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What to upgrade - my cpu and everything or just my graphics?

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November 4, 2011 1:08:29 PM

Hi everyone, new to the forums here,

I'm pretty sure my computer is dying. And it's getting spanked by newer technology - meaning, that I can't even play Bad Company 2 or Black Ops on the lowest settings because I'm dropping tons of frames. Here are my specs right now:

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1Ghz
ATI Radeon HD 4850
4gb RAM
on an old ECS P4M900T-M motherboard

So my question is: could I expect a big enough performance boost to play Battlefield 3 with high settings if I upgrade my graphics card to an ATI Radeon HD 6870? Obviously, this solution is for my budget, to keep things relatively simple and low in cost. Or should I expect that now is about the time to upgrade my CPU to an i5 or a Phenom II, which requires a new motherboard, which also requires new RAM? If I do the whole computer upgrade I'll be saving for months.

If you'd say that only upgrading my graphics will not give me the performance boost I'm looking for, what do you all think of the following list:

AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition 3.5Ghz
ASUS M4A87TD EVO AMD 870
8gb G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3 1600
while keeping my older ATI Radeon HD 4850

Thanks!

More about : upgrade cpu graphics

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November 4, 2011 1:11:15 PM

Well... You would notice a nice bump in FPS with a 6870 from the 4850 that you have. But as you can see, the BF3 is GPU munching game! And it is a GPU dependent game not a CPU. Although both need an upgrade!
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November 4, 2011 1:14:43 PM

I would say upgrade both. I have the AMD 970 and love it. Have it paired with dual 6950 2gb cards and the game runs amazing.
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November 4, 2011 1:18:04 PM

Upgrading the graphics card should be first priority. It would give you the greatest performance boost.

With that said, you really need to upgrade the rest of your system too.


For budget purposes, I would upgrade the graphics card.
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November 4, 2011 1:26:55 PM

Yeah, I want to upgrade my entire system so badly. It just doesn't compare with the new stuff coming out from Intel and AMD now. But Christmas is right around the corner....I wonder how many NewEgg gift cards I can get from family.....

And if I spend the close to $200 on a new gpu now, that means I still have to put up with my old motherboard and cpu for a while.
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a c 345 à CPUs
November 4, 2011 1:27:32 PM

I think you have a relatively well balanced system.
But, to help clarify your options, run these two tests:

a) Run your games, but lower your resolution and eye candy.
If your FPS increases, it indicates that your cpu is strong enough to drive a better graphics configuration.

b) Limit your cpu, either by reducing the OC, or, in windows power management, limit the maximum cpu% to something like 70%.
If your FPS drops significantly, it is an indicator that your cpu is the limiting factor, and a cpu upgrade is in order.

It is possible that both tests are positive, indicating that you have a well balanced system, and both cpu and gpu need to be upgraded to get better gaming FPS.

Here are the BF3 requirements:
Minimum System Requirements
OS: Windows Vista (Service Pack 2) 32-Bit
Processor: 2 GHz Dual Core (Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHZ or Althon X2 2.7 GHz)
Memory: 2 GB
Hard Drive: 20 GB
Graphics Card (AMD): DirectX 10.1 compatible with 512 MB RAM (ATI RADEON 3000, 4000, 5000 OR 6000 series, with ATI RADEON 3870 or higher performance)
Graphics Card (NVIDIA): DirectX 10.0 compatible with 512 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE 8, 9, 200, 300, 400 OR 500 series with NVIDIA GEFORCE 8800 GT or higher performance)
Sound card : DirectX compatible
Keyboard and Mouse
DVD ROM Drive

Recommended System Requirements
OS: Windows 7 64-Bit
Processor: Quad-Core CPU
Memory: 4 GB
Hard Drive: 20 GB
Graphics Card: DirectX 11 compatible with 1024 MB RAM (NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 560 or ATI RADEON 6950)
Sound Card: DirectX compatible
Keyboard and Mouse
DVD ROM Drive

No doubt, you will do better with a stronger graphics card. It would not be wrong to upgrade that now, and plan on carrying it forward to an eventual new build.
I might try to go a bit stronger, to a 6950 or GTX560ti.

Phenom X4 is OK with a constrained budget. But, today, sandy bridge 2500K is a much stronger and longer lasting cpu. No telling what ivy bridge will bring next quarter. If your tests conclude that a stronger cpu is in order, I would go that route, and see what the 28nm graphics cards offer, again, in the next quarter.
Is your current psu adequate to do that?
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November 4, 2011 1:39:21 PM

Thanks a lot geofelt. That's a lot of good info, and I'll take a look at those tests - issue is, I'm already running at lowest settings and eye candy, and I'm still dropping a ton of frames.

And no, if I need to upgrade my cpu, my psu is not adequate to handle the necessary motherboard, gpu, and ram, so I'll be upgrading that too. Basically I'm looking at an entirely new build except keeping my 4850.
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a c 345 à CPUs
November 4, 2011 1:52:18 PM

stwaltemyer said:
Thanks a lot geofelt. That's a lot of good info, and I'll take a look at those tests - issue is, I'm already running at lowest settings and eye candy, and I'm still dropping a ton of frames.

And no, if I need to upgrade my cpu, my psu is not adequate to handle the necessary motherboard, gpu, and ram, so I'll be upgrading that too. Basically I'm looking at an entirely new build except keeping my 4850.


I suspect you are correct, and that a cpu upgrade is in order.

If you are shopping, microcenter offers a 2500K to walk-ins for$180.
A Z68 based micro-atx motherboard is <$100, and a 8gb kit of ddr3 1600 ram is about $45.
Look for pre black friday sales.

Initially, your current psu will do. The psu you need is almost entirely based on the needs of the graphics card.
Here is what EVGA recommends for psu's:
GTX550ti needs 400w with 24a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX560 needs 450w with 24a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX560Ti needs 500w with 30a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX570 needs 550w with 38a on the 12v rails plus two 6-pin PCI-E power leads.

GTX580 needs 600w with 42a on the 12v rails plus one 6-pin and one 8-pin PCI-E power lead.

GTX590 needs 700w with 50a on the 12v rails plus two 8-pin PCI-E power leads or 4 6-pin power leads.
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a c 190 à CPUs
November 4, 2011 2:33:47 PM

geofelt is right on the upgrade path. I personally like this tool http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp for finding the low end on the PSU (Power Supply Unit) that is needed for your build. There are some great deals out there right now.

Christian Wood
Intel Enthusiast Team
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a c 345 à CPUs
November 4, 2011 2:51:21 PM

IntelEnthusiast said:
geofelt is right on the upgrade path. I personally like this tool http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp for finding the low end on the PSU (Power Supply Unit) that is needed for your build. There are some great deals out there right now.

Christian Wood
Intel Enthusiast Team


One of the better psu calculators I have seen.

My main problem with them, in general, is that they are no better than the input you give them.
In particular, the numbers for cpu load, utilization, capacity aging, are unknowable for most users.

Since a bit of overprovisioning of a psu is not such a bad thing, I think a good old fashioned ROT(ten?) or Rule Of Thumb serves better.
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November 4, 2011 5:43:53 PM

Thanks for all of the suggestions everyone. It looks like I'll be trying to upgrade most of my system in the near future.

Now, as a second question, what do you think of the equipment I listed in the first post? Where would you rate those components for high-end gaming? I know that the Intel i5's and i7's would be better, but, what do you think of those AMD Phenoms at the higher end (like the 970)? And do you think a cpu and ram upgrade like that will show me the performance boost I'm looking for while keeping my old 4850?
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a c 345 à CPUs
November 4, 2011 8:55:46 PM

Gaming performance is largely determined by the graphics card.
But... you need at least two or three fast cores to drive a good card.
In your case, I suspect that even a sandy bridge i3-2100 duo or less would be enough to drive a 4850.

Read this article on <$200 gaming cpu's. The tests were done with a GTX460 which is stronger than your 4850.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu-cor...

I am not much a fan of the current amd offerings so far as great performance is concerned; they do not seem to be as productive per clock compared to the intel cpu's.
They do offer decent value in workloads that are multithreaded. If you can budget a 2500K, nothing is better today,regardless of how strong the graphics configuration is, and likely for a while.
If you can't, then carefully balance cpu and gpu and be satisfied.
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a b à CPUs
November 4, 2011 9:03:28 PM

It's time to upgrade to an i5, NOT a Phenom. That is all.
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