Christmas is creeping up and I'm looking to buy myself a piece of computing hardware or two if I can. My computer is pretty good at running everything I've thrown at it so far, but I know that it's starting to show it's age, and since it's less than a quarter full on it's slots I really feel like giving it a helping hand. The next generation of graphic programs are probably going to start stressing this system in ways I'd rather it not, and I'd rather not buy myself a game for Christmas when I won't be able to run it anyway.
What I've currently got shapes up like this:
Intel Pentium 4 3.00 GHz
2 x 512 DDR Corsair Ram, clocked at 466 or something.
128 GeForce 5900 FX
I've got 4 more Dimms for ram, so I can either rip out my old stuff and slap in 6 new ones or, more realistically, just add in a little more so long as I can find similar stuff. The processor seems like it's pretty potent still--the new numbers don't seem like they present much of an increase, certainly not enough to warrant ripping it out and putting in a new one. If I'm wrong, and there's an affordable way to get a noticable increase in performance via processors, then make note of that.
Right now what seems to be the slowpoke of the bunch is the graphics card. The 5900 is still a very able piece of hardware, but the 128 meg brick on it really has problems handling some of the games that I'm throwing at it. But to get something like the 7950 would cost around 500 bucks, and I'm not really sure I'm ready to spend that kind of cash on a single hardware component. Is there a way for me to upgrade my current card to a 256 or 512? I'm doubting there is, sadly, but I felt it worth asking.
It's not the 128 MB of RAM, it's the 5900. It was never as good as the Radon 9 series when they were new, and is now over 3 years old. If there were a 256 MB version of the 5900, I doubt it would be any faster, as it couldn't run resolutions and settings high enough to use it anyway.
Anyway, if you've got a GeForce FX series, then you're on AGP, and most cards are PCI-E nowadays, so you'll have to make sure they say AGP. As for recommendations, it depends on how much of a performance jump you want, but the best deal for AGP users right now seems to be the X850 Pro on Newegg for $140. It's not cutting edge, but it's probably 4-5 times faster than your 5900, and should last you until a single-core P4 3 GHz is no longer enough. Given that you still consider the 5900 good enough, I suspect that getting anything better than that would be a waste of money and you wouldn't get any extra utility out of it.
As for RAM, you're right that 2 GB isn't a requirement right now, today. But DDR1 RAM (what you have) is disappearing in favor of DDR2 RAM. The longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to add that second gig, so if you have the money, now might be a good time.