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Is my cpu holding me back?

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September 29, 2011 8:04:29 PM

Ok to start off, here are the specs. I have done a fair bit of research so I apologize in advance for the long write up.

-AMD phenom II x2 555 @ 3.2ghz
-7 gigs pc6400 DDR2 RAM(not sure on the timings)
-eVGA geforce 560ti 1 gig model with 275.33 drivers(900mhz core clock, 1800mhz Shader, 2106mhz Memory clock)
-600 Watt PSU with 48amps to 12v
-750gig 7200rpm HDD(not sure on cache speed)
-Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
-All games being played at 1080p and max settings
-Motherboard does not support overclocking or unlocking of the extra 2 cores.

I had my 8800gt for a little over 4 years and I have to say the performance / price ratio was just spot on. After playing Metro 2033 and seeing that I couldn’t run the thing past high settings @ 1280*720, I realized it was time for a new card upgrade.
I installed the card, got rid of the old drivers completely, installed the newest drivers, and got to work on my testing. Basically I found the results to be hit or miss. Below are the games that I tested.

-Metro2033: Average fps is in the 30’s to 40’s depending on the lighting, sometimes dropping down to the teens when lighting gets really heavy especially in the library section. DX11 effects are turned on except for DOF. I had run the Metro benchmark using the same settings I used with my 8800gt and the results with the 560ti showed a vast improvement over the 8800gt, especially in max framerate. GPU usage even when the fps dips is still hovering in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s with no signs of down-clocking. Comparing to benchmarks on this site show that I am indeed showing similar numbers

-Crysis 2: Demo ran like mud on my 8800gt with anything above 720p and very high(used to be advanced). My new card runs the full game comfortably at 1080p and very high with some slowdown on extreme. Let’s not even discuss Ultra as that setting makes me crawl in certain spots. This is the first game I noticed my gpu usage dropping when the fps drops. With good fps my usage seems to peak about 70% but if my fps dips to the 20’s, then so will my gpu usage. Metro2033 has similar drops all the time but as said above my usage never dips below 80%. Checked task manager and the cpu hovers around 70 percent for all cores.

-Crysis: Still runs like mud, in fact it seems like the performance hasn’t increased much over the 8800gt. Depending on the action and what not I am usually netting 20’s to low 30’s, but heavy shooting and buildings getting blown up will lower to teens. I ran the built in benchmark and was getting some respectable minimums and averages, but that was only the first jungle level. From what I understand Crysis only uses 2 cores, so perhaps a dual core just isn’t strong enough to supply enough power to the card?

-Borderlands: Now this one is the weirdest and I have run out of options. Game will run solid 60+ fps at 1080p and max settings EXCEPT dynamic shadows. The moment I turn that on I can dip into the 30’s at some points . The DLC sections are the worst, dipping into the 20’s or lower when looking out towards the town at the beginning of Robot Revolution or Knoxx’s armory. While keeping dynamic shadows on I can lower resolution and lower all other settings and my fps would remain unchanged. The moment I turn dynamic shadows off, my fps goes back to solid 60+. Needless to say I am getting the EXACT fps that my 8800gt was getting. Task manager shows 1 core taking a beating, while the other is about half. GPU usage in this title is crap usually around 40%. I have been told that UE3 is really cpu hungry so my dual core in combination with my card just might not be up to snuff with this title.

-Battlefield BC2: I am almost positive my cpu is holding me back here. With my 8800gt I was averaging 20-40 fps depending on the situation with high preset, except I had to disable HBAO since it created some horrendous mouse lag. With my new card I get the exact same performance even with a resolution and settings drop. I did notice however that I can now enable a crapton of AA as well as HBAO and not experience the mouse lag. I checked out some benchmarks that compared a Phenom II 555 with a Phenom II x4 at the same clock speed and there a good 20fps increase between the two processors.

Card usage was checked with eVGA precision and GPU-z. No down-clocking was seen in any of the games tested. Temps range from 70-85 Celsius at full load.
I am fairly certain the card isn’t faulty since I have seen improvements in all games with AA involved, not just the ones tested. My other idea is that the cpu is only bottlenecked in a few titles as evident by BC2's lack of an improved framerate, or the mobo is a piece of crap. My next upgrade choice is obviously to get a quad core, and if that doesn’t show improvement then I will replace the mobo. If all else fails I guess I could try doing a clean install of Windows since it has been over a year since I formatted last.

If you guys need any more info just let me know. Thanks

More about : cpu holding back

a b à CPUs
September 29, 2011 9:00:20 PM

Yeah, your CPU is creating some bottlenecking issues for you. I would upgrade the mobo first, with one that not only supports ACC (core unlocking) but also one that has support for AM3+. This would be so that in the event you can't unlock your BE's two disabled cores, you could either get an X4, X6. Or you just hold out for a bulldozer CPU and boards when they're on the shelves.
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September 29, 2011 9:21:57 PM

T_T said:
Yeah, your CPU is creating some bottlenecking issues for you. I would upgrade the mobo first, with one that not only supports ACC (core unlocking) but also one that has support for AM3+. This would be so that in the event you can't unlock your BE's two disabled cores, you could either get an X4, X6. Or you just hold out for a bulldozer CPU and boards when they're on the shelves.


Ahh so it is as I feared. I am kinda curious though. Does this mean that I am bottlenecked depending on the type of game in question? Metro seems to be focused on the gpu more than cpu so it saw the biggest improvement, but Crysis and Borderlands seem to want a more even level of cpu and gpu, hence the bottleneck for those games? I might just go the gusto and get a mobo/cpu combo deal and eliminate 2 birds with one stone.
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a b à CPUs
September 29, 2011 10:42:23 PM

All games listed rely heavily on the GPU, but the CPU still needs to process some work, too. If the CPU can't keep up with the GPU, expect to see some less than desirable results.

The GPU is responsible for all things graphical, whereas the CPU is responsible for everything else (player profiles, weapon damage algorithms, etc.) So, your computer can process the map, terrain, lighting, explosions, etc, with the greatest of ease; however, when it comes to putting your player on the map, literally speaking, your CPU is struggling. This is why you still experience lower FPS, despite the 560 Ti.
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a b à CPUs
September 30, 2011 8:06:35 AM

A new motherboard, DDR3 RAM, and a quad-core CPU should eliminate any bottlenecks and will give a noticeable performance increase.

Newer games are making more and more use of the CPU rather than being heavily reliant on GPU power. Deus Ex is a great example of this. http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/deus-ex-human-revolution-...
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a b à CPUs
September 30, 2011 9:53:23 AM

Crysis isn't a highly CPU dependent game, especially while running a mid-range 460 Ti at high resolutions.
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/50

I don't know if I'd get a whole new setup.... I'd just get a 955. You can pick up an OEM at ewiz.com for $105. You should at least get $60 on eBay for the 555. Meaning maybe you can solve your problems for $45.


What mobo do you have? Was there a fresh windows install done after the new card was installed?
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September 30, 2011 10:40:10 AM

It isn't true that the GPU is solely responsible for the graphics. The CPU does a lot of work with rendering. There are many calculations that must be passed to the GPU to render the image.

It all depends on how much money you have to spend. Crysis 1 will not play better with Phenom x4 because it can only use two cores. To be honest, my 2500k at 4.8ghz gets bottlenecked at certain points in crysis believe it or not.

If you only have $100-$200, get a phenom x4. If you have $400-$500 then get a sandy bridge CPU+MOBO+DDR3 because the performance per core is so much better+overclockability.

And please don't listen to advice about getting an AM3+ board just because of Bulldozer. Bulldozer's per core performance will be weak and not much better than Phenom II if at all. It will be a fair bit more overclockable though, but still way behind sandy bridge.

So my advice, Gen3 Z68 motherboard with a 2500k and DDR3.
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a b à CPUs
September 30, 2011 11:16:12 AM

lozz08 said:


And please don't listen to advice about getting an AM3+ board just because of Bulldozer. Bulldozer's per core performance will be weak and not much better than Phenom II if at all. It will be a fair bit more overclockable though, but still way behind sandy bridge.

So my advice, Gen3 Z68 motherboard with a 2500k and DDR3.


I have the same view here. Although i can't "guarantee" it obviously, i think SandyBridge core's will continue to have much more Overclock potential still making them the ideal choice for gamers. Higher Freq > More cores (when considering 4 or more).
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September 30, 2011 1:32:46 PM

Stardude82 said:
Crysis isn't a highly CPU dependent game, especially while running a mid-range 460 Ti at high resolutions.
http://www.anandtech.com/bench/CPU/50

I don't know if I'd get a whole new setup.... I'd just get a 955. You can pick up an OEM at ewiz.com for $105. You should at least get $60 on eBay for the 555. Meaning maybe you can solve your problems for $45.


What mobo do you have? Was there a fresh windows install done after the new card was installed?


MOBO is an MSI-MS748 AM2+. Chipset would be AMD 780G. I have not done a clean install since installing the card, but that is still an option if upgrading the processor does not work.
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September 30, 2011 1:35:48 PM

lozz08 said:
It isn't true that the GPU is solely responsible for the graphics. The CPU does a lot of work with rendering. There are many calculations that must be passed to the GPU to render the image.

It all depends on how much money you have to spend. Crysis 1 will not play better with Phenom x4 because it can only use two cores. To be honest, my 2500k at 4.8ghz gets bottlenecked at certain points in crysis believe it or not.

If you only have $100-$200, get a phenom x4. If you have $400-$500 then get a sandy bridge CPU+MOBO+DDR3 because the performance per core is so much better+overclockability.

And please don't listen to advice about getting an AM3+ board just because of Bulldozer. Bulldozer's per core performance will be weak and not much better than Phenom II if at all. It will be a fair bit more overclockable though, but still way behind sandy bridge.

So my advice, Gen3 Z68 motherboard with a 2500k and DDR3.



Unfortunately I don't have that kind of cash to go Sandy Bridge at this time. From what I have seen on benchmarks, an I7 and a phenom II even out at high resolutions anyway so that is why I am sticking with AMD.
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September 30, 2011 1:44:18 PM

Grab one of these and overclock it a bit if you want. Problem solved-ish for now.
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a b à CPUs
September 30, 2011 2:53:41 PM

I have a 555 too which I've OC'd to 4.2 GHz and it runs pretty much anything. I'm waiting on BD with it :lol: 
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a c 111 à CPUs
September 30, 2011 3:11:12 PM

I think yer motherboard is killing yah, and your memory (How did you get to 7GB?) is messin' with you.

For $80 you can snag an MSI 970A-G45 AM3+ 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3 and add as much qualified RAMs as you wish for $30-$40.

You will be able to over-clock your processor, and quite likely unlock it to a quad if you feel the need for additional cores.

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September 30, 2011 3:48:59 PM

Wisecracker said:
I think yer motherboard is killing yah, and your memory (How did you get to 7GB?) is messin' with you.

For $80 you can snag an MSI 970A-G45 AM3+ 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3 and add as much qualified RAMs as you wish for $30-$40.

You will be able to over-clock your processor, and quite likely unlock it to a quad if you feel the need for additional cores.


MOBO supports up to 16gig of RAM. CPU-z has the ram listed as running in "unganged" mode. Some googling told me this is AMD's equivalent to dual channel if I read it correctly.

As far as overclocking, I never felt comfortable with that. Hell I still feel uncomfortable putting in a graphics card for fear that I might slip and crack something :na: 
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a c 111 à CPUs
September 30, 2011 4:24:48 PM

It's fairly simple to unlock/over-clock a 'BE' processor. Check out Ryan's OC Guide in the AMD section and post up any questions you might have.

Running different stick of RAMs will bork dual-channel. The unganged mode has nothing to do with it.

The integrated memory controller (IMC) on an AMD processor is 128-bit 'ganged' or 2x64-bit 'unganged'. Running 2x64-bit adds stability, and only effects performance in very limited software environments (gaming is not one of them).

I still don't understand how you got to 7GB -- try running the two best sticks you have as recommended in your mobo manual DIMM-slot config for dual-channel (if those sticks are the same make and model).

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a b à CPUs
September 30, 2011 4:26:48 PM

Games aren't THAT CPU dependent in High Resolutions ONLY if the cpu can provide power to feed the videocard, run all the background tasks AND all the games instructions.
Let me tell u a experience of mine.

I had a long time ago a Athlon X2 4400+ OC to almost 2.7Ghz if I remember, with a 9600GT paired.
I played the witcher in 1280x1024 with candy eyes turned on without AA or Anis.

So I upgraded my pc to a E8500.
Result: playing the witcher in 1600x1200 (46% more pixels), with 4x AA + 16x Anis, AND higher FPS.
Well, I believe ALL this gain is not only because my cpu were stronger with games instructions. But it can feed much better my 9600GT.

That happened with a 9600GT, I cant even imagine what could happen with a geforce 560Ti. (Of course ur actual cpu is much stronger than my old x2, but ur new card is much much much stronger than the 9600GT too)
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September 30, 2011 5:49:27 PM

Wisecracker said:
It's fairly simple to unlock/over-clock a 'BE' processor. Check out Ryan's OC Guide in the AMD section and post up any questions you might have.

Running different stick of RAMs will bork dual-channel. The unganged mode has nothing to do with it.

The integrated memory controller (IMC) on an AMD processor is 128-bit 'ganged' or 2x64-bit 'unganged'. Running 2x64-bit adds stability, and only effects performance in very limited software environments (gaming is not one of them).

I still don't understand how you got to 7GB -- try running the two best sticks you have as recommended in your mobo manual DIMM-slot config for dual-channel (if those sticks are the same make and model).


RAM setup is 2x2x2x1. All 4 sticks are DDR2 6400 speed but I guess it would make sense to take it down to 4 gigs for proper dual channel.

EDIT: Ok I now only have only 4 gig running dual channel. CPU-Z still shows unganged dual channel, which was the same as when I had 7gig in. Would you recommend I just leave it 4 gig?
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