Mushkin
Speed: DDR400(PC3200)
Type: 184 Pin DDR SDRAM
Error Checking: Non-ECC
Registered/Unbuffered: Unbuffered
Cas Latency: 2.5-4-4
Support Voltage: 2.6V
Bandwidth: 3.2GB/s
Organization: 64M x 64 -Bit
Warranty: Lifetime

Seems reasonable and it's only $6 more expensive than the cheapest available. I figure $6 is enough to command for name brand -vs- generic. I've bought Generic in the past and it's never really given me trouble, but I figure why not pay the extra money this time now that I can afford it and get the reassurance of quality.

As for the 3000+ and overclocking. I considered that, but the 3200+ is only $35ish more and I don't like to overclock. I am/was considering trying to push the 3200+ to 3400+ speeds, but honestly, I don't think I'll need to as it appears from Anand's Doom benches that it'll only get me a few extra FPS and when your FPS is in the 70fps range, a couple more doesn't really warrent the extra stress on the CPU. Now, I could be completely wrong on this, so please let me know :)

Thanks again for the comments and keep em coming! I know a couple people have said Soltek are ok, which is reassuring, but there's not as many replies as I've seen in the past. Maybe I just selected better the first time around? Everyone seems pretty content on what I've put together, but still, if you're lurking out there, please chime in! It's truely helpful to me. And again, you guys rawkx0rz :p hehe
 

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
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Sigh.. now another dilemma. I just read a small round-up at this place here and they say that the nForce3-250gb has SATA supported through the BIOS. They also claim that because of this, you won't experience the frustrations of the past w/ floppy drivers and the like.

Can anyone comment on how 'simple' the installation of a SATA HD would be on the Soltek board I mentioned above? I wouldn't mind the extra performance for the price and truth be told, I hate IDE cables, so ugly. ;)

Is the install of a SATA HD on the nForce3-250gb boards really just as simple as enabling it in the BIOS? Thanks again!
 

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
305
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Oh yes, another point, I will not be putting the SATA HD in a RAID configuration. Knowing that, will the install of the SATA drive be easier?

And what of SATAII? Seagate has a nice drive which claims to be 20% faster than their previous SATA drives, but then once I googled, I read on a dev forum that very few MB's support the drive, yet newegg doesn't list anything about that. Please help :(
 

Calin

Diamond Member
Apr 9, 2001
3,112
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The new Intel chipsets (915, 925) supports the SATA2 (NCQ, something with queuing commands) in southbridge. The drives should fall down to SATA1 if the controller is not NCQ capable, so no compatibility problems here
If you really really want a SATA2 drive, you could only have a PCI SATA2 controller, or a Pentium4 with Intel chipset.

Calin
 

Lokan

Senior member
Mar 8, 2000
305
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Ah, thanks! As long as the SATA II drive is backwards compatable I may as well get that one, it's only $20 or so more and seems to be a better buy. Thank you Calin!

Can anyone comment on the ease of install for the SATA drives with the nForce3-250gb chipset? I've never had experience with SATA and can't afford to have this PC down for more than a day or so. Is there a guide (similar to mechBgon's system building guide or jpeyton's thread) that explains the step by step process of getting WindowsXP or the BIOS to recognize the SATA drive? Or will the item be a plug-n-prey drive similar to PATA with this chipset since the mainboard supports SATA? Thanks again for the help, this is the last issue that I have questions on as I've decided on everything else.
 

Calin

Diamond Member
Apr 9, 2001
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The BIOS will recognize the SATA drive, no sweat. For the Windows installer, you should have at hand the drivers for Windows XP. There should be (if you remember, while installing there is a moment when you are asked (Press F6) for suplemental device drivers for SCSI or IDE controllers. At that moment you should feed the floppy with the drivers. And yes, you NEED a floppy disk even for Windows 2003, no other options available (no CD, no HDD).

Calin