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Cheap (yet optimal) upgrade path advice requested ...

307 Views 4 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  ashutoshsm
Folks, here are the specs of the system I have now ...

Motherboard: (the venerable) Asus A7N8X Deluxe (onboard USB, SATA, 1394, Dolby 5.1 non-realtek sound)

CPU: Athlon XP 2100+

Mem: 512MB DDR 3200 dual channel

Video: AGP 8X nVidia GeForce 4 Ti4200 with 128MB RAM

Disks: 280ish GB total, but both IDE

Drives: DVD & adequate Burner

Power: 450Watt Antec TruPower ... might powerful and future-proofed, I think!

Now that I have an LCD HDTV that handles [email protected], I figured I'd get into using the PC a wee bit more.


Don't plan to tune TV with it (TiVo is adequate for that, have a cable 6412 HDDVR for HD, until S3 TiVo gets here), but will capture DV video from camcorder, re/encode video for archival and DVD/DiVX dvd burns, and do my basic web design, video & photo manip for family photo/video purposes primarily.

No video or TV input needed, I can go via the TiVo for that.

I figured, initially, that upgrading to a nicer AGP video card would be adequate, but would rather not be stuck with a 6600/6800, and most GeForce 7 series are PCI Express, except a couple of token, overpriced 7800s!

My question/s:

a. Should I upgrade mobo/CPU and Video card (PCI E of course, likely Athlon)

b. Video Card only (AGP restriction!) - perhaps add a Gig of memory too?

c. Retire the PC and build a new one (like I said, my drives, case, PS are excellent for an upgrade, the components are getting outdated)

As things stand, it chokes when I ffdshow/upscale DVD or plain old videos to 1920x1080 with any effects/or none. It can barely even handle playing 1080P native WMV videos!

Oh - and if I upgrade, do I have to do anything to continue to use my Windows XP Pro single licence? I'd rather not have to buy a new license, seeing as I will start and finish with one PC!
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I personally wouldn't bother trying to upgrade that HTPC, it's pretty outdated and you could use it intact for another purpose on your home network. Well, if you have the budget to build a new one that is.

I recommend you not sink any money into a new AGP video card, they are really getting outdated. That CPU is underpowered for any decent FFDSHOW use and I personally wouldn't run anything less than 1GB RAM at this point (I use 2GB for gaming purposes). In trying to recycle the few componeants that you think are still good really won't save much money and builds into your new system well-used parts that are more likely to fail. It's not worth it to me, especially considering you'll have parts laying around rather than a functional backup HTPC or network workstation/server. When I retire HTPC's after building a new one I just stick it on the network and assign it a task. Now I'm at the point where I just rotate in the newest HTPC and retire the oldest - usually it's four or five years old and ready for the trash heap by then.

Just keep in mind most new componeants are better than those you have and most likely more campatable with a new system. I'd be reluctant for example to slap an old PSU/heatsink into an otherwise brand new setup. Newer PSU's are better able to handle increasing demands on them than older ones. Well, in many cases anyway.

Edit: Yep, you can re-use your WinXP Pro license.
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Thanks ... very sage advice, and you likely saved me a lot of botched-upgrade (only because not all parts like to work well together) angst :)

This just means I'll have to wait (a few months) longer and/or craigslist one of my PCs before I can build that new one.

Easily my biggest regrest at this point is falling for a 'great' Dell Dimension 8400 from Dell Outlet ... it's half decent, doesn't handle heat well, has almost no upgrade space, and is just badly laid out ... period. If I hadn't bought that monstrosity (albeit it cost me less than my self-built Athlon described above, and has substantially more HP), I would have easily been able to budget a decent HTPC by now. Que, sera ... sera.
You know, a Barton-based Athlon above 2ghz can upscale, and run sharpen and blur smoothly (that's what I'm doing with my 3000+ @ 2ghz). Add an AGP X1xxx or 6600GT (or better) and you could have a decent HTPC for the forseeable future. And also, most HTPC programs (including MCE) run fine with 512MB-1GB of DDR.

That being said, a nVidia 6150-based mobo for $70 and an Athlon 64 3000+ for $100 and a $125ish video card kicks the crap out of these older Athlon/AGP systems, for not a lot of money :)
Decisions, Decisions ...

I also remember having jumped the gun on the 2100 (1.73 GHz?) and gotten the unoverclockable and overheating older core (pre-Barton) retail version. Stock (retail) fan has died already, and my hacked heatsink/pad/80mm fan have it running a mite warm (over 50 celcius). I wonder whether I'm still in ym 3-year warranty? ;)

Hmm, did I say ... "decisions, decisions", already?

Thanks. Your suggested upgrade path sounds doable ... after I finish paying off my HDTV ;)
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