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Need Upgrade Advice With X-Mas $$$

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December 27, 2009 8:41:38 PM

I've been out of the hardware loop for awhile and I am seeking some upgrade advice. My system is slowly aging and I was hoping to breathe new life into it. I am a heavy gamer playing everything from Crysis to Empire Total War. Currently I have about a three year old machine with the following specs.

Board: EVGA 680i
Memory: 4GB of DDR2 800
CPU: E6700
Video: EVGA 8800 GTX (768mb)
Power: 850watts



I am not getting the FPS I want anymore to play games (Like Empire Total War) and it seems like 2-3x less the FPS than my friends are getting with similar cpu/mem, but diff video cards.

Some people tell me that my CPU is a bottleneck an that 8800 GTX is still a beast, that cards have not improved much since it. Others tell me the opposite and that my 8800 should be used to level a table.

I've ran some bench marks myself and looked at others around the web and have come up with mixed feelings.

I have about $300 to spend max, I can drop it on a new video card or CPU, but I'm not sure what route to go, but I am tending to lean more towards GPU than CPU at the moment.

Any advice?

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December 27, 2009 8:55:11 PM

Your GTX is just a mid range card today. If you get a compatible quad core and a GPU like GTX260 or HD4870/90 or even HD5770 you will have extended the life of your rig.
But in any case I would say a better GPU first since you can always put a little overclock on your CPU for some free performance.
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a c 106 à CPUs
December 27, 2009 9:08:06 PM

Is your CPU overclocked? If not, overclock it a little, and see if it makes a difference. Do the same with your current video card. Which change made the biggest improvement? There's your bottleneck, and the one to upgrade.
$300 will buy a HD5850, a three tier jump on the GPU hierarchy chart.
$230 will buy a Q9505, a three tier jump on the CPU hierarchy chart; but how much money do you want to put into an EOL socket 775 system? The GPU could be moved later, but the CPU is a dead end. Consider that too.
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December 27, 2009 9:12:27 PM

I agree...overclock the CPU (get a good cooler if you don't already have one) ...and if I were you I'd sli a second 8800 gtx. Your Psu can handle it, and with your current budget it would be very economical. I did a quick check on ebay, and they are going for about $125 as buy it now, and less than $100 on some auctions. If that doesn't give you the improvement you want, you can find a Q9550 for about $200, or a similar quad processor to drop in and overclock. This would still keep you around your $300 budget, and should keep you going for the next couple years.
December 27, 2009 10:41:42 PM

I've never had much luck with OC'ing my CPU. I'm not terribly skilled at it, but it seemed everytime I tried, even a very minor increase would result in failure to post or lockup's. This is the HS/Fan I've been using ever since I built this PC: ZALMAN CNPS9700 LED 110mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler

I assume I just don't know how to OC very well :) 

Anyways, I managed to do a very small OC and benchmarked in L4D2:
Settings were 16xAA 16xAF, All Max, 1680x1050, on a time demo I made, 2 passes each after fresh reboot.

CPU
2.66 Ghz
3591 frames 98.118 seconds 36.60 fps (27.32 ms/f) 5.380 fps variability
3591 frames 98.380 seconds 36.50 fps (27.40 ms/f) 5.179 fps variability

2.70 Ghz
3591 frames 93.362 seconds 38.46 fps (26.00 ms/f) 5.912 fps variability
3591 frames 95.050 seconds 37.78 fps (26.47 ms/f) 6.143 fps variability

GPU
CPU: 2.70
Core: 576
Mem: 900
3591 frames 93.362 seconds 38.46 fps (26.00 ms/f) 5.912 fps variability
3591 frames 95.050 seconds 37.78 fps (26.47 ms/f) 6.143 fps variability

CPU: 2.7
Core: 620
Mem: 950
3591 frames 91.644 seconds 39.18 fps (25.52 ms/f) 5.737 fps variability
3591 frames 92.121 seconds 38.98 fps (25.65 ms/f) 5.473 fps variability

CPU: 2.66
Core: 620
Mem: 950
3591 frames 91.913 seconds 39.07 fps (25.60 ms/f) 7.345 fps variability
3591 frames 91.958 seconds 39.05 fps (25.61 ms/f) 7.189 fps variability
a b B Homebuilt system
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December 27, 2009 10:52:42 PM

get another 8800 gtx and sli
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 106 à CPUs
December 27, 2009 11:56:47 PM

Hmmm, improving each one yielded a small improvement, but the GPU OC appears to have made the most difference...getting another card for SLI might indeed help, but around this time someone is bound to mention general stability issues with nVidia chipsets, possibly explaining your difficulty with overclocking, or leading to suggestions of saving for a new rig altogether.
I'm not sure what the best choice here is. If you can work on that CPU OC and maybe improve it a little, then replacing your GPU might be the best idea. It is more expensive than SLI, but gives you an expensive part you can re-use in your next build. Buying another CPU for an EOL socket probably is not the wisest use of money, as you're not likely to buy another S775 mobo.
December 28, 2009 12:18:11 AM

Onus said:
Hmmm, improving each one yielded a small improvement, but the GPU OC appears to have made the most difference...getting another card for SLI might indeed help, but around this time someone is bound to mention general stability issues with nVidia chipsets, possibly explaining your difficulty with overclocking, or leading to suggestions of saving for a new rig altogether.
I'm not sure what the best choice here is. If you can work on that CPU OC and maybe improve it a little, then replacing your GPU might be the best idea. It is more expensive than SLI, but gives you an expensive part you can re-use in your next build. Buying another CPU for an EOL socket probably is not the wisest use of money, as you're not likely to buy another S775 mobo.


I think I've decided to just go with a new video card. Less hassle than changing out a CPU and more longevity for future PC's. I'm not sure if I want to take the cheaper way out and grab a used 8800 GTX or go right for a brand new GPU though.

I've never owned an ATI card and was interested there but I've been an nVidia fan for quite some time.

Can I install an ATI along-side with this Nvidia card (So I can use it for Tv-Out/Movies) while gaming with the ATI? Having to switch displays every time is annoying :X
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 106 à CPUs
December 28, 2009 2:56:02 AM

If you're running Windows 7, easily. I believe it can be done in XP also, but I'm not sure on the details.
I'm not sure why you'd need to switch though. The new card will have a couple of DVI connectors on it, and/or HDMI. You can run multiple displays off the one card.
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December 28, 2009 3:09:14 AM

SLI-ing that 8800 is a waste of money. A newer GTX2670/275/285/5850, etc. will help with getting your games to run smoother. The FPS might not be a ton more but the cards architecture is different than your old one. I find the more video memory on the nvidia cards ( 1792 ) aid in being able to turn on the eye candy without loss of game stability. I do like my quad cores now but most anything plays good on a 3mz dual core.
December 28, 2009 3:59:19 AM

swifty_morgan said:
SLI-ing that 8800 is a waste of money. A newer GTX2670/275/285/5850, etc. will help with getting your games to run smoother. The FPS might not be a ton more but the cards architecture is different than your old one. I find the more video memory on the nvidia cards ( 1792 ) aid in being able to turn on the eye candy without loss of game stability. I do like my quad cores now but most anything plays good on a 3mz dual core.


Sli 8800gtx will outperform your list of cards for only $125....your list all cost much more. THAT to me is a waste of money.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
December 28, 2009 4:17:36 AM

Different cards different performance............ and I'm not talking 50 gazillion fps but quality and playability. Maybe if you had more than one card you might realize the difference between then and now. Yes, the 8800 is pretty good but it's not great next to those I listed when playing today's and tomorrows games. And I wouldn't truly WASTE money on another one.
December 28, 2009 4:30:33 AM

???I'm having trouble understanding what you are trying to say. Every benchmark data set I can find shows sli 8800 gtx outperforming those cards you listed. If it can generate enough fps to outperform those cards, I'm not sure what you mean when you say "quality and playability"will suffer. Gameplay will be smoother on the sli 8800gtx than on the cards you list. Are you trying to make some sort of DX argument?
December 28, 2009 4:31:43 AM

i think at that resolution the 8800gtx is on the low end not all games benifit from sli and 2 8800gtx's will draw some good power a newer card might be a good option the ati 5000 series has directx 11 support ?
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-310-5970,24...
The new Radeon HD 5850 has some definite advantages over a pair of GeForce GTX 260s in SLI or a pair of Radeon HD 5770s in CrossFire. It doesn't need a CrossFire-compatible motherboard, it uses a lot less power thanks to its 40nm manufacturing process, and it sports DirectX 11 capabilities (plus Eyefinity).
December 28, 2009 4:39:57 AM

the 8800 series take a good hit in performance with AA AF if you use them try it without them see if its smoother?
December 28, 2009 4:53:23 AM

Here is a comparison chart. You can clearly see that 8800gtx sli wins almost every one against gtx 285, 275, and 260.
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...[2791]=on&prod[2864]=on&prod[2798]=on&prod[2803]=on

Why buy a new card for the sake of buying a new card? It will cost more and provide less performance. He already has one card, a huge Psu, and a SLI MB. For $125 he can get everything he needs for the time being, then upgrade his entire system when the time comes and he has the budget to do it.
December 28, 2009 5:00:37 AM

marco324 said:
the 8800 series take a good hit in performance with AA AF if you use them try it without them see if its smoother?


Here are the results with AA cranked up...it actually make the 8800 gtx sli win by a larger margin over the 285, which cost almost $400. It seems to me if you can spend $125 and beat that performance its a no brainer.
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/gaming-graphics-card...
December 28, 2009 5:19:20 AM

Thanks for all the tips, info, and discussions.

I've never had SLI before so I'm new too it. For the most part I've heard just negative things about it over the years. I think now though it's more refined, stable, and fine tuned. Do you guys have any comments on Windows 7 and SLI or SLI in general if you've upgraded from to two cards?

If this information helps any, I also got a friend with a very similar system to mine to run the same benchmark.

I have an E6700, he has an E6750. Both of us 4GB of DDR2 800mhz. The biggest factors are video cards. My 8800 GTX versus his HD4870 1g ddr3. and his FSB, mine 1Ghz his 1.3Ghz

My best results were: 3591 frames 91.644 seconds 39.18 fps (25.52 ms/f) 5.737 fps variability
His first results were: 3591 frames 52.517 seconds 68.38 fps (14.62 ms/f) 10.694 fps variability

So there's a 29.2 FPS difference.

I also agree, that the AA and AF are killers on nvidia cards. Often I leave them off or low just because of the FPS hit.

So my narrowed down options now include a second 8800 GTX or a brand new HD5850.

Between the two choices, what would you do?
December 28, 2009 6:37:10 AM

so you have $300 to spend and you can't overclock...id spend $110 getting that 2nd 8800 gtx on ebay then go buy a new quad core for 190:http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... . OR get that 2nd 8800gtx on ebay and while you wait for it to arrive learn how to overclock...if you fry something spend the extra 190 to replace :D 
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
December 28, 2009 7:18:35 AM

"I also agree, that the AA and AF are killers on nvidia cards. Often I leave them off or low just because of the FPS hit. "............ actually I thought it was ATI that had that problem. ... ??......anyways.......... that glax guy doesn't get that there are major differences in the 8800 vs a 260 or above. Frame rates don't mean a whole lot unless you are talking greater "minimum" fps....... where the game isn't going to tank because the card can't handle what's being thrown at it. These guys that put these benchmarks together rarely give you that information. Read my first post where it takes into account the extra memory. Do you like playing Crysis..??....... the extra memory comes in handy there especially when you turn up the aa. The 5850 also plays Crysis very well but I don't know about the snow section yet. There is a bit of difference between the 260 with 896 memory and 1792..... even running 2 896 cards in sli isn't as good as 1 card running 1792. Think about that. 2 x 896 does not equal 1792 when running sli. I have 2 260/896 and 1 260/1792.
December 28, 2009 9:24:16 AM

well the only reason you would get an a powerful psu an sli mobo and then one video card is because you plan on future proofing by being able to add a 2nd video card later and run sli... the whole design behind his setup is to go sli. not to mention the 8800 is nvidia's most successul graphics card ever, they are still selling those gpus like hotcakes after naming them 9800, 9800gtx+ and gts 250's. It would be a crime to just throw that away and then buy a more expensive card to get less performance in most situations.

buy that 2nd 8800 and overclock that cpu to 4ghz, or just wait a few months for the new cpus to come out and pick up a quad core 775 proc on the cheap and you will be good op
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a c 106 à CPUs
December 28, 2009 12:41:41 PM

It looks like it depends on how long the OP plans to use his current rig. If "as long as possible," then glaex makes sense. Spending up to $300 on an EOL-socket system if it will make it last for many years will cost a lot less than building a new rig. Even if his "850 Watt" PSU is mediocre, it ought to handle a second card, although that might be something to consider. What brand and model is it? That plan also allows upgrading both pieces, not just one of them. Just make sure the specific games you play aren't among the few that don't work well with SLI.
December 28, 2009 6:07:07 PM

Yes, I did build the system with SLI in mind, but I never had the $$$ for a second 8800 GTX and the one was fantastic at the time. Like I said before I had heard bad things and got the wrong impression about SLI since I build the system but now I'm almost certain I will be looking for a second 8800 GTX.

Also after reading a guide on the forums here, I've got my CPU from 2.66 Ghz 3.00 Ghz now and I observed NO GAIN in the L4D2/FPS test. This is a comfortable level for me for now.

More PC specs:
PSU: Thermaltake W0131RU 850W
MB: EVGA NVIDIA nForce 680i

a b B Homebuilt system
a c 106 à CPUs
December 28, 2009 6:13:38 PM

Well then, it looks like you've made the GPU into the bottleneck. Post what happens when you add the second GPU.
December 28, 2009 6:16:21 PM

Onus said:
Well then, it looks like you've made the GPU into the bottleneck. Post what happens when you add the second GPU.


Sure, but it may take some time for me to find one at a good price and get it all installed :) 
!