Using a Dell Optiplex 790 SFF in an extremely budget upgrade

Jan 24, 2019
Hi all,

The long and short of it is I have a >10 year old system which has served me well but is beginning to show the strain, but I have a miniscule budget to make some improvements, so wanted to run it past the internet.

So I got a Dell Studio 540 over 10 years ago as my primary PC. I would call myself a gamer, that's what the PC was for, but due to work and home commitments I only really manage a couple of hours per week.

That PC had a Core 2 Duo E8400 @3.0 GHz, 4GB DDR2 @ 800 MHz, a nvidia 9800gt, 500GB HD, OEM powersupply etc. It was perfect for me at the time.

About two years after buying the system, the GPU died. With the budget I had, I decided to go for a GTX 550ti and upgrade the PSU to match (I think it was an OCZ 500W semi modular one). When the PSU arrived I couldn't get it to fit in the old Dell Studio case, and rather than trying to mod the case I just bought a larger tower and moved everything across.

Last year the original hard drive started to fail, so I replaced it with a cheap Kingston A400 120GB boot SSD and a Seagate Barracuda for general storage.

I'm very aware of how old the system is now. It can still play a lot of my games, but seems like I'm held back more by the Core 2 Duo than the GPU despite both being old. Having only two cores definitely shows when I try newer games, and makes something like Dragon Age Inquisition unplayable.

As I said at the top, I don't really have much budget at all for upgrading. Obviously the backbone of this computer is too old. I could upgrade the CPU to a Core 2 Quad (a Q9650 @ 3GHz is the best it can take) for £20-30 off of Ebay. But I would also need more of that DDR2, and Dells can be quite particular about the make of RAM you give them, so that's more cost. I could upgrade the GPU again, more cost. But with that motherboard, it's still PCIe 2.0, it's not SATA III etc, so I can't make the most of the new tech with old ports. I could spend quite a bit of money (which I don't really want to) and only make slight improvements.

It looks like I can get a refurbished Dell Optiplex 790 SFF for maybe around £10. This would give me a Core i5 2400 @3.1GHz and 4GB DDR3 @ 1333Mhz (and a SATA III port!). Benchmarks seem to indicate this would give my CPU an enormous improvement. I could move this motherboard into my tower case and use the PSU, GPU, HD and SSD that I already have for about £10, and upgrade to 8GB RAM for similar money.

I know that this would all still be far from the cutting edge, but I figure that the improvements I would see spending £10-20 would be significant and help me keep going whilst I save up for a proper build another year.

I'm sure other builders will have used these refurbished systems for budget gaming PCs.

I guess I just wanted to see if people agreed with me that this idea would actually work and made sense to do, considering the cost to benefit. As you can see, I can manage around £30, but that might just make some notable improvements.

Thanks for any thoughts, apologies for the essay.



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