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Full system upgrade - starting with the GPU

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February 19, 2011 1:11:23 AM

Hi guys,

Right now I have a E6600 CPU, a 650i-SLi motherboard and a 8800 GTS 640MB GPU.

My current GPU has broken down.

I'm going to buy a new motherboard, CPU (probably something like i5-2500k) and memory sometime in the future, but I haven't really settled for what I want. It could be a month or two before I buy.

The system is primarily with gaming in mind.

In the meantime, I need a new GPU. I'm a little worried that I buy a GPU now, and then when I buy the other components, the GPU has dropped considerably in price or is more or less outdated.

What are your recommendations? Should I worry most about my current system and bottlenecking - and in that case what should I buy? Or should I consider something primarily for my future system, and not worry about the GPU getting outdated?
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February 19, 2011 1:52:00 AM

Get what you need for the resolution you will use with the new build.
A Nvidia replacement will be easier, since you can use the same driver.
At 1080P, GTX560Ti will be very good.
Check that your psu is strong enough.

Prices are currently competitive, don't sweat minor differences.
Price performance constantly gets better, but if you wait, you will wait forever.
I do not expect cards based on 28nm or such to appear until the end of the yeaaqr, if then.
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February 19, 2011 1:56:08 AM

newbourne said:
Hi guys,

Right now I have a E6600 CPU, a 650i-SLi motherboard and a 8800 GTS 640MB GPU.

My current GPU has broken down.

I'm going to buy a new motherboard, CPU (probably something like i5-2500k) and memory sometime in the future, but I haven't really settled for what I want. It could be a month or two before I buy.

The system is primarily with gaming in mind.

In the meantime, I need a new GPU. I'm a little worried that I buy a GPU now, and then when I buy the other components, the GPU has dropped considerably in price or is more or less outdated.

What are your recommendations? Should I worry most about my current system and bottlenecking - and in that case what should I buy? Or should I consider something primarily for my future system, and not worry about the GPU getting outdated?


Personally, what id do, is buy a new GPU now. Both AMD and Nvidia have brought everything they have to the table besides their dual GPU cards, so prices probably wont be dropping much. Also, neither one of them is making a new series until Q4 2011, perhaps into 2012. So a GPU is a very safe investment at the moment. A good GPU id recommend is the GTX 560 if you plan on overclocking. Or you can buy a pre-overclocked 560/ an AMD 6950 if you dont want to OC. You can keep that for 2 months, see how the performance is, then you can upgrade the rest of your components. Perhaps add another card down the road. Id also wait for Bulldozer before buying a CPU. Its supposed to be out by Q2 this year, so not that long of a wait. If your CPU is overclocked you probably wont see much bottlenecking. If it isnt, or you have 2 gigs of RAM, then you might see some. 2 gigs of ram will really hurt if thats the case. Your CPU a stock clocks probably wont hurt much.
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February 19, 2011 9:14:13 AM

Thanks for your great answers, guys!

A couple of follow-up questions:
1. Will Bulldozer bring added gaming performance, or is it just a good idea to wait, so the prizes on e.g. i5-2500k will drop with the added competition?

2. I can get a GTX 560 Twin Frozer II (overclocked) and a 6950 2gb for about the same prize. Wouldn't it give the best performance to go with the 6950 and mod it to 6970? And then maybe overclock it further?

3. I have exactly 2 gigs of ram in the current system. When I upgrade the system, I'll get 4-8 gigs. It makes no sense for me to upgrade my current ram, since it's too expensive and I'm going to change it altogether anyways in a couple of months. Even if I suffer from the 2 gigs of ram, I guess it is still best to go with either GTX 560 or 6950?

4. Would overclocking my current CPU give me a significant boost in gaming performance? If so, do you possibly have a link to a good step-by-step solution?
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February 19, 2011 12:37:06 PM

1) Bulldozer has not yet shown up, even with early benches. There may be less there for the gamer than many are hoping for.
It looks suiited to the multi core market. For gaming, you want two fast cores, 4 at most. Sandy bridge 2500K delivers that. Actually, I suspect bulldozer will be a disappointment. Remember, gamiing performance is almost entirely determined by graphics.
If you can, go 2500K. It will drive any graphics configuration.

2) Get the best single graphics card you feel comfortable paying for. Some games do not do well with multi cards. Unless you have a 2560 x 1600 monitor, or are olanning on triple monitor gaming, then a single card like the GTX560Ti or 6950 will be fine. GTX580 would be the ultimate. Modding a 6950 to 6970 may be possible, but I would not try unless you are certaqin it is a safe procedure. Getting something for nothing has it's appeals, and often pitfalls.

3) The ram on your system is probably DDR2 which is incompatible on current motherboards. Plan on selling it, there is a decent e-bay market.
2gb is definitely too litttle. 4gb at least.

4) To see if an OC of your E6600 would be helpful, run your games at a lower resolution and eye candy. If your FPS improves, the CPU is capable of driving the gpu, and a faster gpu will help. If you get no improvement in FPS, the cpu is your limiting factor. It is possible you have a balanced system, and both cpu and gpu need to be changed.



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February 19, 2011 12:44:29 PM

newbourne said:
Thanks for your great answers, guys!

A couple of follow-up questions:
1. Will Bulldozer bring added gaming performance, or is it just a good idea to wait, so the prizes on e.g. i5-2500k will drop with the added competition?

2. I can get a GTX 560 Twin Frozer II (overclocked) and a 6950 2gb for about the same prize. Wouldn't it give the best performance to go with the 6950 and mod it to 6970? And then maybe overclock it further?

3. I have exactly 2 gigs of ram in the current system. When I upgrade the system, I'll get 4-8 gigs. It makes no sense for me to upgrade my current ram, since it's too expensive and I'm going to change it altogether anyways in a couple of months. Even if I suffer from the 2 gigs of ram, I guess it is still best to go with either GTX 560 or 6950?

4. Would overclocking my current CPU give me a significant boost in gaming performance? If so, do you possibly have a link to a good step-by-step solution?


1. Nobody really knows what BD will bring as far as performance. Estimates range from slower all the way to 50% faster. But since its not too far off, it couldn't hurt to wait and see for yourself. Also yes, prices will drop no matter what, and this whole chipset problem will be sorted out completely. Also, by then, the Z68 chipset will be out for SB.

2. If you are confident in your ability to flash the 6950 into a 6970 then that is a good alternative. However I've heard AMD is trying to stop the whole thing, so you never know if it will actually work for you. I'll go dig up some benchmarks of the 6950 2gb, 6970, and GTX 560 both stock and overclocked.

3. Well 2 gigs will definitely hold any modern cards for most games. That doesn't mean that you should buy a cheap card, you just won't see all the benefits. I've heard of a way to use the OS to recognize 2 gigs as more, I'll look that up for you too.

4. Your biggest bottle neck is the RAM, so overclocking the CPU might not help things much. Couldn't hurt to try though...
a b U Graphics card
February 19, 2011 9:14:18 PM

ares1214 said:
1. Nobody really knows what BD will bring as far as performance. Estimates range from slower all the way to 50% faster. But since its not too far off, it couldn't hurt to wait and see for yourself. Also yes, prices will drop no matter what, and this whole chipset problem will be sorted out completely. Also, by then, the Z68 chipset will be out for SB.

2. If you are confident in your ability to flash the 6950 into a 6970 then that is a good alternative. However I've heard AMD is trying to stop the whole thing, so you never know if it will actually work for you. I'll go dig up some benchmarks of the 6950 2gb, 6970, and GTX 560 both stock and overclocked.

3. Well 2 gigs will definitely hold any modern cards for most games. That doesn't mean that you should buy a cheap card, you just won't see all the benefits. I've heard of a way to use the OS to recognize 2 gigs as more, I'll look that up for you too.

4. Your biggest bottle neck is the RAM, so overclocking the CPU might not help things much. Couldn't hurt to try though...


Speedboost allows you to use flash drives as extra RAM provided they are fast enough, but for games this doesn't help, it helps mostly with render/baking.
Windows already uses the HDD as extra paging space, but that is very slow, unless you have an SSD.
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February 19, 2011 11:00:39 PM

sabot00 said:
Speedboost allows you to use flash drives as extra RAM provided they are fast enough, but for games this doesn't help, it helps mostly with render/baking.
Windows already uses the HDD as extra paging space, but that is very slow, unless you have an SSD.


I was thinking of speedboost but i remembered that yeah, it wont helping gaming, as it isnt actual RAM.
February 20, 2011 2:25:45 PM

Thanks! Great answers!

So, I consider the following:

1. Radeon 6850 or 6870 or GTX 460, with the plan to buy a second card later on. I'm a bit concerned with the higher power consumption with two cards, though.
2. Radeon 6950 2gb, with the plan to mod it into 6970.
3. Nvidia GTX 560 (price on the 6950 is about the same and a comparison on Anandtech shows 6950 and 6970 as faster in games like Crysis - lower in games like Civilization V - I play both, but at the moment I mostly play Black Ops).

So, my dilemma is the following: Should I buy a cheap card like a 6850 or GTX 460, and then, if it shows to be too slow in about a year, just switch it with a new card? Or, can I rely on the fact that a card like GTX 560 or 6970 will be fast enough for whatever games are coming the next 3 years time?

So, cheaper and more easily replaceable, or more expensive and (hopefully) more long lasting? What do you guys suggest?

I've also decided to put an additional 2 gigs of ram in my current system. It is apparently not as expensive as I thought, and before I go out and invest in a new system, I'd like to see how big a difference 2 extra gigs of ram will make.

I'm a total noob when it comes to choosing ram, though, and I have no idea what will work together with my current ram. I have an Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard with 4 slots available and 2x1gb of Crucial Ballistix ram. It seems to be DDR2 PC2-6400 400 MHz, but I only seem to be able to find DDR2 PC2-6400 800 MHz ram out there. Does it matter? Would a 1x2gb be compatible with my current 2x1gb? Can you guys suggest what I should buy? Link?
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February 20, 2011 3:08:55 PM

newbourne said:
Thanks! Great answers!

So, I consider the following:

1. Radeon 6850 or 6870 or GTX 460, with the plan to buy a second card later on. I'm a bit concerned with the higher power consumption with two cards, though.
2. Radeon 6950 2gb, with the plan to mod it into 6970.
3. Nvidia GTX 560 (price on the 6950 is about the same and a comparison on Anandtech shows 6950 and 6970 as faster in games like Crysis - lower in games like Civilization V - I play both, but at the moment I mostly play Black Ops).

So, my dilemma is the following: Should I buy a cheap card like a 6850 or GTX 460, and then, if it shows to be too slow in about a year, just switch it with a new card? Or, can I rely on the fact that a card like GTX 560 or 6970 will be fast enough for whatever games are coming the next 3 years time?

So, cheaper and more easily replaceable, or more expensive and (hopefully) more long lasting? What do you guys suggest?

I've also decided to put an additional 2 gigs of ram in my current system. It is apparently not as expensive as I thought, and before I go out and invest in a new system, I'd like to see how big a difference 2 extra gigs of ram will make.

I'm a total noob when it comes to choosing ram, though, and I have no idea what will work together with my current ram. I have an Asus P5N-E SLI motherboard with 4 slots available and 2x1gb of Crucial Ballistix ram. It seems to be DDR2 PC2-6400 400 MHz, but I only seem to be able to find DDR2 PC2-6400 800 MHz ram out there. Does it matter? Can you guys suggest what I should buy? Link?


:lol:  At the RAM part. You are probably look at like CPU Z or something, where it says 400 MHz. What you have to remember is that you need to multiply that by 2, since its DDR2 RAM :lol:  So you have 800 MHz RAM, DDR2, 2x1 Gb, d recommend this:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Ironically, 4GB of DDR3 RAM only costs like $10 more, but that doesnt really matter. As for the GPU, its always better to buy 1 really strong GPU and use it for 3 years then to buy a weaker one expecting to add a second one 1.5 years down the road. So id say dont get a weaker card, get a stronger card, and when you need more FPS, then add a second one to that, or get a replacement single GPU card. Cards 3 years from now will likely be something around 2-3x faster than current cards, so you just have to judge it as it comes. So the choice is betweem the GTX 560 and the 6950 2 GB flashed into a 6970 for you.
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February 20, 2011 3:15:04 PM

For your information, COD Black Ops favors Nvidia a little bit:



However, the FPS are already above 60 FPS, so it doesnt really matter. Im assuming 1920x1080 is your resolution, but it might not be, so please tell us this. Civ 5 with tesselation favors Nvidia as well. Crysis on the other hand just favors raw shader power, so your AMD card should get slightly higher. However for most of these games, the FPS will be far above 30 FPS, so it doesnt matter too much.
February 20, 2011 3:23:11 PM

Thanks, man!

Does it matter whether it's CL5, CL6, CL7 and so on? Would I be able to add 1x2gb, to the existing 2x1gb, if it for some reason is cheaper where I live?

In this article it appears that 4gb of DDR3 ram is just as good as e.g. 12gb, when it comes to gaming. Is that also the case with DDR2?
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ram-memory-upgrade,2778-8.html

So, what would your choice be - GTX 560 or Radeon 6950 (6970) 2gb? :) 
February 20, 2011 3:25:02 PM

Resolution is 1920x1200.
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February 20, 2011 3:30:14 PM

newbourne said:
Thanks, man!

Does it matter whether it's CL5, CL6, CL7 and so on? Would I be able to add 1x2gb, to the existing 2x1gb, if it for some reason is cheaper where I live?

In this article it appears that 4gb of DDR3 ram is just as good as e.g. 12gb, when it comes to gaming. Is that also the case with DDR2?

So, what would your choice be - GTX 560 or Radeon 6950 (6970) 2gb? :) 


Your allowed to mix and match, but then it would run in single channel mode, not dual channel. And yes, gaming rarely needs more than 4 gigs. But in real world scenarios, if you have programs running in the background, i think 6 gigs is more of the sweetspot. In fact, you can get 8 gig for an extremely low price these days. And between the 560 and 6970. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you like to have all the eye candy like tesselation and Physx, or do you like just more FPS (which you may or may not be able to notice). Do you care about power consumption and heat? Are you willing to OC these cards to the max?

BTW, the lower the CAS Latency (CL) the faster the RAM. At 800 MHz, go for CL4 or CL5.
February 20, 2011 4:17:47 PM

Great, thanks!

Of course I don't wanna invest too much money in RAM for my current system, if it's only a couple of monts before I buy DDR3.

So, just to get it right:
1. If my current RAM e.g. is CL5, they'd still be fully compatible with e.g. CL4?
2. If I choose to get a total of 6gb, would I be able to supplement the existing 2x1gb with 2x2gb with no loss in performance?

As for the GPUs, I'm willing to OC, as long as it doesn't require additional cooling. It seems like not too many games use Physx, so offhand I consider FPS more important, also for future games (which I guess will be more and more demanding). Still, I think it's super hard to tell if 560 or 6970 will do best in future games - I mean, 560 is a lot behind in e.g. Crysis, but 6970 is a lot behind in e.g. Civilization V, even though CivV doesn't seem to use Physx.

BTW, I was looking at CPU Z earlier :lol: 
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February 20, 2011 4:43:06 PM

I'd get the HD 6950 2GB for 10-15$ more than the GTX 560 Ti. Or get a GTX460 1GB (or a HD 6850, it's cheaper but a little hotter and not as much overclockable as the GTX 460's) and add another one later on.
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February 20, 2011 8:31:12 PM

Mismatched ram will operate at the lowest common denominator of specs. If at all. Better to wait on upgrading ram, unless you don't mind reselling it later.
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February 20, 2011 8:49:20 PM

geofelt said:
Whoa!!! DDR2 and DDR3 ram is not compatible. The slots are keyed differently.

If you want to upgrade your current system, get the same ram that is already in it. Mismatched ram will operate at the lowest common denominator of specs. If at all. Better to wait on upgrading ram, unless you don't mind reselling it later.


Where do you see mixing of DDR3 and DDR2 RAM?
February 20, 2011 9:59:58 PM

unknown_13 said:
How much?

Well, the price is in Danish currency, but it has the same price as a Radeon 6870.
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February 20, 2011 10:38:15 PM

ares1214 said:
Where do you see mixing of DDR3 and DDR2 RAM?

My bad; post edited.
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February 21, 2011 8:11:09 PM

If it was the same price as the HD 6870 then it's good choice.
!