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I'm getting ready to upgrade my PC, but I don't have the money to upgrade the entire system. However, I think I'm in a position that will allow me to upgrade the CPU and upgrade the rest later.

Current build:

  • Gigabyte AM2/AM2+ (AM3 supported) motherboard*
  • 4GB (4x1) PC6400 RAM DDR2
  • Athlon x2 2.4ghz
  • EVGA 9800GTX+

My motherboard, with BIOS updates, will support (at maximum) this CPU: AM3 Phenom x4 945 3.0 GHz. However, it will downgrade the HT to AM2 levels, but the clock speeds and everything else will remain the same. I'd prefer, however, to upgrade to the 955 black edition, but my board does not support it.

I figure that this will allow me to upgrade my motherboard/RAM later on to utilize DDR3 RAM and more of it, since AM3 is the latest socket.

My question is: is this worth it? Or does anyone have any advice/links/articles about a similar upgrade?

Edit: This is for a gaming machine

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closed as too localized by studiohack Aug 21 '11 at 7:26

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Your system is pretty decent. IMO an upgrade is non-essential, it will be just a waste of cash. – Sathya Jan 8 '10 at 20:58
The X4 will be much faster - but it is a case of whether it's even noticable at these levels. – Phoshi Jan 8 '10 at 21:12
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The Phenom is a great upgrade from an Athlon, but I would say that if it's at all possible, upgrade your motherboard as well. There's a big difference between a motherboard "supporting" a processor and working well with that processor, especially if you already know it's going to hamstring certain functionality, like the HyperThreading.

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This is exactly why I want to go with AM3. So that when I do have the resources to do a full upgrade, my CPU will be ready for full support with a new motherboard and DDR3 ram. – th3dude Jan 8 '10 at 21:29

You did not mention what you use the PC for, but I suspect just a CPU upgrade is probably not worth it. It is a rare workstation that is simply CPU-bound (that is, the primary performance constraint is that there are no idle CPU cycles for extended periods of time).

If you are primarily a gamer, then you might want to upgrade your graphics card - however the one you have is pretty solid.

If I was to recommend upgrading one component, I would tell you to think about your hard drive. A solid state hard drive can really ramp up the peppiness of your machine.

However, my real recommendation would be to not upgrade at all, unless you are doing it more for the love of tinkering than for machine performance at all. At that point, the "bang for buck" optimization is not really about performance at all - rather what you are going to learn from the process. In which case - maybe a CPU upgrade would be more fun ;)

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Sorry for the confusion. This is for a gaming machine. I find that a lot of my games are very CPU intensive and my current CPU has trouble with the loads. Does that change your answer? – th3dude Jan 8 '10 at 17:01

$170 is quite a lot of money for a CPU upgrade, so the question whether it's worth or not depends entirely on your requirements.

compare the benchmark results for both processors. check the GeekBench result browser for some 'real world' results.

the AMD Phenom II X4 945 is scoring close to 6000 while the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+ only scores 2500 on average. so the difference is quite significant. if you need more computing power (which per se will not necessarily result in better gaming performance as this is rather a matter of the GPU) then the upgrade might be a good choice.

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Thanks for the answer. Gaming is becoming more and more CPU intensive. With my higher-end GPU, the CPU is still quite a bottleneck in my system. – th3dude Jan 8 '10 at 21:30
certainly cheaper than upgrading Mobo, RAM and CPU and it might last you quite a while. – Molly7244 Jan 8 '10 at 21:34
Yea, the biggest plus is that the AM3 chip will be usable on a newer board with DDR3 memory later on when I have the resources to upgrade. – th3dude Jan 8 '10 at 21:54

If you're on Windows Vista or 7, you can try the Windows Experience Index, which gives upgrade advice. You can also run it in XP, but it would require more work.

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