First off, need input from you guys on this one. If you don't agree with something then feel free to chip in. There have been a fair few "should I upgrade" to Core2 threads floating about recently. Hopefully the purpose of this thread is to aid those thinking of making the jump up to Core2, from whatever current hardware you maybe running. There's a number of ways you can go with Core2, which of these you choose depends on what you want from your PC. Each of the various options will be split up, recommending CPU, Motherboard and memory for each. Graphics card choice isn't included, but maybe taken into account within each of the options. First off, lets give a brief overview of the various hardware which is currently available (note, we're talking generically here it's up to the reader to pick a motherboard to suit their needs) Motherboards - Intel chipsets - Almost all the 975 boards available should support Core2. It's worth double checking before buying however that the rev you get is Core2 compatible. Some boards may just need a bios flash, however for many its a hardware limitation. There *should* be no issue with 965 boards, as almost all were launched around the same time as Core2's launch. The boards DON'T officially support SLI, however hacked drivers are available. The boards DO support Crossfire however. Intel 965 chipset These boards tend to cost less than their elder 975 brothers. Features wise the boards don't differ vastly from their elder brothers here either. Only thing to note is that the 965 chipset only supports a single IDE device. On many boards however external or third party controllers are used to get around this issue. It's something to check before you buy a board though. Also note that, although some boards may have 2 PCI-e 16* slots only 1 of these operates at full 16* speed. The other operates at 4* only. This isn't a huge issue, performance will be lower than a true 16*2 or 8*2 configuration, however its not a big hit. You *may* find that some boards will run the 4* slot at 1* speed if another PCI-e card is placed into the 1* slots. The 965 boards don't seem to allow memory to run at lower speeds than the FSB. Basically the memory runs 1:1 or faster than the FSB. Intel 975 chipset Bigger brother to the 965 chipset, these boards tend to come a little more feature full due to the fact they are "workstation" chipsets. They do however tend to cost more than 965 based boards, despite the fact the P965 has the newer ICH8 with extra SATA ports, compared to the now year old, ICH7. The chipset supports 2 16*lanes in an 8*x8* configuration, compared to the 965's 4* and 16* config. NVidia Nforce 570 - Currently the only boards offering official support for SLI. Feature wise, they are a rehash of the Nforce 4 Intel Edition boards with a new southbridge. These boards tend not to be widely reccomended due to their poor overclockability. Also Nforce 680i (C55 versus C19 northbridge) is just around the corner which seems to be a much more rounded chipset. Nforce 650i "Basic" version of the 680i boards, badged for gaming performance. Despite the fact it uses the same northbridge as the 680 , and therefore memory controller which means they still support Async memory clocking and pull rather nice FSB's but it has reduced PCI-e lanes to 8*2 over 16*2. It also has an older southbridge which has only 4 SATA, but an extra IDE channel and only a single GB Ethernet. Nforce 680i Has the latest 680i northbridge and MCP55 southbridge (iirc from Bindi). Has 2*16 PCI-Express graphics ports, 10 USB 2.0, 6 SATA (including eSATA support), two Gigabit PHY, single IDE. Reference boards based on the NVIDIA/EVGA design have had problems with Memory drive strengths and SATA corruption but other 680i boards seem to be OK, but expensive. Not totally async memory like the RD600, but in unlinked mode it provides far more ratios than any Intel chipset. In linked mode it provides a lower latency and therefore higher theoretical bandwidth (5395 versus 5285 unbuffered Sandra on the Asus Striker Extreme) than unlinked mode. ATI AMD RD600 Totally Async memory, which provides completely independent memory to CPU buses but also increases latency, even over that of the 680i leading to lower theoretical unbuffered memory scores (5010 in Sandra from the DFI ICFX3200). Generally high overclocking and can provide very stable high oc's though (400+) but not as good as some other boards, and the chipset needs plenty of volts to get going, and as such, outputs lots of heat. Performance is still pretty good (on the DFI, other boards may vary) despite the lack of mem bandwidth though, although few manufacturers are commiting to this chipset since it's expensive. There are also chipsets from SIS and VIA which support Core2. These tend to be lower priced and have fewer features. They are however ideal for a budget minded build ====================================== CPU's Available CPU's are split into 2 sections, Allendale and Conroe. Allendale is, to all intents a Conroe with 2mb Cache (Conroe has 4mb) E6300 and E6400 are the Allendales, with the E6600, 6700 and X6800 being fully fledged Conroes. Kentsfield is the quad core version of two Conroe dies on one cpu and will arrive in November. ====================================== Memory DDR2 is the only way to go for Core2 (expect a few very low end boards which support DDR). PC2 4200 is the minimum to look for, this will run at the same speed as the CPU when running default clocks. Going for PC2 5400 or PC2 6400 gives some overclocking headroom, and the memory can also be run on an multiplier if required. PC4200 = DDR2 533 PC5400 = DDR2 667 PC6400 = DDR2 800 You want at least DDR2 800/PC6400 for maximum performance. ======================================= The options This is split into 2 sections, those willing/wanting to overclock and those not. Limited overclocking/Stock running Budget System and mid range Look to spend a little more on the CPU here if you can. 6300 and 6400 should be the CPU's of choice, unless you can stretch to a 6600. Memory isn't as important so you can cut corners on the budget here. PC2 5400 is more than fast enough. Motherboard wise, 965 is again the better option due to the reduced cost. Nforce 570 boards may also be an option if they fit the budget, as they'll allow for a second card to be added in SLI mode at a later date. Mid to Higher end Again focus more on the CPU here, same applies as above memory wise also. You should be looking at 6600 and 6700 here, it's certainly not worth shelling out for a X6800 if you're not going to overclock. Mobo wise, look for a board which gives you everything you need. Look for features over overclocking - again this means Nforce 570 boards should be considered especially if you want to run SLI. ============================= Overclocking: Budget System and mid range 965 based board is your best bet here. They'll give the headroom needed to overclock the slower E6300 and E6400 CPU's. Due to their low stock multipliers (7 and 8* respectively) high FSB is required to push these chips. You need to be aware of the lack of downclock memory dividers on the 965 chipsets however. You'll need to get some decent memory to really push your CPU. The recent release of the 650i chipset also adds another option here. These board's are cheap and overclock well. 500 FSB is about the max which is 3.5ghz on a 6300. If that's enough for you then the 650i's are worth considering. The boards also offer async memory overclocking which means you can spend MUCH less on ram. PC2 4200 would be an option with this board, though it tends not to be much cheaper than PC2 5400. PC2 6400 is a good bet, if you can't stretch this far 5400 memory should be good for 400 FSB. Spend as much of your budget as you can on decent memory. Mid to Higher end Here, mobo choice depends on CPU choice and how far you want to push things. If you choose a lower multiplier chip (ie 6300 or 6400) then again plump for a 965 based board. If you pick a higher multi CPU (ie 6600 or faster) then the 975 board maybe the best bet. These boards tend to celing at around 430-450 FSB giving a shade over 4ghz from an E6600. As above, 650i is another option in this bracket. Ram choice isn't quite as important here if the budget doesnt allow. Of course you can run upclock dividers on the memory or drop the CPU's multiplier to fully overclock your ram if required. If you choose an X6800 CPU then the Nforce 570 board maybe a consideration too. Due to the unlocked multipler, the overclock shouldnt be limited by the low FSB's achievable (around 330 max). ========================= Reccomended Systems: Budget/mid Range - E6300 or E6400 Gigabyte DS3 or Asus P5B "vanilla" 1GB PC-5400 GSkill ZX Mid/High E6600 or 6700 or Higher Asus P5B Deluxe or Asus P5W DH 2GB DDR2 XP2-5300 Mushkin Extreme Performance (default rated 3,3,3,x) Budget/mid Range Overclocker - E6300 or E6400 Gigabyte DS4, Asus P5N-E SLI or Asus P5B "vanilla" 1GB PC-5400 GSkill ZX Mid/High Overclocker E6600 or Higher Asus P5B Deluxe or Asus P5W DH, or Gigabyte DQ6 (Possible P5N-E SLI)! 2GB GSkill HZ 6400, Geil C4 6400 or Corsair C4 6400 Note the C4 Corsair no longer uses D9 IC's. It's using Promo's which don't clock as well. This is also the case for C4 dominators. C3 dominators are still using D9 based IC's . Look for memory with default voltage over 2.0v if you can. This tends to indicate D9 xxx based IC's from Micron. These overclock REALLY nicely. Bit uses Corsair C5 8500 and the 6400 C3 in testing - both are capable of 3-3-3-9-1T at with 2.2V at DDR2-800 with ease. Another option is the now rare Crucial Anniversary 5400, which should run 500+ FSB without any issues. Will hold tight timings at 400 FSB also. Cellshock and Team Xtreem modules are also great performance wise, and certainly worth a look at along with the Crucial over GSkill and the Corsair sticks if budget allows. Current batches of Geil have been a bit hit and miss, and could be worth avoiding if you can afford something better. =================================== Do I upgrade? If you've got enough cash, and your machine could do with a new lease of life then go for it. Core2 should give a decent performance boost over pretty much any other platform out there. Even a stock E6300 will match an FX60 easily. Core2 will give a boost to almost all graphics cards out there, maybe not huge but it should breathe a new lease of life into most hardware. For those of you on 939, with nicely clocked CPU's the performance boost may not be quite as large for you. If you don't need the extra graphics or processing power then it's probably worth holding off for a little until Quad core arrives and things start to settle down. For those of you on AGP and DDR1 who can't afford the full jump to DDR2 and Core2, there are boards out there to suit. Asrocks 775 Dual VSTA supports Core2, DDR1 + DDR2, AGP 8* and PCI-e 4*. This would allow a stepped upgrade, adding components as and when you can afford. The board iself is cheap too and runs rather nicely.