I used an i3-3225 at its stock speed for 3 years. During that time, I rendered hundreds of videos, played hundreds of hours in games, and ran multiple servers. Then, about a few months ago, I decided I would go for an upgrade. This would coincide with my recent upgrades to my drives, case, fans, and GPU. The struggle then hit me: what do I even get?
THE CHOICE AND REALIZATION
I had been running my PC with an LGA1155-socket motherboard. My options were limited since Intel replaced the socket with LGA1156 a year after I bought my motherboard. I was either to upgrade that board and buy a new processor or buy an old processor.
So, I started doing my research. I collected data from tens of sources before making my final purchase decision, which was to get a new processor. See, the issue with upgrading my motherboard for newer Intel chips is that it really isn’t worth the price. It would cost more and for the percent performance increase, it simply was not worth it.
On eBay, the i5-3570k ran for about $160/170 at the time and the i5-2500k ran for around $130. The choice between these two really opened my eyes to how much performance has increased over time: not as much as you’d expect. In real-world gaming performance, the i5-2500k doesn’t perform that much better than a newer i5. Its overclocking performance, too, is legendary.
THE PURCHASE, INSTALLATION, & OVERCLOCKING
I bought the i5-2500k for $137 off eBay and awaited its shipment. Along with that, I purchased a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO (which, in my opinion, is the best bang-for-your-buck cooler you can buy).
With some friends, I installed the CPU and its cooler. The installation was stressful as I had never done a processor swap before, and the process of installing an aftermarket cooler was also new to me. Once it was over, we brought my PC back upstairs and powered it on. Voila! It worked beautifully from its first boot. There was an immediately noticeable difference in performance across the board, and that extra power helped me a lot with many everyday tasks.
Another thing that was new to me was overclocking the CPU. I had overclocked GPUs before, but never to the extent at which I’d keep the overclock settings. It seemed far more intimidating than any other way of overclocking, and after my first change of settings my PC wouldn’t boot – it made me think I broke something right then and there, so I got very scared and started freaking out. That was a learning experience… Apparently, I had to just wait until it would give me an error with my trashy overclock settings.
I was able to push the CPU to 3.7 GHz only, since my motherboard does not have a high-quality voltage regulator and does not have the necessary settings for pushing it past that clock speed.
THE VERDICT – WHAT SHOULD YOU UPGRADE WITH OLDER PARTS?
From this experience and research, I learned enough to compile a list of different parts that you should consider upgrading with older components rather than new ones, and explanations for each.
- CPU – Absolutely! Processor speeds haven’t changed too much over time (about 20% speed increase each 3-5 years). For instance, my newly-bought i5-2500k runs almost as well as the i5-4690k – and with better overclocking performance (well, not exactly for me but in general it has easier OCs).Verdict: Upgrade.
- GPU – This is definitely an option, but I wouldn’t recommend it. GPU technology is becoming far more advanced each year, and drivers for older cards are far dumbed down. Newer cards are a better investment to make than old ones. For example: the GTX 670 vs. 960. They’ll perform about the same in real-world performance and are similar in price, but the 960 has far better technologies, overclocking performance, and is much more stable than the 670.Verdict: Don’t upgrade.
- Motherboard – Since socket types quickly become obsolete, this is not a good idea. Over time, too, other parts on motherboards become more streamlined in your OS and are much higher quality than older models. Sound processors, chipsets, etc. will all matter in the long run.Verdict: Don’t upgrade.
- HDDs, SSDs, RAM – These are simply not worth the upgrade. Older drives are just not as good and can crash regularly, and there is only one type of RAM that will work for your machine, anyway.Verdict: Don’t upgrade.
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