RAM vs Processor Upgrade

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I'm in the market for a new PC and trying to figure out whether I
should upgrade the RAM or processor:

The machine will be used for somewhat intensive mapping work (GIS),
including display of high resolution aerial photography and some
imagery analysis.

Dell Precision T3400
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550; 2.33Ghz
1333Mhz FSB
4MB L2 Cache
2GB Memory (2x1GB 667Mhz, DDR2 ECC SDRAM)
256MB nVidia NVS 290, Dual VGA or DVI or DVI + VGA

I can upgrade to a Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.40Ghz
upgrade to 4GB, 667MHz, DDR2 SDRAM Memory, ECC (4 DIMMS)

Where would I get the most bang for my buck?


Re: RAM vs Processor Upgrade

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Difficult to answer your question if you (we) don't know if your application
supports quad processing. If not, there will be absolutely no benefit to
upgrade to the Q6600 and you'd be better with a E8400 or E8500.
Concerning the memory upgrade, if you run Vista, 4 Gb would be a good thing
anyways. If you have XP, you should first have a look to youy memory usage
in  task Manager and see how much you use in average and peak.

Re: RAM vs Processor Upgrade

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All the cores in the world won't help if (1) your programs aren't
multi-threaded, and (2) you can't fit your data into memory.  Based
on your brief description, I'd go for RAM.

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Re: RAM vs Processor Upgrade

jsam.engle@gmail.com wrote:
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I looked at the T3400 page, and some of the upgrade options are a
ripoff. You can buy a Q6600 for less than the price listed in the
Dell page. Their RAM also tends to be too expensive as well. Buying
third party RAM later, could well be cheaper, even if you have to
throw away the RAM that Dell provided. (I.e. Get 1GB non-ECC option
at purchase, then buy third party ECC RAM later. You can check the
prices of the third party RAM now, before you buy the Dell.)

Crucial offers 4GB ECC DDR2-800 for $133. Dell offers same for $320.
Installation takes five minutes and can be done yourself (with the power
cord unplugged). You cannot mix ECC and non-ECC RAM, so chuck the 1GB
that Dell provides (keep for a rainy day, as RAM can fail any time).


To buy a computer to "fit" an application, you have to understand
what resources the application makes use of. Does a "GIS" application
do many seeks to the hard drive, to add information overlays to a
basic map ? Maybe you need a 15K RPM disk drive. Is the application
multithreaded ? I don't see a reason for it to be, in which case I
might go for a E8400, seeking a higher clock rate of the offered
Core2 processors. If you were shrinking DVD movies or editing
video, I might want a Q6600, or perhaps if I was using Photoshop,
but for a lot of other non-multimedia applications, seeking the
highest clock rate (that is price effective) is the way to go.
Of the options listed, the E8400 looks like a good option.

(An E8400 is $190, purchased from Newegg - Dell wants $249 upgrade.
The Dell provided custom cooler should be the same for that processor.)


(A Q6600 is $210, and Dell wants $339 - note that this may not be
a fair comparison, because Dell may use a different custom cooler
when a customer asks for the Q6600. But coolers are not that expensive
to build. So again, a nice profit for Dell.)


As for the power supply options, I might be interested in the
right-most 525W power supply, if I was building a gaming box,
and planned on installing a high end 3D graphics card. If you
have any plans along those lines (add DirectX or OpenGL horsepower),
then getting a good power supply in there now, might be a consideration.
If you think you won't be opening the box, to install high powered
upgrades, then the default power supply should be good enough.
(The RAM upgrade doesn't draw much power. A couple sticks of RAM
draw less than 10W.)

The Q6600 is 95W, and the E8400 or E6550 are 65W, so the processor
choice doesn't affect overall power consumption that much. But
adding a 165W graphics card, might.


Re: RAM vs Processor Upgrade

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Thanks for the responses.  I'm probably going to go w/ extra RAM.

Unfortunately I am machine I am purchasing is for my work and I have
to go with Dell, since they're on contract.  Believe me... if it was
for home use, I would definitely not be buying a Dell

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