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Want to upgrade, but don't know what need it

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 21, 2011 5:39:50 PM

I recently brought Skyrim, I thought that my PC would be able to run it at 1080p with high settings and get a consistent 60fps. I also want to buy Arkham City soon and wanted to make sure that my rig was capable of running it. the only problem is, I don't know what needs upgrading. Is it my graphics card? or CPU?

Here are my specs:
Windows 7 32bit
Intel core i5 650 @ stock 3.2Ghz
Radeon HD 4870 1GB
4GB Ram

I sometimes get performance spikes in Skyrim, I think my graphics card is bottlenecking the performance, what do you guys think?

More about : upgrade

a c 236 U Graphics card
December 21, 2011 6:12:42 PM

skyrim recommends a quad and a 4890 or better.

You have a reasonably well balanced pc, and you may nog be able to do a one component upgrade.

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.

In the mean time, can you OC that i5-650 a bit?
December 21, 2011 6:17:12 PM

use a program called game booster

it shuts off all un necesaey programs whilst gaming and uses unused ram for you or something, lol

Related resources
a b U Graphics card
December 21, 2011 6:23:06 PM

Tried Game Booster....Actually lowered my FPS. :^(
a b U Graphics card
December 21, 2011 6:50:38 PM

If you want to run at 1080p and high settings, you need a new card, the CPU is probably fine. You will need a buff card or two to run that with everything on high at that res.

If you want to use what you got, then try setting the resolution to 720p first. Blashphemy! you say, but get this- that game looks almost the same at 720p as it does on 1080p with everything turned up. I say this because the textures are the part that determines how detailed stuff looks, and this game was a console port, ie. the textures were already lowered to run on a console at 720p.
December 21, 2011 7:06:14 PM

@geofelt
Thank you for the swift reply. I done some of the tests you talked about, I benched marked them in "whiterun" a city in skyrim. I used it because this is a place I always seem to get low fps (30) especially when looking down at it from the castle. Here are the attempts:

1st attempt: Kept the settings at high and lowered the resolution to 800x600; result: fps gain was very minimal.
2nd attempt: lowered resolution as before to 800x600 and set the gfx to low. There was significant fps gain, although it didn't skyrocket, whiterun is a performance consuming city.
3rd attempt: Set details to ultra and resolution to 800x600, fps hit was massive, was getting like 20fps. Normally on 1080 with high settings I don't get lower than 30, but doing ultra even with the lowest resolution made my fps bleed badly.

I couldnt quite understand what you meant by limiting cpu, but I went to power management and used powersaving mode; this in turn led to a large fps hit.

As for OCing, I've never really OC'd anything before and am worried about the cpu, because the PC case is quite small, the fan and heatsink are small too, so I must be careful when OC'ing as it is prone to overheating.

@festerovic

I agree with you, I also have a hunch that it isn't my cpu, I say this because this game only uses two cores, and the i5 has four threads. this cpu works wonders for my pcsx2 emu (Which is heavily reliant on CPU). As for running the game at 720p, I tried, but then again resolution made little difference to performance, also my monitor is a little weird, it runs best at 1680x1050, so that is the res I tend to use.

What gfx card do you think is best for my needs? I was thinking 6850, should be enough for skyrim and arkham city shouldnt it? I'm just so low on cash right now, so even if I do decide on a gfx card, it's going to be a couple of days of collecting before I come up with the moneys.
a c 236 U Graphics card
December 21, 2011 7:19:03 PM

A steady 60fps is not easily done without a great graphics card. In your case, you are looking at a GTX570/6970 class card.
Your tests tell me that the graphics card is partly at issue. In the interim, continue to experiment with the combination of resolution and eye candy to get the best balance.

Because of the fps hit with reduced cpu power, it also indicates that your cpu is partly a limiting factor also. Your cpu is a dual core with hyperthreading. Each of the hyperthreads is worth only about 1/4 core each.

Here is a link to how to oc a i5-650. I suggest you do it in the smallest of steps until you feel comfortable:
http://www.masterslair.com/199/how-to-overclock-intel-c...
December 21, 2011 7:38:15 PM

gtx570/6970 are some super expensive cards. It's a bit overkill for my needs. I already get steady 60fps in some areas in skyrim, it's just some areas that are heavy hitters, like whiterun. Although I have switched off vsync and am running the game with a frame limiter. I just don't want to overspend, maybe i'm being unrealistic with the kind of performance I want and the hardware I can afford.

I get steady 60fps in fallout 3 with everything on high. But I guess it wasn't using the creation engine...
December 21, 2011 7:41:59 PM

upgrade to a 6770/5770 (same card basically) or make a jump to a Nvidia 460/560

or Amd 6850/6870 (6850 or 460 will be cheapest/most performance upgrade)

It could bottleneck the cpu but I would do a slight OC and get the most out of your cpu as possible until you can upgrade the cpu/mobo.

If you go to any higher cards then the ones I listed you for sure will be bottlenecking your cpu and in turn not reaping any benefits for the $ you spent, at least until you can upgrade everything.

cheapest full upgrade I would suggest is
i3 2100 with matx h67 board = 150-175$ (if your close to a microcenter)
460/6850* = 120-160 depending on deals
ddr 3 ram = 20-30 bucks if needed for mobo

or go amd and it will be a lil bit cheaper for a lil less performance but still would be worth the minor upgrade unless you plan on getting a new anytime soon.
December 21, 2011 7:54:00 PM

Thanks for the suggestion hotthree, gonna do that till I have a chance to upgrade the mobo and cpu. I'ts going to be either the 6850 or 6870, ati's tend to be cheaper.
a b U Graphics card
December 21, 2011 8:07:18 PM

I have 2 6850s and it taxes my cards pretty hard. I play at 1200p. I wouldn't recommend anything less than 6950 for a single card for a good visual experience. But to do what you want, you should definitely run at lower res. You say it had minimal impact, but I think if you did some extensive testing youd see it makes a the biggest impact. I know the native res on your monitor is higher, but you get some free "antialiasing" out of the blur that occurs when you run the res a little lower than the native. But that's just my preference.
December 21, 2011 9:36:57 PM

That's the other point, the lower the resolution, the higher the AA has to be or you get really bad jaggies, and i hate dem jaggies! But I will experiment to find a perfect fit for both performance and quality.
December 23, 2011 10:58:39 AM

So if I had to upgrade one, just one, it would be the graphics card. I realized that I could have the game running at 60fps most of the time at ultra settings, just as long as the shadow details are set to medium or lower, shadow details are the resource hog, and shadows are normally handled by the gfx card. So I guess I got my answer.
!