To GPU or CPU?

My system’s been lagging a bit in gaming performance lately and I’m thinking that it may be time for an upgrade. I’m unsure where my money would be better spent, a CPU/Motherboard upgrade or a shiny new graphics card.

Current system:

Asus A7V-266e
AMD 1800+
512 MB DDR 2100
ATI 8500 DV
Win XP
Klipsch 5.1 Ultra (had to mention that…)

If I go with the video card I’ll probably choose ATI’s AIW 9800 Pro 128 (and pocket Half Life 2 in the process). On the CPU/MB route I would most likely go with an AMD 2800+ or 3000+ (I’ll choose a motherboard at the last minute).

It’ll probably be late Dec. early Jan. before I can get around to the upgrade but I do intend to upgrade all of the above within the next 6 or 8 months. I’m at a loss to decide which route will get me the best gaming bang for my buck until I can upgrade the other half of the system.

Any opinions?

I would reccomend beefing up the video card. My friend has an 1800XP witha ATI 8500 card; I have underclocked my 2000XP to 1800 levels before to see how well my Geforce4 Ti 4600 stacks up against his card, and my computer had significatly better performance in Battlefield 1942, Return to Castle Wolfenstien, and C&C Generals. Going with an even faster card like the ATI 9800 Pro should give you an considerable performance boast.

And, if you wait a bit to upgrade your CPU, the AMD 64 bit processors will have dropped in price enough to make them practical for your next upgrade.

Another vote for the video card.


Go for the card, but don’t expect to get H/L2 as it keeps on being delayed.
Most likely you will get a voucher which can be redeemed for the game when it is eventually releaesed.

IIRC, if you buy one of 9600 XT or 9800 XT’s (these are basically higher-clocked versions of the Radeon 9600 Pro and 9800 Pro, with a couple extra goodies) you get a voucher for Half-Life 2.


Upgrade issues abound at the moment. Any new videocard you buy will not be compatible with future motherboards, as AGP is being replaced with PCI Express. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that there will be much if any transition period in which both PCI Express and AGP are supported. As far as your core system, you’re looking at CPU+mobo+RAM. Your best option is to get the videocard now, and wait till Athlon 64 CPUs and motherboards decline in price, making sure to buy before the PCI Express transition. You may wish to upgrade your RAM now (you need dual-channel DDR400, which is installed in pairs) as it appears that serious RAM shortages are on the horizon.

The Radeon 9600XT and 9800XT both come with a CD key valid for Half-Life 2. Before HL2 is released, the CD key is valid for Half-Life and all Steam-enabled mods, and the Opposing Forces HL add-on. As far as I know, non-XT Radeons do not include the HL2 offer.

I’m beginning to think that I’ll go for the AIW 98 Pro now, and wait to see what happens to the 64 cpu prices mid 2004.

Are the new 64 bit cpu’s expected to drive the 32 bit prices down significantly? (I can’t imagine the 64s will drop much in the first year). If so, I may settle for a high end AMD 32 bit at reduced prices and let the 64 bit tech mature a bit before diving in. I like to be “near” the top in performance but it seems like that “last little bit” of performance you get with the ultra high end components is a poor value.

Damn! I really thought the HL2 offer from ATI extended to the 98 Pro cards. Has anyone heard details of what the next step up in the AIW line will be? Also, when are the next gen ATI cards supposed to hit the market? Any concrete details yet?

CPU, always. Whatever your bottleneck is, your CPU is going to solve the problem first and fastest. Start with the cheapest–and safest option: overclocking your computer.

Sofa King, currently stealing 600 MHz from The Man with a 3060 MHz Pentium 2.4C.

Oh, but if you have to buy a card, get an ATI 9500 Pro. Not a 9600. The 9500 was top o’ the line and if you can find one, it’ll beat the 9600 every time. That was the one error I made in creating this little monster.

The Radeon 9500 Pro is a very bad deal at this point. It’s MORE EXPENSIVE than the Radeon 9600XT, while the 9600XT is faster and offers the aforementioned free copy of HL2. When you factor this in, you’re paying about $60 more for a slower, long discontinued card.

I have heard that the 9500 with its 4 pixel pipelines can be changed quite readily to use 8 pipelines, making it virtually equal to the pro version but at significant cost saving.

Apparently those extra pipelines are on the card but disabled, I’ve seen rumours and mentions about NVidias embarassment and that they have withdrawn the guilty card, but I have not seen the fix on the net anywhere, perhaps its Snopes time.

Umm, it would be very strange if Nvidia was embarasseed about being able to hack a regular Radeon 9500 into a Pro model, as Nvidia ** doesn’t ** make the Radeon series of cards. ATI does. Also, the hack I heard of turned a Radeon 9500 Pro into a Radeon 9700(regular) but it only works with some of the cards.

The ATI Radeon 9500 is essentially a Radeon 9700 Pro that has had half the memory pipelines disabled, and half the pixel pipelines disabled. The GPU is composed of Radeon 9700 GPUs that have defective pixel pipelines, ATI disabled half and called it a Radeon 9500. Now, demand for the Radeon 9500 GPU exceeded supply of defective 9700 GPUs, thus some Radeon 9500s were made of working Radeon 9700 GPUs with half the pixel pipelines disabled in the BIOS. If your card has a fully functional Radeon 9700 GPU, you can use a BIOS or driver mod to reenable the extra pixel pipelines.

On some Radeon 9500 boards, you can reenable the extra memory pipelines as well. If the GPU and RAM can withstand overclocking, you can effectively turn a Radeon 9500 non-Pro into a Radeon 9700 Pro using only software.