Case In Point: Navigating The Upgrade Minefield

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Future Platform Technologies

We’re starting to see the first SATA 6gbps hard drives and motherboards capable of supporting them. If you’re running a single drive system, with a traditional 7200RPM hard, don’t be in a hurry to swap in a new motherboard just because you want faster hard drive performance. You almost certainly won’t see any visible performance increase.

Seagate's Barracuda XT 2TB is the first SATA 6G HD to hit the HH lab

We’re also starting to see a lot of hoopla about USB 3.0 devices. Discrete USB 3.0 controller chips are appearing as well. I wouldn’t recommend buying a new motherboard just to get an onboard USB 3.0 controller, but it may be worth grabbing a PCI Express card with a controller chip – but only do that if you have a specific need.

My general philosophy when it comes to improvements in platform technologies is to wait until the new chipsets arrive, so support will be native to the core logic. But there are times when a specific application may call for an incremental upgrade. The good news is that most of us have a number of extra PCI Express slots, so you can always drop in a card if you really need the new tech.


Final Note
As you can see, while the upgrade landscape is a little more complex now than ever before, applying a few rules of thumb will result in a system that offers capacity for future growth and upgrades. That, in turn, allows you to extend your investment. While the hardware companies would love for us to build a new system every six months, for most of us, that's just not going to happen. So keeping one eye on the future means you'll maximize your system's longevity and keep your wallet much happier.

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