Upgrade Advice (CPU, GPU, etc.)

I'm not sure if this belongs in PC gaming, so feel free to move it. I am a PC gamer looking to eliminate bottlenecks from my system, and I am considering an upgrade:

Currently, I have:
Core 2 Duo E6420 @ 3.4 GHz
nForce 650i-based motherboard
ATI Radeon 4850

I am considering:
a) Phenom II X4 940 + Gigabyte 790X-based motherboard
b) Radeon 5830

Both options would run me about $240. Which one would better prepare my system for upcoming games? I worry that my dual-core will bottleneck me in physics-heavy games. I would consider a Core 2 Quad in my current system, but I have heard reports that the 650i does not like quad core CPUs. Also, the 650i only supports Kentsfield Quads, and the Q6600 and Q6700 are hard to find new.

Any feedback would be appreciated.
4 answers Last reply
More about upgrade advice
  1. Depends on what games you are planning on playing, if its fps, graphicaly intense I would say upgrade the gpu.
  2. Get the phenom and the motherboard. Check out these benchmarks between the Core 2 Duo E6420 and Phenom II X4 940. Here are some benchmarks comparisons between the Intel and AMD:


    3dMark06 CPU Benchmark:

    Also, if the Phenom is a black edition, then the multiplier is unlocked and you can really boost the overclocking.

    For me, I previously had an AMD64 X2 4200+ with an ATI HD3870 video card. GTA IV was lucky to get over 17 fps. I upgraded to a Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and DDR2-800 memory but kept the 3870 card. With no OCing, I get around 37 FPS for GTA IV with just about every setting turned on. Unlocking the 4th core gets me around 45 FPS now.

    I would say going with the Phenom will hold you longer than the GPU upgrade.
  3. That is a toss up. Either would give you a boost, but depending on what game you look at some favor quad cores. Honestly, I would upgrade your video and hold out on the CPU for 6-12 months yet. A Graphics card will give you all around better performance, but a CPU will give you better performance only in games that utilize it.

    BTW, I would never buy the 5830, it is FAR overpriced, it should be around $200. It is an odd card. It's the size of a 5870 but performs somewhere between a 5770 and 5850. However in most cases that I've seen it performs closer toward the 5770 than the 5850 and consumes more poser then the 5850. So for $80 more I think I'd go for a 5850 or save a few bucks and get a 5770 and overclock it, which they do very well. There is just something about the 5830 that I don't like. But that is my opinion.

    As far as mobo and cpu. You can always do what a buddy of mine did. Get an AMD Phenom II 550 BE x2 (or now the 555 BE is out) and get an ASUS 785G motherboard that has the Advanced Clock Calibration. This unlocks the other 2 cores. The x2's are really just x4's with 2 cores disabled. They used to take chips with 1 or 2 defective cores and use them for the x2, but now that they are so good at making them, there really are no defects and virtually all of them can be unlocked. So for $200 you get a mobo and Phenom II 955. See the article below.

  4. Just be careful when purchasing an AMD cpu that has locked cores. It's a crap shoot on whether it will work or not. I didn't even know I could unlock the 4th core on my 720 BE until I stumbled upon an article here at Tom's:


    The article was written almost a year ago, so who knows what is still out there that will unlock and stay stable and what won't. However, as long as you get a Black Edition, you know the multiplier is unlocked, so that alone is worth getting it because overclocking is definitely doable.

    I know with my 720, I've increased it from 2.8 ghz to about 3.3 ghz just by increasing the multiplier alone. However, doing 3Dmark06 scores, even increasing the multiplier to 16.5 didn't pass the benchmarks of my unlocked 4th core running at 2.8ghz. The 4th core definitely made a difference. Now, I just need to test it overclocked, but I'll probably just stick with the 4th core only because so far, all my games run great (GTA IV, Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origin) with just the 4th core only.

    4 cores, no overclocking
    3DMark Score 12590 3DMarks
    SM 2.0 Score 4991
    SM 3.0 Score 5581
    CPU Score 3970

    3 cores, overclock x16
    3DMark Score 12322 3DMarks
    SM 2.0 Score 5107
    SM 3.0 Score 5653
    CPU Score 3342
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