There comes a sad time in every computer’s, frequently short-lived, beingness where it’southward simply getting that little fleck too lethargic to exist a functioning fellow member of your computing customs. It tin can be a depressing time, seeing your once sprightly car weighed downwards past the demands of newer code and shown upwardly by even newer hardware.
The joy of PCs, though, is that with a judicial hardware upgrade your once lightning-fast, but now lumbering rig can become a new lease of life for a fraction of the price of buying a new machine.
That’south not to say that yous shouldn’t throw your basic at a full rig. When the toll of upgrading involves having to buy a new motherboard and RAM to accompany that new processor, then the price tin can soon starting time drifting north of £400. In this case you might every bit well take a look at some of the more bargainous organization integrators out there, every bit they tin get information technology cheaper.
But where do y’all expect to upgrade first? Well, it depends on what you primarily use your PC for. Is information technology a media PC hooked up to a big-screen TV? Or Is it expected to handle 1080p movies, encode an assortment of other video content or be the centre of your media life? Or maybe it’s your gaming rig?
We’ve taken 2 old base rigs languishing in the darkest recesses of our part to represent two different upgrade paths. On the i hand, we take a thoroughly old school AMD socket 939 motorcar, with an Athlon X2 4800 and an Nvidia 7900GS, and on the other hand nosotros take a 2GHz Core 2 Duo rig with the DirectX 9 carte de jour, the Radeon X1900XTX.
The AMD rig represents a mid-range car and the Intel a high-cease PC from yesteryear. Are these machines better served by a series of incremental upgrades, or are you meliorate off passing such systems off to less clued-up members of the family unit then yous can buy yourself a new machine?
Graphics card upgrades
The Intel rig
So where do you get-go when you desire to go some more gaming operation out of your machine? If you’re like us, the humble graphics bill of fare is the first matter to popular up on your radar. That’s right, rip out the quondam graphics card and slot in a shinier, bigger, newer, pixel-pushier lath and y’all’re laughing, correct? Well, kinda.
The difficulty with upgrading versus only buying a whole new rig is that 9 times out of ten you are having to battle against bottlenecks in your existing system and locating those asphyxiate points is going to pay dividends when it comes to choosing your upgrade.
Our base of operations system, the Intel 2GHz dual-core flake with an X1900XTX would have been the darling of the gaming world a couple of years back and would’ve probably toll around a grand for the privilege. Now the 1900XTX nonetheless manages reasonable frame rates on relatively high settings, then it shouldn’t take as well much experimentation to get this rig rocking again.
For our first upgrade we’ve selected Nvidia’southward affordable 9600GT. This Palit Sonic, overclocked edition is yours for a mere £77 and it’s pixel-shunting ability is well documented – it’ may be a lilliputian old now, but it can offer a serious boost in the correct arrangement.
Unfortunately, it hardly garnered much of a performance increment at all over the base X1900XTX, gifting usa a maximum of 8fps in
and around three or 4 frames in the other two games. Nosotros’ll freely admit that we expected more from this card, especially as it has served usa then well in the past.
Rolling in at just over the £100 mark, the adjacent upgrade of choice is the Radeon HD4850. Again this is a quality DX10 card for the money, and is capable of pushing out pretty polygons at speed. Unfortunately this gave u.s.a. no extra performance, either. In fact, we saw performance drop compared to the 9600GT, in
World in Disharmonize.
It’s non the mid-range carte du jour’south fault, however, as one time we dropped in our height upgrade card, the excellent Gigabyte GTX260 OC (similar to the Zotac GeForce GTX260), it suddenly became clear that the functioning bottleneck wasn’t the graphics card. With merely a couple of extra frames per second for a whopping outlay of £200, this conspicuously isn’t where your money should be going.
Part of the trouble here is the constraints of the motherboard itself. The old school 650i board only tin can’t cope with amount of data that the loftier-end graphics cards are trying to button through its ageing pipes.
But the other problem is the weak processor ticking away at the heart of the organization. Replace the processor though and you would see functioning increasing by at least ten frames per second with a 9600GT card and nearly likely doubling if nosotros were to slot in the GTX260, the top upgrade card.
Unfortunately, once you outset looking at making an upgrade to your organisation information technology mostly only serves to highlight the rest of the problems with the old engineering science residing in your rig. There’southward no piece of cake quick gear up for this either, a new GPU will give you a few extra frames, simply to make a real difference yous need to modify at least ii components. In this case the processor and graphics card.
This in plow may need a new motherboard, and in plow new memory, but either mode, spending anything on graphics for this rig is a waste.
The AMD rig
Upgrading this Alienware rig is akin to Indiana Jones entering a dusty cave and uncovering hordes of lost treasure. The immature(ish) Harrison Ford-era Dr Jones besides, not the one in the most recent film, who appeared to be doing a parody of the king of spoof, Leslie Nielsen.
This Alienware rig looks a scrap like one of the fetid crystal skulls every bit well, beingness one of the subtle-equally-a-sledgehammer rigs from a few years back. Who knows what tech-beasties lurk within?
The outset part of the PC to get the upgrade treatment is the graphics card. Possibly the easiest part of whatsoever computer to upgrade, jamming in a new pixel pusher can also requite the most noticeable results. If you’re running Vista on a non-DirectX 10 menu you’ll also discover those subtle furnishings when you upgrade straight abroad.
A 3-year-old Nvidia GeForce 7900GS was my starting point. This bill of fare could run the evergreen
smoothly plenty, although it limited the resolution to ane,280 x 1024. Still, it was a different story with
Far Cry 2
World in Conflict, but and so we would expect them to crawl forth more glacially.
This item card is still available for about £50, although we’d recommend getting a cheapo DirectX 10 card if that’southward your budget.
The first footstep up was ATI’s superior X1900XTX, a contemporary competitor to Nvidia’s carte du jour. Frame rates were somewhat better with this card, and
happily ran at higher resolutions. We even so couldn’t get
Far Cry 2
to run in anything higher up medium item, notwithstanding.
Leaping up the wonky upgrade ladder of doom, we came across the 9600GT. Once more, frame rates grew:
World in Disharmonize
breached the crucial 24fps watermark in maximum settings, although the more than-intensive
Far Cry ii
couldn’t muster this feat.
On to the competition, namely AMD’s HD4850. This card managed to driblet a few frames at lower resolutions, just turned out to be a heavy-hitter at maximum settings, where it almost doubled some of the 9600GT results. At this point, the consequence of successive graphics cards being repeatedly rammed into the test machine pretty much topped out.
We did effort AMD’s HD4870, which comes in at most £50 more than the 4850, but it failed to offer whatsoever noticeable improvements in the game tests.
Side by side upwardly was Nvidia’s behemoth of a graphics card, the GTX 260. It’s priced at over £200, and barely fitted in the auto. We had to reconnect the frazzle fan to another port on the motherboard, which resulted in ominous sparks and fume firing out of the PC whenever it was turned on. Strangely enough, it reminded the states of the dodgy ending to the last Indiana Jones film, except no heads exploded.
The GTX 260 offered a slightly better increase in frame rates, but not plenty to justify spending and then much on a graphics card trapped nether the drinking glass ceiling of the ageing motherboard and processor. The 9600GT is the articulate winner for this rig, at least for the cash outlay.