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What single upgrade will be the most effective?

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May 30, 2009 11:41:39 AM

Just got a second HD3870 for my system from a mate and because of the p35 mobo the performance increase has been 0 to 25% at best. Oddly I have been getting worse performace specifically in Fallout 3 with xfire then a single card but thats another matter.

The question is now because of budget, what single upgrade can I perform that will give the largest performance boost.
Was thinking about getting hold of a Q6600 but I am not sure if faster and more RAM is a better option. I was also toying with the idea of getting a Gigabyte GA-X48-DS5 for the dual x16 PCIe but I dont think it would yield the greatest performance gain.

Any suggestions would be greatly received.

CPU: E6300 O/C 3200
RAM: 3GB DDR2800 5,5,5,15
Graphics: 2x HD3870 512MB xfired
Mobo: Abit IP35 Pro
HDD: 2x WD250GB Raid 0
PSU: Hiper 580W + Akasa 400W
OS: XP x64
May 30, 2009 1:13:17 PM

This maybe a small drop in the bucket but these small drops add up once you get enough of them. Have you considered a duel channel memory configuration? Tom's has good info in regard to memory, see link below. Also see what I pulled from your user manual: Abit IP35 Pro

To reach the performance of Dual Channel DDR2, the following rules must be obeyed:
• For a 2-DIMM dual-channel installation:
Populate DIMM modules of the same type and size on slots [DIMM1]+[DIMM3], or slots
[DIMM2]+[DIMM4].
• For a 4-DIMM dual-channel installation:
Populate 2 DIMM modules of the same type and size on slots [DIMM1]+[DIMM3], and
another 2 DIMM modules of the same type and size on slots [DIMM2]+[DIMM4].
[DIMM1] and [DIMM3] slots are made of the same color.
[DIMM2] and [DIMM4] are made of another same color.

See questions & answers:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/55024-30-memory-pleas...
May 30, 2009 4:05:57 PM

Actually the OP's ram is still running in dual channel, it's just running in Asynchronous dual channel mode, due to the inclusion of Intel's Flex Memory technology in all Intel chipsets since the 925X chipset from back in 2004. Changing the memory configuration so that it runs in Synchronous dual channel mode will not in itself fix the problem, but it would help, since this would likely mean he would end up with 4GB of RAM, up from 3GB.

The problem is not likely a PCI-E bandwidth issue, as the only cards that even come close to saturating that bus are Nvidia's Geforce GTX 295, and perhaps AMD's Radeon HD 4870 X2. Buying a board with PCI-E 2.0 slots is not going to make a big difference.

Before you go out and spend any money at all, I would do 3 things. First, make sure you're running the latest Catalyst driver for XP x64 (9.5). Second, check for updates to all of your games, as these may yield additional performance improvements. Third, try running a RAM test with something like Memtest86+. I have seen faulty RAM sticks cause performance problems before. 99% of the time, faulty ram will cause more severe problems like blue screens, but every so often it will simply slow the system not, not crash it entirely. Once this is done, check the performance and see if it is to your liking. If not, then consider the following upgrades:

RAM: Get an additional stick of RAM for your system and fill the last slot. I can't point you out to anything specific since you didn't post the manufacturer of your current RAM. Despite what I said above, I am still a fan of running RAM in Synchronous dual channel mode. This upgrade shouldn't run you anymore than about $20-30.

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400. Budget permitting, and if the RAM doesn't fix the problem, consider upgrading to the E8400. Keep in mind that your motherboard's BIOS will need to be on revision 17 before this CPU will be supported, so make sure you flash the BIOS before installing the new CPU, or you have wasted the time it took to swap the chips out.
Related resources
May 30, 2009 5:45:52 PM

@The_Prophecy

That was some good info man.

@Msig

The E8400 would be a nice upgrade with the higher multiplier (9) it is a 45nm vs the 65nm you have now, definitely something to consider. I see your pretty good with the OCing, the E8400, E8500, & E8600 cranks.

http://processorfinder.intel.com/details.aspx?sSpec=SLA...
May 30, 2009 7:48:43 PM

Thanks to you both for the great info.

The brand of RAM I have is Geil specifically (GX22GB6400UDC), originally I had 4, 1GB Dimms but removed one after it was causing severe system problems, hence the 3GB. I have run memtest on the remaining three and after 6 hours no errors where reported so I am on the assumption that the RAM is functioning OK.

My BIOS has just been updated to rev. 17 it was a first board of call when I received the new GPU.
I have tried several catalyst versions including 9.4 and 9.5 but the performance had been no better. As of the last 2 hours I have tried to solve some problems with the Far Cry 2 hotfix patch, it has stopped a flashing glitch I have been having but performance across other games is still no better then when I had a single card.

I have been checking out the possibility of getting a used Q6600, that's why I brought it up in my first post, which would be running me about the same cost as the E8400, so I would like to ask the question, new E8400 or used Q6600?

I will look for updates to driver and programs, but another question, would Vista Ultimate x64 be an option?
May 30, 2009 8:03:40 PM

For gaming at this point in time your best upgrade would be a Q6600 and 4gbs of working ram....
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
May 30, 2009 8:45:44 PM

Where do you have a problem? There are three general possibilities:
1) cpu power.
2) ram.
3) vga issues.

1) A modern cpu running at 3.0 is generally capable of driving a high end vga configuration decently. Only if your games are enabled for more than two cores would a quad upgrade be effective. Turn on the task monitor, and see how busy your cpu is while gaming. You should be able to get an idea if you need more or faster cores. An E8400 might be good, but I think there are better options.

2) There is almost no negative to having too much ram. Having too little can be a major problem. It is hard to tell how much ram you need because task manager can only tell you how much you are using, and you can't use more than what you have. What you can do is look for high paging activity or high response times to the paging file. Fortunately, ram is cheap. An upgrade to 4gb woulld not cost much.

3) Crossfire does not improve your fps by 100%, as your actual experience has shown. Performance is improved with game and driver optimizations. You have done what you can there. The lack of a bit improvement with crossfire indicates to me that a dual card is not a very effective change for you. See if you can borrow a better single card to test. Something like a 4870.
I suspect that this would be your most effective option. Offset the cost by selling the two 3870's

Another low cost upgrade would be to try the Windows-7 release candidate. It fixes some of the issues with XP-64. Of course, assuming it did some good, it would cost you some later when the official release launches .
May 30, 2009 9:02:02 PM

What issues exist in XP 64 bit?

And yeah he should be fine with his current cpu for games especially in fallout 3....upgrade to a quad down the road and picking up a stronger single card solution like you mentioned....
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
May 30, 2009 9:19:07 PM

rewindlabs said:
What issues exist in XP 64 bit?

And yeah he should be fine with his current cpu for games especially in fallout 3....upgrade to a quad down the road and picking up a stronger single card solution like you mentioned....

I do not have personal experience with XP 64 bit. I remember reading about a number of issues that were not there in vista 64 bit. Every os will have some problems, but it is my perception that XP 64 bit had more than it's share. Google "XP 64 problems" for some insight. Vista 64 has addressed some issues, and windows-7 even more. A more current generation of os is not a bad idea.
May 30, 2009 9:36:26 PM

Again thanks for all the info.
But I am getting a little turned around with different suggestions, CPU or GPU. I have this stupid predilection that a faster CPU would be of better benefit for the long haul specifically the q6600, and then upgrade the GPU.

However picking up a HD4870 for around £135 then selling off the 2 HD3870 is easier and much more cost effective.
Any thoughts?

Eitherway I can easily pick up some extra RAM to fill out to 4GB, achieving the more RAM situation as well as the aforementioned Synchronous dual channel mode.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
May 30, 2009 9:47:13 PM

Msig said:
Again thanks for all the info.
But I am getting a little turned around with different suggestions, CPU or GPU. I have this stupid predilection that a faster CPU would be of better benefit for the long haul specifically the q6600, and then upgrade the GPU.

However picking up a HD4870 for around £135 then selling off the 2 HD3870 is easier and much more cost effective.
Any thoughts?

Eitherway I can easily pick up some extra RAM to fill out to 4GB, achieving the more RAM situation as well as the aforementioned Synchronous dual channel mode.


You got one heck of an overclock out of a E6300. (1.86 to 3.2) Probably what you could expect out of a Q6600. Unless you can make use of MORE than two cores, a new cpu would not be any better for gaming. If you want a quad for the long haul, wait until the new 32nm parts are out this fall.
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