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Hardware Mystery: GTX470 not performing much better than GTS250?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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June 28, 2010 12:57:40 AM

Hello TomsHardware community, I am posting for the first time here in hopes that maybe you guys can identify my problem.

Here is my story...

Last week, these were my system specs:

CPU: Intel Core2Duo e6850 Dual Core Processor 3.0 GHz
Power Supply: NZXT PP800 800 watt power supply
Motherboard: Asus P5NE-SLI
Video Card: BFG NVidia GTS 250 1GB
Memory: 3GB PC2-6400 DDR2-800 RAM (2x 1GB Corsair, 1x 1gb GSKILL)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
Windows 7 Professional 64bit


With these specs, I wasn't satisfied with the performance in games like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, GTA 4, and All Points Bulletin. I would regularly get framerates in the low 20s during heavy load situations, and thought that now would be a good time to upgrade.
I went ahead and bought an NVidia Gigabyte GTX 470 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) because it was on sale and I had a coupon code to reduce the price further.

When it arrived last Wednesday, I eagerly replaced my GTS 250 and installed in its place the huge GTX 470. I installed the drivers from the packaged CD and booted up a few games to test out its performance. I ran Bad Company 2, cranked the settings to high at DX11 1680x1050 (but with anti-aliasing and HBAO disabled) and expected to be greeted with silky smooth 50+ FPS even during intense battles. This was far from the case. Intense battles would regularly dip to around 25fps, sometimes even 21, 22.

Disappointed, but knowing that BC2 is a pretty CPU intensive game, I quit out and ran Dawn of War 2. I set the graphics to high, no anti aliasing, and ran the benchmark in the options menu. Max FPS was in the 90s, average FPS was around 40, and lowest FPS was 15! Surely there is something holding the card back.

I went ahead and tested out GTA4, and got the same unsatisfactory results. The lowest framerates were in the low 20s. I reduced the settings to low, just to see how much smoother it would be. It was not much smoother at all, minimum FPS was still in the 30s.

At this point I was thinking that it had to be my CPU bottlenecking the card. After talking with some friends who are pretty knowledgeable in PC hardware, they agreed, and I could get a good deal on an Intel Core2Quad Q9550 2.83 GHz CPU at Microcenter. I went ahead and purchased one, and installed it when I got home. Booted up those same games expecting to see a boost in performance, but only saw slight boosts in fps. In DOW2, minimum FPS was still something like 16-18. BC2 saw an FPS boost of around 3-5 fps. and GTA4 saw a boost of the same. By now I was quite disappointed, thinking maybe it wasn't the CPU bottlenecking to begin with.

I started talking with a few of my friends to compare performance and hardware. One of them has:

Intel Dual Core E8400 3.0 GHz
Windows XP 32bit
4GB DDR3 RAM
ATI HD5850

His DOW2 benchmark with the same graphics settings as me reads something like
Maximum FPS:120
Average FPS: 60
Minimum FPS: 30+
By comparison, I now have a Q9550 and a GTX470 running a minimum FPS of 16...


Another friend has:

AMD Phenom x4 running at around 3.2 GHz (not sure what the exact model is)
4GB DDR3 RAM
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
ATI HD5770

He says he runs BC2 with silky smooth FPS on DX11, high settings except shadows on medium. By silky he means 50+ FPS all the time. Another frield has a GTS250 and even he runs BC2 smoother than my system (on medium though. Even if I set mine to medium I would still not meet up to his performance).

It is also worth mentioning that my Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard does not "officially" support the Q9550. Something about not taking advantage of the the 45nm architecture. When I first installed the CPU, the bios only read 2.00 GHz. Others have reported that the board can detect the full 2.83 GHz but only after updating the bios to the latest version and setting the multiplier from 6 to 8.5. I did this and the bios now reads the full 2.83 GHz. Curiously though, when I ran PassMark it only reported around 2500-2600 MHz

I guess to boil this post down, I am asking "Why is my FPS so low compared to other computers with lesser specs?" The only thing I am lacking in is RAM and maybe motherboard. After a week of testing, tweaking, and research and finding no solutions, I am stumped. I uninstalled drivers, reinstalled drivers, reinstalled windows, all to no avail. Some people tell me that my motherboard, which is pretty old, may be holding it all back. Other people tell me that the motherboard should not have a significant impact on performance at all. Maybe my slow RAM is holding things back? I don't know. Please help! Any answers could potentially help my situation. If nothing works, I think I'm just going to return the video card...

My current specs:
CPU: Intel Core2Quad Q9550 Quad Core Processor 2.83 GHz
Power Supply: NZXT PP800 800 watt power supply
Motherboard: Asus P5NE-SLI
Video Card: Gigabyte NVidia GTX 470
Memory: 3GB PC2-6400 DDR2-800 RAM (2x 1GB Corsair, 1x 1gb GSKILL)
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
Windows 7 Professional 64bit
a c 1362 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 1:12:06 AM

I suggest upgrading the ram to minimum 4Gb (looks like you are running out of ram 4 Gb is considered min for 64bit) and see if that changes things.
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a c 271 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 1:13:07 AM

Does Task Manager show all four cores and are you using the 258.19 driver (which is the latest)?
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June 28, 2010 1:22:33 AM

Task Manager does indeed show all four cores. During gaming sessions, HW Monitor shows temperatures increase in all four cores, so I assume the CPU is working fine. I am using the latest drivers as of last night for the GTX 470. I believe the driver is named 257.21
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a c 271 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 1:31:49 AM

As rolli59 pointed out, 4GB of RAM is kind of required for W7 64 (my install is currently using 1.7GB just doing 2D stuff!) and the drivers for the 4 series are evolving quickly so it might be worth giving the 258.19's a go but get some more RAM as well even though DDR2 is a tad expensive now.
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June 28, 2010 1:43:47 AM

Thank you for your responses Rilli59 and MouseMonkey. But do you really think that getting more ram will make such a huge difference in game performance? If RAM is a legitimate and significant factor in framerate, then I may consider upgrading it later this week.
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a c 271 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 1:47:05 AM

Having had a go at running W7 64 on 128MB of RAM (I was bored at the time) I can honestly say that a 64bit OS uses RAM in a different manner to a 32bit OS, so yes it will make a difference.
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a b U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 1:50:53 AM

Have you checked out what gpu-z is reporting ?
use the internal screenshot function (the little camera)and u/l to their free server and post here.
I'm pretty sure your m/b is pci-e 1.0, lets see if the card is running at full speed.
[**IMG]http://gpuz.techpowerup.com/10/06/27/7g6.png[/IMG]
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a c 271 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 3:56:20 AM

Quote:
Model
Brand Intel
Processors Type Desktop
Series Core 2 Duo
Model BX80557E6850
CPU Socket Type
CPU Socket Type LGA 775
Tech Spec
Core Conroe
Multi-Core Dual-Core
Name Core 2 Duo E6850
Operating Frequency 3.0GHz
FSB 1333MHz
L2 Cache 4M shared
Manufacturing Tech 65 nm
64 bit Support Yes
Hyper-Threading Support No
Virtualization Technology Support Yes
Multimedia Instruction MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, EM64T
Voltage 0.85V – 1.5V
Thermal Design Power 65W
Cooling Device Heatsink and Fan included
Manufacturer Warranty
Parts 3 years limited
Labor 3 years limited

OK, I'll bite. The meaning of this post is... :??: 
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a b U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 4:00:39 AM

Mousemonkey said:
Having had a go at running W7 64 on 128MB of RAM (I was bored at the time) I can honestly say that a 64bit OS uses RAM in a different manner to a 32bit OS, so yes it will make a difference.

:o  I think my brain just 'sploded.
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a c 271 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 4:10:41 AM

jedimasterben said:
:o  I think my brain just 'sploded.

Dude, after waiting an hour and a half for the desktop to appear I was beginning to wish mine had. :lol: 
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June 28, 2010 6:41:22 AM

The psu is rated on the Nzxt official site as follows
Output: +3.3@35A,+5V@48A,+12V1@18A,+12V2@18A,+12V3@20A,+ 12V4@22A,-12V@0.5A,+5VSB@2.2A

Therefore there is a possibility (not sure) that if you are using 12V1@18A,+12V2@18A there will only be 36A being supplied 2A short of the recommended 40A. I personally don't think that this will cause such a lag but it is definitely a possibility!
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June 28, 2010 9:12:27 AM

I switched up the 6 pin connectors (GTX 470 needs two 6-pin connectors to function)

My power supply's 6 pin strands look something like this:
  1. . [PSU]
  2. |
  3. --------
  4. | |
  5. [6a] [6b]
  6. | |
  7. [6c] [6d]
  8. | |
  9. [2a] [2b]

Previously, I had 6a and 6c connected to the card. I thought this may have an issue with power flow, so I took them out and plugged in 6a and 6b. Booted up, ran some benchmarks, and saw no performance increase. I also tried 6c and 6d, no difference.

Right now i have 6c and 6d connected to the GTX 470.
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a c 1362 U Graphics card
June 28, 2010 8:48:52 PM

If an application has to reach into the page file because of lack of available ram to run then there will be a dip in performance.
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June 28, 2010 8:52:05 PM

My system gets 15235 3DMarks with the default settings in 3DMark06 at 1280x1024 (it wont let me change the resolution or any settings because i am running the demo version)

I can't seem to find out how to compare my score with others of similar specs.
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a b U Graphics card
June 29, 2010 8:48:42 AM

First upgrade you had to do is to add another 1GB of RAM to to your system because you are currently running in single channel mode. You need a symmetrical sticks configuration to run in dual channel mode.
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June 29, 2010 4:27:03 PM

Something is messed up with your GPU. I assure you also, your previous CPU was not a bottleneck.

I have a GTX285 w/E8400 @ 4.0Ghz and I play Bad Company 2 with everything maxed AFx16 and 16X CSAA and never dip below 40FPS. Its 55-65FPS on Avg. ( 1440x900 ).

As for 3Dmark06. I pull an 18,000 for a score.

If I popped in a GTX470 Id probably be 22k+



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June 29, 2010 8:33:50 PM

Hey guys,

Thanks for all your replies. My friend and I did some testing with my hardware, I put the GTX 470 into my friend's machine and it ran smooth as butter. We narrowed the problem down to the motherboard, which was indeed holding the entire system back in a big way. I purchased a new motherboard and everything is now running much, MUCH more smoothly.

I do have some follow-up questions though. Although my performance in games is much better, my 3DMark06 score is still around 15000. When I replace the motherboard, do I have to do a fresh install of windows to get everything working optimally? I pretty much just put the motherboard in, plugged everything in, and installed some rudimentary software and drivers included in the motherboard's utility CD. While everything seems to work fine like this, I'd like to know if any further tweaking is required.

Thanks again TomsHardware crew
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June 29, 2010 10:47:34 PM

Hi there,
Interested reading,

Hi Did you check the 3dMark06 score in your friends system, that would have been interesting to see what he got?

Secondly I would definately recommend the RAM upgrade, flog the Gskill one and buy another 2 X 1GB Corsair. If you get lucky you can pick em for £15 a stick(even the dominator).

I doubt the PS has anything do with it

Good luck
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a b U Graphics card
June 29, 2010 11:18:38 PM

One thing I notice that might be part of the problem is your RAM -- you list 2x1GB and another 1x1 GB which would mean you are running in single channel mode - try removing the 1x1GB. mopdule and rerun the game and see if things improve -- running in single channel will limit the memory throughput and might be a partial cause of you problem.
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