The FX-6300 uses the updated Bulldozer tech - codenamed Piledriver - and is the finest £100 CPU around. It will happily run up to a 5GHz overclock, and at that speed it will post games performance almost rivalling an Intel Core i5-3570K at stock speeds. For such a relatively modest upgrade cost, you're getting an awful lot of CPU technology, and a hell of a lot of multi-threaded performance for your cash too.

That multi-threaded performance will also come in handy if you're looking for your machine to do more things other than gaming. For any multi-threaded application, the Piledriver tech really makes use of those six threads of processing goodness - especially if you start waving that good ol' overclocking stick about in earnest.

The performance boost this budget CPU can give an ageing AMD system is thoroughly impressive and is well worth the cash if you've got a motherboard that is capable of supporting it. AMD has been good in supporting the upgrade path, so it's worth investing in. A little extra processor performance will also always help keep your performance graphics card filled with data too.

Recommendation:

AMD FX-6300
Price: £100
Manufacturer: AMD
Web: www.amd.com
Cores: Six
Threads: Six
Clockspeed: 3.5GHz
Socket: AMD AM3+
Lithography: 32nm
Memory cache: 14MB
TDP: 95W

System memory

More, more, more! Can you ever have too much memory?

Memory

Memory is probably one of the least sexy of the upgrades on offer. After all, unless you're foolish enough to be trying to run an APU as fully fledged gaming system, then you're not going to get much benefit from boosting the memory inside your beloved rig. Or are you?

Memory performance is a lot more opaque when it comes to assessing how it affects your computing experience - it's more about what you do with your PC and how you use it. For most of us, 4GB is a perfectly adequate amount of memory to be jamming in your rig, but with prices of DRAM being so low these days - especially for the sort of performance RAM we're talking about here - you're never going to lose out sticking a good chunk more memory in your rig.

Granted, dropping £200 on a 32GB kit is probably going a tad overboard, but when you can pick up an 8GB upgrade for less than £40 it's certainly well worth a gander.

Memory matters

Gaming is probably the least memory intensive thing you do with your PC - after all, most of the games that we're playing these days have been put together with the last generation of consoles very much in mind. Those sealed boxes are so memory limited that developers have worked around the scarcity of DRAM, and so the resulting titles that hit the PC aren't so bothered about system RAM and are more interested in what your GPU is up to. For those sorts of games, 4GB is really all you're going to need.

That said, there are some PC-specific titles that very much benefit from a memory upgrade. Titles like my beloved Football Manager, with its heavy emphasis on computation and data processing, soak up any memory on offer. And if you're doing anything that requires multi-tasking and switching between programs - or anything that requires a lot of computational work - then more RAM is always handy.

Although we're talking up desktop upgrades in this feature, memory is also one of the few upgrades anyone can do to their laptop. Doubling the RAM on offer in your portable machine can really make a difference to how it performs, and again needn't cost the earth to install.

But as I said, this is all about the desktop and in that market Crucial's Ballistix Tactical LP range has really captured our imagination in recent months. As CPU coolers get ever larger and impinge on the DIMM slots of your mobo, a set of low profile RAM modules can really help. It also helps that these low profile modules are so darn good.