Upgrade Advice Appreciated


Jun 30, 2004
I'm looking at upgrading my main PC sometime in the next couple of weeks. The PC is used primarily for games, specifically MMO's like City of Heroes and Everquest (looking forward to Worlds of Warcraft), and the occasional game of BF1492/Vietnam & what-not at LAN parties. I'm not seeing any particular performance problems, but things still aren't running as smoothly as I'd like and I can spare some cash to spruce the thing up a bit. I want the largest improvement I can get for about $200.

Anyway, here's what I have currently:

CPU: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ (Barton)
Mobo: Gigabyte GA-7N400 Pro2 (Nforce2 Ultra400)
Memory: Kingston HyperX KHX3500AK2/512 (2x256MB, DDR3500)
Video: Abit Siluro GF4 Ti4200 (GeForce 4 4200 64MB)
Sound: Onboard Realtek ALC650/655 Audio (6-Channel Dolby)
Hard Drive: Western Digital 200.0GB 8.9MS/7200 SERIAL ATA
Net Connection: DSL

The first option I'm pondering is another matched pair of 256MB DDR chips, of similar speed/latency to my existing ones. While it would cap out my board, I don't forsee needing more than 1024MB of ram before my next CPU/Mobo upgrade (probably waiting till PCI-Express boards have been out for a while). It looks like I can get a second pair of similar DDR3500 chips for about $150 or so. I could probably save some money going with DDR3200, but I imagine four near-identical chips would probably be worth it in performance & stability.

The second option I'm considering is a new video card. I've been VERY satisfied with my 4200, but it's starting to show its age a bit. Needless to say the new card would need to be decent in DX9, and a significant speed improvement over the 4200 (which apparently rules out quite a few newer cards, oddly enough). I've been biased towards Nvidia for quite some time now, due to good luck with them/bad luck with the last few ATI cards I tried. However, that was during the earlier days of the Radeons, so I would consider revisiting their offerings. That said, speed in benchmarks alone won't do it for me. If I have to constantly go back to old drivers because my new blazing fast card won't play nice with my games, I won't be seeing it's full potential anyway. In my experience to date, Nvidia has proved much better in that category. From the research I've done so far, it looks like my options lie in Nvidia's FX 5700 & 5900 lines or in some sort of ATI 9700/9800 (Pro?) card.

Ok, fire away... I've been reading all kinds of reviews and comparisons, but a few more opinions to factor in couldn't hurt. Thanks in advance.
Just addressing the graphics...

Stay away from the FX5700 it's a DOG compared to the R9600XT and FX5900XT.

The Choices IMO are in order of worst to best (excluding the FX5700 as a waste of time/money);

The R9600PRO/XT which offers very small performance improvement over what you have now, not really worth it unless you can sell your current card for the same price you buy it for.

The FX5900XT/SE/LE/EPV/etc. Good boost in performance in the DX7/8 field, and about the same performance as the R9600XT in the DX9 field (although who knows what DX9.0c will do about that).

The FX5900/Ultra-5950/Ultra, if you can get it for a low price (has to be significantly [+$20] lower than an R9800/PRO IMO) then it's a good choice. Better than the SE/XT/etc, but still DX9 game issues.

The R9700Pro/9800/Pro/XT next level of performance, anything below $200US is a fair price, it offers the best performance of the last generation. Likely the best 'midrange' buy now until the GF6800SE/XT and X800SE show themselves, and maybe even after that time.

As for compatibility issues that's a thing of the past and really the R3XX will be the standard for the DX9.0a/b generation not the FX.

Here's a list of recent issues in most common games, and the list is pretty evenly distributed.

<A HREF="http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/digest3d/0504/itogi-video-gallery-bugs.html" target="_new">http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/digest3d/0504/itogi-video-gallery-bugs.html</A>

The differences between the old drivers isn't as distinct as it used to be.

- You need a licence to buy a gun, but they'll sell anyone a stamp <i>(or internet account)</i> ! - <font color=green>RED </font color=green> <font color=red> GREEN</font color=red> GA to SK :evil: