Choose my next upgrade

Hey guys, I have been building systems for myself and others or about 9-10 years now but would like to come to you for advice on my next upgrade. I build my current system about 2 years ago with a low budget and have added to it since then.

My Original build:

Motherboard - Asus P5Q Pro
CPU - Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.53GHZ
RAM - OCZ DDR2 800 5-5-5-18 2GB
Video - HIS ATI 4850 512MB
Hard Drive - 1x Seagate 7200.11 250GB
OS - Windows Vista Ultimate

This system has preformed flawlessly for me since I built it but have began to want more from the lastest games. The first thing I did was OC the E7200 to 3.8GHZ at 1.3v but have sense lowered the clock down to 3.2GHZ with a 1600FSB running the Ram at 1:1. I did this because i did not see any difference in my games from 3.2 to 3.8 (bottleneck somewhere). My next upgrade was a 150GB WD Raptor X drive to run my games on. I moved the OS to the 250GB and added a 1TB drive for file storage. This improved load times drastically but does not help FPS (of course).

I made the switch from Windows Vista to Windows 7 Professional RTM which has been one of the best upgrades I have ever done. My last upgrade was the RAM i switched from 2GB of 5-5-5-18 to Cruicial 4GB kit running at 4-4-4-12 which helped to smooth out a lot of things (less HD Swapping i guess).

Now my current System spec is;

Motherboard - Asus P5Q Pro
CPU - Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 @3.2GHZ
RAM - Crucial DDR2 800 4-4-4-12 4GB
Video - HIS ATI 4850 512MB
Hard Drive - 1x Seagate 7200.11 250GB, 1x 150GB Raptor X, 1x Seagate 7200.12 1TB
OS - Windows 7 Professional

I plan on upgrading from a very old 17'' not Widescreen LCD to a 24'' 1900x1200 display at Christmas and I am afraid my rig wont cut it at the higher resolution. I originally wanted to grab a Core 2 Quad Q9550 cause i figured the low Cache levels might be a cause of low FPS but after reading Tom's article on PC Balance for gaming it seems the 4850 is pretty flatline in games which i think means it is the biggest bottleneck.

Should I upgrade my CPU still or should i look into a video upgrade? should i go for the high end 4800 series or wait till 5800 is mainstream? someone at work said I could also get another 4850 and run it in CF which he said would be the cheapest way to get the power i need at higher resolutions. I think I agree with him on that but have concerns.

1. Heat, my 4850 does not have good cooling that puts the hot air out the back of the case. I seem to have very high temps on the card and feel that another one would just put to much heat into my case.

2. longevity, a second 4850 might get me by for now but what about 6 months from now? I think i would rather buy a new high end single card knowing i can take it with me when i move to a new Rig and even add another for CF later on as well.

So my question is what will be the biggest bank for the buck for my computer to make sure I can play my games at the higher resolution my new monitor?
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  1. Uh huh, your cpu isn't the bottleneck for that gpu. I know there's a huge debate going on over & over here & elsewhere about cpu vs gpu for gaming. Personally, I would upgrade the gpu if my main use is gaming.

    No offense, but you've wasted hundreds of dollars on things that won't boost FPS significantly. They do a bit. Not enough to justify the cost, IMO.

    HD4850 has it place in gaming, but it chokes on the new games at 1900x1200 max IQ. I've seen it choke on even 1400x900 on SOME games. NFS Shift is one of the them. The screen stutters every few seconds or so. As expected, I crashed my car all the time. Then I played it again on GTX260 with 900MB RAM. Smooth as silk. Beat the game. Won too much money that I had no slots for new cars. I also played another game GTA4. I know it's CPU intensive. On GTX260, the IQ can be nearly maxed out thanks for the extra video memory.

    The P5Q PRO has 2 PCI-E slots, but the black one is 8x only in CF. Also, the single-slot cooler on the 4850 is crap. I'd get one with a dual-slot cooler, but you're keeping the current one. I think your best gaming upgrade would be a new single gpu. Ever considered nVidia? Look at the benchmarks of the games you play. See the differences. I can't help you decide until I know the games you play.
  2. Thanks for the great advice. I dont feel I have wasted hundreds of dollars on upgrades if you are talking about the Hard Drive upgrades. These were done for 1. I needed more space for my encoded videos and music/pictures. The Raptor X drive was actually Given to me for free. (I recieved a free Dell workstation computer from a business and was shocked to see it was running a 150GB Raptor X drive. it was a Dell GX280)

    Also i do realize that when in CF the PCIe slots go from 16x to 8x (was told that 1900x1200 was not high enough to make this a bottleneck with any card as of yet.) But I think i do still prefer to buy a new single GPU card but what exactly is the best upgrade for a 4850 that will not be held back my the low cache on my dual core?

    I thought first i could get x2 5770's but will need to do research to find out if the x8 slot will hinder it at all and if my Mushkin 550W can handle two of them. (it has 12V rails at 20Amps each but under heavy draw the PSU will combine the 12v rails into one but it is no where near 40amps)

    If anyone can let me know what my best bet is for an upgrade to the 4850 that is no so small i will need to upgrade again before a year is out. It also can not be to high of an upgrade to make any other component in my system a huge bottle neck.
  3. If the higher CPU clock speed wasn't making any difference in the games you were playing then that points to a GPU bottleneck. I would say add another 4850 for CF and crank up your CPU back to 3.8GHz. Get a 4850 with a dual slot cooler that exhausts heat out the back of your case. If your first 4850 has a single slot cooler then I recommend adding more, or at least better, case fans to increase ventilation.

    Two 4850s in CF is plenty of GPU power. What may limit that setup though is the fact that you have a 512MB card rather than 1GB cards. Even so it should be more than enough till the refresh of AMDs DX11 cards is out by which time there should be enough DX11 games out that you want to upgrade.
  4. Tom's got valuable resources, but not many take advantage of them.,1536.html

    Look at this chart. Check the boxes of the cards you can afford. Compare the results. See if the price difference is worth the money.

    If it's a single gpu you're after, go with at least a HD 4890. It's somewhat slower than 4850CF, but has overclocking heatroom. It's got 1GB RAM and dual-slot cooling. Should last a while until the inevitable major overhaul.

    Again, the games you play will be the ultimate deciding factor.
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