The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Games that make you want to upgrade.

Posted by Deliverator on August 19th, 2007

It has been quite a while since a game came out that made me want to upgrade my computer to better experience the game. The last game to motivate an upgrade was Half Life 2 and my system has remained relatively unchanged since that time. My current main gaming computer is a dual core Athlon 64 3800+ with 3 GB of low latency memory, a Nvidia 6800 GS graphics card on a Asus A8N32 Sli Deluxe (socket 939) motherboard. I am also unfortunately running off onboard audio due to Creative Lab’s lack of support for my SB Live 5.1 Platinum under Vista. Two games are coming out in the near future that make me want to upgrade my system to experience them properly. The first is Bioshock which has built an incredible amount of buzz around it and is receiving unparalleled ratings from various game publications. The second is Crysis, a quasi sequel to Far Cry, a game which really raised the stakes when it came to creating vast outdoor environments and less rigorously scripted gameplay. Both games have substantially higher realistic system requirements than my current system is capable of handling. My system meets minimum requirements to be sure, but “minimum system requirements” tend to be a joke on games like these which would lead to a very unsatisfactory gaming experience. I am not opposed to some upgrades in order to play these games at their best, but really don’t want to spend the time and effort to completely overhaul my system.

My current thought is to upgrade my processor and leave my motherboard alone. Intel currently has the performance lead by quite a bit, but moving over to an Intel based platform would require quite an overhaul. AMD has moved away from Socket 939 for their dual core offerings and moved to the AM2 platform. AMD has basically discontinued production of Athlon X2’s on the 939 platform, which makes it difficult to simply plop in a higher clocked version of what I have in there now. I did find that I can still get a few Opteron processors that are socket 939 compatible and that my board is listed as supporting. The best I could get would be a dual core Opteron model 185, which has two cores clocked at 2.6 GHZ with 1 MB of L2 cache each. This would be a nice improvement over my existing dual core processor which is clocked at 2 GHZ with a smaller cache size per core. It looks like a retail boxed version of the Opteron would run me around $300 with a OEM version running maybe $250-260.

I would also upgrade my video card at the same time to something in the Nvidia Geforce 8 series. I would like to be able to play these two titles comfortably on my 22″ monitor at its native resolution of 1680×1050 with a decent amount of eye candy turned on. Hopefully I won’t have to buy one of the higher end cards in the series to accomplish this or move to a two card SLI system. The top of the line 8800 GTX card with 768 MB of ram runs a rather pricey $600, while a lower end GTS model with 320 MB of ram is almost half that price. Running two cards in an SLI configuration might also be beyond my current power supply’s 500W capacity. My UPS monitor agents tell me I am currently using about 235W of power, but that is essentially at idle. With a faster video card and CPU thrown into the mix, I expect to be pushing several hundred watts beyond my current usage.

At the same time, I have been meaning to find a replacement sound card for quite some time. My current onboard sound card has very poor sound isolation, which means I can hear things like hard disk activity noises being amplified when the volume is cranked up. I would like to find something with good Vista support that also has an integrated headphone amp and 1/4″ outputs. I didn’t have much luck finding such a beast last time I looked and would rather avoid a Creative Labs solution if I can at all help it. I have been burned by Creative Labs one too many times.

If anyone has any thoughts on the matter, I would love to hear from you.