Seeking opinions on my upgrade solution for Dimension 8200

My Dell isn’t running BF2 at all, and I fear what will happen when I put Civ4 in my machine. My stats:

Dell Dimension 8200
Pent 2400
Geforce 4400 TI
512 ram (rdram which people seem to hate)

I’ve read a bunch of threads about people in similar situations (especially Slyfrog’s post from not long ago), but I’m not quite ready to get a new machine. Here is my current solution from Newegg:

CHAINTECH SA6600 Geforce 6600 256MB DDR AGP 4X/8X Video Card

and 2 of these:

SAMSUNG 256MB 184-Pin RDRAM (16bit) PC 800 Unbuffered System Memory Model MR16R1628EGO-CM8 - OEM

With shipping this is $295 package.

My goal is to extend my Dell for another year, possibly two. Is this a decent solution?

Well possibly economically it is but spiritually this is definitely at least a venial sin. The idea of throwing good money after bad on an RDRAM system definitely makes the baby Buddha cry.

I think you would be better off just biting the bullet and stripping whatever usable pieces you can from the Dell (drives mostly) and building a new system based on an Athlon 64 or whatever.

shit can it.

I had that system and I just ended up giving it to my brother and building a whole new one. RDRam is teh suck.

Things will run better but I wasnt happy with it when I did pretty much the exact same thing you are getting ready to do.

I just ended my Dimension 8200’s life (by donating it to my sis), and built myself a new high-end one, so I know where you are coming from. In fact, I posted a question very similar to yours on this forum a little while back and the response was more or less the same: get a new comp (it might have been one of those you referred to).

However, if getting a new system is 100% not available, then upping the RAM and your card are the two major things you’re going to have to do to extend the life of the machine. It’s too bad, because you won’t even be able to use that stuff in a new machine down the road, even if you wanted to do so.

As to the card, the thing you have to watch out for is whether the bottleneck for your system moves to being the CPU. If you have a lower end system that can’t take advantage of the card, then you are wasting money there. I had upgraded my GeForce4 4200Ti (64 MB) to an ATI Radeon 9600XT (128 MB) at one point during the three years I had the system, but going beyond that seemed to be pointless (so the consensus was).

Will you be happy with any performance gain in your games over what you have now? It’ll definitely run better with the upgrades, but it still might not be what you want, and then you’ll be left unhappy once again. If you can handle the possibility that it’s still not going to be the best for new games, then you might as well upgrade and stretch it as much as you can.

For CiV IV, have to say that I can see where things might get a little bogged down. My system hasn’t had any major gameplay problems, although I’ve noticed some of the Wonder movies get incredibly choppy when playing on the larger map sizes (this just happened yesterday for the first time). And that’s on a system that is pretty much top-o-the-line. However, there’s a lot of graphic enhancements in Civ IV that’ll run your system ragged, especially on those large maps, if your specs can’t handle it. Your current system, though, is just a bit above the recommended specs, which means that it’d likely play fine with settings low-to-mid.

Slashdot had a link to a “Build a competent gaming computer for $500” article here.

I know it’s more than you’re looking at, but with an additional $50 (they only put 512MB in the system, and that’s probably very low to play BF2) you could spend another $250 and then build out from there.

If you’re convinced that the upgrade is the way to go, I suggest you get just the vid card and see how that goes, since there are at least a couple of motherboards that cross PCI-E/AGP boundaries for the Athlon and you could therefore hopefully roll the 6600 over into a new machine a bit sooner that way.

Really though, I strongly suggest throwing more money at the machine and a bit less at games, which will maxmize your mileage in the long run.

That CPU is a major limiting factor in your system

I’m really at a crossroads with my current computer. It is still a perfect computer for everything else I use it for, except the cutting edge games. I have enough budget to get a nice, new rig, but I can’t quite justify it when this one is still great in many ways.

If you’re convinced that the upgrade is the way to go, I suggest you get just the vid card and see how that goes, since there are at least a couple of motherboards that cross PCI-E/AGP boundaries for the Athlon and you could therefore hopefully roll the 6600 over into a new machine a bit sooner that way.

A friend of mine recommended that I do the same thing: get the card and see how that does before investing in the ram. He also recommended that I eventually put a faster processor in it somewhere down the road. I don’t know if I’ll ever do that.

I saw the Tom’s Hardware “Build a $500 gaming rig” and while it sounds great, I’m not sure I want the headache of building my own yet. Someday maybe, but not quite yet. I don’t mind switching a video card or adding ram, since I’ve done those in the past, but the thought of starting from scratch is daunting (although kind of cool at the same time).

I really feel screwed by the bad ram and the switch from agp to pci-e video cards, but it is what it is. I’m leaning towards starting with the video card for now.

Thanks for the advice/opinions!

Well, frankly, if you can switch a video card, add ram, and replace a processor, the only skill you’re missing is hooking up the hard/optical drives and putting a CPU in. But yeah, if you’re not comfortable building I see your point.

The thing is, everything about your system at this point is dead end. The CPU socket type is a dead end. The memory type is a dead end. The AGP bus for video cards is a (dying slower than the rest, but nevertheless) dead end.

I had to replace my video card a couple of months ago and I agonized over it. Eventually I just bought a new card for my machine instead of upgrading the whole machine because it was still fairly fast (2.8GHz P4) and, more importantly, I simply didn’t feel I had the money to upgrade everything in a non-compromised way.

My plans for when I do have the money are to roll the parts in my current machine into a home theater box. It’s perfectly capable as a machine except for games, but I do play games a lot. It’s not the primary purpose of my machine, but it’s enough of the time that it matters. And the fact is that until Vista comes out at least, my computer is hellaciously overpowered for any non-game thing. So is yours, and pretty much everything running at 2.0 GHz or better these days. There’s just that much span between games and everything else these days, and that will likely continue.

A possible replacement/upgrade path for that same $500:

Pretty nice system aside from the graphics. I think the 200 is about equivalent (maybe a smidge better) than your Ti4400. However, this one should be upgradable to a better PCI-E vid card (I believe, would have to dig a bit more to be sure).

Update: it turns out that Civ4 runs great on my Dell with no adjustments, at least on a small world map. I imagine it will crawl as I discover more of the map, but for now, until I really want to play BF2, I guess I can hold off on upgrading.