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Best bang for buck: AM3 motherboard with DDR3 or faster Phenom II

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December 15, 2011 8:05:54 AM

My computer currently consists of am AM2+ Gigabyte motherboard with 1066 mhz DDR2 and HTT 3.0. CPU is a 3.1 GHz 2 core BE Phenom II unlocked to 4 core and OC'd to 3.7 ghz. FSB and HTT (I know people say HTT OC speed does not matter, but it was more stable with the HT matching NB) at 12x refclk, or 2400 mhz. The system so configured is 24h stable on Prime95 (mix).

The computer is not quite up to the task with regard to my favorite game, but the GPU utilization is 50%, with one of the CPU cores close to 100%, leading me to believe the bottleneck is the cpu/ram system.

For about $150, I can get either an AM3 mobo with DDR3 and HT 3.1, or I can get a 3.6 GHz BE cpu which I can probably overclock to 4.2 or so (guessing).

Which will give the bigger bang for the buck? My thought is CPU, but I thought I would ask first.

EDIT: Corrected an error I made with regard to HTT version numbers.

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December 15, 2011 8:22:33 AM
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you will see absolute 0% increase by changing to ddr3 and a new motherboard, ram speed is not a bottleneck for anything until you start dropping below 600mhz. between 800mhz and 1600mhz you may get 1-2 fps increase. If you want an upgrade from what you already have, a few more cpu mhz or faster ram is not going to do the trick. Change platform, go Intel, and dont waste more money on an AMD system. What game are you having trouble with? a 3.7ghz PII x4 should play anything you can throw at it. Please list your full PC specs and the game your trying to play, maybe there is something else wrong with your system.
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December 15, 2011 12:02:48 PM

As iam2thecrowe said, switching to an Intel Build would be the smart move. Don't sink any more money into AMD.

Switch over to a Z68 motherboard, a nice i3-2100 and 4GB of DDR3 1333 or 1600MHz and your set then for a number of years. Upgrade paths following that include i5, i7, IvyBridge and of course just swap out the graphics card if you ever required even more juice and add more/faster RAM if you feel its a limiting factor.

i3-2100 - $124
4GB (2x2GB) RAM 1333MHz - $20
Z68 motherboard - $100

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December 15, 2011 2:05:49 PM

Ascaris said:
The computer is not quite up to the task with regard to my favorite game, but the GPU utilization is 50%, with one of the CPU cores close to 100%, leading me to believe the bottleneck is the cpu/ram system


to me it looks like poor coding of the game (single threaded)...

what game is it?
December 15, 2011 2:06:38 PM

Ascaris said:
The computer is not quite up to the task with regard to my favorite game, but the GPU utilization is 50%, with one of the CPU cores close to 100%, leading me to believe the bottleneck is the cpu/ram system


to me it looks like poor coding of the game (single threaded)...

what game is it?
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December 15, 2011 4:24:47 PM

phenom 2 x4 980 is the best that amd have in am3, which is still behind intel's 2400
but 980 will be more than enough, and is priced around your budget

so cpu will upgrade will fit in your budget
but to be future proof you need to expand your budget and get intel's sandy bridged (i5-2500 or so) and new board for now.
December 15, 2011 4:42:06 PM

It's RIFT, and yes, it appears to be badly coded. It does utilize the other cores, but their usage goes up to about 25% while the main one goes up much higher. Low frame rates are a big complaint there. Even high-end Sandy Bridge systems with 590s have been reported to have marginal frame rates at times (and I know no AMD system is even going to come close to that).

I know Intel is the way to go, but I was trying to get away as cheaply as possible. At least now I know that the am3 motherboard is a waste of money. Thanks!
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December 15, 2011 5:37:48 PM

What GPU do you have?

Edit: And, how much RAM do you have? If only 2GB, you would probably see some improvement going to 4GB.
December 16, 2011 11:50:10 AM

I have 4 gb of RAM.

GPU is a Nvidia GTX550Ti at 1035 mhz (900 spec; 950 as implemented by MSI). I usually had gone with the usual pattern of AMD GPUs with AMD systems, but by all reports, RIFT does not like the AMD graphics cards much, so I tried the Nvidia, and I have not been disappointed.

The UI in the graphic settings menu lists which options load the GPU and which the CPU as well as the GPU... I can (and have) increased the "GPU intensive" ones to maximum with no discernible change in frame rates (it does, though, change the GPU load reported by RivaTuner, not surprisingly). Even with the highly GPU intensive settings set to max, GPU load stays in the 50% range.

The "CPU intensive" settings do slow the frame rate, though... so I conclude that it is CPU/RAM bottlenecked rather than GPU bottlenecked. The main thread cpu core does not go all the way to 100%, though. It goes to about 90%, sometimes a bit less, even though frame rates are in the 20s.

Thanks for the help!
December 23, 2011 11:05:29 AM

Best answer selected by Ascaris.
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