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Upgrade path for CPU?

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October 19, 2011 2:53:15 PM

Hi, I have a recent but pretty basic PC, and am trying to gradually turn it into a decent gaming rig. I'm having trouble deciding about my upgrade path. Here are the specs:


Intel Core i3 540 @ 3.07 GHz (stock speed)
Intel DH55TC (LGA 1156) Mobo
Kingston DDR3 4gb RAM
Western Digital 1TB HDD
Radeon 6950 1GB GPU (getting it from Newegg soon)
Antec Earthwatts 650W PSU

Radeon 6950 seems a bit overkill for an i3, right? I'm aware of that. I want to upgrade to a core i5, but I have trouble deciding which would be the most cost/time efficient path. I believe I have like 3 options:


- Get another 1156 mobo, an OC-friendly one, buy a cooling system and OC my i3. I've heard i3 540 is a freaking demon in a puppy disguise, so I might get a good performance like this.

- Keep my current mobo, and buy an i5 760.

- Go Sandy Bridge and buy a 1155 mobo and the core i5 2500k.


I don't intend to future-proof from here on to eternity playing everything at max settings. However, I would like to get something that will give me a good upgrade path and be able to play in few the years to come with playable settings.

I can spend about $200 on a new CPU, hence going i5. I can't afford an i7, specially because in my country these things are expensive. Unless there were VERY good reasons to get an i7 instead, I guess I could keep saving for like another month.


So,
which path should I take? In case of buying a new mobo, any brands/models recommended? Will everything be compatible with everything? (DDR3 RAM, graphics card, mobo, etc)
Or maybe, do you think my current CPU be good with a 6950? I could probably wait some months 'till something better arrives and update by then..

thank you very much in advance!!

More about : upgrade path cpu

October 19, 2011 3:18:56 PM

Hi sibela,

Are you having any problems running recent games? What is prompting you to upgrade?
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 3:19:22 PM

What is your problem?

As a rule, the graphics card is the most important component in a gaming rig, and a 6950 is a very good card. It should give you good performance at 1080P.

I suspect you have a well balanced system, and a simple single component upgrade will not get you what you want.

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.
----------if you need more cpu--------------
If you think you need faster cores, you should be able to OC your cpu even using the Intel motherboard. The last few ghz available from a better board will not be worth it. You may want to get a aftermarket cpu cooler.

If you need more cores, you could sell the 540 and get a i7xxx

If you decide to change the motherboard, then Z67 or P67 is the way to go.
A 2 core 2100 or 4 core 2300 would be an improvement, but for longevity, get a 2500K.
------------if you need more graphics-----------------
In a few months, the 28nm graphics cards should arrive. They should offer more performance at the same current prices.
Start saving because a small upgrade will not be noticed, and you will be disappointed.

If you need more graphics right now, see if you can't find a used GTX580, anything else will not be much of an upgrade.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 3:33:10 PM

Going to anything other than at least an i5-2xxx or i7-9xx will be a waste of money compared to the performance gains (unless you can get a 1156 CPU for dirt cheap from someone who basically wants to toss it).

My suggestion is to wait for Ivy Bridge and and upgrade 6-12 months from now.
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October 19, 2011 4:03:48 PM

blade061188 said:
Hi sibela,

Are you having any problems running recent games? What is prompting you to upgrade?


Hi,

my bad, I forgot to mention something: I don't have my GPU yet, but that's the one I'll be getting soon. I've been told more than once that an i3 540 could bottleneck my GPU, and have been suggested to get a better CPU, hence my thread.

I'd like to play games such as Dead Island, The Witcher 2, Fallout: New Vegas, Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3 once they come out, etc.. at 1080 p for a 23" monitor.

I'll be editing the thread to include these details :) 
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October 19, 2011 4:15:26 PM

geofelt said:
What is your problem?

As a rule, the graphics card is the most important component in a gaming rig, and a 6950 is a very good card. It should give you good performance at 1080P.

I suspect you have a well balanced system, and a simple single component upgrade will not get you what you want.

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.
----------if you need more cpu--------------
If you think you need faster cores, you should be able to OC your cpu even using the Intel motherboard. The last few ghz available from a better board will not be worth it. You may want to get a aftermarket cpu cooler.

If you need more cores, you could sell the 540 and get a i7xxx

If you decide to change the motherboard, then Z67 or P67 is the way to go.
A 2 core 2100 or 4 core 2300 would be an improvement, but for longevity, get a 2500K.
------------if you need more graphics-----------------
In a few months, the 28nm graphics cards should arrive. They should offer more performance at the same current prices.
Start saving because a small upgrade will not be noticed, and you will be disappointed.

If you need more graphics right now, see if you can't find a used GTX580, anything else will not be much of an upgrade.


Thanks for your detailed relpy!

I stupidly forgot to mention, I don't have the GPU yet, but I'm definitely going to get that one. I've been told that my CPU will probably get me bottlenecked and have been suggested to get an i5 or even better if possible, hence the thread. Do you think the setup I've mentioned (i3 540, radeon 6950) would be balanced?

Oh, and can I really OC with my motherboard? I had been told the opposite in this very forum... I must keep researching but it's kinda hard because I often find threads or articles with pretty much opposite opinions xD

what are these 28 nm cards? I'm curious about them, but I don't really think I'd be able to get one. My friend is living in the USA, and he's getting me the 6950. He'll be back in my country by early December though, and something such as a new card model will likely be VERY expensive in here..

I guess I'll be able to know for sure about all of this once I get the GPU and get to play :) 
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:21:55 PM

ONLY thing i would upgrade to is a new MoBo (1155 socket). With that, you should be able to upgrade to either an i5 2500k, or if the performance gains are really that impressive, get an Ivy Bridge after release.

Like previously stated, gpu is #1 for gaming performance, followed by a fast 2-4 core processor. 6 cores is pointless, so an i7 9xx is pointless, and twice the money of the 2600k, and triple my suggested chip, the 2500k.

From what i've been reading and even told in forums, the 1155 socket with a higher end mobo, GEN 3, should house an Ivy Bridge chip. That is my only upgrade suggestion, but certainly not needed at this moment. an i3 is plenty of juice from the cpu for most if not all games with your gpu.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:23:28 PM

i3 will bottleneck a bit, but nothing to shake a stick at for the money you could save up for a better cpu/mobo combo in 2-6 months. This depending on the release of Ivy Bridge/Sandy Bridge e
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:28:42 PM

sibela said:
Thanks for your detailed relpy!

I stupidly forgot to mention, I don't have the GPU yet, but I'm definitely going to get that one. I've been told that my CPU will probably get me bottlenecked and have been suggested to get an i5 or even better if possible, hence the thread. Do you think the setup I've mentioned (i3 540, radeon 6950) would be balanced?

Oh, and can I really OC with my motherboard? I had been told the opposite in this very forum... I must keep researching but it's kinda hard because I often find threads or articles with pretty much opposite opinions xD

what are these 28 nm cards? I'm curious about them, but I don't really think I'd be able to get one. My friend is living in the USA, and he's getting me the 6950. He'll be back in my country by early December though, and something such as a new card model will likely be VERY expensive in here..

I guess I'll be able to know for sure about all of this once I get the GPU and get to play :) 


You should be very pleased with a 6950.
Read the newegg feedback comments on newegg for your motherboard. At least one user reported a nice OC so it should be possible.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
At the very least, see how you do with your new 6950.

A inexpensive aftermarket cpu cooler will help with a OC.
In the US, Xigmatek gaia or cm hyper212 are about $30. They have quiet 120mm fans, don't gat a cooler with a smaller fan.

Nobody really knows what the 28nm die shrink will bring. You can expect better performance for the price, lower power requirements, and less heat.
It is unlikely that anything will be available before 1Q 2012. Not much sense in waiting.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:31:24 PM

Read some forums on "unlocking" the 6950 too. There are people posting it unlocking to a 6970.
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October 19, 2011 4:39:04 PM

Quote:
Read some forums on "unlocking" the 6950 too. There are people posting it unlocking to a 6970.


Careful though, This is for reference designs only. There is currently only one 6950 on newegg that is confirmed unlockable by it's reviewers.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=14-102-...

If you flash 6970 BIOS on a non-reference card, you could brick your GPU, and you really don't want that.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:41:43 PM

casualbuilder said:
Read some forums on "unlocking" the 6950 too. There are people posting it unlocking to a 6970.


Greed kills.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 4:53:07 PM

haha, yes, i know. i play League of Legends. Greed always kills. Like i said, read up on the forums, and do a ton of research. i take no responsibility for the words that come out of my keyboard.
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October 19, 2011 5:05:16 PM

casualbuilder said:
haha, yes, i know. i play League of Legends. Greed always kills. Like i said, read up on the forums, and do a ton of research. i take no responsibility for the words that come out of my keyboard.



Lol, so true, greed kills. I play LoL too. No worries, I already knew not every 6950 can be flashed. I'd do an extensive research before even considering it anyhow :) 

Oh, and your opinion about the CPU seems pretty logical to me. Do you think I could get rid of bottlenecking by buying a cooler, OCing and hanging in there? That'd let me wait several months for a good, new CPU if newer games started bottlenecking again. It's kinda likely it was a GPU bottleneck as well by then tho.
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October 19, 2011 5:10:32 PM

geofelt said:
You should be very pleased with a 6950.
Read the newegg feedback comments on newegg for your motherboard. At least one user reported a nice OC so it should be possible.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
At the very least, see how you do with your new 6950.

A inexpensive aftermarket cpu cooler will help with a OC.
In the US, Xigmatek gaia or cm hyper212 are about $30. They have quiet 120mm fans, don't gat a cooler with a smaller fan.

Nobody really knows what the 28nm die shrink will bring. You can expect better performance for the price, lower power requirements, and less heat.
It is unlikely that anything will be available before 1Q 2012. Not much sense in waiting.


Thanks for the input. I'll look those up and keep researching about OCing :) 
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 5:14:46 PM

sibela said:
Lol, so true, greed kills. I play LoL too. No worries, I already knew not every 6950 can be flashed. I'd do an extensive research before even considering it anyhow :) 

Oh, and your opinion about the CPU seems pretty logical to me. Do you think I could get rid of bottlenecking by buying a cooler, OCing and hanging in there? That'd let me wait several months for a good, new CPU if newer games started bottlenecking again.


There is no certainty about where your limits will be until you test with your new card. You may have no problem with your games.
It would, in my opinion, be premature to change things out now. If you have the funds now, and it would be difficult to get parts later, then OK.

In the interim, why not see how you do now with oc'ing your cpu a bit? Read up on it first, then try small increments. If you do well enough and are satisfied, stop. If you think a cooler will help, then get one. I would anyway, because it will keep your pc quieter under load. Get a cooler that will fit a 1155 socket also so it could be used on a future upgrade.
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a b B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 5:16:20 PM

personally, i think an i3 is plenty for any game with a good gpu, outside of heavy graphics settings on WoW 25-mans and over populated cities, and games like Metro and Crysis. Thing is, most games take advantage of dual cores, and only some of the newest and heaviest games take advantage of quad cores. I would personally stick it out with the cpu/mobo right now and wait until the release of the Ivy Bridge, with exception to buying a GEN 3 1155 socket mobo now if you really wanted too. your i3 should be fine in that.

i5 2500k may/should come down in price a little when Ivy hits, and will probably be their best bang for buck chip at that period of time still, as even today it is a great intel buy. However, depending on benches with the Ivy, it may be a great jump in performance for the price (i doubt it, but hey, ill give it the benefit of the doubt). Get that 6950 though, and go to town! The bottlenecking you have to put up with is better than the restrictions you have now, just to remind you of where you are at, and where you will be.
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October 19, 2011 5:34:45 PM

I agree, I guess I'll just hang in there with my current setup. i had thought my i3 was not going to be very good after the research I had done till now, but probably it was underrated in some forums.

And even if it does bottleneck a bit, you're right, by the time Ivy Bridge comes out, i5 2500k should be cheaper, so I could get it in case Ivy isn't such a huge improvement.

I've been a lot into hardware research these days, and have been learning many many things. I guess it was kinda premature to open such a thread if I haven't even gotten the 6950. Shame on me, lol. But I think it's okay, the input in here has been good :) 

Now I gotta get that 6950 and try it out!
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October 19, 2011 5:37:24 PM

Best answer selected by sibela.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
October 19, 2011 6:35:38 PM

From a historical point of view, do not expect the 2500K to go down in price at the retail level.
That has not been true, at least initially on previous cpu transitions.
The price stays the same because the replacement market is not sensitive to price.

What you will see is that ivy bridge will have a similar pricing structure to sandy bridge, but there will be a performance improvement at each level of perhaps 10-20%

That will drive down the price of used 2500K cpu's
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