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Old January 6th, 2009, 08:15 AM   #1
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Upgrade question: CPU or new PC?

I've been using a Dell Inspiron 530 with a dual core E7200 for the past year as my all-purpose business and video editing computer. I have it fitted with 4GB RAM, two internal 500GB hard drives, and an NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT. I also have 2 external 320GB drives. I'm using Vegas Pro 8.0c and Vista 32-bit.

I shoot HDV on a Sony HVR-V1U. Most of my video work is basic - pulling sound bites from interviews, adding lower thirds, making highlight reels from events and meetings. So far my system has performed well. However, I'm editing a corporate video at the moment in HD, because we shot many interviews on green screen and the key looks much better in HD. But I can tell this is taxing my CPU - preview quality and frame rate is very low.

During the holidays, I tried to upgrade the CPU to a quad core Q6600 from Newegg, but the computer would not boot on startup. After hours of online research and a lengthy discussion with Dell, it appears that Dell uses 2 different mother boards in the 530. One supports dual core CPUs (mine), the other supports quad core CPUs.

I returned the Q6600 (and paid a restocking fee) and ordered a faster dual core E8500, but before I install it I'm wondering if my $190 would be better spent on a newer PC? My budget will allow up to about $750 for the computer (no monitor). Could you shed some light on the following questions?

1. How much better will Vegas perform on a quad core CPU (like the Q6600) vs. the dual core E8500? I looked at Tom's hardware, but most of the data seems to be gaming-oriented.
2. Is there a substantial performance difference between the Q6600 and the Q8200?
3. If I move to a Vista 64-bit computer, will the extra memory (6 or 8GB) make a substantial difference in editing/rendering? What kind of problems will I face with software/peripheral compatibility? (I use MS Office 2007, Photoshop CS3, Sonar etc).
4. How do you figure out what size power supply you need in a computer?
5. Can a Dell or HP "off the shelf" computer be overclocked, or do you need a different type of mother board and/or BIOS?

Thanks!!
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Old January 6th, 2009, 08:26 AM   #2
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Yes to Quad Core, much better. Yes to the 6600. Yes to new PC. Do not try and upgrade a Dell. Not worth it. Been there done that. You'll still be stuck with an outdated MOBO and chipset. Dells are not made to be upgraded, they are made to be replaced.

I would wait and save and buy a i7 PC. The older quad cores are nice, but they are on their way out. They are now the previous generation of chips.

But if you can't wait just buy an inexpensive Q6600 pc you'll be fine.
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Old January 6th, 2009, 10:57 AM   #3
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Thanks Jeff. I think I'll try to find the best deal I can on a Q6600 machine, and upgrade to a faster quad core later (like the Q9550) or an i7.

I still think Dell provides a lot of bang for the buck, even if they aren't very upgradable. They have the Studio XPS with i7 processor, but only sell it as a bundle with a monitor.

I've seen the Dell XPS 420 for sale around $799 for the box and 4GB RAM ... 500GB HD, lots of ports on the front and back with room for an internal RAID ... does that seem like a good deal to you?
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Old January 6th, 2009, 11:33 AM   #4
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I agree with the Dell being good for the money. The Q6600 systems are so inexpensive right now they are a good buy. Let us know what happens.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 11:30 AM   #5
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Today's email from Micro Center may add another interesting twist to this thread:

Studio XPS w/Core i7 920 and 6GB RAM on sale for $999 until 1/11. I might have to go for it - that's a quantum leap from the system I've got.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 12:33 PM   #6
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Sam, no one has said anything but good things about the i7. If you can get one I'd say go for it! It chews up video and spits it out. You're right, you'd be like a kid in a candy store with that one!
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Old January 7th, 2009, 01:37 PM   #7
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Sam, depending on what all other other components are that may be a good price. The i7 + MOBO combos are going for around the same price as the Q9550 MOBO Combos were going for about 4 months ago. If you do get the i7 you won't regret it. I got to play with an i7 system a couple of weeks ago and those are incredible chips.

Garrett
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Old January 7th, 2009, 10:49 PM   #8
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Buy your parts individually and have some fun.
Asus P6T deluxe Motherboard
920 i7 chip
Memory

Easily overclock the 920 to 3.4ghz in the bios of the motherboard and you will be looking at everyone else in the rear view mirror. I'm clocked at 3.7 on the 920 i7 chip and no issues even when running a stress test on the processor overnight maxing out all cores at 100%.

I would never buy a Dell for this type of application as you are trapped as you have experienced. Overclocking has become fairly fool proof if you read up a bit.

-Jonathan
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Old January 9th, 2009, 07:26 AM   #9
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Thanks Jonathan, I'm actually very curious about building my own computer and I'm sure I can get all the parts and save some $$, but I have zero experience with that ... I'm fine with a screwdriver and soldering iron (old school) but it's the system configuration, parts compatibility and software side that's a mystery to me. Where can I find a good "building an i7 from scratch 101" source of information?
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Old January 9th, 2009, 08:27 AM   #10
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Sam, be aware that building your own can be fun, but if you are new at it, the experience can be anything from a pleasant surprise with built in upgradeablity that will last you a long time, or it can be a nightmare making you wish you had bought the Dell. Heaven forbid you breaking something off when installing it, you're screwed.

I have experienced both scenarios, (except I haven't yet broken anything myself).

Strictly looking at cost and not counting things from your old PC that you can move to a new build, you cannot build a new i7 system for $999. I'd like to throw in for conversation's sake, Sam that your costs will be:

$299 MOBO mentioned above at NewEgg
$200 for 6GB triple channel memory
$150 for decent power supply
$100 for one hard drive
$150 for decent case, or more
$100 Graphics card
plus OS if you need it
$40 DVD/CD drive
$400 for processor.

The prices I've listed are guesses, and are on the low side to be sure, and you can transfer your old hard drive and burner and Graphics card (if it is PCIe) saving $250. But in a system like that I would want the best hard drive I could afford, but you can always upgrage that later.

Cost wise you can't beat the with Dell 6GB ram, plus the entire thing is covered by one warranty.

If you build your own and one part you buy is bad, it can be difficult to figure what is wrong. Is it bad memory? Bad Power Supply? Bad MOBO? Bad graphics card?

There are many advantages to building your own, I just built mine a few months ago and luckily I only had to send back the RAM, but it took a while to figure out I had a bad stick.

My previous build I had a bad new MOBO, and that took weeks to figure out.

The key, IMO is buying the right parts, starting with the case. Shopping for cases can be real perplexing, as well as PSU.

I would not buy a preconfigured system now because I have an amazing case and a 1000w power supply. My case hold 8 hard drives, two DVD burners and I love it.

But that being said, I feel better throwing out the negatives as well. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling when your newly built PC won't boot. On the other hand their is nothing better than the feeling when it works, and works well.

Last edited by Jeff Harper; January 9th, 2009 at 11:08 AM.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 10:59 AM   #11
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Hi Sam,

As someone who get's paid to build custom systems I would say the general rule of thumb for people who don't do it for money is, if you want to build a computer then go for it. But, if you want a computer to use to make money, either buy an off the shelf system or pay someone to build it for you (of course get a professional builder). Building a computer is more then just pulling together what you think is the best component out there and putting it together. There are a lot of great components out there that put into the right rig will do amazing things, but there are also a lot of conflicts between various parts that you have to be aware of. For someone like me that puts a lot of systems together I have to keep up with all of the bugs, incompatibility issue, and driver issues that come up every day. You will spend a lot of time researching, building the system, and most of all loading the OS, drivers, and programs. I'm not saying not to do it, building a system is fun but if you work out the cost of your time, you'll most likely find that you end up with one really expensive computer if you build your own. And, all it takes if one thing to go wrong and you'll be pulling out your hair trying to trace it out.

I you do decide to build an i7 system I'd say that Jeff is indeed correct and that as he mentioned his prices are low. Right now your MOBO selection is pretty low and would go with the ASUS P6T Deluxe mentioned above currently going fro around $375. You'd most likely be running Vista 64 so I'd recommend loading it up with 12Gigs of RAM which will be about $550. By the time you're done you'd probably be looking at around $2500 for a complete i7 build not including any special capture cards such as an Edius, Blackmagic Design, etc. A lot more than $999 but you'd have a far superior system.

Hey Jonathan, I saw an i7 on an ASUS Rampage OC'd to 4.3GHz running stable and damn fast. But of course the rig looked like some kind of ugly Frankenstein with all the cooling that was needed.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #12
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Actually Garrett, the Asus MOBO is on sale (or was) at NewEgg for $299.
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:35 AM   #13
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Thanks Jeff,

One of my friends was looking to build with the P6T so hopefully it's still on sale and he can pick one up.

Garrett
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Old January 9th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #14
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It is, just checked...
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Old January 9th, 2009, 03:01 PM   #15
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Great information, guys - thank you to all of you! I already tinker with enough projects as it is - sinking days into research to build a computer that might work (or not) just wouldn't make sense for me, nor would spending $2500.

I'm going to buy the $999 Dell i7 system on sale, and a KVM switch so I can continue to use my excellent 22" display, keyboard, mouse and speakers with both computers. The i7 will be for video, the older Dell Core 2 Duo will be for everything else.

Again, thanks for the advice and recommendations!
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