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Tips for matching CPU, RAM, MB, GPU efficiently?

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Last response: in Systems
November 11, 2006 12:47:57 PM

In general, what's the best way to go about matching-up CPU, RAM, Motherboard, and GPU so that you're getting the most performance out of the set, without spending too much for performance in one area that might go to waste due to limitations in the other?

For example, if I decide to bite the bullet and pickup on of the new DirectX10 cards to get ready for Vista and up my gaming experience with titles like Oblivion and FEAR; but stick with my existing MSI K8N Neo-4 Platinum Nforce4Ultra-based MB, AMD Athlon64 3000+ CPU, and 1GB Corsair Valuesect 2-channel RAM; how much of a performance bite will be taken out of the Graphics card due to limitation in my other components?

Another way of asking, given the MB, CPU, and RAM I have today, what is the most powerful graphics card I can get without wasting money on power I'll never be able to tap into?

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November 11, 2006 1:32:34 PM

The best way to balance system performance is to understand your game's hardware vs performance matrix. Best way to do that is through reading game specific articles on game & hardware review websites.
Oblivion Athlon 64 CPU Performance
F.E.A.R. CPU Shootout: AMD vs. Intel
CPUs & Real-World Gameplay Scaling
Using articles like those above should give you the basis for making an informed decision about how go about making an upgrade strategy.
Another way of asking, given the MB, CPU, and RAM I have today, what is the most powerful graphics card I can get without wasting money on power I'll never be able to tap into?
What monitor resolution do you use for gaming?
For example using a LCD at 1280x1024 resolution or a larger widescreen monitor at 1920x1200 resolution will have different requirements for "adequate" GPU support.
Are you the type of person that does incremental upgrades over time or the type that hands down an older system and buys a complete new system every couple of years?
If you game at 1280x1024 buying the 8800GTX/GTS will only make sense if can't live without using the very highest graphics settings with full AA/AF. If you're not as demanding on your graphics quality you can spend a lot less for a graphics card and save $200-300 for your next upgrade. On the other hand if you do "bite-the-bullet" and get a new DX card now it will migrate nicely into your next system which is not true of any other upgrade you'd get for your current system.

The bottom line almost always comes down to personal preferences and your budget.
November 11, 2006 2:35:05 PM

first of all when optimizsation kicks in new card will outperforma everything by a large margin, u jus hav to giv them a little time to get drivers and patches out there, like every other gfx card launch. a setup with that followed by a dual core proc and 2gb of ram is needed, considering u save about 100 with the gts that should go into more ram, and dual core processors are essential for the new games coming round the end of the year and for nxt year where the bulk of dual threaded apps will start to be released

imo core 2 duo 6300, 2gb of brand ram and a 8800gts would do wonders for a few years
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November 11, 2006 5:20:18 PM


Great feedback! Thanks especially for the links...they provided exactly the kind of introductory background I was looking for.

Interesting that CPU really seems to matter most at lower resolutions. It makes comlete sesnse that high-resolutions would offload transactions to the GPU (after all, that's the whole point), but why not lower resolutions?

In answer to your questions...I currently use an LCD with 1280x1024 native resolution and play at that level. Overally, that resolution works nicely for me. Also, I tend to upgrade over time; to wit, nothing in my box is over 2 years old, but I haven't bought a full pc in over 10 years. Despite that, I'm still a complete noob on the most cost-effective combinations of components.

Given all this, I don't think I could yet justify something like the 8800GTX/GTS as it would be completely anchored by the rest of my rig. Looks like an x1950Pro might be a sensible graphics choice right now, and perhaps another gig of ram. That ought to hold comfortably until possibly middle of next year when the Directx10 cards come down out of the stratosphere and would allow an upgrade do a dual-core chip...maybe then I'll have the guts to upgrade to Vista, as well (another story).


Thanks again for the feedback!
November 11, 2006 5:21:39 PM

For whatever reason, I had never thought about games using multithreading to take advantage of dual-core CPUs. Do you know what games current available or in development claim to make use of dual-threading?