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What to upgrade

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February 3, 2012 10:30:20 AM

Hello, I currently have system that I use for gaming that I would like to upgrade.

Specs are as follows:

Mobo: Asus M4N68T-M V2
CPU: AMD Athlon X3 450
RAM: 8 gigs of Kingston ram @ 1333Mhz
Video Card: Nvidia 550Ti

So, to clear even more more up; The CPU is running stock, and unlocking the 4th core does not work. Instant freeze. I can overclock it to 3.8 but it is very unstable, so I just leave it at 3.2 stock.

The video card is overclocked to 1012 Core, stock memory at 4100, and stock voltage.


I want to upgrade both CPU and GPU but can only afford one or the other. With a budget of just under 400, I am having a hard time deciding. At one point I had decided to get a new motherboard and just go SLI with two 550'Ti's, but I'd rather not do that with a low end card. Currently, I play BF3 at Medium settings at 1900x1080 with frames anywhere from 30-60 (Vsync on). In addition to BF3 I play a lot of other games. Company of Heroes, Stalker: SoC, Mass Effect 1/2 and GTA 4. I play all of them games, except GTA 4 and BF3, on highest settings. I'm an eye candy whore, but not at the expense of performance.

So, on to the question! Which would you find more important to upgrade, given what I have said, CPU or GPU?

More about : upgrade

a b B Homebuilt system
February 3, 2012 10:44:45 AM

Here is a list of CPUs you can upgrade to with a bios update to your motherboard. http://ca.asus.com/en/Motherboards/AMD_AM3/M4N68TM_V2/#...

You can weigh that against the cost of getting against the cost of getting a z-68 Intel motherboard and an Intel CPU to match it. This chart will tell you where they fall. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-cpu-overcloc...

And this chart will tell you where your video card stacks up. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...

In general, you will need to move up at least three slots on the chart to see significant improvement.
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February 3, 2012 11:14:29 AM

So, following the chart for the Video cards, I should look at the 560Ti for an upgrade on the Nvidia side, or the 6950 for ATI?

As for the CPU list, I have been looking at the 1055T/1090T/1100T as the upgrade.

I am just not sure which upgrade brings in the bigger bang. If I upgrade the card to a 560TI or 6950, do I not run the chance of causing a bottleneck?
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 3, 2012 1:29:44 PM

Your current processor will be a bottleneck, but you will still get better performance than what you have. The 560 ti and 6950 would be correct. You would also need to check your power supply as these would need at least a good quality 80 plus certified 550 watt PSU. Even if you have a non certified PSU with more wattage, i would not chance it.

Here is also a tool that Nvidia provides to see what a particular card will do in various games. It will be roughly the same for an equivalent AMD card. http://www.geforce.com/Optimize

However, to go up three levels on the CPU chart, you would have to switch to Intel. The AMD upgrades would not be worth the money for the relatively small performance bump IMO.

A minimal CPU upgrade would be something like a Core i5-2400 and a low cost Gigabyte h61 motherboard.
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February 3, 2012 1:50:08 PM

In that case then, I'd rather just buy a new mobo and go Intel. I had an i5-2500K lined with a new mobo for under 330. I was hoping I could squeak by with my little 450, but it would appear better to upgrade the CPU.

As for power supply I am not worried. I have the OCZ 650 Watt ZT.
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a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
February 3, 2012 1:51:59 PM

I disagree, your current processor is NOT going to bottleneck a single gpu video card like a GTX560ti.

Your overclocking failure is likely due to incorrect memory settings when overclocking.

I wouldn't recommend going form a overclocked 550ti to a 560ti, the performance difference is going to be minimal.

I think you should upgrade your gpu and then save for a new mobo/cpu down the road.

The 7770/7750 should be out any day now, check for reviews. Also 7870/7850 will be out in March.
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February 3, 2012 2:03:35 PM

I had it running stable at 3.6, but 3.8 was hit and miss. Would freeze a lot during BF3. Just BF3. So I just went back to reference.

What about the 570? That fits just inside my budget, just. Is that the point it becomes worth it? 570/6950/6970? Or just wait it out with my 550Ti for the Lower end 7 series?
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a b B Homebuilt system
a c 124 à CPUs
February 3, 2012 2:04:27 PM

I mostly agree with tlmck, although I think that in this case, the three-tier requirement for a GPU upgrade is higher than necessary. In any benchmark I can recall lately, the GTX550Ti has been sufficiently behind any other card in its range or above that even a two-tier jump should be worthwhile.
I don't think a CPU upgrade is a wise use of funds. First, as the recent sub-$200 CPU article showed, AMD is outperformed across the board (i.e. in all price ranges) by Intel. That may come as a surprise and/or a disappointment, but the numbers don't lie. Second, your mobo will hinder a faster AMD CPU anyway with its reduced Hypertransport speed (2000MT/s vs. the more common 5200MT/s). You can get an i3 with an H67 mobo for ~$180-$200, leaving money available for a HD6870 or GTX560...(stuff about PSU)...
This is also assuming you have a Retail Windows license that can be re-used, not an OEM one which cannot.

Edit: I see your later post about your PSU. You're good to go with that.
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a b à CPUs
February 3, 2012 2:56:39 PM

If your only concern is performance of BF3, stick with a GPU swap. I have an aging rig that I am in the process of upgrading as well. I stepped up from a GTS 250 to an ASUS 560 - it has 2 fans and seems to be able to handle high on most settings. With your budget, I would go with one of these:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

A buddy of mine has that 570 and it halls ace. Relatively quiet and the 2.5 GB of RAM handled BF3 like a champ. Unless the 600 series really rocks, that is what I am planning on buying myself. A 560ti with 2 GB and upgrading your proc to either the 1090TT or one of the bulldozers would probably stretch you another $100 but it would probably be pretty solid.
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February 3, 2012 3:03:56 PM

Currently BF3 and GTA 4 are all that concerns me, given both I have to settle on Medium and Medium/High settings . After the release of B2K in BF3 I had to tune down the settings from High to medium to stay above 30fps. Essentially I am just getting greedy.
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a b à CPUs
February 3, 2012 5:28:44 PM

I feel your pain, the Karkand maps are resource hogs. If you're in an area that has a Frye's, you might be able to con them into letting you see the unit in action. When I was in LA, I got lucky a couple of times that they had one of them running on the floor. If I were in your shoes, I would go for the 2 GB 560ti from EVGA. If the 600 Series rocks, you can do their step-up program to upgrade without losing any value from your card.
I miss BFG, lifetime warranty and overclocked out of the box doesn't happen anymore. You can always upgrade your proc & board later once ivy bridge comes out by this summer.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a c 311 à CPUs
February 3, 2012 6:06:33 PM

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.

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a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
February 4, 2012 1:23:50 PM

I recommend running all games at your monitors native resolution.
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February 4, 2012 2:04:34 PM

geofelt said:
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.

Turning the resolution down to 1280 x 720 and graphical options to "low" or "off" in BF3, I netted an extra 12-15 frames. Never dip below 34 frames.

Limiting the CPU to 70% maximum usage, I see no discernible difference other than the fact when a whole lot is going on I dip into the 20's a lot, rather than staying in the 30's.

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I never play my games on anything other than native resolution. Which is 1920x1080.
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a b B Homebuilt system
a c 124 à CPUs
February 4, 2012 5:25:56 PM

Well then, as geofelt suggests, your CPU is enough for a stronger graphics card. In your place, I'd probably get a GTX560Ti; it's within the budget and will offer a visible improvement. Even if your current system can't get the most out of it, you'll be able to move it to the next machine you build.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a c 311 à CPUs
February 4, 2012 5:30:31 PM

Scrambledeggs said:
Turning the resolution down to 1280 x 720 and graphical options to "low" or "off" in BF3, I netted an extra 12-15 frames. Never dip below 34 frames.

Limiting the CPU to 70% maximum usage, I see no discernible difference other than the fact when a whole lot is going on I dip into the 20's a lot, rather than staying in the 30's.

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I never play my games on anything other than native resolution. Which is 1920x1080.


It looks like you will benefit from a stronger graphics card today. But, there will be a limit before too long, when the cpu will need to be stronger to keep in balance.
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February 4, 2012 5:31:31 PM

Yeah. I might go with the560Ti. Would there be any benefit in keeping the 550Ti and using it as a dedicated "Physx" card later on?
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a b B Homebuilt system
a c 124 à CPUs
February 4, 2012 5:34:10 PM

If your games benefit from PhysX (few do), and the GTX560Ti gets bogged down when trying to both, sure why not. You have it, so may as well use it.
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February 4, 2012 9:56:10 PM

Best answer selected by Scrambledeggs.
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a b à CPUs
February 4, 2012 11:55:37 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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