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Request for upgrade advice

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March 31, 2010 7:27:50 PM

I currently have:
CPU: AMD 4200 X2
Motherboard: Lanparty nf4
GPU: 8800GT
2gb RAM

I would like to upgrade at the cheapest price possible while still getting a good boost in performance. It's pretty much exclusively for gaming.
I was thinking of just going for a GPU upgrade and getting a 5850, but I am unsure how much of a problem my CPU & RAM is.

So, I am looking for any advice about what would be a good upgrade path to take (GPU now, leave the rest for a later day, everything now etc.)

P.S. How do you test if a game is being held back by the CPU and RAM?

More about : request upgrade advice

a b à CPUs
March 31, 2010 7:58:55 PM

it depends on whats ur budget, and what games u play. generally, games are more dependent on the gpu, but a 5850 might also be too strong for some games. it would make no sense to upgrade the ram without upgrading everything else, which might be fairly costly. if you can get away with it, it might be a good idea to get a 5770/4890 with a new cheaper mobo, 555 callisto, and a cheap 4 gigs of ram, however the other info would be helpful...
March 31, 2010 8:24:09 PM

I'm playing Dragon Age: Origins & Batman Arkham Asylum at the moment and I just got Just Cause 2 (for which my computer is the minimum spec possible).
For a budget, like I said if I could get away with just a GPU upgrade that would be ideal but if my current setup is a problem, then, say, £500 at most?
I'm going to upgrade everything eventually, I would just like to delay doing so as long as possible while still having a decent gaming system.
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a b à CPUs
March 31, 2010 8:38:55 PM

with 500, you could pretty easily get 4 gigs of ram, a am3 mobo, am3 cpu, and 5770/5850. if you want a 5850, you would probs have to get a amd callisto 555, and if you get a 5770, you would get a 955...personally, it is much more worth it to pay the extra bit for both the 5850 and 955, as on overcolckers.net (UK) thats only 560. if you sold your old gear, you might be able to make up the difference, but the choice is yours. idk about batman, but i have DAO, and i have a 4890. it is equivalent to about a 5770, and i can easily max it out. also know that DAO is one of a few games that are capable of utilizing quad cores, as i also have a 955.
a b B Homebuilt system
March 31, 2010 9:26:41 PM

It is possible that the PSU could have a bearing. Do you know which one you have?
a b B Homebuilt system
March 31, 2010 10:11:23 PM

IF you are looking for budget performance check out the Gigabyte 770TA-UD3 motherboard and AMD Athlon IIx3 435 CPU. I just built one and was lucky enough to be able to unlock the 4th core and OC it to 3.25 stable. Without unlocking the 4th core I could OC it more, maybe all the way to 3.6. That may be why my CPU failed as an Athlon IIx4.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 179 à CPUs
April 1, 2010 2:56:17 AM

The X2-4200+ isn't near fast enough to handle an HD5850.

The best bang for the buck is an HD4770. I wouldn't bother with DX11; enabling it drops your frame rate so unless you can already play a DX11 game at its highest settings (which your computer never will) there's no point.

If you buy more than an HD4770 it will be a waste of money as your computer is CPU limited.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 179 à CPUs
April 1, 2010 3:00:38 AM

CTRL-ALT-DEL:

Monitor some games with the Task Manager running. The closer the CPU is to 100% then the less benefit upgrading graphics will offer you. Keep in mind you may not hit 100% on some games if the game can't utilize both cores.

Your 8800GT is likely going to utilize much of your CPU for many games and possibly be CPU-limited for some.

Run at least three of your most demanding games for at least five minutes. Leave the Task Manager on its Lowest update speed.

If most games use 80% or more of your CPU then save your money towards a new computer.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a c 341 à CPUs
April 1, 2010 3:26:00 AM

I would suspect that the graphics card would be the single best upgrade. But do a couple of tests to be certain:

1) Run your games, but reduce the resolution and eye candy to a minimum. This will simulate what will happen if you upgrade to a stronger graphics card. If your FPS improves, it indicates that your cpu is capable of driving a stronger graphics card to higher levels of FPS.

2) Keeping your graphics resolution and settings the same, reduce your cpu power. Do this by removing the overclock, or by using windows power management to set a maximum cpu% of perhaps 70%. If your FPS drops significantly, it indicates that your current cpu is a limiting factor, and that a faster cpu would help.

Ram is relatively cheap, but upgraded ram most likely will not be able to be used in your next system.
You might want to read some notes from Corsair on the value of added ram:
http://www.corsair.com/appnotes/
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
April 1, 2010 7:24:35 AM

If I were you.
I could still live with your current configuration.
It would be also better to save your money to buy a complete new rig in the next 1 - 2 years perhaps next year or the year after that.
Your proc may not be among the bests anymore but it is still enough to run the latest games/program perhaps a little slower than the new ones but without significant problems.
Your GPU may not be among the kings anymore but it still can run the latest games altough not on maximum settings.
Upgrading your ram to at least 4GB would not hurt, but only if you have x64 OS.
You might want to be wiser in buying things.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 143 à CPUs
April 1, 2010 5:59:09 PM

No reason to insult the OP, in its day that system probably kicked some tail.
I do think it is CPU-limited today. It may be hard to use Task Manager with a full-screen game running, so follow geofelt's post for tests to see where the bottleneck is. I would be surprised if the bottleneck is NOT your CPU. If there is [also] a GPU bottleneck, at least you could be confident that money spent on a new one would not be wasted, since you could move it to your next rig.
Your PSU may also limit the GPU choices available to you, especially if its age has reduced its capacity. With a £500 budget, you could get a HD5850 and a quality 500W-550W 80+ certified PSU like an Antec Earthwatts or Truepower New.
Let us know where the bottleneck seems to be.
April 1, 2010 9:03:59 PM

Thank you for the replies.

I've been testing with Just Cause 2 and with everything at minimum I get 60 fps with occasional drops to 40 on the benchmark. Clearly, my cpu is a limiting factor. With the resolution higher (1680*1050, I would like to be using 1920*1200) and the other graphics options still low, I get 30 with drops below 20, so my GPU is also a problem.
I actually had to replace my PSU quite recently so that won't be a problem.

Presuming I go for a 5850, leaving me with around 300 for the rest, would the AMD 955(with mobo and ram etc.) be the best option? Also, what RAM should I go for?
a b B Homebuilt system
April 1, 2010 9:56:16 PM

You could also go with a Phenom II x3 920, Athlon II x4 or even Athlon II x3 and be good with a 5850. All those CPUs would use the same AM3 motherboards, the question is just about how many PCIE x16 slots you want. The new USB3/SataIII motherboards are down at the same prices as the older USB2/SataII motherboards so you might as well get a new one.
a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a c 341 à CPUs
April 1, 2010 11:47:21 PM

60 fps is a good rate for decent gameplay. Your current cpu can deliver that if you had a better graphics card. Even at 1920 x 1080. The 5850 is a good jump in capability, and I would see how you do with just that. It will be good for any future changes you make.

One of the benefits of additional ram is the improvement in minimum FPS. See if you can't just add another 2gb of the exact same ram that you have. There are good 4gb(2x2gb) ram kits out there, but I don't know if it is worth much extra to replace your ram..
The speed and timings are more important to AMD cpu's than i5/i7. But, I think I would wait a bit before investing more in an older system.

After these changes, you might want to consider a cpu and mobo upgrade. I think just a faster clocked duo will be enough, unless you know that some of your games can make use of three or more cores. Then, a quad would be appropriate.
a b à CPUs
April 2, 2010 12:46:29 PM

the 5850 is a good deal for anything, however he might be able to get away with a 5770 or 4890. however, assuming he has an am2/am2+ board, he can only have ddr2 ram. buying any more ddr2 ram would be a waste of money, as it is getting more expensive than ddr3 ram, and is obviously much worse. since his max budget is 500 pounds, and a 5850 takes but 220 pounds (maybe less):

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX...

therefore, you have 280 pounds to get the cpu, ram, and mobo. such as these:

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MY...

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CP... (can be unlocked to quad)

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=MB...

all in all thats about 505 pounds, and a much better gaming rig.
April 3, 2010 8:08:32 PM

Just one final question: is the cooler that comes with AMDs any good for overclocking or should I get a better one no matter what?

EDIT: Thought of another question. Would a Crossfire setup with 4000-series cards give better performance?
a b B Homebuilt system
April 5, 2010 5:30:18 PM

IF you can still find 4850s for $100 or 4890s below $200 then pairing them gets alot of performance for your money. The problem is that will use 4 times the power of a new 5000 series card and generate alot more heat. You will need a stronger PSU and better cooling if you go that route (plus the constant extra energy use) which will eat into the price/performance benefit. You also lose out on DX11, whenever that comes into play.
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