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GPU upgrade advice, and some other questions

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November 2, 2011 9:48:03 PM

Hello all,

First off, I'd like to post my system specs.

OS: Vista Home Prem. x64
Mobo: MS-7501 (Is this any good at all?)
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 920 ~2.8
RAM: 8190MB
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 1gb
Play on a 23" 1920x1080.

Ok let's begin the GPU question/discussion.
So basically, I have a crappy case. I bought my PC from ZT Systems, so it's just a default ZT Systems case. (Don't worry, I plan on building my own PC for my next one :kaola: ).

I've been looking at GPUs recently, because I want to get a new one for SWTOR, BF3, and Skyrim. Some of the GPUs I've been looking at include the MSI 560Ti Twin FrozrII/OC, HD 6950 (don't know which one to get for this card, I'm assuming some sort of 2gb variant) speaking of the 6950, is the HIS IceQ any good? http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168....

There is also the 570, which is a bit too high for me to be honest. I've heard there is a re-fresh of the 560 Ti coming out this Holiday, but I pretty much need an upgrade now since Skyrim comes out next Friday. This makes me lean towards the 6950.

Basically my GTS 450 isn't very good anymore, and I want something better.

Speaking on this, should I get a new case if I get a new card? Seeing as I have just a default non-gaming case right now? If so, what are some good ones that are reasonably priced and can support what I need them to?

Last question, do you think I should just get a new Mobo and CPU since I'm already having to get a GPU, PSU, and potentially case?

Would it just make more sense to build a new one at this point, since I'm already going to spend ~400-450 on those 3 things mentioned above?

Thanks in advance everybody.
a b U Graphics card
November 2, 2011 10:03:38 PM

Your CPU, although it only supports DDR2, is a quad core so you will probably be OK with it for now. Your mobo has 1 PCIe 16x slot, which I believe is roughly equivalent to a PCIe 2.0 8x slot and with a 6950 shouldn't bottleneck any. My suggestion - upgrade to a 6950 2gb and if you still need more power then upgrade further. If your case is a mid-tower or better a 6950 should fit.

One of the most well-received 6950 2gb is the sapphire toxic edition, which is fast stock and can be unlocked to a 6970 if you so wish in the future for even more performance.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

EDIT: Apparently that card is out of stock even though it is listed as in stock elsewhere on newegg. If you don't care about unlocking the MSI Twin Frozr is a great card too: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 2, 2011 11:39:24 PM

No need to upgrade all your rig at all, just do some overclocks to your CPU and wait for the upcoming future releases from AMD, Bulldozer is not good at all.

What is your gaming resolution ? if you're gaming @1080P get the HD 6950 1 GB version. Any quality branded 500W PSU will handle all your system with that GPU.
Related resources
November 3, 2011 12:05:11 AM

Sure thing. I'll hold off on building a new rig. I should however get a case with better airflow so I can get some OC'ing going on. Also, my RAM is only DDR2 and the mobo doesn't even support DDR3.

Not to mention, I only have a PCI Express x16 slot. It doesn't even say 2.0 or 2.1 or anything, can it handle a 6950?
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 12:11:12 AM

I guess your MOBO is for OEM, no specs available on websites.
Anyway a 2.8 quad core is just fine for gaming and single card solution, DDR2 is not a problem at all and you have more than enough amount.

HD 6950 will be fully utilized if you have PCIE 2.0 and i guess your mobo does.
November 3, 2011 12:30:58 AM

Everywhere I've looked it says PCI-E x16, but it doesn't say 2.0. How do I know it isn't 1.0, wouldn't it say 2.0 if it was? Is there a way to find out?
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 12:39:25 AM

Yes, download GPU-Z. and it will tell you that it runs @ PCIE 2.0 X16 or 1.0 x16
a b U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 12:50:56 AM

Your mobo does not have PCIe 2.0, it has 1.0. But PCIe 1.0 16x is roughly equal to PCIe 2.0 8x I'm pretty sure so you're fine regardless.
November 3, 2011 12:52:29 AM

Ok, so my slot is capable of running a HD 6950? I would hate to buy it and realize it doesn't work, so excuse my standoffish stance.
a b U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 12:57:27 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#PCI_Express_2....

"PCIe 2.0 motherboard slots are fully backward compatible with PCIe v1.x cards. PCIe 2.0 cards are also generally backward compatible with PCIe 1.x motherboards, using the available bandwidth of PCI Express 1.1. Overall, graphic cards or motherboards designed for v2.0 will work with the other being v1.1 or v1.0."
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 12:58:19 AM

gmcizzle said:
But PCIe 1.0 16x is roughly equal to PCIe 2.0 8x I'm pretty sure so you're fine regardless.

PCIE gen 1.0 is different from PCIE gen 2.0, so both aren't the same they differ in the data rate and transfer rate, the lanes X1.X2..X4.X8.X16 is another thing to discuss.
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:00:16 AM

gmcizzle said:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#PCI_Express_2....

"PCIe 2.0 motherboard slots are fully backward compatible with PCIe v1.x cards. PCIe 2.0 cards are also generally backward compatible with PCIe 1.x motherboards, using the available bandwidth of PCI Express 1.1. Overall, graphic cards or motherboards designed for v2.0 will work with the other being v1.1 or v1.0."

That's true PCIE 2.0 cards are compatible with PCIE 1.0 slots and VICE VERSA, but the HD 6950 will operate at the maximum bandwidth offered by PCIE 1.0
November 3, 2011 1:02:28 AM

Ultimately what would be the best thing to do in my situation. Should I just say forget it and just build a new rig completely since my components are only average now? I really don't have a ton of money to spend, so I don't know the best way to go about this. Should I just build my own through components on Newegg and not have to worry about the card being compatible with my outdated mobo and what-not? I just don't know. I went through Newegg adding components up and came to about $1000, which is pretty pricey. Not to mention the $1000 rig probably wouldn't last long, which honestly sucks.
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:02:50 AM

@ OP, also give it a shot and see if you have a PCIE 2.0 or 1.0.
Anyway the HD 6950 will work and will still be a good value when you pick up a new Board.

Just ensure to run with the latest BIOS, because some PCIE 2.1 cards have compatibility issues with PCIE 1.0
November 3, 2011 1:04:35 AM

OK listen. I just build a new PC for all of those reasons. My specs. are on my profile. So far BF3 on PC isn't going so well. I want to play it soooooo badly, but with the crashing and server issues still not fixed for me, it almost doesn't seem worth it. I am extremely excited for skyrim next week. I would just say to save your money, even if you have to play skyrim on medium for a month. As far as I know all of the new cards and CPUs come out around the holidays this year. I have been watching nonstop. The $400 you might spend on a new card and PSU will be half the price when the new stuff comes out. Maybe then you could see your current PC and have the money for a new rig. From experience it is go hard or go home. I have had the $600 computer that just got me by. I have also upgraded that computer to adjust for new games. It was always a money pit. Last month I put $1400 into a new desktop. I thought I would just get a second 580 at a later date. But honestly I can't see any came dropping below 60FPS maxed out for a least a couple of years.

Maybe combine your current HDD and CPU. After the flood in thailand you are already saving money of the Hard drive. I have a 955 that was left over, it runs DDR3 just fine. Find yourself a nice AM3+ board with a 990x or 990FX chipset. Throw in a 570 or 580 (which may be down to 200-300 dollar range by then. get some new ram and a case. You have maybe set yourself back about $500. You are only up about 100 from an upgrade. FOR A BRAND NEW PC! It would just take the willpower to play skyrim on medium for a bit. Hope this maybe helps you.
November 3, 2011 1:13:51 AM

hayden5757 said:
OK listen. I just build a new PC for all of those reasons. My specs. are on my profile. So far BF3 on PC isn't going so well. I want to play it soooooo badly, but with the crashing and server issues still not fixed for me, it almost doesn't seem worth it. I am extremely excited for skyrim next week. I would just say to save your money, even if you have to play skyrim on medium for a month. As far as I know all of the new cards and CPUs come out around the holidays this year. I have been watching nonstop. The $400 you might spend on a new card and PSU will be half the price when the new stuff comes out. Maybe then you could see your current PC and have the money for a new rig. From experience it is go hard or go home. I have had the $600 computer that just got me by. I have also upgraded that computer to adjust for new games. It was always a money pit. Last month I put $1400 into a new desktop. I thought I would just get a second 580 at a later date. But honestly I can't see any came dropping below 60FPS maxed out for a least a couple of years.

Maybe combine your current HDD and CPU. After the flood in thailand you are already saving money of the Hard drive. I have a 955 that was left over, it runs DDR3 just fine. Find yourself a nice AM3+ board with a 990x or 990FX chipset. Throw in a 570 or 580 (which may be down to 200-300 dollar range by then. get some new ram and a case. You have maybe set yourself back about $500. You are only up about 100 from an upgrade. FOR A BRAND NEW PC! It would just take the willpower to play skyrim on medium for a bit. Hope this maybe helps you.


AM3+ Board I'm assuming you mean mobo? And the 990x or 990FX chipset is that referring to a new CPU? Sorry I'm not completely in with the new components. So basically what you're saying is I should wait until the Holidays when the next gen comes out so I can get things cheaper, is that correct? Can I even run Skyrim with my current build? ... :/ 
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:21:16 AM

Simply he's asking you for a new rig.
You'll be able to play those games @ low settings. Also you didn't mention your gaming resolution ?
November 3, 2011 1:25:02 AM

ilysaml said:
Simply he's asking you for a new rig.
You'll be able to play those games @ low settings. Also you didn't mention your gaming resolution ?


Unfortunately 1080p. I say it's unfortunate because it will for sure hurt my performance. I can only run Skyrim on low? Ugh that sucks.
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:28:09 AM

You wanted to play BF3 @1080P with a GTS 450 ? :S
November 3, 2011 1:31:31 AM

ilysaml said:
Waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, your MOBO is PCIE gen 2.0
http://products.amd.com/en-us/RecommendedMBDetail.aspx?...
HD 6950 all the way


Awesome! So you think a ~$350 investment in a new GPU and PSU is worth it and would increase my performance a lot, would my CPU or DDR2 RAM bottleneck it at all? Also, I don't know if my case would have enough airflow to keep it cool.

One more thing regarding a 6950. Which one should I get? There are so many options. At 1080p is 1gb fine? If I go with 2gb, is the HIS IceQ any good? http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The Sapphire Toxic one is sold out everywhere, people were recommending that but... yea, not an option anymore.

Thanks in advance.
November 3, 2011 1:34:53 AM

ilysaml said:
You wanted to play BF3 @1080P with a GTS 450 ? :S

Haha believe it or not I get a solid 30-40 fps with a mix of medium/high settings, in outside areas.


And I still haven't updated the drivers to the recommended ones for it, so I would probably get a bit of a boost from that too.
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:37:26 AM

As i said before 2.8 Quad Core is able to handle any game, You get only CPU bottleneck if the CPU is not handling the game or you have excess of GPU power.

yes 1 GB is fine for 1080P at least to play all the games @ high quality.

HIS, Sapphire, MSI, ASUS all seem to be fine and Sapphire is the best partner for AMD by the way, i would look into this
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A high quality branded 500W PSU with 2 PCIE 6 pin connector is great such as Antec or Corsair, Cooler Master,........
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:41:28 AM

Well after searching around i found this as a better value, HD 6950 2 GB for $245 after rebate. more future proof for VRAM hungry games and you'll be great with a second one in CF when you upgrade your PC in the future.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
November 3, 2011 1:50:41 AM

ilysaml said:
Well after searching around i found this as a better value, HD 6950 2 GB for $245 after rebate. more future proof for VRAM hungry games and you'll be great with a second one in CF when you upgrade your PC in the future.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


So when I build my new rig early next year (since things should be down in price then), can I take the new PSU and 6950 and put them in the new rig? Perhaps Crossfire 2 6950s? (One new and one that I'm getting -now-?)
November 3, 2011 1:53:10 AM

And also, that HIS IceQ seems like it would stay cooler, wouldn't that one be better? Since my case isn't the best airflow, I'm afraid of this card overheating....
a b U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:58:05 AM

The HIS IceQ is great if you want silence, but the sapphire ilysaml linked will provide better cooling than the HIS.
a c 143 U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 1:59:05 AM

Well, technically 2 fans are better than one. Check reviews on both cards then decide.

Yes you can take out the HD 6950 and put it in the new rig, but depends if the HD 6950 will be there or not :)  but usually you'll be getting a second hand one or high priced new one.

Regarding the PSU, you can grab a 700W good quality PSU from now to consider your CF in the future.

You asked so many questions and i'm going to sleep now :p , decision is up to you.
November 3, 2011 2:07:45 AM

ilysaml said:
Well, technically 2 fans are better than one. Check reviews on both cards then decide.

Yes you can take out the HD 6950 and put it in the new rig, but depends if the HD 6950 will be there or not :)  but usually you'll be getting a second hand one or high priced new one.

Regarding the PSU, you can grab a 700W good quality PSU from now to consider your CF in the future.

You asked so many questions and i'm going to sleep now :p , decision is up to you.


Thanks for all your help along with everyone else! I'll get a 6950 2gb and a new PSU, probably 650-700w, and a new case now. That'll last until post-holidays when I'll get the rest of the parts and potentially a 2nd 6950 to crossfire, or a new GPU if it's replaced by then. I'm basically building a new rig in 2 chunks, haha. That'll be fine though! Thanks again for your help.
November 3, 2011 2:08:46 AM

As a side note, anybody know how the MSI Twin Frozr 6950 holds up in comparison to that Dirt3 Sapphire?
a b U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 2:15:17 AM

The MSI TF might have slightly better cooling (not 100% sure though) than the sapphire one, BUT the sapphire one has a dual bios switch. Basically, a 6950 2GB is a 6970 with extra shaders "locked" and a bios switch gives you a chance to try and "unlock" your 6950's shaders safely to basically become a 6970. This is a known little hack among enthusiasts, but attempting this without a dual bios switch you can brick your card.
November 3, 2011 2:44:59 AM

gmcizzle said:
The MSI TF might have slightly better cooling (not 100% sure though) than the sapphire one, BUT the sapphire one has a dual bios switch. Basically, a 6950 2GB is a 6970 with extra shaders "locked" and a bios switch gives you a chance to try and "unlock" your 6950's shaders safely to basically become a 6970. This is a known little hack among enthusiasts, but attempting this without a dual bios switch you can brick your card.


Interesting. I definitely need a new case to support this new card (especially if I unlock it), and if I got a new case I could OC my CPU a bit too...

Any recommendations on cases?
a b U Graphics card
November 3, 2011 2:59:18 AM

There are a lot of good cases, and they all basically break down into Full Tower and Mid Tower. Beyond that I usually suggest looking at them all yourself so you pick the one you like best, as long as it's a proven case and has good reviews, etc.
November 3, 2011 3:08:41 AM

Yes. I meant to just wait for a new build. Give the 450 some credit. On your monitor you could get by with lower resolution and med'ish settings. and the 990x/fx is the chipset on the motherboard. It allows quite a few things. Mainly for me, I wanted to be able to crossfire or SLI with both video cards running at x16 rather than x8/x8. I still say hold off. Unless you are making tons of money or you have rich parents, just hold off.
!