PCI Express/AGP

Back in July I asked for advice on buying a new PC. I was looking at a mid range P4 based system to purchase around October. Well, I still haven't bought a new system since my situation hasn't changed as planned.

Anyway, I'm now looking at the AMD64 chips since they've come down in price. I've done tons of research on it and have come up with at least one question that hasn't been answered.

Now, the Socket 754 is clearly being phased out in favor of the Socket 939. However, all signs say there isn't much of a difference between the two, except the 939 is more expensive and will last longer in the upgrade cycle.

The other change is that nVIDIA is releasing their nForce4 chipset soon, which will bring PCI Express to the AMD64. Again, there's no real reason to buy a PCIe card over AGP8x since it has not been fully tapped as far as its performance potential goes (as I understand it has to do with its bandwidth not being even close to full, so why need more?).

But, just as 754 is shifting to 939, so too it would seem that AGP is moving to PCIe. The question I have is, how soon before the latest cards are PCIe only? I know nVIDIA has released some of its higher end cards in AGP (notably the 6600GT just came out this past month) and ATI is expected to have its X800 cards in AGP in the coming months.

Since there's currently no performance boost with 939 over 754 or for PCIe over AGP (or for nForce4 over nForce3, for that matter), the only reason to spend the extra money would be to future proof a new system.

My question to those in the know is, is it worth it? I'm really coming down to the wire with getting a new place but I've still got some time yet (since I'm planning on proposing to my g/f in the next month or so, it's pretty much certain by February).

Now, as has been in the past, I don't upgrade very often, making the 754 package a slightly better deal. But, I have noticed that games depend more on GPUs these days. This makes me believe the first thing I'd probably want to upgrade would be my video card. Since I'm eyeing the 6600GT right now as my main card, it should last a couple years at least (since I'm not one to need the latest, greatest thing. I still run a 4600Ti).

Is there an upgrade path for the AGP platform beyond a year or two (especially considering that Intel seems to be done with it)? Or does it look like PCIe will be all that's available soon? I'm not too worried about the upgrade path of the 754 itself since I don't normally upgrade my processor without changing motherboards too (though that may just be because by the time I need an upgrade I have no choice). But to have to upgrade everything at once might be a bit much. Then again, there may be no choice if there aren't any AGP boards available in 2-3 years.

And this all doesn't even start to cover SLI and the added expense an nForce4 SLI board is likely to bring over a plain nForce4/Ultra. That's only something I've begun to consider, but can see the potential down the road (buying a second card will probably be cheaper than buying what's new and hot at the time, but then again it might not perform as well as what's new).

My gut says to spend the extra cash (albiet probably only $100-$150 more) with the 939/nForce4/PCIe platform now for the extra options in the future. It doesn't seem like much more, but considering I'm going to have to buy a whole ton of stuff (like furniture and such) I'd rather not spend it if it's not worth it.

And this is all, of course, assuming I stick with AMD64, which seems to be almost certain since it has become much cheaper. The past few months have certainly been interesting, especially with everything dropping in price.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Something I missed maybe?
 

Borisz

Ban Hammered
IMO there will be enough software and hardware supporting the older standards, PCI Express and even 64bit CPUs are just fads and nowhere near fully tapped right now. Only buy them if you want absolute high end or don't want to upgrade the mobo for the next 3-4 or more years.
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
They are not "fads" because they're not going to disappear in favor of 32-bit and AGP again. :p On top of that, they're NOT expensive, and perform excellently even in conventional 32-bit applications. In other words, there's no reason to NOT buy 64-bit and PCI-E. As an example of what has been happening as of late (In case you haven't noticed), it actually costs more to buy an AGP version of the 6600GT than it does to buy the PCI-E model. So you don't save money by sticking with AGP, and you gimp your upgrade path.

To address a couple other concerns you expressed:

SLI is not an issue. Pretend as though it does not exist, unless you have about $2000 for your next computer. You see, it is inefficient to buy two cards and run them in SLI, because you could always buy a faster single card instead. Therefore, you'd only want SLI if you've already got one of the fastest cards (highest end 6800) and want more.

Further, 754 is not the same as 939. They're different, and have seperate purposes. Socket 939 has dual channel capability, so if you've got the cash, it is the way to go. Otherwise, just get an inexpensive Athlon 64 and a Socket 754 board. They'll still be around for a while, as the base for the affordable chips. Either way, I'd wait for the PCI-E Athlon boards. It doesn't even have to be Nvidia, this time. The memory controller is in the CPU, so performance differences won't even be all that major. It'll mostly come down to features.

What I'm saying is that Athlon 64s are very solid performers, and are affordable, that also happen to be 64-bit capable. The same goes for PCI-E, some of the best bang-per-buck deals can be had on PCI Express cards, but not with their AGP brothers. Plus it offers a more solid upgrade path.
 
Originally posted by Alexvrb@Wed, 2004-12-15 @ 07:50 PM

In other words, there's no reason to NOT buy 64-bit and PCI-E. As an example of what has been happening as of late (In case you haven't noticed), it actually costs more to buy an AGP version of the 6600GT than it does to buy the PCI-E model. So you don't save money by sticking with AGP, and you gimp your upgrade path.


Actually, I have noticed that. But I'm not sure that's a long term thing. It might be the case that the new cards that come out in the future see simultaneous releases. Once ATI bridges some of it's upper end chips back to AGP, and once more card manufacterers start to get their cards to market, the AGP card might come down beneath the PCIe counterparts. The question is, is this going to be the trend from now on? Is PCIe going to simply replace AGP flat out in the near future? Or are things going to change. I suppose, for me at least, it doesn't really matter. I pretty much agree now that there's no reason to NOT get a PCIe board, since the scenerio where PCIe will be more expensive in the future than AGP doesn't seem likely. The only cost now is upfront in getting the right motherboard.

To address a couple other concerns you expressed:

SLI is not an issue. Pretend as though it does not exist, unless you have about $2000 for your next computer. You see, it is inefficient to buy two cards and run them in SLI, because you could always buy a faster single card instead. Therefore, you'd only want SLI if you've already got one of the fastest cards (highest end 6800) and want more.

I also came to this conclusion. Unless I can take full advantage of it now, it's stupid to pay such an insane amount extra for a "just in case." I've seen reports that the first ASUS nForce4 SLI board is being preordered for $300+. Not only that, but I'd have to spend $400-$800 to take advantage of it. Yeah, not going to happen any time soon.

Further, 754 is not the same as 939. They're different, and have seperate purposes. Socket 939 has dual channel capability, so if you've got the cash, it is the way to go. Otherwise, just get an inexpensive Athlon 64 and a Socket 754 board. They'll still be around for a while, as the base for the affordable chips. Either way, I'd wait for the PCI-E Athlon boards. It doesn't even have to be Nvidia, this time. The memory controller is in the CPU, so performance differences won't even be all that major. It'll mostly come down to features.

Well, mostly I was looking at nForce4 because it's going to be the first on the market. I'm not sure exactly when ATI is going to debut their PCIe chipset, and I've not even read about anyone else's solutions (VIA, SIS, etc). Maybe I'm just missing them. But since I have a few months yet, I have time to see what's going to happen.

The 754/939 issue, as well as the PCIe/AGP issue seems to be one that a lot of people are having on other message boards. The general advice seems to be if you can wait, do so. Because the next few months will see price drops on new technologies, partly as a result of increased production. And that might be true of any product cycle, but since this is both a socket change and a port change, I think it's a little more relevent.

I've read some reports that PCIe will come to 754, but I'm not so sure that's been confirmed. Though I can't see why not. As has been pointed out, 754 is basically going to become AMD's budget socket to replace Socket A. It will be home to the Sempron, and will probably see PCIe as well.

I'm not fully aware of dual channel and what it all means as far as memory is concerned. I have noticed, however, that it's about the same price as single channel. So, 939 is looking pretty good at this point. It will probably only look better in a month too when the PCIe boards are out.

I'm still mostly a n00b to all this stuff. So it's always good to see what other people have to say about it. For the record, Anandtech and Tom's Hardware have pretty much been my main sources of research these past couple of months. I find them to be detailed, informative, and easy to read. And, as an aside, I recently discovered that one of the editors from Anandtech lives here in my home town. I noticed when I read an article of his in a local computer rag I pick up once in a while.
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
Well, just a quick followup here. PCI Express is "The Way" as far as the two major GPU vendors are concerned. They would have already killed AGP altogether if not for upgrade demand. Bridging is a short term solution, and it does cost a bit more to make bridged cards, especially if they don't make them in the same volumes.

As for new mainboards, I find it highly likely that Socket 754 will see PCIe soon. The biggest reason to get 939 is if you are getting a pair of 512MB sticks to run in dual channel mode. Otherwise, 754 is just more cost effective. In either case, both SiS and VIA are pumping out PCIe solutions too. Be on the look out for boards with SiS 756 or VIA K8T890 chips, rather soon. Not that nForce 4 doesn't look like it has some compelling features, I just don't know that I care about any of them.
 

CrazyGoon

Established Member
Yeah, I've been looking this stuff up aswell. This article covers the topic quite clearly..

I'm waiting on my nForce5 SLI so I can stick with Pentium processors :devil
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
You'll have to forgive those of us who can't afford shelling out more for the same performance, CrazyGoon. ;)
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
No, no, it's not that they cost more... it's just that you'll have less money in your wallet afterwards.
 

CrazyGoon

Established Member
Originally posted by Alexvrb@Mon, 2004-12-20 @ 09:54 PM

No, no, it's not that they cost more... it's just that you'll have less money in your wallet afterwards.

[post=126125]Quoted post[/post]​


You're confusing me! :rolleyes:
 

Jaded God

Established Member
I was just in the same boat... I was about to splurge and buy a DFI Lan Party nf3 250g Socket 754 board and buy an AMD 2800+ 64 chip.

But I instead ordered an Abit NFS-7 rev 2.0 socket A mobo, an AMD Mobile Athlon XP 2400+ *OCing it* another 512 of pc3200 to form a gig for the dual channel the board uses, a ThermalTake Volcano 11+ HSF, etc.

The reason for this is unless your going to spend the money for a 939 board, I would stick with socket A. 754 won't be too upgradable and your going to pay out your ass.
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
You do realize that dual channel for Socket A is next to useless, right? Think, how much bandwidth does your FSB have, and how much bandwidth does your dual channel interface have available?

Socket 754 is also very cheap for the performance it delivers. An Athlon 64 2800+ is only $120 now, and decent motherboards can be had for $70-100 depending on features. That's another thing - performance between motherboards and chipsets will not vary as much with an Athlon 64 because the memory controller is integrated. That's why the different chipsets score so closely for the new AMD cores.

Edit: I also recommend you look at where even the single channel Socket 754 chips fall in the benchmarks versus dual channel Athlon XPs of even higher performance ratings.
 
I'm kinda confused right now, actually. Usually NewEgg is one of the cheapest sites around. Yet lately their A64 chips have been significantly more expensive than a lot of other people. Take the 939 3200+ for example. NewEgg has it for $245 and ZipZoomFly has it for $207.

Plus I notice that NewEgg doesn't even carry the 939 3000+ any more. It doesn't even have an out of stock page for it. Is there some kind of shortage on A64 chips? Yet that would affect everyone else, and clearly it isn't. I wonder what's up with NewEgg.
 

Alexvrb

Established Member
Their prices on some stuff are not as great as they once were. But they're still my first preference, when there's not a big price difference. Their shipping and customer service is top notch.

Jaded: Your price difference, as I tried to explain, was mostly as a result of your motherboard choice. The motherboard cost more than the CPU did. :/ You simply will *not* be able to beat a Socket 754 system on price/performance with Socket A. Not anymore. You'd come close if you dropped the nearly-useless dual channel setup for Socket A.

Now, that's not to say that Socket A is a bad choice. I own one. It just can no longer be argued that it is the best bang per buck.
 
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