Since gaming usually takes the most power, I will cut to the chase and say I build my systems solely for gaming. And price. I'll never pay $400 extra for a 1% performance increase.
With that said... doing my research on making a new system for gaming seems to have led me to a sad realization that buying a new PC would definitely not be worth it, seeing as how the price will be in the $600-1000 range but the performance boost from what I understand isn't going to be even worth half that.
My current system:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4ghz, OC'd to 3ghz
GPU: Crossfire HD 4850's (sometimes I take one out to put in another system, because often there is NO difference in two cards over one. My settings are correct, there just isn't much of a difference in reality.)
RAM: 4GB 800mhz Ram
HDD: Two 500GB 7200rpm HDD's in RAID
MB: Asus p5w DH deluxe motherboard
PS: 750w thermaltake toughpower
My current system is a great one, but I am honestly tired of not being able to get a consistent 60 fps at 1920x1080 resolution on half my games. I tweak my settings for performance, but I love high settings, but most games I get 40-50 and a common drop to 20-30 in some areas. I want 60fps 100% of the time! Or at least 40fps. This is why I thought of upgrading. Unfortunately, game developers seem to always pump out games that even the most expensive system can't run smoothly on max settings. I'm not even talking about Crysis- I'm talking about MMO's (even old ones like Everquest 2 or new ones like Champions Online) or RTS games. I run Left4Dead like a dream, but most games I have to settle with medium settings.
I usually have NO PROBLEM with FPS games like Call of Duty, Left4Dead, or any shooter games. They always run smooth 60+ fps and never dip at all. I mostly blame game developers (especially MMO developers, their performance is always shitty) but still..
I wanted to upgrade bc it's been awhile. Years! "Back in the day" every year would be a MASSIVE increase in CPU and GPU performance. Now it's been YEARS since I've had my cpu, and all I hear is that it's fine, and it isn't worth upgrading to an i7 since it's still a great cpu.
It seems to me that in the last few years with a few exceptions- computer hardware stopped becoming about performance and starting becoming about "dual/quad" core cpu/gpu/hdd's which in reality DONT actually do anything, because the software and games RARELY use anything more than a SINGLE core.
I'm wondering if I have it all wrong- and running an i5/i7 with DDR3 1600 ram and upgrading to a SINGLE (powerful) GPU would increase performance significantly enough to justify the $800ish pricerange it'll cost me?
Whether or not to upgrade is a question of perception; YOUR PERCEPTION. If your system is playing games at a resolution and with the eye candy set to levels that make you happy and enjoy playing the game, then it may not be worth upgrading. At the very least, it never hurts to upgrade the gpu to get more fps.
Justifying an upgrade is another story altogether. If you are on the fence and asking the forum to justify, from a system spec and performance standpoint, why you should upgrade; then it seems to me that you have already decided to upgrade but for some reason need some approval.
To that I say, EFF APPROVAL and upgrade until your hearts content. Personally for a strictly gaming system, I would not get an i5/i7 system, I would go with an Phenom X4 955 or X4 965 and get a couple of 5850's in Crossfire. If the 5850's are unavailable, then a single factory overclocked 1GB 4890 would be a good stop gap. But that's just my opinion...
At the very least, swap out the 4850's and get a single/more powerful gpu; either a GTX285 or a 4890.
I have not made a single decision for or against upgrading.
Right now I am in the information stage, trying to find out how much of a performance boost I'll actually gain from upgrading.
I don't need "approval" from anyone, and would caution against amateur psycho-analysis hehe
I should have just simply asked "How much of a performance boost would I get by upgrading a C2D 2.6ghz and Crossfire 4850's to a i7 2.6ghz and better gpu, without buying wasteful components like a $500-600 gpu or a $1200 cpu?" and "Has anyone here upgraded from a Core2Duo to an i7 and noticed an improvement in gaming?"
If it's only about 5fps or a few seconds faster boot-up, it does NOT justify $800.
If it's 20-30fps it does.
I have a lot of knowledge in GPU's and they're easier to see how many fps you'd get on average... but I am completely ignorant of CPU's. I am told the difference in a C2D and an i7 is very small for gaming... but I dont know if that's true.
I certainly am finding that a lot more games are more CPU-dependent than I thought. Not to mention the face-palming reality that CROSSFIRE/SLI is next to worthless in some games. It really seems to be a niche amount of games that actually take advantage of Crossfire/SLI and Dual/Quad core cpu's.
I am also being told that by getting an i7 or quadcore, I am actually going to get LESS performance because most games only use a single core, and the single cores will be slower. I am pretty sure this is false, but as I said- I am not very good with CPU and gaming performance.
I've never upgraded a CPU. I've upgraded my GPU many, many, MANY times.
"Peterson acknowledges “…it is a fact, that when you’re gaming and you’re running at resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or better, the Core 2 Duo is perfect for running all of today’s games. In real gaming, there’s no difference between a Core i7 and a Core 2 Duo.”"
There are a select few games like GTA4 that will make good use of multiple cores. The bulk of existing games will play about as well on a dual as anything else. In your case swapping out the 4850s for a 5850 or 5870 would probably be a bigger improvement than a CPU change.
Did you look at those charts and read the conclusions?
There is a huge jump in gaming performance going from single to dual core, A slight increase going to three core and no benefit going to quad. The reason is not that the games are using two cores, its that they get one core to themselves and the other cores handle all the background processses that windows is always running. If the games were using multiple cores effectively then there would be a performance increase going from 3 to 4 cores like you see with GTA4.