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I think something's up with my PC. Terrible graphics performance.

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January 3, 2009 5:25:09 AM

I think something is up with my PC.

I always hear of how current mid-high end PC's are capable of running recent-ish games at high widescreen resolutions, an adequate level of AA/AF at great framerates. We're talking games like Team Fortress 2, Fallout 3, Mass Effect, etc.

But my PC for the oddest reason never comes close despite it being fairly recent. Mass Effect, even on 800x600 on the lowest possible texture settings runs around 30 FPS, with dips/stutters in between, Team Fortress 2 (even on the famed Source engine) runs OK at 1280x1024 with no AA and medium-high textures middles between 20-50/60 FPS.

And though I know Crysis is supposed to be a system wrecker, I recently picked up Crysis: Warhead and again, even on the lowest settings (we're talking 800x600 again, lowest possible texture settings, no AA, etc.) it probably runs at 10-20 FPS.

It seems the more advanced the engine, the more terrible the game runs.

My system isn't *that* terrible, is it?

CPU: AMD X2 4400+ (2.2 Ghz, Dual-Core)
GPU: Geforce GTX 260 (before the revision)
RAM: 2 GB OCZ PC400
HDD: 500 GB Seagate Barracuda SATA II
PSU: 535W Enermax All-in-One

(No extraneous components sucking up power. Just your basic DVD drive and all-in-one floppy drive. Also, all drivers for video/sound/CPU are updated to their most recent versions.)

I'd really love to play Mass Effect, as I just picked it up, but I'm currently running that game at 1024x768, no AA/AF, textures set to medium and probably getting anywhere between 15-30 FPS, with stutters in between. Otherwise, nothing is out of the ordinary with the PC, ie. playing videos, exploring files. I do notice however, that even my laptop PC is sometimes quicker to load websites/applications in general, but I don't figure that a major concern.

One concern I DO have is that with my recent Geforce GTX 260 (and I realize this is much more relatively powerful than my CPU), it requires 2 PCI-E slots (the thing is huuuge!). I don't know much about motherboards, but mine only has a central 16x PCI-E slot (which worked fine for my Geforce 7800 GT) and 2 8x PCI-E on either side of it.

I have no idea if that means anything, but will that reduce GPU performance? Other than that, I can't think of anything else that could result in such poor graphics performance from my PC.

I have one more question. I have a friend that just got a recent PC with a Geforce 9800GTX. Now I don't know much about that card, but does it only use 1 PCI-E slot? If so, would it be beneficial at all to trade cards? His new PC could take advantage of the newer GTX 260 and if this is true, I might receive a performance gain myself.

I'd appreciate any and all ideas on this. Thank-you.
January 3, 2009 5:40:16 AM

well im sry to be the bearer of bad news, but ur cpu clock speed is a little on the low end...idk how much u can oc but if i could, i would...
another thing to consider is your psu not having enough juice to power ur 260...im not exactly sure if this is true or not cuz i dont know what the recommended requirements are for a 260...
As far as I see it, there is definitely something at fault in ur rig...the infamous Source engine should shine like a mofo with ur rig...:) 
January 3, 2009 5:42:22 AM

no, just because the card is dual slot doesn't mean you actually have to plug it into two pci e slots :lol:  the extra slot is just for the giant fan/cooler.

and no the9800GTX is not single slot.

as for your performance issues... thats really weird. have you tried ocing your CPU? what 3dmark06 score?
Related resources
January 3, 2009 6:05:01 AM

I don't think the CPU would mess it up that bad. I used to use the same CPU with a mere 6600GT, and I could play Supreme Commander at 1280x1024 with the graphics maxed out.

The graphics card is definitely, well, retarded overkill, for being paired with that CPU, though.

Have you completely uninstalled and updated the video card driver to the newest version? You should also update the motherboard chipset driver, as well. Of course, it's good to keep all the drivers reasonably up to date, but I'd say those two would be the most likely culprits to cause a serious problem.

I'd also poke around in the BIOS and be sure something isn't amiss. No telling what it could be there, though.

If that doesn't work, I think I'd format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and pray it works right after installing new drivers.

Btw, have you always had that motherboard and CPU together? I once put an X2 into an old low end socket 939 board, and it had a horrible voltage throttling issue that slowed the computer down to a crawl. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done about it.
January 3, 2009 7:04:11 AM

^hey i recently bought supreme commander and its impossible to play... seriously move the mouse to the sides of the screen to scroll around the map and BAM! you're at the other side of the map! hyper sensitivity ftl :( 

i havent got the download to get the patch yet... but does that fix it? seems like one helluva bug to me.

sorry for the thread jack :whistle: 
January 3, 2009 7:53:04 AM

Your system specification looks allright to me. I believe that problem lies elswere. Perchaps you haven't connected VGA power cord to your GeForce. Such GPU's draw power from both PCI-E (up to 75 W) and additional connector to PSU. Without sufficient power for the GPU, system usually refuses to boot or as in your case, it offers poor permormance. Your PSU should have at least one VGA connector.
January 3, 2009 4:00:15 PM

onearmedscissorb said:
I'd also poke around in the BIOS and be sure something isn't amiss. No telling what it could be there, though.

If that doesn't work, I think I'd format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and pray it works right after installing new drivers.

Btw, have you always had that motherboard and CPU together? I once put an X2 into an old low end socket 939 board, and it had a horrible voltage throttling issue that slowed the computer down to a crawl. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done about it.

Thanks for your insight, everyone (thumbs-up to all). I forgot to mention that I had recently upgraded the BIOS on the motherboard, and re-formatted Windows (have tried both Windows XP/Vista Business).

At this point, my intuition tells me it isn't software-related (BIOS aside), and something to do with the hardware.

It's definitely possible that I have a very low-end socket 939 motherboard. It had come together in a bundle with the eVGA Geforce 7800 GT I had previously. Here is the printout from the official receipt:

"nForce 4 Motherboard", which I believe is the EVGA nForce 4 SLI Edition (133-K8-NF41-AX).

It's possible it could be a voltage issue. Let me know what other information you may need to confirm this, and I will earnestly try to get that for you. Thank-you.

I will also post my 3DMark '06 score as well.
January 3, 2009 5:32:05 PM

Could be the PSU. If you've had it for a while it might not be putting out the power it should be anymore. I looked it up and saw 18A on each 12V rail, but didn't see what the combined wattage was. You might also check the capacitors on the motherboard to see if any of them look like they are bulging or leaking. I'd say the same for the PSU, but unless you know what you're doing I'd stay away from disassembling that.

A question I have is: how does performance with the GTX 260 compare to your old 7800GT? I have an old Athlon X2 and also used to have a 7800GT and recently upgraded to a Radeon HD 4670 (significantly slower than a GTX 260 but still a sizable upgrade) and got a huge boost in gaming performance. If your performance has gone down then the PSU sounds likely. If performance gets worse with newer game engines that could be because they are taxing the system more thoroughly causing it to draw more power from a dying PSU.

Also, make sure you're using the latest drivers.

-mcg
January 3, 2009 5:49:45 PM

MrCommunistGen said:
A question I have is: how does performance with the GTX 260 compare to your old 7800GT? I have an old Athlon X2 and also used to have a 7800GT and recently upgraded to a Radeon HD 4670 (significantly slower than a GTX 260 but still a sizable upgrade) and got a huge boost in gaming performance. If your performance has gone down then the PSU sounds likely. If performance gets worse with newer game engines that could be because they are taxing the system more thoroughly causing it to draw more power from a dying PSU.

Also, make sure you're using the latest drivers.

-mcg

That's some great insight as well. I've had the PSU for 3 years. To answer your question, no, I have not noticed a huge improvement from the 7800 GT to the GTX 260. Team Fortress 2 ran at 1024x768 with medium textures and 2x AA, and the GTX 260 just makes it a lot more tolerable with the same-ish settings at 1280x1024.

I noticed some marked improvement with Oblivion, where it now runs somewhat smoothly at 1280x1024 with medium-high detail, but that's about it.

Basically, I had noticed an improvement overall, but it was nowhere near, at all, what I expected. I thought initially, that it was the CPU dragging the GTX 260 down (and it is, to an extent), but even when OC'ing, I don't notice any huge differences.

MrCommunis, is there anything else you'd have to try? I'll let you know anything you need.
a c 177 U Graphics card
January 3, 2009 5:51:08 PM

Your PSU has twin 12v rails, 18A each and the gtx 260 needs 36A on its own, I`m surprised your system boots, let alone runs!
Try something bigger from Corsair, OCZ or PC power and cooling, look at a 600W unit.
a c 84 U Graphics card
January 3, 2009 7:57:54 PM

coozie7 said:
Your PSU has twin 12v rails, 18A each and the gtx 260 needs 36A on its own, I`m surprised your system boots, let alone runs!


lol thats not true. the 36 amps is probably the recommended amperage for the whole system not just for the card! (too lazy to check if they actually officially recommend such a high amperage, could be...)

http://archive.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=7&t=93...
GTX260 uses like 140W, that's under 12A



anyhow, detailed 3Dmark06 score could shed some light on this, ie if the cpu is bogging down for some reason or if it is just the card having troubles...
a c 84 U Graphics card
January 3, 2009 8:52:14 PM

from your link
"Keep in mind that these figures are based on a typical gaming system including the specified video card. "
so its for the whole system

also JEDEC PCIe standards allow for 300W usage for a single card, 4870X2 comes close at 270W...

actual measurements, cards only
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/video/display/force3d-...
a c 177 U Graphics card
January 3, 2009 8:57:54 PM

Thanks KARI, no help for the OP but still useful to me:) 
January 3, 2009 9:28:34 PM

I haven't used 3DMark in, like, forever. So I didn't change any pre-sets, I ran the tests as is, at my native resolution, 1280x1024.

Test Results:

3DMark Score: 8359 3DMarks
SM 2.0 Score: 3556
SM 3.0 Score: 4899
CPU Score: 1531

Is this good, bad, in between?
January 4, 2009 1:56:05 AM

Well, there's certainly something wrong. I'm running an Athlon X2 at 2.6Ghz and an HD 4670 and managing about 30fps in Mass Effect with all settings on max, film grain off (because I hate it, but I didn't see a marked fps increase) and 16x AF. At 1440x900, so ~equal to your res.

I'd say it's definitely a power supply issue. But make sure you're not forcing 8x AA in your nvidia control panel or anything.
January 4, 2009 2:42:34 AM

Dekasav said:
Well, there's certainly something wrong. I'm running an Athlon X2 at 2.6Ghz and an HD 4670 and managing about 30fps in Mass Effect with all settings on max, film grain off (because I hate it, but I didn't see a marked fps increase) and 16x AF. At 1440x900, so ~equal to your res.

I'd say it's definitely a power supply issue. But make sure you're not forcing 8x AA in your nvidia control panel or anything.

Yeah, see, based off everything I see, I should be getting comparable performance with Mass Effect.

I've been long tweaking my PC, so the Nvidia Control Panel has been changed to High Performance long ago, with any extra effects either turned off to changed to Application-Controlled.

I've checked off every possibility I can think of. CPU should be OK (I should think), HDD and GPU are both new, 2 new OS installations, and I don't think I have a RAM issue.

I've opened up my case many times, and am far and away from being a computer hardware expert. Is removing your old PSU and installing a new one fairly trivial? It doesn't look like it at all, and to me, appears to be the most complex task with all the wires and whatnot dangling every which way.
January 4, 2009 10:00:33 AM

Either the CPU or PSU. The cpu at 2.2 could be bottlenecking it, thats why you dont see much improvement over your 6600gt. You could buy the best card right now and not see improvements. It could also be your PSU not giving enough juice.
January 4, 2009 3:44:31 PM

CPU @ 2.2GHz is NOT bottlenecking it that badly. I'm running my X2 3800 @ 2.4GHz right now, but even at stock 2.0GHz my performance doesn't suffer that much in anything GPU intensive. Also, with my HD 4670 I play games at 1680x1050 with most of the eye candy turned on including 2xAA and 4xAF in most cases. Fallout 3 isn't completely smooth with these settings, but like Oblivion before it, completely smooth frame rates aren't really necessary to enjoy the game.

That aside, using the PSU calculator I got a full load draw of 300-350W depending on exact components and settings, but using the X2 4200 and a GTX260 in every case.

-mcg
January 4, 2009 4:06:14 PM

I hadn't really finished my thought when I hit the submit button. What the PSU calc result means is that the load *shouldn't* be taxing a properly functioning PSU rated like yours. But, based on the symptoms and my personal experience I think it is very likely that your PSU is the culprit due to its age. If you can, see if you can borrow a good PSU to test in your system.

Replacing the PSU really isn't that difficult. At least for a temporary replacement just make sure that everything that was plugged in before is plugged in afterwards, and that none of the cables are getting caught up in any of your fans. For a permanent replacement I'd make sure to route cables and such, but cross that bridge when you come to it. As mentioned before, Corsair and PC Power and Cooling make great PSUs that aren't extremely expensive (like Seasonic's). Antec also makes some decent cheaper PSUs (although I wouldn't touch their "Basiq" line). Check out jonnyguru.com if you want to read some good PSU reviews.

Hope this helps!
-mcg
January 4, 2009 5:13:11 PM

like i said before, its most likely the psu...If u have a friend with a beefier psu, ask him to see if u can hookup ur rig with it and test it out like that...thats exactly what i did for a friend of mine...his comp became unstable when playing games and we finally singled out the problem by testing out every other component in his computer...in the end, once my psu was hooked up to his rig, his computer finally worked properly when gaming
January 5, 2009 1:02:56 AM

Thumbs up all around, thank-you all for your input.

Unless anyone else has anything else, it seems the PSU is the culprit and I intend on replacing it. I looked up a couple here, are these any good at all for my system? Which do you all think is better for me?

They seem to fit the bill and the latter seems almost overkill, but it is still within my price range.

Corsair VX 550W Power Supply w/ 120mm Fan -- $75 CAD

PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad Power Supply -- $110 CAD

By the by, this might be a pretty ignorant question, but the plug that provides power to the PC -- it's currently plugged directly into the wall socket, but would there be any difference in power output if you had it plugged into a surge protector? I doubt it, and the latter is probably safer, but I thought I'd ask. Thanks.
January 5, 2009 1:26:10 AM

Well, I know I'd never run my computer without it in a good surge protector... I lost two PCs that way. I'd probably just go for the Corsair VX 550W, but if you have the money, the PC Power & Cooling 750W will hold you up for several years probably.
January 5, 2009 9:40:38 AM

Any other opinions of these PSU's?

By the way, is a 3DMark06 score of 8359 for my machine terrible? I remember running 3DMark05 with my 7800 GT and a slower HDD, and while there is a difference with framerates (and the fact they are slightly different tests), it definitely was not a world of difference.
a c 177 U Graphics card
January 5, 2009 5:34:54 PM

Both are `A` list components and should "give years of trouble free operation" :) 
I`d also go with the Corsair, though, it`s cheaper and more than enough.
Also, the results of 3DMark variants are not comparable, 8359 in 3D 06 is not the same as 8359 in 3D 05.
Your score is about right, the final score given by 3DMark 06 is also dependant on the CPU power and yours is...Less powerful than it could be which will drag the score down sadly.
January 5, 2009 10:37:04 PM

Thanks a bunch, coozie. I think I'll indeed go with the Corsair.

So though it definitely seems my PSU is the culprit, how does this come about in the first place? Do PSU's just up and lose juice as they go on? My current PSU rated for 535W, not terribly far from the one I will be getting, rated at 550W.

People were talking about rails and whatnot for the GPU. I don't understand all this yet, I just look at the wattage, and that's my problem from the get-go. But if someone could explain just briefly why my old PSU failed, that'd be great, just for my own understanding.
January 6, 2009 2:11:45 AM

Yes, PSU's do just lose power as they go on. Capacitors age, and become less efficient/productive as time wears on.

And you can't just look at wattage. Firstly, worse companies overstate their wattage, or state the maximum wattage, or state the wattage and efficiency you *could* get at cold, cold temperatures (not real world wattage), basically if a PSU is made by a second-rate company, it's usually second-rate, and significantly worse than a PSU of lower wattage from a worse company. For example I have a 450 watt Rosewill PSU, which outputs only 15 amps on the 12volt rail, and the 380watt Corsair Earthwatts outputs 28 or so.

It's kind of like if it's kind of like two companies giving max speed on their cars. The one says its car can go 150 mph, and the other says it will only go 140mph, but the first car (rated for 150mph) was rated only if the car is going downhill, with nitrous, and a rocket booster, whereas the second car (only at 140mph) was on flat terrain with nothing else. The second car is faster on its own accord, and in situations that you'll actually use it.

As far as you only looking at wattage, you should know:

Watts = Amps x Volts.

PSU's put out 3.3 volt, 5 volt, and 12 volt rails, often with multiple 12 volt rails. The way you get the wattage of the whole unit, is to take how many amps the PSU will supply down all rails, multiplied by the number of volts (so 30 amps on the 5v will make 150watts), and add them all together.
Usually there is a max combined on the 3.3v and the 5v, somewhere around 150watts. So even though the PSU can output 30 amps on the 3.3v, and 30 amps on the 5v, it can't put out more than 150 watts on both at the same time.

The rest of the watts are on 12volt rail(s). 12volt rails are the most important because they power the CPU and the GPU, the two biggest power users in the system. So usually if you just look at the output on 12 volt rails, it's a better representation of how good a PSU is. I'll almost unilaterally advise a PSU that offers 40amps on the 12v than a PSU that offers only 20. If you're only going to look at one thing on a PSU, look at 12volt rails (IMO).

I hope that's clear.
January 6, 2009 2:37:10 AM

Dekasav said:
...I hope that's clear.
Wow, fantastic post! Yes, that is very clear, and I'm sure many people, including myself, took something away from your explanation.

As another poster pointed out, my current PSU, capacitor aging aside, outputs 18A on the twin 12V rails, which is definitely far and away the 41/60A I am looking at with the newer prospective PSU's.

One last question. My older PSU has 2 12V rails. The Corsair I am interested in only has one. Won't that be a problem? As you stated, doesn't the 12V rail usually power the CPU AND GPU? I do have an older CPU though, so I'm not sure if that will be a problem at all.

EDIT: Actually, with a bit more reading, it seems like single rails are preferred, and companies like PC Power and Cooling only use single-rail designs and their PSU's are highly praised. Doesn't look like I have a problem, but if someone could confirm, that'd be great.

Thanks again.
January 6, 2009 4:13:17 AM

And one more thing to everyone in general (didn't initially mean to double post, but I don't want this to be overlooked):

onearmedscissorb mentioned that he experienced a voltage throttling issue with his lower-end Socket 939 motherboard. I totally forgot about the mobo and am wondering if that could be the culprit (gosh, I hope not).

I believe my mobo is, as mentioned, the EVGA nForce 4 SLI Edition (133-K8-NF41-AX). Anyone ever hear of issues like mine resulting from a bad mobo/voltage issue?
January 6, 2009 4:59:16 AM

Yeah, single rails are preferred, but I wouldn't say it's a drastic difference. A big thing is that when they first went to multiple rails, they did some stupid things with the rails, like put the 6-pin PCI-e connector on the same rail as the CPU. I'd say the difference is minimal, and it's probably the last thing I'd really look at in a PSU.

Also, in multi-rail PSUs you can't just add the rails together. Two 18amp 12volt rails are NOT equal to a 36 amp 12v (also a reason some people might be angry about their dual-rail).
January 6, 2009 1:21:00 PM

Dekasav said:
Yeah, single rails are preferred, but I wouldn't say it's a drastic difference. A big thing is that when they first went to multiple rails, they did some stupid things with the rails, like put the 6-pin PCI-e connector on the same rail as the CPU. I'd say the difference is minimal, and it's probably the last thing I'd really look at in a PSU.

Also, in multi-rail PSUs you can't just add the rails together. Two 18amp 12volt rails are NOT equal to a 36 amp 12v (also a reason some people might be angry about their dual-rail).

Ah, that makes sense, thanks. I'll take a single rail, please.

By the by, are there any software tests that can examine the PSU in the PC, and check for things like the PSU eeking out less power as time wears on?
a b U Graphics card
January 6, 2009 1:38:51 PM

Dekasav said:
Yeah, single rails are preferred, but I wouldn't say it's a drastic difference. A big thing is that when they first went to multiple rails, they did some stupid things with the rails, like put the 6-pin PCI-e connector on the same rail as the CPU. I'd say the difference is minimal, and it's probably the last thing I'd really look at in a PSU.

Also, in multi-rail PSUs you can't just add the rails together. Two 18amp 12volt rails are NOT equal to a 36 amp 12v (also a reason some people might be angry about their dual-rail).

Well, if the PSU is well designed, you can basically add the amperages. In lower quality units though, this isn't really the case. With something like the Corsair HX series though (all of which are multi rail IIRC), there's nothing to worry about.
January 7, 2009 10:29:06 PM

Quote:
By the by, are there any software tests that can examine the PSU in the PC, and check for things like the PSU eeking out less power as time wears on?


im not aware of any software that can do this but i remember my friend buying a psu tester in order to figure out if his psu was the problem...it cost him like $20 i think
January 7, 2009 11:03:13 PM

You should be doing MUCH MUCH MUCH better with that system setup.

My setup isn't nearly as good and I manage more than 30fps @ 1280x1024 on all LOW settings... I could play crysis at mixture of high-medium settings @ 800x600 and still have it be playable...

!