Athlon 64 Dual-Core Upgrade and NVIDIA's GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB SLI - Page 1 of 9
Review By Mike Chambers - January 21, 2006
It's been over a year since my PC was last upgraded. Like many of the folks that visit nV News, I also upgrade my own system. This approach gives us more choices for procuring new components and becomes a rewarding experience after the upgrade is complete. However, unforeseen problems can arise during an upgrade. In those cases, you will assume a technical support role and begin the troubleshooting process. As a result of a motherboard failure, the upgrade was completed earlier than expected. Fortunately, the impact was minimal as all of the upgrade components I ordered had already arrived.
Here is a list of the components that were purchased for the upgrade:
AMD and Intel both expect dual-core processors to become mainstream during 2006. Dual-core processors are capable of providing a significant increase in performance in programs designed with multi-threading techniques.
Retail Processor Packaging
Motherboard: ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe to ASUS A8N-SLI Premium
The A8N-SLI Deluxe turned out to be a solid motherboard, although it was plagued by a poorly designed chipset fan that was prone to failure. A free replacement fan can be requested by getting in touch with ASUS support. The motherboard died after 11 months of use, but it comes with a three year warranty.
I upgraded to the A8N-SLI Premium, which relies on passive chipset cooling. The SLI connector card is no longer used and single vs. dual graphics card mode can be automatically detected by the BIOS. The space between the blue and black colored PCI-Express graphics slots is a bonus and provides enough room to accommodate most custom cooling solutions.
ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe vs. A8N-SLI Premium
The ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe was my first choice for a new motherboard, but it was out of stock at all of the online retailers I normally order from.
Memory: Matched Pair of Corsair CMX512-3200LLPRO (2x512MB) to Matched Pair of Corsair CMX1024-3500LLPRO (2x1GB)
Corsair recently introduced 1GB modules of their low-latency XMS Pro Series memory. The CMX1024-3500LLPRO is available as a matched pair and runs with 2-3-2-6-1T latency settings at DDR437 (218MHz). LED activity lights are also featured.
Corsair CMX512-3200LLPRO vs. CMX1024-3500LLPRO
2GB of system memory is becoming the norm for the enthusiast and provides smoother gameplay in titles such as F.E.A.R. and Battlefield 2 when maximum quality settings are enabled.
Additional memory is also beneficial with heavy multi-tasking usage, video encoding, computer aided design, and server applications.
Graphics: GeForce 7800 GTX in SLI to GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB in SLI
NVIDIA provided two of their top-of-the-line GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB graphics cards to check out. These cards are a hot commodity if the price is right, but are difficult to find.
Power Supply: Enermax EG565P-VE 535W to Enermax EG701AX-VE 600W Power Supply
Enermax power supply's come highly recommended. Both models are SLI Certified and either one could have powered the upgraded system.
Power Supply Connectors
The upgrade turned out to be a success. Staying with the nForce4 chipset allowed me to use the existing Windows XP install. Windows XP did detect a hardware change however and required activation.
The following components will be used in upgrades of three other systems:
FOXCONN NF4SK8AA-8EKRS Motherboard
The FOXCONN nForce4 SLI motherboard, Athlon 64 4000+, and Corsair CMX512-3200LLPRO memory were used to upgrade an nForce3 system with an Athlon 64 3400+. The nForce3 system will eventually be used to upgrade our oldest system, which is an nForce2 with an Athlon 3200+ and Radeon 9800 Pro.
GIGABYTE GA-8N-SLI Pro Motherboard
As the transition to PCI-Express began to pick up momentum, I assembled a new Intel based system in late 2004 using a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Prescott CPU. The GIGABYTE nForce4 SLI motherboard will replace a Soltek SL-915GPro-FGR, which became unstable when a high-end graphics card was being used. Troubleshooting revealed that the +12v rail was dropping to 10.8v upon entering Enemy Territory with a GeForce 7800 GTX or Radeon X1800XT installed. Within the first few seconds of playing back a timedemo, the system would automatically reboot. The system worked fine with a GeForce 6200 and GeForce 6600 GT.
ENERMAX EG565P-VE 535W Power Supply
I purchased the ENERMAX EG565P-VE 535W power supply with the intent that it would solve the previously mentioned instability issue. An Antec True550 550W power supply was replaced, but the instability continued. The Antec True550 contains a single +12v rail rated at 24amps while the ENERMAX EG565P-VE has seperate +12v rails. Each rail is rated at 18amps for a combined total of 34amps. At this point, I decided to replace the motherboard with the GIGABYTE GA-8N-SLI. The only remaining item this is needed to begin this upgrade is DDR2 memory.
ATI Radeon X1800XT Graphics Card
The Radeon X1800XT will be part of the Intel system upgrade. The Radeon 9700 had a major impact on the 3D graphics industry back in 2002. Since that time, consumers have had to choose between ATI and NVIDIA at the high-end.
Western Digital 74GB Raptor Hard Drive
The Western Digital Raptor hard drive is renowned for its performance. Now that I have two units, I can experiment with RAID.