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System Configurations: PCs From 2005 To 2010

Could An SSD Be The Best Upgrade For Your Old PC?
By , Achim Roos

We decided to build a few systems representing hardware from 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010, which could then be upgraded with an SSD. These systems all started with a conventional hard drive, but for the sake of simplicity and to cut down on install times, we used the same motherboard and chipset for the 2005, 2006, and 2008 systems.

That created one artefact, though. First, the configurations from 2005 and 2006, which centre on Pentium 4 660 and Core 2 Duo E6700 processors, respectively, don't actually use a storage controller from the same era, as the P45/ICH10R combo wasn't available back then. Fortunately, it's completely appropriate for the 2008-era build. But because the ICH10 controller didn't dramatically alter performance or functionality compared to the ICH7 or ICH8, those two configurations shouldn't be affected.

The 2005 PC is based on an old-school Pentium 4 processor. We're using a Pentium 4 660 here, centring on the notorious 90 nm Prescott core, running at 3.6 GHz, and armed with 2 MB L2 cache. It was the first processor to drop into the LGA 775 interface. It was a single-core CPU, but thanks to Intel’s Hyper-Threading feature, it facilitated a pair of logical processors to purportedly improve utilization of available execution resources. Of course, at the time, Hyper-Threading didn't always perform as advertised, as most applications still weren't threaded.

Compared to today’s 3.6 GHz processors, the Pentium 4 is comparatively ancient, and it required a lot more power to operate than one of today’s quad-core models.

This is the only one of our test configurations that we would definitely replace rather than upgrade. But it's still fast enough for Internet use and office productivity tasks. We paired it with 2 GB of DDR2 memory, a GeForce 6800 GT graphics card, and a 300 GB Spinpoint T133 hard drive.

Intel's turnaround started in 2006, and the company reclaimed its performance and efficiency crowns from AMD. Our system build consists of a Core 2 Duo E6800 processor based on the 65 nm Conroe core (Game Over? Core 2 Duo Knocks Out Athlon 64) with 2 GB of DDR2 RAM, an Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card (Nvidia's GeForce 7800 GTX 512 New Graphics Champion) and another Spinpoint T133 drive (this time with 400 GB of capacity and slightly improved performance).

The Core 2 generation dropped the mainstream processors’ thermal envelope from 115 W (on the Pentium 4 Prescott) to only 65 W, while simultaneously introducing much better performance per clock and two processor cores. Core 2 also was the first desktop CPU to feature an on-die L2 cache that was shared between the two cores.

In 2008, Intel put a significant emphasis on its Core 2 Quad processors with four processing cores. However, we decided to use a dual-core 45 nm CPU (Wolfdale Shrinks Transistors, Grows Core 2), which, at the time, offered great performance and even better power efficiency. To this platform we added a GeForce 9800 GTX (Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX Review), 4 GB of DDR2 memory, and a 1 TB Spinpoint F1 drive (Samsung Spinpoint F1 HDDs: New Winners?).

The 2010 PC is based on a 45 nm Lynnfield-based design; specifically, the Core i5-750 (Intel Core i5 And Core i7: Intel’s Mainstream Magnum Opus). This 2.66 GHz quad-core model is no longer the latest and greatest mid-range chip, but it's still representative of last year. At this point, we naturally had to upgrade from the LGA 775 motherboard to an LGA 1156-capable platform. We also installed 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, a GeForce GTX 280 card and a Spinpoint F3R 1 TB drive, which offers more performance than the Spinpoint F1.

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  • 1 Hide
    infernox_01 , 5 August 2011 19:26
    I would have liked to see some gaming benchmarks to see what difference it would make. Lower loading times is a given and maybe higher minimum frame rates.
  • 1 Hide
    aje21 , 5 August 2011 23:04
    While I understand the why to facilitate comparisons between systems of different ages, would you really take a P4 system from 2005 and install Windows 7 on it? If I was spending the money on an SSD and new O/S then a new PC would be worth considering instead.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , 7 August 2011 07:54
    The home user pc now days is to powerfull. When i see a kid whit a 2k$ pc and all what it does is 50% net surfing,30% playng, 10% chat , 5% watching movies and 5% doing something for school it literally makes me sick. A pc should be chosen for the needs of the client and not imposed by seller. Currently are to many powerful pc witch are not even at 50% of their full power used, is full of them, the gap between software needs and hardware power is bigger and bigger. I asisted many times at scenes where clients hwo whanted a ned pc have bought an aircraft whitout even knowing to verify email. No etics, nothing, so much processing power wasted for surfing web and watching pictures. I really think something must be done.
  • -2 Hide
    pat219 , 7 August 2011 18:39
    I have seen that if you delete a file you do not get that back on the SSD drives so you will loss space as well as they cost way to much for such a small Gb size older is best and far cheaper than wasting money. they will come down but not for a lest 5 years when hopefully the disc size is worth talking about
  • 0 Hide
    jaksun5 , 9 August 2011 15:38
    I have to say I have a Core Duo 1.6 notebook with 2Gb RAM and after replacing the 80Gb drive with a 64Gb Kingston SSDNow V running Ubuntu 10.04 it's faster than anyone I knows Vista and Windows 7 running Core 2 duos with double the RAM. My machine has now been used solid for 6 years and still ticks over well.
  • 0 Hide
    Gonemad , 13 August 2011 01:19
    RAM was the king of upgrades in the era when swap files were really critical to Windows. When machines had measly 128MB of RAM, you could bet you would get rid of all that HDD paging (hence slowness) by chucking in more RAM. Now, XP can survive having just 2GB of RAM (and won't benefit having more than 3GB by default...), but we still need to avoid that dreaded HDD poor performance. Enter SSDs...
  • 1 Hide
    Marko3333 , 14 August 2011 17:43
    If all you do is simple applications, and you have a core duo or better with sata 300 mobo, a SSD would really make a difference. Boot time, windows updates, applications, all start with less then half the time as with an HDD.

    Just try a virusscan with your old HDD and then on a SSD, you can't miss the increase of speed even if you're blind. It's just a huge difference.
  • 0 Hide
    Rab1d-BDGR , 15 August 2011 00:09
    So... despite my manifold protestations that I would not buy an SSD until they hit the £1 per GB mark, I finally caved and bought a 60GB OCZ Solid 3 to put Ubuntu Studio on. Still got half an hour of twiddling my thumbs whilst the distro downloads.

    I can't wait to see what 500MB/s read and 450 MB/s write actually looks like!
  • 0 Hide
    usafang67 , 20 October 2011 22:25
    I thought older pc's using IDE/ATA interface could not be connected to SSD?
    Do SSD's ship with some kind of adapter to make this possible?
    If so why isn't it mentioned in the article unless I completely missed it.