Alright, so I'm running into a very massive brick wall here, and I have posted on several other forums with no luck, meaning no-one posted to my topic. I have also searched the ends of the internet and the forums I frequent without much help either. Any information I have found on this topic does not give any real evidence to support anyone's claims as to why upgrading the CPU or Video Card is the better option, or, the information is from at least 3 years ago.... I wonder where the last 3 years went? Anyways.... I use my computer mostly for gaming, watching TV/DVD's, Photoshopping, and once I get a few programming classes out of the way, maybe a bit of that....
I currently have a relatively decent system, but I have found that some of the newer games have started to dip in frame rates every now and again. I've hit the wall on my overclock of my CPU and RAM, and while there may be some headroom left in my factory overclocked graphics card, I really don't wanna go through the headache of upping the clocks more for a negligible rise in frame rate.
My system specs include:
585w 39a/12v PSU
MSI K9A2 Platinum v1 790FX motherboard
AMD Athlon x2 5400+ BE OC'd to 3250mhz(this is the wall, it'll boot to windows at 3300mhz, but freezes, no matter the voltage)
2GB G. Skill DDR2-1066 currently clocked at 928mhz
GeCube ATi Radeon 3850 512MB Factory OC 725/1800mhz
1280x1024@75hz 2msGTG 19" LCD monitor
Win XP SP3
I've been using moderate to high levels of AA to offset the poor resolution of the monitor, and I have to say after seeing other monitors with higher resolutions and slower response times, I can't stand anything less than 2ms, so a monitor upgrade is out of the question (and outside my budget). I have turned off AA only to find a negligible increase in FPS, which leads me to believe that I am CPU bottle-necked. So herein lies the headache inducing thought process:
I haven't had much luck finding benchmarks with scores for Athlon 6400's compared to the 7750BE Kuma CPU, and even further comparing those chips to the PII's 720BE and 940BE. I know that socket AM2+ is being phased out, I believe after Q2, so there might not be much use spending $230 on the PII940, especially if the $145 720BE is basically on par with the 940BE. The 7750BE is one helluva steal for less than $70, but unless I know it would increase overall system performance by a considerable margin, I can't justify the price, especially if for another $70 I could see greater performance from the tri-core PII, along with system longevity. Now I think all 3 chips have been OC'd to 3.6ghz, which is an added plus for value, but if I were to upgrade the CPU, which would be the best option? Keep in mind, this is without considering a GPU upgrade.
on the other hand:
If you feel that my CPU is up to the task, and picking up a GPU is the better option, then should I consider getting an open box 3870 512MB with stock clocks? That would net me about the same price as the 7750BE, but would it be worth the cost on the GPU side? That would then put me into Crossfire territory (along with the headaches from that) and I could potentially see a greater amount of AA....
Which then leads to the idea of picking up an open box 4850 512MB card. They're priced around $100, and I'm sure I could get a bit more than half that for my 3850. I don't mind going open box because I've owned 3 other cards second hand without issue. I know that the 4850 is better suited than 2x 3870's (or a single 3870x2 card for that matter) but if I am already in CPU bottleneck territory, would I even see a considerable difference in performance?
So I really need some help to figure this one out. I wanna use my resources wisely, and get the best bang for the buck upgrade for what I am working with. If I'm going to spend $70+ on a component, I want to make sure it's worth it, and not a flat upgrade. This decision was a lot easier awhile back when I upgraded from my socket 939 Abit AT8 32X motherboard, which was a beast in itself.
Any helpful, and insightful information is much appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Reduce your OC until stable. Your GPU is a bit weak, a 4850 would give a good improvement. Many games either use only 1 core, sometimes 2, but can be difficult to get benefit from 3 or 4. Your OC'd x2 should be good enough for now. What is make/model of PSU, cheap ones lie about their ratings and can be unstable.
My OC is as rock stable as it will get. I can run Orthos 2004 for days on end without any problems (yes, with the highest priority). I've not had a BSOD yet (fingers crossed) so I am pretty confident on what my chip can do (at least I think I am, unless picking up a liquid cooling kit would net me the 3400mhz). As far as going above 3.25Ghz, since it's the only AM2 socket processor I have, I don't want to push the volts to redline and above. I'm sure if I did I could probably squeeze out 3300mhz, and possibly what others have been able to get around 3400mhz, but since I'm using an air cooler, I do not want to take my chances.
My PSU is an hec Compucase Orion 585w. Yes, I know it's a lesser known company, but from the reviews I have found on their other lines of supplies they've produced, all have been good marks. So I took a chance and picked up this sleeper supply for super cheap.
I did a lot of researching on the company for my PSU, so I'm pretty confident in their products. I have also tested it with my Digital Multi-Meter, and I haven't had any fluctuations outside of spec from what the PSU is rated for, as far as the draw from my current components. At peak load, my system only draws about 344watts, and I decided on this PSU coming from my Antec Smartpower 350w because I was at the Antec's maximum. I have had this PSU for 2 years (since I used it in another build) and it's case has been cool to the touch. Of course, warm air comes out of the back of the supply, just like any other. All software programs that pull from the motherboard onboard diagnostic chips indicate the power supply never drops below the rated specifications, except for Speedfan, which says my 12v is at 8 volts. I've been doing some research and others have had issues with the newer versions of Speedfan saying their 12v rail is low or even in the negative numbers, so I take it for a grain of salt.
Everest, PC Wizard, and the BIOS all register 12.01v for the 12v rail under load so I'm pretty confident that 3 of 4 software programs to get the readings, plus my DMM which also agrees with those programs (although it does indicate a better reading between load phases).
I will be upgrading the PSU soon though, because I feel it is time to pick-up something around 1k watts for longevity.
Edit: I forgot to thank you for your responses. I wouldn't be a nice person if I forgot to do that.
So you feel that my 5400+ x2 should get me through another year or two? I only ask because I was running a 4200+ x2 at 3200mhz for about 2 years before jumping on this motherboard.
Maybe not on my current hardware but I'd rather get a power supply I won't have to worry about replacing for roughly 5 or 6 years. Plus, my birthday comes in August, and that will probably be my treat to myself. I'm also married, and wives really don't like it when you have a hobby where you buy something new every 3 months. I love her to death and all, but she made me quit one hobby already, and my only justification is that since I will have a degree in computer engineering at some point, I must have nice shiny parts. If that doesn't make sense to you, that's ok, but my wife forces me to do "the right thing" with my money and "save for the future."
I do plan at some point to go with a 4-way crossfire setup, that is why I have the motherboard that I do. I also know I will need a new monitor as my resolution just won't do, or even make half of those cards work.
I hope to have the 4-way crossfire setup finalized around the release of Windows 7.