PCIe 1.1 vs 2.0 / DDR2 vs 3
December 27, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Is PCIe 1.x x16 a viable technology for a gaming PC intended to last for the next 3+ years? What about DDR2?

I'm completely replacing my existing gaming PC (Athlon64/Socket 939/AGP/DDR1) and the current affordable parts are all along a Core 2 Duo/LGA 775/PCIe 1.x x16/DDR2 path. I can put together a very decent replacement for about what I spent on the previous setup, which is good.

However, I'd like to avoid what happened with my last PC - namely the fact that it was built just around the time PCIe replaced AGP, and DDR2 replaced DDR1. As such, the only thing I've realistically been able to upgrade is adding more memory; no good GPU upgrades, no good CPU upgrades, etc.

I'm afraid that, despite PCIe 2.0 being backwards compatible, I'll find myself having to do another full revamp in 3 years' time because the PCIe 1.1 bus would bottleneck a PCIe 2.0 or 3.0 card. Similarly, I wonder if DDR2 will be completely eclipsed by DDR3, and/or newer processors will want DDR3 exclusively by that point.

To make a long story short, will I get any upgrade mojo with aforementioned Core 2 Duo based setup, or would it be smart to wait another 3-6 months and hope PCI 2.0/DDR3 based systems come way down in price? I'm trying to keep the cost below $1000 USD, and such systems would definitely go way above that right now.

Or should I just assume that a full rebuild every 3 years is to be expected? I know many people constantly flush money down the toilet pour money into their "gaming rigs" and effectively upgrade yearly; is there a reasonable outside limit?

I can provide a link to the specific parts in question if necessary but wanted this to be a more general question instead of "critique my build plz kthx". Also, apologies for the multiple related questions.
posted by cyrusdogstar to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You got three good years out of your system. Yeah, for a "hot" machine a fresh rebuild is to be expected in about that time frame. Memory prices have been depressed for most of the past year, so you shouldn't expect DDR3 prices to drop much in the short term.
posted by notsnot at 1:01 PM on December 27, 2007

Best answer: Depends on what you play.

There is never a right time to buy PC hardware, components are so cheap that there is no point in trying to save money in upgrading pieces of your system for longevity.
posted by mphuie at 1:08 PM on December 27, 2007

Best answer: Well, when PCIe came out, AGP 8x wasn't a bottleneck for graphics cards. Actually, I'm pretty sure it wasn't even a bottleneck a generation later.
posted by Good Brain at 1:28 PM on December 27, 2007

Best answer: PCI 2.0/DDR3 prices probably will drop in the next 3/6 months, but that's because they're still so expensive that there's a ways to go before they leave the "early adopters only" stage. Food for thought: the first PCIe 2.0 boards were released in October, and it's backwards compatible with PCIe 1.1 (BUT NOT 1.0). As for DDR3, it's hard to predict uptake when the first DDR3 boards were released only a couple of months ago, but late 2009 seems to be the consensus for mass DDR3 adoption. Like DDR2, mass adoption doesn't mean the previous-generation memory will be out of stores or obsolete, it just means DDR3 prices will have come down enough that DDR3 solutions will be reasonable. A couple of months after that you'll probably start to see DDR2-based boards disappearing from stores, but even then you'll always find boards that can bridge the gap (a year ago you could buy boards that supported DDR and DDR2, for example).

So here's the deal: if you're worried about having an upgrade path at all, that is if you're the type who doesn't want to spend too much on an upgrade and doesn't mind keeping old components a bit longer so you can spread the cost of an upgrade over a couple of months, then a DDR2/PCIe 1.1 setup is fine. It won't be like AGP where you can't bring over your old graphics card or memory, and upgrading one means you'd have to upgrade everything. If you're worried about your 2008 computer still being fast in 2010, well, that's going to be hard to guarantee no matter what, and presumably you'd still have to upgrade nearly everything even if the technologies hadn't completely switched over by then.
posted by chrominance at 4:26 PM on December 27, 2007

(oh, I'm so awesome, I didn't realize the link I pasted in required a login. Try this and this for some analysts spouting future gobbledygook.)
posted by chrominance at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the responses. That's pretty much what I wanted to hear - I felt I was probably being overly worried about upgradeability, and it looks like that's the case. Did some more reading on my own as well, and have just ordered a shiny new set of components :D
posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:19 PM on December 27, 2007

Or should I just assume that a full rebuild every 3 years is to be expected? I know many people constantly flush money down the toilet pour money into their "gaming rigs" and effectively upgrade yearly; is there a reasonable outside limit?

Your strategy is wrong. Expecting a PC to be cutting edge after three years is like buying a car and expecting it to last 50 years. You should be replacing a desktop every 24 months at max and a laptop at 18 months. You should not be spending 3000 dollars on some bleeding edge monster machine because the cheapest machine 12 months after will be able to defeat it in pretty much any benchmark. Right now I see dell dual-core machines with monitors for like 400-600 dollars. Thats the premium youre going to pay alone for the ddr3 board and ram alone! Just buy a machine every 18-24 months and let the gamers pay the early adopter tax.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:57 PM on December 27, 2007

Or should I just assume that a full rebuild every 3 years is to be expected?

Yep. Because the odds are in favor of a new CPU platform in 3 year's time. Which means a new motherboard and new RAM to go along with it (even if it's pin-compatible, it likely won't be fast enough). And since the graphics card is almost always the largest bus-bandwidth-hog in your system, you'll probably need a new one of them to fit with the latest and greatest bus architecture (in 3 years time, probably PCI 3).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:13 PM on December 27, 2007

Always buy one generation behind the bleeding edge. You will still end up upgrading pretty much exactly as often as the early adopters, but you will be spending 25% of what they do and experiencing the same performance they get for about 75% of the time.
posted by flabdablet at 8:27 PM on December 27, 2007

That said, I bought a Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop in 2001 for a whisker under AU$6K, and it is still an extremely pleasant machine to use.
posted by flabdablet at 8:29 PM on December 27, 2007

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