After yet another crash on friday I finally got sick of having a barely functional machine (which would crash after minutes in any normal game, and would even regularly go in Minecraft, not known for its heavyweight requirements...).
My intention was to upgrade to AMD's Bulldozer line of processors this year, but a while back it became apparent that wouldn't work too well, what with Spooncon being slightly before the launch and me needing a machine that worked to take.
Bulldozer will sit in a new socket, AM3+. The chipsets and motheboards to support it will be released with the processor. Arse. Luckily however a few motherboard manufacturers have stated that they will support Bulldozer in their 8-series motherboards. This sounds much better.
So, a rummage through Novatech's inventory and I came up with a suitable board, the catchily-named M4A89GTD PRO. Its based on the 890GX chipset, which is second in a list of four 8-series chipsets. While I don't expect to need the integrated graphics, the two x8 slots meant that I could transfer my current cards without any hassle, and lets me upgrade to two AMD cards in the future if one won't suffice.
I avoided the top of the line 890FX boards for two reasons: I really can't see myself upgrading to more than two graphics cards at any one time, and they're impressively more expensive.
As my old machine ran DDR2, I needed to pick up some more memory. The whole memory market seems to have turned into a bizarre freakshow, with every manufacturer having multiple lines of seperately named, coloured and enspangled memory modules with heatspreaders in all shapes and sizes. As they were out of stock I missed the oppotunity to have memory with guns on it and ended up with the feral-sounding Ripjaws X 8Gb kit. This is overkill for the AMD processors out at the moment, as they support 1333Mhz memory natively, and those modules are rated for 1600. Bulldozer is supposed to come with 1833 support, but given the depressingly high cost of modules that are guarenteed to do that, I went for the middle ground.
The last piece of the puzzle is a purely temporary measure. I bought an AMD Athlon II 455 processor. This is a 3.3Ghz three core processor. Three cores is admittedly a bit odd. These chips are physically the same as four core Athlon IIs with one core disabled. They are also the same chips as four core Phenom IIs, the only difference being disabled cache. This processor is pretty much exactly even with the processor I was using (Q6600 2.4Ghz 4 cores) according to benchmarks.
Naturally, the motherboard I got has the facility to unlock the fourth core. Equally naturally, it was defective. This sounds pretty bleeding obvious but given the maturity of the process it is widely supposed that fully functional chips are being sold as three cores. I was just unlucky.
Given I didn't get a free core, and the software that came with the board came with an "auto-tuning overclock" feature running on a seperate MCU, I thought I'd let it have a go. It reset a few times, then booted into windows at a fairly impressive 3.8Ghz.
So there you have it. I now have a very slightly faster machine, except for one thing. AMD boards don't support SLi. The next generation will, but these don't. So rather than having a pair of 8800GTs in SLi, I have an 8800GT and a very power hungry PhysX processor. So its probably slower. But at least the majority of the cost went on things that will be in my next machine.
Enough blithering for now, more later :)