The Upgrade Chronicles, Part 1.

OK, so my system has been chugging along with a Pentium III 500 for some time now. This isn’t a bad thing really – it was starting to get slow back when I was still running Windows 98 and such but as soon as I bumped up the RAM and upgraded to XP, it started running really well again. Sure, games like Neverwinter Nights take a while to load, but once they do load they run pretty damn good all things considered, mainly because they rely on the video card for the graphic bits and I’m running a GeForce 3.

So what I need is a processor upgrade. Problem is, that also requires a motherboard upgrade as well. And, since its been so long since I upgraded my motherboard, there’s also new RAM out there. It’s funny – there are a wealth of computer topics that you have to get up to speed with in a short amount of time every time you want to upgrade. I wouldn’t know what a chipset was if it kicked me in the face, but I had to learn all about them to do this. Funny thing is, every time you so any sort of “massive” upgrade (and I think this kinda qualifies) there’s always at least one factor you never considered last time and is somehow vitally important this time around.

Right, so I made the command decision to go with the Athlon XP line this time around. See, I used to have these “principles” about what I would get and where and from whom. For example, “buy your comic books from a Comic Book Store, the kind that sells D&D and cardboard cutouts of the X-Men, don’t get them from Wal-Mart.” and “buy your games at a dedicated store like Babbage’s, not from Best Buy”, and “Only buy the kinds of processors that everyone else has, not a different brand”. However, these “principles” began to give way when I started doing this thing called “working for a living” and stopped “living under my parents”. Now, I’m up for the lowest bidder, within reason. I don’t drive a junker car to save money, but I’m not going to pay 200% more just so that it’s brand new on the lot, either. I figure I’ll revert back to these principles when I become “rich” but we’ll see how that turns out later…

So in any event I decided to go with Athlon XP because AMD has held itself pretty well in the market, hell they took on Intel and didn’t die, and I was looking for the most bang for the buck this time around. I started hearing of a lot of people using them and so forth, espeically people like me – avid but cost conscious gamers. The final straw was my Microsoft/Intel whore friend who told me he went to Athlon – if he’s convinced that’s saying something.

However my original plan was to replace the motherboard and carry everything over, including RAM. Turns out about a year or so ago the paridigm changed from “SDRAM” to “DDR SDRAM”, which is (a little) more expensve and, more importantly, not what I had. I think when a RAM standard is well used then no one worries about what kind of RAM there is, everyone just uses the one – when the standard changes thats when people start worrying about semantics. To upgrade to this latest type of motherboard I would also have to buy RAM. If I went for the 512MB I have now things would get expensive. There is a board out there that can use the old style of RAM as well as the new style (not at the same time) but its an old board and apparently the concept either didn’t work well or proved unpopular. However, from what I’m told, the 256MB of DDR SDRAM works considerably faster/better than the 512 I have, and since I mostly bought the 512 to speed up the system, I figure I’ll get the 256 now and maybe upgrade later. It’s not like I’m playing EverQuest or anything.

And then there’s chipsets. Apparently the “big 2” are VIA and SiS. On the advice of a friend who’s had no problems with the motherboard maker ASUS, I’m getting an ASUS A7S333, which is based on the SiS 745 chipset. It’s a little bit slower than their VIA-based A7V333 and doesn’t have some things, like USB 2.0 or FireWire but from what I understand the difference doesn’t merit the $50 price difference. After the motherboard, RAM, CPU and the new power supply I’m getting, this $50 difference started to become important. Not to mention the fact that since this is such a big upgrade and is coming out of pocket in cash (as opposed to a credit card my parents are covering) that I decided to go local and not get the stuff online. It costs a little more but the idea of being able to take it back and not send it into space (plus a better warranty on the Athlon since its now a retail product instead of OEM) are worth it to me.

So they’re supposed to come in Tuesday or so. I’ll be stressing out until then.