[HELP] Horrible FPS and GPU Usage drops in Battlefield 3

lately my little brother's PC has encountered some weird issues, especially when playing in Battlefield 3, but the same seems to occur in NBA2K14.

But first here's the specs:
Motherboard - ASRock 960GM-GS3 FX
CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (Stock settings: 3.40GHz)
CPU Cooler - Zalman CNPS5X Performa
GPU - Asus Direct Cu II 650 Ti
RAM - Corsair Vengeance 4GB
PSU - Corsair CX430M
Monitor Resolution: 1280 x 1024 (4:3)

The problem:
Average framerate at Ultra Settings (No MSAA) at this resolution is around 60fps stable, very smooth, but quite often it drops horribly to 3-10 fps with resulting HUGE stutter for like 4-7 seconds. Final result: my brother is frustrated and the game is unplayable. This happens randomly, even looking at a wall, and even in 16 people servers, so it's not triggered by some effects, explosions or player cluttered situations.

A possible cause:
Watching MSI Afterburner I found out that these horrible and occasional FPS drops occur because in those moments the GPU usage goes to as little as 3% and then goes up again!! (what the hell?) .
CPU usage is always high during gaming, between 80 and 100% but this is totally expected.

Solutions I've already tried:
- Lowering the settings, even at lowest, doesn't solve the issue.
- Temps are OK (both CPU and GPU run at around 54 degrees maximum).
- I did a clean install of drivers with Display Driver Uninstaller, still the same.
- I tried SEVERAL different driver versions, even BETAs, still the same. Currently running the latest stable driver (335.23) .
- Tried a stable overclock, backed up by Prime95 5 hours test, at 3.8GHz, still the same.
- Disabled all power savings modes, both in BIOS, Windows control panel and NVidia Control Panel, still the same issue.
- Unparked correctly the cores, still the same.
- Checked inside the case, everything is plugged correctly and I removed all the dust from components.
- Resetted BIOS Defaults, still the same.
- Checked for file integrity in Origin for Battlefield 3, no avail.

Screen (the last part of the graph shows a constant 0% because I exited the game), this graph was took while approaching a wall with no enemies around so there wasn't any taxing effect going on:

So any ideas on why this GPU usage drop occurs and how to solve it?
Thank you in advance,
Patrick Kevin
8 answers Last reply Best Answer
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  1. First thing I would try would be a total fresh reinstall of windows and all the latest drivers, just to rule out any software issue.

    4Gb of Ram isnt ideal and the GPU isnt great, but it doesn't sound like his spec should be causing them huge drops.
  2. Best answer
    Type "render.perfoverlayvisible 1" into the game's console. Then watch the graph when the frame rate drops occur, if the yellow line spikes before the green and/or is generally higher than the green line then it your CPU holding you back and causing the massive FPS drops as it struggles to perform the calculations required in time.
    All the other evidence you have given seems to suggest that this is what is happening such as setting changes not changing FPS and very high CPU usage.
  3. Symptoms sounds like a CPU bottleneck.

    Btw 100% CPU usage is not necessarily "totally expected". When the CPU hits 100% it means it can't keep up with the game.
  4. Thank you for your replies!
    We performed the tests that Optimus_Toaster suggested and it seems that, like all of you said, the CPU is bottlenecking the system.
    I thought that a Phenom II X4 965 would be enough for a 650 Ti at low resolutions, clearly I was wrong.

    So I have one more question:
    what CPU do you recommend, compatible with the AM3+ Socket in the motherboard, that would not bottleneck a 650 Ti ?
    Preferably not an expensive one, we're looking for the best bang for the buck!
  5. I'm not familiar with AMD processors anymore. Maybe someone else can recommend something.
  6. My knowledge on AMD isn't great - but looking at the supported CPU list for the Mobo and some things that I have heard, the FX 6300 would be the best bet.

    But it might be a good idea to ask in another forum thread for what the best CPU would be.
  7. I was thinking about the same CPU, it seems that with these new Piledriver cores finally AMD has just started gaining ground against the allmighty i3 and i5 Intel solutions.

    Here's an interesting read for those interested:
    The FX 6300 and i3 3220 cost roughly about the same.
    But this is the first time, since long ago, we see a similarly priced AMD CPU beat an Intel one in overall performance.

    I will do further research, but I think that the FX 6300 would be the best bet in terms of price/performance, without the need to change the motherboard too.

    Thank you all again, question solved!
  8. HI ALL, try disabling origin in the game (from the application settings in the origin) and change compatibility mode to windows 7 for bf3.exe present in the game directory. it worked for me. hope it works for you as well. i will take just a few minutes to check !
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