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GPU upgrade advice

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September 15, 2010 2:57:43 AM

Hi all,
I'm still relatively new to this forum, but you've helped me out in building this rig, and now I'm back with some questions :)  apologies if the post is long.

New build, about 6 weeks old:
cpu: i7-930 @ 2.8GHz (Hyper 212 Plus cooler)
mobo: GA-X58A-UD3R
RAM: G.Skill 6Gb 1333MHz (CAS 7)
GPU: HIS 5850 (with that iCooler V, stock clocks)
PSU: Antec TruePower New 750W
case: HAF 922 with extra 200mm sidefan
monitor: Samsung Syncmaster 226BW (1680x1050 native)

Now I know its a good rig, but crazy me, as soon as I finished putting it all together, I of course started getting ideas and drooling of how to spend even more money. On that note, I'm fine with my current resolution, I might jump to 1920x1200 sometime but for now its not an issue.

I figured if I'm going to have a midrange resolution, I might as well be able to crank the juice on everything else right? Turns out to not be the case. For example, Empire: Total war runs on near max and ultra on everything, but with some lag. Same for Dead Space, and some other games (none really cutting edge).

Which brings me to my first question: should I bump up the GPU? Some people on another forum were talking about the MSI Lightning II 5870, and that looks awesome. I can find it online for about $360 after rebate. My case has good airflow, but I want to keep everything as cool as possible cause this build has to last me several years. Thus, extra cooling on the graphics card is a must. With the 5850 right now I idle around 36C, and at load it goes up to about 65C (I set up the fan to speed up with increasing temp).

Second, do I need to bump up my CPU clocking/voltages etc, to get the most out of my current card, or the most out of my future card if I DO upgrade? I'm completely new to the whole concept of overclocking, so if so, I'll have more questions on that later. CPU cores idle at around 35-40C I believe, max temp I've seen in them is in the 60's.

I'd appreciate opinions and help, I'm open to learning. Thanks in advance!

Sean

Oh, and I'd probably only buy the new GPU if I can sell my current one, which has only been in use for about a month. Any idea what I could get for it?

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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:02:20 AM

Hmm, whilst I am not familiar with the other games, I can say for experience (and by the nature of the game) that ETW is likely being held back by CPU. A nice OC on that (say mid 3's) should give you more than enough processing power.

Also, one thing I don't see on your list is the Hard drive. I use mechanical drives and live with the occasional seek lag. If the processor/GPU aren't fed the data, they can't process it. If it seems the lagging is occurring while you HDD light is blinking a lot, consider adding an SSD OS/Game drive.

Edit: Also, you certainly should be able to get a decent OC on that card, especially with the low temps at idle.
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:04:32 AM

Oh and one other note about ETW, as much as I love the TW series, ETW (and all really) sometimes have some major bugs that will bring even the best computers down.
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:04:45 AM

You could definitely OC that cpu at least past 3 with that cooler, it should be pretty easy. I believe that Total War is cpu-limited, but I'm surprised it's held back by an i7... Well, it would help.
If you really want more GPU power, I would suggest either get another 5850, or sell the current one and grab a couple GTX 460s to run in sli. If that still wouldn't be enough, you could probably go dual 470s, but that would cost another $80 per card or so
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:11:12 AM

Honestly, selling a 5850 and buying a 5870 isnt worth it, push it up to 850Mhz and get a DIY 5870. Your temps should be fine. Wait at least until the 68XX for another upgrade. The 5850 sells fore barely $230 now and isn't worth it.

You could push that 930 up to 3.5+ easily, especially with a 212+, it will remove any bottlenecks you may have in even CPU intensive games, and once again, temps should barely rise.
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September 15, 2010 3:15:12 AM

@EXT64 I was worried that it was the CPU, I was hoping to avoid overclocking, mainly cause I've never done it before, but if its bottlenecking me then I'll look into it. I dont think its the HDD, as the lag and stuttering I get seems more of a rendering/graphics issue, if that makes sense. Also, as an idea, all my games load pretty quickly, so I dont think its that. I have a WD 5000Gb at 7200 rpm, 3Gb/s if I hooked it up right (which I might not have)

I had considered going for another 5850, but I'd heard that CF drivers have been a bit buggy lately. What I'm aiming for is getting this thing running as best/smooth as possible (within reason of course :)  ) so that I don't have to fiddle with it for a good long time, as I won't have time or money to do so. That was the reason I was looking at a single 5870 with a extra bit of oomph, for about the same price as a stock one after rebate.

@jryan388 I had considered those cards as well, but I'm really liking the power consumption and temps of ATI right now, but I'll certainly keep it in mind.

Any other thoughts or advice?
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:27:27 AM

The HDD isn't 3Gb/s, that's the limit of the connector (SATA), most mechanical HDD's can't touch that.
Since it's a WD at 500GB it should be fairly recent.

First of all, get the latest Catalyst (ATi graphics drivers) from their website, overclock the 5850, 850MHz core should be easy, with 925MHz+ pretty frequent.

Overclocking the Core-i7 930 to 3.4Ghz should be easy with that cooler, with 3.8GHz being a good goal.
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September 15, 2010 3:41:37 AM

Mmkay, I'll try doing that before anything else, bit by bit since its my first time.

Can any of you guys recommend a good beginner's guide for overclocking, both for CPU and GPU? I'm sure you get lots of newbies here, but I just want to emphasize the astounding limits of my newby-ness (newbitude? newbissity? hmm..).

The only BIOS stuff I've done was activating XMP for my RAM, so zero experience.

I'm running 10.8 (according to MSI Afterburner: 8.14.10.0775) which I think is the newest.
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:50:44 AM

Well, heavy file seeking (the weak point of Mech drives) will cause a hiccup now and then.

A moderate OC on a i5/i7 is fairly easy. If you'd like help ask, and also check out the OC forum. The best OC I'd done prior to my i5 were a few 200MHz OCes that were probably unstable, and you see what I got with my i5 (and as a side note, 1.15V is below stock voltage!). My temps still stay below 60C (Hyper 212+), though an i7 will run a little hotter.

Are your GPU clocks 725/1000? Should be able to do (in CCC) 775/1125 with no issue (and little effort).
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a c 174 U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:51:44 AM

Crow to crowe, Id say your CPU does not need to be overclocked at all, there is no way that would be the cause of lag/stuttering in games. It sounds more like an issue where the hard drive cant keep up, or there is a problem between the game software, and your particular hardware/drivers, that maybe a patch, driver update or config tweak may fix. Some people report stuttering on quad core cpu's and fix this by changing processor affinity in task manager to 2 cores. You could disable any programs running in background/anti virus (would disconnect from internet before disabling Antivirus though). You could try drop the resolution and turn off AA in games to see if that removes the stuttering, if that helps, it points to a video card power limitation. If you drop the texture settings to low, and that helps, it may be that your hard drive cant feed the amount of data that is required, or that the GPU is running out of memory. Anyway, point is, there are lots of simple things you should try before upgrading your rig, which may not even fix the problem.
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 3:59:39 AM

For GPU OC, just slide up the sliders in Afterburner, then Kombuster test it. You shouldn't be able to control voltages on that HIS however, which is good as all you have to worry about is the clocks and temps, but bad as 900MHz is more or less your limit.

For the CPU you'll have to mess with the FSB in the BIOS, there should be plenty of guides in the OC forum to help you though.


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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 4:03:43 AM

Not every RAM module supports the Intel XMP (extreme memory profile).. Be sure to turn it ON after knowing for sure that your G-Skill modules support it or not.. As for upgrading, a single HD 5850 can handle any game out there at 1680 x 1050 pretty smoothly.. At these resolutions and above, the CPU seizes to be a dominant factor anyway.. So, it all comes down to the GPU.. I don't see any reason yet for you to add another 5850 or change over to a higher number video card.. If you are really looking to spend, then purchasing a SSD as said by others will give you more efficient results.. As for overclocking, you can post your query in the 'Overaclocking' section and get some good advice.. Btw, you wont need to pull your CPU too far.. A decent overclock till 3.2~3.4 GHz should be enough.. You can achieve that by simply adjusuting the FSB frequency in the BIOS.. No need to change any other setting as well..
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September 15, 2010 4:18:26 AM

Crow to Crowe: The best things I've found to remove the stuttering are lowering textures from ultra to High on certain aspects (lets say, running with half of the settings on each), turning down AA and AF, disabling SSAO and/or volumetric effects and distortions, and things like that, which is why I figured it to be a GPU limitation. Does that sound right? My resolution is 1680x1050. As far as I know, I have the latest patches/drivers for everything (10.8 Catalyst drivers included).

@Emperus I checked with G.Skill on their forums before doing anything in the BIOS, they assured me my model supports XMP in order to get it running to the correct frequencies and CAS latencias (was running 1066 and CAS 8, got it 1333 and CAS 7 as it should be).

If overclocking my CPU a bit will help (with low risk, like I said, I can't afford to be melting stuff now :p ) then I'll try going in that direction, as well as stepping up the 5850 in Afterburner.

With Kombuster, is there any score/result that I should be looking for? I've never done it.
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a c 174 U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 8:30:20 AM

it looks to be a GPU limitation, but still could be the hard drive not keeping up, or even overloading the video ram. I think there is a program you can get that keeps track of VRAM, maybe someone else here will know? But by your testing it doesnt seem to be CPU related. The best thing to do would be to do some benchmarking and compare to other people with the same gfx card running at the same settings on the games your having issues with.
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 12:04:05 PM

A lot of programs read the VRam (GPU-Z for one) on NVidia cards, however the ATI drivers do not supply the info to third party apps, so I do not know if one would be available (at least directly) to track VRam.
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September 15, 2010 12:31:13 PM

I downloaded Kombustor and played around with the clocks a bit. I'm at school now but if memory serves, I think I topped out at around 775/1100 (Afterburner wouldn't let me bump beyond that, which probably means I shouldn't be going there). Ran Kombustor at MSAAx8, full screen (1680x1050), with both of those switches on (Extreme burning and something or other, can't remember). I did notice that I only had options for OpenGl 2 and 3, whereas I read online that people use DirectX10 and 11 as well. They weren't even grayed out in mine, just didn't show at all. Is there a reason for that?

Either way, had the same performance on each just about. After about 5 minutes performance plateaus at 39 frames/s, at 62-63C (fan running at 66% or so, generally 5% above what the temp is in celsius), I let it run longer of course but it doesn't really twitch. The one exception is EVERY time I run Kombustor with any kind of overclock, at around 9 minutes frames drop to 22ish, and temps start going back down. Hitting ESC, rather than exiting the test, makes it work again (i.e. frames back to 39, temps creep back to 63-64 and stay). Hitting ESC after that exits the test as it normally does. Did this four or five times, happens every time. Why would it suddenly stop, and why would hitting ESC do that?

For comparison, tests at stock consistently showed 32-33 frames/s at these settings, with temps at 60-61C.

Let me know what you guys think!

EDIT: now that I remember, I had my speakers on during the testing, and several times my speakers 'click', like when you click a link on IE or Firefox and it takes you to a new website. Did this even when all browsers were closed and nothing is running except RealTemp, Afterburner and Kombustor. RealTemp after the test shows CPU temps at just a hair above what it normally idles, with the peak (5-10 degrees above idle) roughly matching that point when the test slows down, and fixes after hitting ESC. Beyond me..
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a b U Graphics card
September 15, 2010 1:14:03 PM

You have to go into the config file for Afterburner and set "allow unofficial overclocking" to go higher as the card tries to stop you at 775/1125. If you don't want to bypass that limit, you can just use Overdrive in Catalyst Control Center, and then the card will still downclock. CCC has the same 775/1125 limit (the official OC limit).
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September 15, 2010 1:30:12 PM

I'll give that a shot next, when I get home today. Realistically, how far should I be able to get with the settings? I'll obviously play with it myself but just wondering what I can expect. Coupled with that question, at what point am I putting my GPU at risk? Is it purely a temperature thing? Or are there other things going on that, even if I can keep it cool, I might still be damaging it if overclocked too high?

Anyone have any ideas for that weird effect I mentioned during Kombustor testing? Or the lack of DirectX10 and 11 testing?
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September 16, 2010 5:51:32 PM

Anybody? I'd like to figure out what causes that slowdown before I try to increase voltages or anything.
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September 22, 2010 11:59:32 PM

Best answer selected by crow305.
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a c 273 U Graphics card
September 23, 2010 12:30:17 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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