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Is now the time to upgrade (CPU/MB/RAM or GPU), or should I wait?

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February 7, 2014 2:53:43 PM

This is my current desktop setup + monitors

CPU - Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz (OC'ed to 3.0Ghz)
RAM - 4GB DDR2 (800Mhz/PC6400)
MB - Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L (rev 1.0)
CPU Cooler - XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 CPU Cooler
GPU - EVGA Geforce GTX 560 Ti Superclocked 1GB
HDD - 1TB WD Blue HDD, SATA III, 64MB Cache
PSU - Corsair TX750

SyncMaster 943BWX (19")
ViewSonic VP2030b (20")

As you can see, my CPU/MB/RAM are rather archaic, which I purchased back in 2007 (OC'ed to 3.0Ghz a number of years later after getting that CPU cooler). GPU/PSU were purchased early 2012, and just got that HDD after my last one crash-n-burned. This setup has done me well for its time. I ran 3DMark recently, and this is the results I got

http://www.3dmark.com/3dm/2386097

Icestorm was a cakewalk to run. Cloudgate handled well at 720p and about 120fps (though my GPU was reaching close to 80 Celsius, and the physics test crapped out). Firestrike is what you would expect with that setup: a slideshow. The 3 smaller tests (not combined) were about 15fps on average.

Now, I'm looking to have about a ~$600 budget towards this initial upgrade (possibly more, but let's assume this much for now). The CPU/MB/RAM were my first guess to upgrade (based on age), followed by the GPU at some point. Don't think I need to upgrade the PSU. The question is: Should I upgrade now? I know I need to upgrade at some point, but is now the time to do so? Haswell Refresh is coming soon, but I hear it's not much of an improvement over the current Haswells/Ivy Bridge (though all of those are definitely better than what I have). Then it follows with Broadwell (supposedly still not much better), then Skylake (which is likely to be the next true jump). Then there is also Nvidia revealing a new card in March, launching in May.

I'm not expecting to upgrade to the latest/best stuff, but mainly getting upgrades that are of good value for the price (with as little diminishing returns) that will last me a good half a decade at least. I'd likely need to get a new case the moment I upgrade the MB, so that would need to be factored in. I'm just assuming the CPU/MB/RAM need to be upgraded first, but it could very well be that you all think the GPU should be upgraded instead at this point in time, so I'll let you answer that question. I've had some (on other forums when I asked this) talk about adding an SSD to further improve performance, though it may not offer much with my current system.

So again, should I upgrade now, or should I wait? If I should upgrade, what should I upgrade, and what would be a good upgrade to take its place? I do some decent gaming, but I also do programming/development, and may be doing some video editing/converting in the future. Technically, I do a lot of multi-tasking, if that helps in how I should upgrade. I also lean towards Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, in case anyone was wondering.
a b 4 Gaming
a b à CPUs
a c 98 U Graphics card
February 7, 2014 3:02:53 PM

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/12acs
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/12acs/by_merchant/
Benchmarks: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/12acs/benchmarks/

CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K 3.4GHz Quad-Core Processor ($229.29 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock Z87 Extreme4 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard ($119.99 @ Microcenter)
Memory: G.Skill Sniper 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($81.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $431.27
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2014-02-07 18:02 EST-0500)

I'd go this route. The next batch of GPUs will be out before CPUs, plus this is really future proof.
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Best solution

a b 4 Gaming
a b à CPUs
a c 120 U Graphics card
February 7, 2014 3:19:31 PM

Look at the performance you are getting now.
When running a game, what is the CPU utilization (use perfmon, and use counters for each core rather than total)?
Use the games you actually play, not synthetic benchmarks.
If any of the cores are running near 100%, a CPU upgrade would help.
Equally, if compiling or other CPU intensive tasks are slower than you would like, a CPU upgrade can help.
Games are starting to come out now requiring a 64-bit operating system and more than 4GB of RAM, so this may push you towards a motherboard, CPU, RAM upgrade too.

If the CPU utilization is low and you want higher frame rates or want to run higher detail settings, a graphics card upgrade is better.
Adding an SSD will improve boot times and load times for applications installed on the SSD.
Your power supply is plenty to run any combination of a single CPU and a single graphics card.

If you do decide to upgrade the motherboard, CPU and RAM, a new Intel Core i5 will give you the best bang for buck. The increase in performance with the Core i7 doesn't really warrant the extra cost.

The original core i5/i7 series were a huge improvement over previous generations.
Sandy Bridge added a good 20% improvement on top of that.
Ivy Bridge improved power usage and allowed higher stock frequencies.
Haswell had a very modest performance improvement over Ivy Bridge.

We don't really know what to expect from future platforms.
All this talk of DDR4 seems a waste of time when memory bandwidth is already ample, DDR4 is just another step in technology that will eventually facilitate faster platforms.
I don't think there is any driving reason to wait before you upgrade.

Long winded response, I hope it was useful.
In summary:
If your CPU is currently heavily loaded in games or too slow in other applications upgrade this.
You will need an upgrade of RAM and a 64-bit operating system for some new games.
A graphics card upgrade can improve frame rates and detail settings if CPU utilization is not high.

PS. K series CPUs are only useful if you plan to overclock. You also need an appropriate motherboard for overclocking.
If you plan to run at stock speeds, get the cheaper non-K model.
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February 8, 2014 4:26:40 PM

Thank you both, woltej1 and VincentP, for your responses. If I could pick both to be answers, I would, as one gave me info on how I should check to see which should be the upgrade, and the other gave me a really good upgrade set should that be what I needed to upgrade.
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February 8, 2014 9:33:39 PM

It's really unfortunate that I'm not near a Microcenter (closest one is over 400 miles away), otherwise getting both the CPU and MB as woltej1 suggested would have been a steal.
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