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Dual vs Quad Debate - From Budget Gaming Perspective

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May 12, 2010 4:32:58 PM

This is a question regarding mainly CPU, but since it's in regards to system building, I thought this would be the appropriate forum.

From a bdget gaming build perspective, is it really necessary to put extra $$$ into a quad? So far in the last couple of weeks reading here, almost every build is based on quads, yet in so many threads, in various forums, people say most games barely even touch the 3rd core.

For a total system budget under $600 (Canadian) $650 (US) most threads suggest Athlon II's X4

For budgets in the $800 range, Phenom II x4.

If it's true that anything above a quad won't really improve performance in most games, why aren't people suggesting dual's and therefore, put the excess $$ into GPU or mobo.

In a very good example, in one thread I was helping suggest builds where a Phenom II X4 at $185 + tx and a 5770 GPU. When I suggested an OEM X2 550 (ok so you need an aftermarket cooler, but even something better than the stock is only $10) for $89 or $100 with cooler, the build was able to include a 5830 within $5 or so of the other.

From a real world perspective, I built a gaming rig around the 550 BE and unlocked into a quad after a few days into gaming. There was some improvement in actual FPS count, but not enough to detect with your brain for the most part.

I guess this is geared toward people like me, who have two main purposes for a PC. Gaming and Internet. Nothing else.

I would love to hear from some of the resident experts here!

Thanks
a b 4 Gaming
May 12, 2010 4:41:04 PM

Actually, I think you're missing something. Most threads under $1,000 (US) recommend X3s. Specifically the X3 440. I can honestly say that I haven't recommended the Athlon X4s in many, many months. The X4 955 sneaks in there at a few budget points, but it's mostly the X3.

The problem with saying "most games don't touch the third core" is that its true only when you account for the games themselves. In the real world, there are apps running in the background or you keep multiple programs running at once. Thus, these extras get unloaded to the thrid core, making dual cores a lot slower in the real world.

As for quads, the fourth core is generally not needed. They're nice because the higher end CPUs (X4 955, i5, i7) are all quads and will stand the test of time (at least for a while).

Tom's did an article awhile back about this exact thing (search "how many cores do you need"). It found that adding the second and third cores greatly increased gaming performance, while adding the fourth actually decreased it (very slightly). So the answer to dual vs. quad is neither. Triple core is the correct choice.

EDIT: I should point out this is speaking in very general terms. There are games out there that will suffer if you don't have a quad core. Specifically, GTA IV, StarCraft 2 and many other strategy games. So there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. To choose what's best for you personally, you need to evaluate your uses, what you're willing to spend and other criteria. Take a look at the guidelines (the link is in my signature) for all the information that's relevant to the decision.
a b 4 Gaming
May 12, 2010 4:47:10 PM

You bring up a very good point...

Most people recommend a quad because the OP is using their system for more than just gaming, which those applications truly benefit from quad-cores (CAD, Photoshop... etc). In a strictly gaming sense, it is better to put less money on your CPU and put more toward the GPU. There was an article written about this very subject ( http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/multi-core-cpu,2280... ), which shows that there is little difference in gaming between a tri-core and a quad-core but a decent difference between a dual and a tri-core. Which is why a lot of users will recommend the X3 440 or x3 435 (X3 720 OEM is a good one too) over dual or even quad cores. They provide the best overall bang for the buck, as you get a more powerful GPU and equal performance with your CPU.


edit: Okay... so MadAdmiral stole my Thunder!! At least we are basically on the same page between the two of us :D 
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May 12, 2010 6:26:06 PM

Thanks to both of you.

Lets say it came down to either:

Phenom II X4 BE / 5770

Phenom II X2 BE 550 / 5830

which of the two would you guys take?
May 12, 2010 6:29:11 PM

puntacana1 said:
Thanks to both of you.

Lets say it came down to either:

Phenom II X4 BE / 5770

Phenom II X2 BE 550 / 5830

which of the two would you guys take?



Phenom II X4. The 5830 isnt that great of an upgrade even if its a better card over a 5770.

However I still would recommend considering a Phenom II X3 or Athlon II X3. I bet you could squeeze a 5850 in with a X3 processor and be a little over budget.
a b 4 Gaming
May 12, 2010 6:29:20 PM

For gaming, the 5830 is a step up from the 5770, but probably not worth the price increase.

If you're truly limited to the 2 choices you presented, I'd say Phenom II X4 + 5770. If that could be X2 + 5850 (rather than 5830), that would be a better choice.

Ideally, I'd say Athlon II X3 and 5850.

EDIT: Agh, beaten to the punch by MadAdmiral. Again. And again. And again. :p 
May 12, 2010 6:30:07 PM

MadAdmiral said:
If that's the only two choices, the X4 955/5770 would be better. That has nothing to do with the CPU.

The 5830 is a strange product. If you're gaming at 1920x resolutions, the 5830 is too weak, so you'd do better to step up to the 5850. If you're gaming at below that resolution, the 5770 is a better choice, making the extra spent on the 5830 a waste. The 5830 is just in the wrong spot in terms of price and performance.

A better choice than either of those would be the X3 425 (or 440) and a 5850. It's a little more expensive than the other two options, but I'm positive I could cut some costs out of the rest of the build to afford it.


Haha. You beat me to it.
a b 4 Gaming
May 12, 2010 6:30:26 PM

If those are the only two choices, the X4 955/5770 would be better. That has nothing to do with the CPU.

The 5830 is a strange product. If you're gaming at 1920x resolutions, the 5830 is too weak, so you'd do better to step up to the 5850. If you're gaming at below that resolution, the 5770 is a better choice, making the extra spent on the 5830 a waste. The 5830 is just in the wrong spot in terms of price and performance.

Because of the strange price/performance of the 5830, it would be better overall all to buy the 5770 and get the 955.

However, a better choice than either of those would be the X3 425 (or 440) and a 5850. It's a little more expensive than the other two options (about $50, depending on deals), but I'm positive I could cut some costs out of the rest of the build to afford it.
May 12, 2010 6:36:16 PM

Hmmm...

I wonder if the two of you might be able to offer your expertise in this thread RE: a $950 gaming build.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/285675-31-gaming-comp...

it would be great if you both would review the builds suggested there. My suggestions are based on what I use myself somewhat, but I like to see this dude get the best build for his budget. (Maybe because it's a fellow Canadian lol)

thanks guys!
May 12, 2010 6:36:50 PM


SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
Item #: N82E16822152181
$54.99

ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard
Item #: N82E16813131402
$118.99

XFX HD-585X-ZNFV Radeon HD 5850 1GB 256-bit DDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card w/ Eyefinity
$309.99

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL
Item #: N82E16820231277
$109.99


AMD Athlon II X3 440 Rana 3.0GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor Model ADX440WFGIBOX
Item #: N82E16819103843
$74.99


COMBO :

Antec EarthWatts EA650 650W Continuous Power ATX12V Ver.2.2 / EPS12V version 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified ...
Item #: N82E16817371015
Return Policy: Standard Return Policy


Antec Three Hundred Illusion Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Item #: N82E16811129066
Return Policy: Limited Replacement Only Return Policy

$119.98


Subtotal: $788.93
May 12, 2010 6:44:57 PM

So my build + 30 for a 1 TB + 30 for a DVDRW = 848.00 USD which is about 832.28 CAD.
!