Which CPU to extend the life of a AMD 939 Socket Motherboard?
August 21, 2007 10:52 PM   Subscribe

Upgrading AMD Processor for 939 motherboard. Athlon 64 X2 4200+ or Opteron 170?

I have a GIGABYTE GA-K8NXP-SLI 939 socket motherboard with a AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor. This is a half decent rig that I assembled myself a few years ago. AMD stopped making processors for the 939 socket so the choice available to upgrade to is limited.

Based on what the motherboard supports, and what is available in the stores my options appear to be either:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ for $87
AMD Opteron 170 Denmark 2.0GHz for $117.
Both of which are dual-core processor. My existing processor is a AMD64 3200+ single core Venice 2.0Ghz.

The Opteron has 1MB L2 cache versus 512KB for the 4200+ which I think gives the Opteron the edge. And the Opteron comes in a retail kit with fan+heatsink, while the 4200+ is an OEM without a fan. However, the 4200+ is margially faster at 2.2GHz versus 2.0Ghz.

Will I notice a difference over my old 3200+ running at 2.0GHz if I get the Opteron? Or should I get the 4200+ and reuse my existing fan+heatsink, or purchase a new fan+heatsink (which will increase the price)?

What do you think and why?

Help me keep my motherboard running (Debian) for another year. :)
posted by zaphod to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The performance should be negligible, but the 170 should be a bit faster due to it's increased cache.
posted by iamabot at 10:59 PM on August 21, 2007

You can go for the 64 X2 4600+ or 4400+ for not much more. The 4400+ will have the extra L2 cache, which to me is worth it (and my processor).

The Opterons are *really* server/advanced workstation chips. The 64 X2 will generally perform better for you, if you can find a retail version for cheap.

Re-using a heatsink is a pain; you have to clean it immaculately and then reseat it with thermal paste; or buy a new one. I'd suggest the new one.

AMD's retail chips have a thermal pad on their heatsink, it connects good and tight and works well.

I still suggest the X2 over the Opteron, because of how the chips are geared, though the more L2 cache the better, and architecturally, the X2 is at least based on Opteron elements. (They can both run in 32 or 64-bit modes.)
posted by disillusioned at 11:01 PM on August 21, 2007

On the stuff most desktop app users do, it usually seems like the extra clock speed gets you more performance than the extra cache. Often Opterons are more overclockable though, which matters to some.

I've been contemplating a similar upgrade.
posted by Good Brain at 11:20 PM on August 21, 2007

See if you can scare up an FX-60. That will keep you from needing a CPU upgrade for a long, long while. Damn near every 939 board should be able to drive one, albeit most likely requiring a BIOS update.
posted by majick at 1:40 AM on August 22, 2007

The good thing about Opetrons is that they are easily over-clockable. They are tested more throughly for reliability because they are meant for servers, so with the stock fan you should be able to overclock it from 2.0Ghz to 2.4GHz or 2.6GHz.
posted by LeavenOfMalice at 5:52 AM on August 22, 2007

The answer depends on whether you plan to overclock and what your usage is like, but for normal desktop/office usage, increased clock speed will make a bigger impact than L2 cache.

If you're just looking for a simple solution to boost performance and hold you over until a major upgrade, I would recommend getting an x2 3800+, which can be had (OEM version) for $60 at TigerDirect (Newegg has it for $64). If you're planning to buy a new mobo/CPU soon, there's no reason to spend much now.

If you want to overclock, then I'd recommend getting the Opteron 165 over the 180 ($95 at Newegg in retail box). It has a lower out-of-the-box speed (1.8Ghz) but I've seen reports of clocking it to 2.5Ghz and beyond -- this review in particular claims the 165 is a much better overclocker than the 180.

I am not sure about whether the previous stock fan would be enough to cool the new processor (definitely not if you're overclocking), but based on what I can see about recommended temps for the processors, it should be fine. I would hook it up and keep an eye on it, but it really depends on how intense your CPU usage is generally. If you're not overclocking or running processor-intensive applications on your machine, then I wouldn't worry about cooling too much.
posted by camcgee at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2007

If you want to go the eBay route, here are a few x2 3800+ retail box options: 1, 2, 3. The cheapest one is at $42 right now, but of course it's eBay so you never know...
posted by camcgee at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2007

>You can go for the 64 X2 4600+ or 4400+ for not much more.
disillusioned the problem is finding them! Most places are out of stock or have ones with cores that my motherboard doesn't support.

I probably won't overclock as I'm worried about heat, the computer is located in a rather cramped location and can't be moved.

>The Opterons are *really* server/advanced workstation chips
Great! :) I run Debian (GNU/Linux) on it and usually have a couple of different X sessions running and numerous different apps (included doom3, ut2004).

majick, the FX-60 would be great, except any I've found are too dear, at least $300+.

And, after rereading the list of supported CPU's for my motherboard (see the 1st link at the start of the page) it only support a 4200+ with a Manchester core and not the Toledo core that Newegg has in stock, same thing with the 3800+!

I think it's going to be the Opteron 175! Any last suggestions?
posted by zaphod at 8:01 PM on August 22, 2007

Duh! I meant to say the 170 as the motherboard doesn't support the 175!
posted by zaphod at 8:26 PM on August 22, 2007

Newegg has a 4200+ Manchester core in stock which I just ordered. Will let you all know how it runs compared to my current 3200+.
posted by zaphod at 7:21 PM on October 7, 2007

I finally put the new CPU in! It's just wonderful, it slices, it dices, it's a carpet cleaner and a desert topping ...

Ok, enough of the tomfoolery. The 4200+ performs better than the 3200+, but not startlingly so. If I'd money to burn the Opteron with gobs of cache would provide a more noticeable difference.

But, it's still faster than what I had, and when I log in to my desktop it is faster, and ET: Quake Wars does seem to perform better (and runs on Linux).

I think the main advantage is that it's multi-core and that it does help, in that games or other high cpu intensive tasks get their own core and other stuff running on the system get the other core and are less likey to affect each other. The Ghz boost isn't huge, but I think this will keep me till later next year. Now I just have to wait for the 8800GT to drop in price and for Nvidia's Linux drivers to support it!
posted by zaphod at 8:50 PM on November 7, 2007

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