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Where's the Bottleneck?

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January 7, 2010 6:09:14 AM

Hi,

So I'm a pretty avid gamer, been using my box for a few years now. Specs:

CPU: Core2 Duo E6750 @ 2 x 2.66Ghz
GPU: nVidia 8800GT
RAM: 2 x 2GB
OS: 64-bit Win7 Ultimate

So I've recently been playing Modern Warfare 2 and Dragon Age, but I experience serious drops in framerate in each of these games at certain times.

In MW2, it normally runs smooth at 60, but on certain levels the frame rate plummets into 1 frame every few seconds every so often. Dragon age similarly drops in frame rate (to ~15fps) when things start to get busy.

Is there anyway to see where the bottle neck is? My CPU and GPU are a bit dated, but I'm not sure which one to replace in order to continue having a smooth gaming experience.

Any help would be much appreciated.

More about : bottleneck

January 7, 2010 6:21:01 AM

Open Task Manager, go to the Performance tab, and report CPU Usage and PF Usage when the game slows. Also report the video resolution if your monitor is greater than 20". Do you know how much video ram you have?

That should give the people here enough information.
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January 7, 2010 12:08:21 PM

My monitor is a 24'' 1920 x 1080 LCD. The 8800GT has 512MB ram.

I'll do the Task Manager thing when I get back from classes today.
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January 8, 2010 3:09:59 AM

vanekl said:
Open Task Manager, go to the Performance tab, and report CPU Usage and PF Usage when the game slows. Also report the video resolution if your monitor is greater than 20". Do you know how much video ram you have?

That should give the people here enough information.


Sooo...:

Monitor (24''): 1920 x 1080
Vid Card Ram: 512MB\

As far as I can tell the frame rate issues get worse the longer I play the game. If I restart the computer and the game, the issues seem to get better, but then get worse as time goes by. Modern warfare only a few certain levels are consistently bad. Dragon age just has low frame rate, period (which gets worse over time).

As for performance during Modern Warfare 2:

CPU Usage: 93%+, during a giant dip in frame rate (game freezes for a second or 2), then both cores drop to ~20% usage.
RAM: 4095MB Physical Total, 3.13 Used, 1111 Cached, 1098 Available, 0 Free.
Commit Charge: ~4299/8188 MB


During Dragon Age
:

CPU Usage: 100% all the time
RAM: 2.73GB Used, 1106 Cached, 1303 Available, 240 Free
Commit Charge: 4037/8188


Any idea what the problem might be? I got the 24'' monitor recently, and I am bit worried my 8800GT might not be able to render that resolution.

Any help would be very much appreciated. :D 
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January 8, 2010 4:20:56 AM

I think the graphics card is one problem, or your resolution, you pick.

I also just got a 24" monitor and also rnu @ 1920x1080 lol.
I had a EVGA 9800 GT Super Clocked @ 745/1800/1107 and it could not handle the change in resolution from the lower resolution I was using before.

Now with a GTX 260 it runs fine, but I am having some stupid freezing problem so I can't really get games installed to play :/ 
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January 8, 2010 4:38:08 AM

Based on your description, there are three problems, one of which is easily fixed, if you have the money. Your computer is CPU-constrained. Your GPU, not your CPU, should be doing the brunt of the work but it cannot because it's waiting on the CPU.

Issue number 2 is that you say that the game slows down as the game progresses. That can mean only two things: either the game is getting progressively more difficult to draw (more items moving on screen, for example), or the programmer screwed up and is not releasing memory after he's done with it. In either case, there's little you can do about it.

Issue 3 is the cpu widely fluctuating between 90%+ and 20% usage. That could be a number of things, but my guess is that the programmer is periodically trying to do too much at once and it's overwhelming your CPU. It's a combination of sloppy programming and inadequate system resources (cpu).

So fix the CPU problem. While you were looking at Task Manager did you notice whether both of your cores were being heavily used or just one? If both were pegged then the solution is much easier to fix: get more cores. If only 1 core was pegged then adding cores wont be a big help. General rule of thumb: your ears should tingle if you see your cpu usage consistently over 50%, because there will be spikes and when the spikes occur your system slows down when they hit capacity.

Of course a new bottleneck will present itself after you fix this bottleneck, but your games will be faster. And maybe the game manufacturer will submit a patch in the meantime. I would be snooping around on the manufacturer's website just to make sure they haven't already released a patch.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 5:40:48 AM

It going slower seems like a heat thing to me.
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January 8, 2010 5:42:13 AM

So what are the temps? A bigger, badder cpu would help, but then so would a new fan.
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January 8, 2010 10:01:05 PM

vanekl said:
So what are the temps? A bigger, badder cpu would help, but then so would a new fan.


I'm not sure how to see what my case temps are. I think the should be fine for these reasons:

1) I always set my case fans to 'high' speed when I game. My case is an Antec P182 (http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) with 3 x 120mm fans.

2) My CPU's fan is not stock. I got one of the zalman ones, I don't remember the name. It's giant and copper colored, barely fit on top of the mobo.

Do you have any CPU recommendations? From what you've explained, I'm looking for an upgrade over the Core2 Duo E6750 @ 2 x 2.66Ghz, preferably in the $150-$200 range.

Thanks a lot for your help so far.
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January 8, 2010 10:13:39 PM

Well, I use SpeedFan to see what my temperatures are. This is what I found in the "Recommended Builds by Usage" thread elsewhere in this forum.

# SpeedFan - Very useful tool to download to monitor temps and control fan speeds.
# CPUID's CPU-Z - Very useful tool to download to monitor system information and speeds.
# CPUID's Hardware Monitor - - Very useful tool to download to monitor temps, fan speeds and voltage.
# Real Temp - CPU Temperature Monitoring - Very useful tool to download to monitor your CPU temps.
# CoreTemp - Very useful tool to download to monitor your CPU temps.

BTW, False_Dmitry_ is the one who came up with the excellent suggestion that you may also have a heat problem. I wish I could take credit for it because his logic is sound.

I think it would be unwise to make cpu suggestions until you verify that both of your cores are being stressed, or if your games are pounding just one core. It should be visible on the Performance tab.
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January 8, 2010 10:27:02 PM

vanekl said:
Well, I use SpeedFan to see what my temperatures are. This is what I found in the "Recommended Builds by Usage" thread elsewhere in this forum.

# SpeedFan - Very useful tool to download to monitor temps and control fan speeds.
# CPUID's CPU-Z - Very useful tool to download to monitor system information and speeds.
# CPUID's Hardware Monitor - - Very useful tool to download to monitor temps, fan speeds and voltage.
# Real Temp - CPU Temperature Monitoring - Very useful tool to download to monitor your CPU temps.
# CoreTemp - Very useful tool to download to monitor your CPU temps.

BTW, False_Dmitry_ is the one who came up with the excellent suggestion that you may also have a heat problem. I wish I could take credit for it because his logic is sound.

I think it would be unwise to make cpu suggestions until you verify that both of your cores are being stressed, or if your games are pounding just one core. It should be visible on the Performance tab.


Alrighty, just played one of the laggiest levels on Modern Warfare. Results:

CPU: Both cores were stuck at around 97%-100% load. Graphs weren't direct clones of each other, but were under high load all the time.
Temperature: ~47-49 Celsius underload, 34-38 Celsius idle.

Same issues: Game will pause for a second, CPU drops from 98% load to 17% and then goes back up afterward.

What do you think?
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 10:31:33 PM

Yeah. It may well be time for an upgrade, but determining if there is a problem is important. After fixing or at least finding it is when to decide if it should be done, since that should do at least the FPS just fine, probably the other one too. (I still haven't opened mine from christmas)

There are lots of people who stick to a single build for alot longer than you have had yours (just based on how old the stuff is) and it is by no means all that bad. I have a friend who still uses the computer he made in like 2005 as his main one, mine from back then has been sold off, bought back and redeployed as a home file/print server instead.

On top of speedfan (well there are others, but its what i've used also) you could try runs of prime95 and furmark to see what happens when they get under load. The temp in speed fan that rises most quickly while doing prime95 is the CPU.
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January 8, 2010 10:31:57 PM

Heat not an issue.

You need a quad-core.

Doing some quad-core research for 775 lga. Will get back to you.

Do you have a budget?
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 10:39:05 PM

Maybe it's a hard drive problem? It can't read what it needs fast enough and drops? If that's it try defraging, even though its supposed to happen background now. Or reinstalling windows i guess.

Dragon age is supposed to be more graphics heavy and on a 1080p monitor that may be the problem on that one.

Those are pretty good CPU temps, you could always try overclocking it.
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January 8, 2010 10:42:07 PM

vanekl said:
Heat not an issue.

You need a quad-core.

Doing some quad-core research for 775 lga. Will get back to you.

Do you have a budget?


Thanks a bunch. If possible, something sub $200.

@False_Dmitry_

Drops in framerate in an FPS drive me nuts. I have had the game freeze for 1 crucial second, only to unfreeze and find myself dead on the floor and needing to redo that entire segment of the level. I used to play WoW a lot, and my comp was more than adequate for that. But I've since quit, and newer games tax my machine much harder than WoW does.
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Best solution

January 8, 2010 10:45:58 PM

Please meet your new best friend:
Intel Core2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
It's $190 on newegg
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January 8, 2010 10:49:50 PM

vanekl said:
Please meet your new best friend:
Intel Core2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB L2 Cache LGA 775 95W Quad-Core Processor - Retail
It's $190 on newegg


Wow, thanks a bunch for your help! :D 

Can't wait to install it.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 8, 2010 11:03:31 PM

Be sure to come back and tell us what happens after you've installed it. Whether the problem goes away or not etc.
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January 8, 2010 11:08:32 PM

False_Dmitry_II said:
Be sure to come back and tell us what happens after you've installed it. Whether the problem goes away or not etc.


Will do. I'm a bit anxious on how I'm gonna remove the zalman fan+heatsink. Installing it was a pain. Thanks for you help =]
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January 12, 2010 9:47:33 PM

Well got the CPU today. I've been having problems installing it though. My mobo won't POST or beep with the quad core in it, just gives me a black screen. I'm using an Asus P5E mobo, which is supposed to support quad core...

Had to go back to the old dual core for now until I figure out what's going on.
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January 12, 2010 10:17:11 PM

What make/model motherboard? Do you have the manual? There may be a BIOS setting or jumper. Flip through the manual.

Does your motherboard have onboard graphics? If so, take out the 8800 and try to boot w/o it. This will lighten the load on the PSU and will test whether the PSU is under-sized.

Try reading this:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-read-postin...
You're sure you inserted the cpu correctly?

You can try installing the cpu w/o the fan. I know this sounds crazy. Only allow the boot to last about 15 seconds to see if you get any boot sequence displayed on screen, then shut it down quickly. The cpu will shut itself down automatically if it gets too hot, but you should kill bootup yourself with the power switch or pull the plug. I'm suggesting this just to make testing a little easier.
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January 12, 2010 10:21:44 PM

vanekl said:
What make/model motherboard? Do you have the manual? There may be a BIOS setting or jumper. Flip through the manual.

Does your motherboard have onboard graphics? If so, take out the 8800 and try to boot w/o it. This will lighten the load on the PSU and will test whether the PSU is under-sized.

Try reading this:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/261145-31-read-postin...
You're sure you inserted the cpu correctly?

You can try installing the cpu w/o the fan. I know this sounds crazy. Only allow the boot to last about 15 seconds to see if you get any boot sequence displayed on screen, then shut it down quickly. The cpu will shut itself down automatically if it gets too hot, but you should kill bootup yourself with the power switch or pull the plug. I'm suggesting this just to make testing a little easier.


Turns out it was a problem with having a 2.5 year old BIOS. I flashed my mobo with the latest bios, booted up perfectly.

My frame rate issues are gone too =]. Thanks a lot for your help through out this.
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January 12, 2010 10:26:25 PM

That is great news.
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!