Hi, I'm looking at upgrading my current system since I believe most parts in this rig are now ~2.5 years old. My budget is £400 (note: not $), and as far as I can see, that leaves me with 2 options. Upgrading the "core" MB/CPU/RAM or buying a top of the line GPU, and I'm looking at opinions as to which one to go with.
My current system is:
4GB DDR2 RAM
all at default clocks. My MB does not support SLI so don't suggest it.
I usually game with FPS's, although at the moment RIFT has been taking most of my time, and has been having some slowdowns in intense fights. Other than that, it is Source games, Crysis, Dead Space 1/2, Dragon Age 1/2. I play them at 1920x1200 thanks to 2 24"monitors.
I believe my options are:
i5-2500(K? maybe) + MB + 4-8GB RAM
GTX 570/580 (I've had bad experiences with ATI in the past and can't bring myself to choose them anymore)
I'd appreciate any advice as to which would bring me the greater performance in games.
PS: Will I be able to save my RAID 5 array when I switch MBs? It'll be a bit of a hassle if I can't, but I have enough external storage to back everything up if i need to
Wow, I see your dilemma, looking at the CPU and GPU comparison charts on Tom's: The i5 2500K is about twice as fast as your E8400 and a GTX 570 is about twice as fast as your GTX 280. Tough choice.
I don't think you will see all the Rift studdering go away with just doing one or the other, though may be less noticeable. The E8400 is a great little performer, though with the newer games, such as RIFT, you are going to see it's age show, likewise with your GTX 280. RIFT is giving a lot of peoples RIG's fits when they get in the bigger battles.
The least evasive and less down time solution would be upgrading the GPU.
If you could do a total rebuild:
ASUS P8P67 PRO MB could go with MSI P67A-C43 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 if you don't care about SLI (save $50)
4 or 8GB G.Skill RipJaw X C8 or 9
GTX 570 EVGA SC version. you might get by with just a GTX 560 Ti though.
Raid wise, not knowing what kind of raid platform you are on, I will point you at this web page which speaks about raid migration to Intel's new Rapid Storage Technology, which is on the P67 Cougar Point Chipset.
Upgrade your GPU first, to a GTX560 Ti or GTX570. See how that performs. If you decide the rest of your system needs to be upgraded, you won't have wasted your money. The only catch is to make sure your PSU is a quality model of sufficient power to run that card; a decent 500W unit from Antec, Seasonic, Corsair, XFX, or Enermax would be sufficient.
Still, if the slowdowns in RIFT are limited to big battles that are involving a lot more mobs and AI to calculate, a faster CPU might make a bigger difference in that game. FPS titles will more likely benefit from a stronger GPU. Does RIFT use PhysX? What happens to frame rates if you lower the resolution? That can help you determine where the bottleneck is. If lowering the resolution doesn't help (or the dips seem worse), then your CPU is the bottleneck. If the problem eases or goes away, then you have a GPU bottleneck.