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Another upgrade question, new GPU?

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November 29, 2011 5:51:11 PM

Hi all,
This should be a rather typical question: I want to upgrade the weakest part of my home computer.

First here my current setup:
  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (Dual core, 3.2 Ghz)
  • Memory: 4 GiB DDR2 800 MHz
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 (Socket: AM2+)
  • Graphics: Zotac GeForce 9400GT 1024MiB DDR3
  • PSU: 450 W (just for context)

    My plan with this PC:
  • Ever so often I want to update specific parts. That means, a new part has to last at least four years.
  • I want best performance for money. Neither am I interested in spending double for just a tiny bit more power nor do I want to update every part every year, just because I get the cheapest low-end hardware available.
  • One important aspect is that I want silent parts. This obviously means that they shouldn't produce too much heat, i.e. shouldn't be too power-consuming.

    What I do with it:
    It is my general purpose home-computer I use in the evening. Of course I do the usual stuff which doesn't really strain hardware, especially as I don't use any of Xfce's graphics gimmicks. And there is the odd compiling (e.g. when Wine needs a patch again) and some gaming (Skyrim being the most current) which probably is the part which should define the hardware. However I'm not really interested in high-end graphics, the new part should just be able to run anything four years in the future, even if it's on lowest settings.

    Now for the the fun parts. Here I begin speculating and hope that you can tell me that I'm right (or not, if I'd know much about this, I wouldn't have got to ask). First: Which part should be exchanged? (Remember that the part I keep will probably have got to last another one to two years.)
    First: Memory is unlikely as I would have to invest in DDR2 until I get a new motherboard. And 4 GiB suffices anyway. The motherboard seems fine to me, too. That leaves only two candidates: CPU (with Motherboard+Memory if I'm unlucky not to choose an AM3 processor) and GPU. Playing Skyrim I notice that the processor loads never exceeds 140% (with Xfce taking up less than 1%). Also those loads aren't really that high with games, the GPU being more important. While I do some CPU-intensive stuff, it doesn't bother me that much if it takes 30 minutes instead of 20. That leaves Graphics and let's face it, my current card doesn't really perform that well. The 1024 MiB may be fine, but if the GPU can't process all that stuff? While I can't really observe its work load it's my number one candidate why I can run Skyrim only at lowest settings.
    My conclusion: A new graphics card.

    Which one?
    First: I don't use ATI/AMD due to Nvidias better driver support. That may be not true any more but I don't feel like experimenting. It certainly spares me the hassle of comparing. I make it short, I think of a GeForce GTX 560 (approx. $215-€160). What are its competitors? The 560 Ti is out of the question as it costs one third more. The 460 on the other hand isn't really cheaper than the 560. And finally there is the 550 Ti and here I'm not really certain. It costs one third less (approx. $150-€114). Maybe the ratio performance for money is better there? Anyway I already have my eye on a Gigabyte GTX 560 OC 1024 MiB GDDR5 GV-N56GOC-1GI (if I don't change my mind any more).

    That's it (finally). So: Am I right with choosing the GPU? Is the 560 the right choice or should I rather find a nice 550 Ti?
  • More about : upgrade question gpu

    November 29, 2011 6:46:39 PM

    Donnon said:
    Hi all,
    This should be a rather typical question: I want to upgrade the weakest part of my home computer.

    First here my current setup:
  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ (Dual core, 3.2 Ghz)
  • Memory: 4 GiB DDR2 800 MHz
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 (Socket: AM2+)
  • Graphics: Zotac GeForce 9400GT 1024MiB DDR3
  • PSU: 450 W (just for context)

    My plan with this PC:
  • Ever so often I want to update specific parts. That means, a new part has to last at least four years.
  • I want best performance for money. Neither am I interested in spending double for just a tiny bit more power nor do I want to update every part every year, just because I get the cheapest low-end hardware available.
  • One important aspect is that I want silent parts. This obviously means that they shouldn't produce too much heat, i.e. shouldn't be too power-consuming.

    What I do with it:
    It is my general purpose home-computer I use in the evening. Of course I do the usual stuff which doesn't really strain hardware, especially as I don't use any of Xfce's graphics gimmicks. And there is the odd compiling (e.g. when Wine needs a patch again) and some gaming (Skyrim being the most current) which probably is the part which should define the hardware. However I'm not really interested in high-end graphics, the new part should just be able to run anything four years in the future, even if it's on lowest settings.

    Now for the the fun parts. Here I begin speculating and hope that you can tell me that I'm right (or not, if I'd know much about this, I wouldn't have got to ask). First: Which part should be exchanged? (Remember that the part I keep will probably have got to last another one to two years.)
    First: Memory is unlikely as I would have to invest in DDR2 until I get a new motherboard. And 4 GiB suffices anyway. The motherboard seems fine to me, too. That leaves only two candidates: CPU (with Motherboard+Memory if I'm unlucky not to choose an AM3 processor) and GPU. Playing Skyrim I notice that the processor loads never exceeds 140% (with Xfce taking up less than 1%). Also those loads aren't really that high with games, the GPU being more important. While I do some CPU-intensive stuff, it doesn't bother me that much if it takes 30 minutes instead of 20. That leaves Graphics and let's face it, my current card doesn't really perform that well. The 1024 MiB may be fine, but if the GPU can't process all that stuff? While I can't really observe its work load it's my number one candidate why I can run Skyrim only at lowest settings.
    My conclusion: A new graphics card.

    Which one?
    First: I don't use ATI/AMD due to Nvidias better driver support. That may be not true any more but I don't feel like experimenting. It certainly spares me the hassle of comparing. I make it short, I think of a GeForce GTX 560 (approx. $215-€160). What are its competitors? The 560 Ti is out of the question as it costs one third more. The 460 on the other hand isn't really cheaper than the 560. And finally there is the 550 Ti and here I'm not really certain. It costs one third less (approx. $150-€114). Maybe the ratio performance for money is better there? Anyway I already have my eye on a Gigabyte GTX 560 OC 1024 MiB GDDR5 GV-N56GOC-1GI (if I don't change my mind any more).

    That's it (finally). So: Am I right with choosing the GPU? Is the 560 the right choice or should I rather find a nice 550 Ti?



  • How old and what brand is the psu? my gts 250 refused to start intill i got a 600 watt. You may want to look into geting a good 500-550 watt before the gpu
    a b B Homebuilt system
    November 29, 2011 6:49:49 PM

    Get the 560 over the 550ti. I find anything under a '60 just lacks the ability to game. And yes that should bump you up to medium to high settings for skyrim. skyrim also has cpu scaling http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/skyrim-performance-... your processor gets close to the 30fps for comfortable game play.
    Related resources
    a c 78 B Homebuilt system
    November 29, 2011 7:44:45 PM

    I just want to throw out there that the core of a computer, the motherboard, ram, and processor should all be upgraded in one shot at the same time every time. It is never a good idea to upgrade these things individually.

    If you can just throw another RAM in an empty slot that is one thing, but efficient configurations tend to use all the available RAM slots, especially budget ones using micro boards.

    The 560 TI performs about equal to the price differential. About 10% gain for about 10% more $. You won't really be able to feel that gain if you are getting 40+ FPS in a game, but you will notice it quite a bit if you are getting less than that.

    The problem you are going to run into is that the core is going to hold back the video card.

    Skyrim, in particular, is quite a processor intensive game. 2x GTX 460 shouldn't be able to perform anywhere near as well as a GTX 580 in any game, but it will perform similarly in this game often times because the game is bringing the processor to its knees instead of the video card.

    On that note, Skyrim can get decent playable mid 30s FPS even with such an outdated card as a 5770 on low'ish settings. However, that is assuming that the PC is running on the gold standard i5 2500k best of the best gaming processor.

    With a worse processor, a 5770 would be severely handicapped and so would a GTX 560 TI, for that matter.

    Another problem you are going to run into is that high end cards tend to be louder than the card you are used to.

    The most powerful thing that has ever been completely silent is the ATI HD 6850 SCS3 passively cooled video card and it pretty much requires a huge 140 fan on the side of the case pointing right down at it or it won't stay any sort of cool. That is also an AMD card and like the 4350, and 5450, and so on they are ATI cards which kinda rules them out.

    The pickins are extremely slim in the NVIDIA passively cooled market. There are 9800 versions that have passive coolers but almost everything else has fans, ones that can cause resonance at certain RPMs (making the whole video card vibrate) which is loud and the fans are often loud themselves too even without being in a resonating RPM speed.

    If you do find a passively cooled 9800, it would only be about double what your current card puts out and it would be a joke in comparison to the video cards that are being discussed here (560TI, etc).

    Realistically, a 9800 fanless card isn't going to make it 4 more years so that is out anyway.

    If you demand silence, ATI is really your only option that will be even moderately gaming worthy, cheap, and quiet all at the same time.

    You will have to make a decision how much you are willing to accept in increased loudness vs your desire to remain with NVIDIA. I don't personally care which you take, but I need to know which one is worth more to you because I frankly don't think you are going to get both.

    Even the quietest normal video cards will be stressed heavily by Skyrim especially on an old core so you have to plan for the video cards to be running at their loudest possible sounds on a regular basis if Skyrim level games are what you are aiming at. That really isn't going to be quiet for a card like a 560 TI.

    There are varying levels of quietness, but some of these performance cards sound like jet engines when operating at an RPM with both high resonance AND high fan speed. I would hate for you to end up with one of those in your hands without understanding what you are getting into.

    Thus I am mentioning it now.

    In any event, I don't think you can possibly get by on a better core and not a better video card at the same time.

    I hate to again suggest things that are outside the requirements, but I think that you may just be better off going with budget versions of pretty much everything.

    Even then, the cost might make you cough a little. If you want more than 2x your current video card potential and silent at the same time, the Fanless 6770 ($160) and the fanless 6850 ($200) are the premier options available.

    A budget core will be again as much.

    If you also need a better PSU, that will also be another $50.

    Potentially you are looking at a full overhaul for $370ish - $400ish.

    I wish I could tell you something else other than these things, but I can't honestly do so with a good conscience.

    I think that at least one of the requirements set forth will have to change or the end goal can't be met.

    - Edit - I just wanted to point out that at least the end result should be good enough that you can start switching things out on the regular rotation again starting 4 years forwards if you go the total overhaul route.
    November 29, 2011 8:55:26 PM

    Thank you all for now.

    nutmanmatt said:
    How old and what brand is the psu? my gts 250 refused to start intill i got a 600 watt. You may want to look into geting a good 500-550 watt before the gpu

    be quiet! DarkPower 450W, bought in 2009. It does its job very well. I am however a bit worried: 500W are recommended for a 560. But I think it would work nevertheless; the maximum input is 150W. (The brand is a small local one which produces rather high-quality cooling equipment (and throw in lots of other equipment :)  ). They don't come cheap however ... it's by far the most expensive part in my current setup.)

    crewton said:
    Get the 560 over the 550ti. I find anything under a '60 just lacks the ability to game. And yes that should bump you up to medium to high settings for skyrim. skyrim also has cpu scaling http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/skyrim-performance-... your processor gets close to the 30fps for comfortable game play.

    Skyrim was just the convenient example, not really the ultimate goal. But I'm quite able to play it with my 9400 and that's definitely lower than '60. ;)  I for one play with a resolution of 1024×768 windowed into a virtual Wine desktop. I don't want ultra, just being able to turn on anti-aliasing. :) 
    However it does confirm my thoughts of going for the 560.

    Raiddinn said:
    I just want to throw out there that the core of a computer, the motherboard, ram, and processor should all be upgraded in one shot at the same time every time. It is never a good idea to upgrade these things individually.

    Yeah, my thought too. But it's nice to have at least the possibility.

    If you can just throw another RAM in an empty slot that is one thing, but efficient configurations tend to use all the available RAM slots, especially budget ones using micro boards. said:
    If you can just throw another RAM in an empty slot that is one thing, but efficient configurations tend to use all the available RAM slots, especially budget ones using micro boards.

    Oh, there are still two slots free on the ATX board. But why more? Nothing ever comes close to using up the 4 GiB. And I don't really want to invest in DDR2 which I'll exchange soon anyway.

    The 560 TI performs about equal to the price differential. About 10% gain for about 10% more $. You won't really be able to feel that gain if you are getting 40+ FPS in a game, but you will notice it quite a bit if you are getting less than that. said:
    The 560 TI performs about equal to the price differential. About 10% gain for about 10% more $. You won't really be able to feel that gain if you are getting 40+ FPS in a game, but you will notice it quite a bit if you are getting less than that.

    Well, given that at the stores I frequent, the 560 Ti costs around 30% more than the 560, it certainly seems to me not worth the 10% gain in performance.

    The problem you are going to run into is that the core is going to hold back the video card.

    Skyrim, in particular, is quite a processor intensive game. 2x GTX 460 shouldn't be able to perform anywhere near as well as a GTX 580 in any game, but it will perform similarly in this game often times because the game is bringing the processor to its knees instead of the video card. said:
    The problem you are going to run into is that the core is going to hold back the video card.

    Skyrim, in particular, is quite a processor intensive game. 2x GTX 460 shouldn't be able to perform anywhere near as well as a GTX 580 in any game, but it will perform similarly in this game often times because the game is bringing the processor to its knees instead of the video card.

    Sure, the CPU will hold it back. But that lasts only as long as the CPU itself isn't upgraded. I was quite clear about that, when I devised this strategy (this computer is actually more than 10 years old, although none of the parts are original of course, not even the case). The upside is (for me, at least) that I don't need large investments but rather more smaller ones.

    Another problem you are going to run into is that high end cards tend to be louder than the card you are used to. said:
    Another problem you are going to run into is that high end cards tend to be louder than the card you are used to.

    It can't really be worse than my 9400 with its tiny 2" fan. It produces the more noice than all the other parts combined! :D  (But I didn't have to pay for it.) The 560 would have two 5" fans. It has been described by reviewers to be very silent. But there may be a misunderstanding: I don't target passive cooling, rather silent active one.

    You will have to make a decision how much you are willing to accept in increased loudness vs your desire to remain with NVIDIA. I don't personally care which you take, but I need to know which one is worth more to you because I frankly don't think you are going to get both. said:
    You will have to make a decision how much you are willing to accept in increased loudness vs your desire to remain with NVIDIA. I don't personally care which you take, but I need to know which one is worth more to you because I frankly don't think you are going to get both.

    It's not that I'm a Nvidia fan or hate AMD. But over many years I had problems with ATI's driver support while Nvidia always ran smooth. I simply have no desire to risk something when I am content with the alternative, even if it costs a bit more. Yes, I know that I may miss out, but I'm not going for perfection. I simply want my fans not to be too loud, especially on idle (that's where it'd bother me the most).

    Even the quietest normal video cards will be stressed heavily by Skyrim especially on an old core so you have to plan for the video cards to be running at their loudest possible sounds on a regular basis if Skyrim level games are what you are aiming at. That really isn't going to be quiet for a card like a 560 TI. said:
    Even the quietest normal video cards will be stressed heavily by Skyrim especially on an old core so you have to plan for the video cards to be running at their loudest possible sounds on a regular basis if Skyrim level games are what you are aiming at. That really isn't going to be quiet for a card like a 560 TI.

    Lucky me that I'm considering a 560 without Ti. But this probably doesn't make much difference. And I don't really play on a regular basis. I do when there is time in the evening which happens less often than I wished.

    There are varying levels of quietness, but some of these performance cards sound like jet engines when operating at an RPM with both high resonance AND high fan speed. I would hate for you to end up with one of those in your hands without understanding what you are getting into.

    Thus I am mentioning it now. said:
    There are varying levels of quietness, but some of these performance cards sound like jet engines when operating at an RPM with both high resonance AND high fan speed. I would hate for you to end up with one of those in your hands without understanding what you are getting into.

    Thus I am mentioning it now.

    I appreciate that. But I hope the large fans remain rather calm.

    And for complete overhaul: Think of it that way: Even if I don't get all the power out of my shiny new card, I will when the CPU (and RAM) get updated (which may already be next year). Until then the performance will be at least much better than it is at the moment. And as I don't want expensive high-end stuff, it won't loose too much value in that time and I'll still have something viable in the future. Hence me targeting the performance-for-money range. And hence me questioning myself if a 550 Ti wouldn't be the better solution.
    a c 78 B Homebuilt system
    November 29, 2011 9:17:44 PM

    If you are willing to risk a potentially loud sounding video card, I can work with that.

    If you can't get 560 TIs for less than 30% over the 560 where you are at then take the 560. Both of them are high enough end that you will be set in the future when your processor is moved up.

    Performance for money wise, The 550 TI, I would say, would give you just a hair less bang for your buck while delivering quite a bit less bangs in general as compared to the 560.

    550 TI = 10% more bangs per buck ($130)
    560 = 50% more bangs in total ($210)

    You will stall upgrading by a few more years by paying the cost difference now. The costs I am considering are in parenthesis above. If your local prices are different then that also factors into the equation and the result could be different.

    I am still kinda worried that you aren't going to see some huge portion of your benefit, though. I would hate to see you drop $130 or $210 on a new video card and see little benefit because the video card is overly taxing the processor. If it does, though, it will probably do so for both cards the same so that shouldn't be used as a deciding point between the two.

    In any event, I think you should just take the 560. That is the best thing I can suggest that will meet the requirements that you set out.

    - Edit - Typo
    !