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When to upgrade?

Last response: in CPUs
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June 13, 2012 12:11:12 AM

I have had my current system for I believe nearing 3 years now...for about a year I have considered upgrading the CPU as it's the weakest link I do believe. Problem is, I can never really find anything that seems like a worthy upgrade. This CPU has surprised me by still handling practically all games I want to play on high settings in 1080p. I had thought perhaps I would upgrade once Bulldozer came out, but with the mass disappointment in the FX series I have held off.

Not sure if my current specs are showin up in my sig, so here's what I have:
CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 @ 2.8ghz
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3 1600, 8gb - 2gbx4
GPU: ATi HD 5770 (1gb, 850/1200)
MOBO: BIOSTAR TA790GXB3
PSU: Antec Earthwatts 650W

Many times I have considered going for an P2 X4 980 BE...an extra core, nearly 1ghz faster - without having to upgrade my mobo at all. I know in benchmarks it far surpasses my X3, but I can't help but wonder would I really notice any practical difference? Not to mention the X4 980 is still pretty far down on the performance list of available CPUs.

I simply can't afford an i7 as much as I would like to, and I don't really want to change from AMD to Intel, using sockets I don't know anything about, for an i3 or i5.

So it seems like I just keep waiting for the next big thing, like a new line from Intel that pushes the i7 prices down are a good performance line from AMD - maybe Piledriver?

I just feel like this X3 720 had been out for a while and was not top of the line when I bought it, yet still 3 years later nothing really seems worth the money to upgrade to...

So what do you all think? I typically don't OC my system and go for the "bang for your buck" components. Should I just continue waiting if my current rig is satisfactory? Wait for what? :sleep: 

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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 12:19:36 AM

If you are a gamer, and that PHII X3 720 and HD 5770 is capable of "handling practically all games I want to play on high settings in 1080p", then you have no reason to upgrade. You apparently don't play the really demanding games if you can get fast frame rates (30 FPS+ minimum) at 1920x1080 resolution with highest settings and a HD 5770.
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June 13, 2012 12:23:59 AM

Well not the MAX settings, but I was comfortably playing Max Payne 3 at 1920x1080 with most settings on "Very High" and 1 or 2 on "High", but no AA. I notice it mostly struggles with AA which I usually disable, but I don't much care about that.
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a c 105 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 12:24:41 AM

if your gaming PC delivers performance to your satisfaction then there is no need to upgrade. plenty of people enjoy playing diablo III on a barebone laptop as do those that play it maxed out at 1080p on their multi card PC.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 12:53:04 AM

lilrayray69 said:
Well not the MAX settings, but I was comfortably playing Max Payne 3 at 1920x1080 with most settings on "Very High" and 1 or 2 on "High", but no AA. I notice it mostly struggles with AA which I usually disable, but I don't much care about that.

Try the FXAA for anti-aliasing option. It is the newest form of post-processing shader-based anti aliasing. It has an almost negligible hit on performance and looks exceptionally good for getting rid of the jaggies.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 12:54:16 AM

It sounds like you have the itch.

Normally, the most productive upgrade for the gamer is the graphics card.

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 50%.

Go to control panel/power options/change plan settings/change advanced power settings/processor power management/maximum processor state/
set to 50% and see how you do.


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 c 141 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 2:33:41 AM

If its doing what you want then theres no need to upgrade. A quad core wont help all that much as most games dont use quad cores. I dont beleive they made a regular edition 720 did they, so all yuo have to do is install a cheap but decent aftermarket cpu cooler and then go into the bios and increase the cpu mulitplier and you should get to 3.5Ghz pretty easily.
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June 13, 2012 2:40:02 AM

hmm, can anyone recommend me a good cpu cooler? I've never used anything but stock...maybe OC'ing would be fun for now. Would prefer to keep it sub-$50
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a b à CPUs
June 13, 2012 2:43:12 AM

In your situation I would just hold until the next iteration of AMD CPUs. You said the games you play run well at high settings, so unless you plan on playing some of the more intensive cpu-taxing games (a la Shogun 2, StarCraft II, Civ V etc. etc.) you'll probably be fine where you are. The 980 is a great chip, don't get me wrong (I'm currently running one) but if I could go back, I would have waited a bit longer to see what else was coming.

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

This is one of my favorite coolers under $50--can't go wrong.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 2:46:13 AM

The Phenom II X4 980BE is a great CPU. I had one for awhile with 2 x GTX 460s and it was a great gamer. The CPU is dated, but excellent. Remember tho, gaming frame rates is mainly about the graphics card once you have an adequate processor. Even your PhII X3 is 'adequate'. But if you have the urge to upgrade without spending a fortune, go for the 980 (and maybe a graphics card upgrade too). The 980 will handle any single card you use.
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June 13, 2012 2:58:24 AM

I had finally caved into buying a X4 980 the other day when I got a Newegg gift card...and just as I went to buy it - it sold out! Could still get the 975 but I think they are going to get more OEM 980's in so I'll just wait and see.

In the meantime I'll look into a cooler and overclocking, thanks for all the input.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 3:07:33 AM

And yes... If you're buying an OEM CPU, you definetly don't want to re-use the old PhII X3's cooler on it if it's the one with no heat pipes.
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a c 471 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 3:32:00 AM

Based on the following CPU support data, the best CPU you can upgrade to is a Phenom II X4 980.

http://www.biostar.com.tw/app/en/mb/introduction.php?S_...

Beyond that (like a Phenom II X6 or FX CPU) you will need to buy a new motherboard. At that point you may want to consider switching over to Intel depending on your budget.

When you should upgrade depends on when you believe your CPU is not longer providing the performance you want. I am planning on upgrading my PC based around a Core 2 Quad Q9450 (built in 2008) next year when Intel releases Haswell, however there is even a small possibility that I might postpone an upgrade until Intel releases Broadwell in 2014.
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June 13, 2012 4:08:23 AM

I've been looking around and I remember hearing about people unlocking their X3 720's fourth core and effectively making it a X4 920.

Looking further, doing so apparently on works on certain motherboards, like Biostar's w/ 790 chipset - which I just happen to have..

Assuming I get a better cooler, would trying to unlock the fourth core be worth it? I've read some people were able to do so and it was perfectly stable.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 4:19:04 AM

lilrayray69 said:
I've been looking around and I remember hearing about people unlocking their X3 720's fourth core and effectively making it a X4 920.

Looking further, doing so apparently on works on certain motherboards, like Biostar's w/ 790 chipset - which I just happen to have..

Assuming I get a better cooler, would trying to unlock the fourth core be worth it? I've read some people were able to do so and it was perfectly stable.

I think it would. You would gain the extra core and the extra L3 cache that comes with it. Whether or not it will be a stable core/cache is another question. But you might as well try. If your PhII X3 is a Black Edition, you can easily O/C it as well. More and more modern games are utilizing more than 3 cores now. And 4 cores will make a difference in video work if you do that.
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June 13, 2012 4:26:46 AM

well if you want so bad get new gpu get a 7850 and ddr3 you have so your good the x3 is good but if you get the x4 980 or 965 or up your great but all your stuff is great already but gpu 1st to see the difference the the cpu keep tile pile driver out i have bulldozer and love it well thats my 2censt
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June 13, 2012 5:29:36 PM

Well I went ahead and tried unlocking it just to see if it'd work. I just enabled ACC in my BIOS but once I restarted it wouldn't POST or display any image so I guess I'm not one of the lucky ones with a functional 4th core.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 13, 2012 5:58:38 PM

lilrayray69 said:
Well I went ahead and tried unlocking it just to see if it'd work. I just enabled ACC in my BIOS but once I restarted it wouldn't POST or display any image so I guess I'm not one of the lucky ones with a functional 4th core.

Bummer. Yeah, it seems that way. If your BIOS offers the option, try to back off on the 4th core's freq. Sometimes it's listed as %. If still no joy, you have one with a really defective 4th core or cache. At least you have a really good 3 core processor.
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June 15, 2012 9:07:04 PM

Ok, I went with the COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO cooling unit and got it installed today (also got some AS5 paste on it). It seems to be working pretty well. I ran Prime95 and the core temp never went over 31-32C whereas previously with stock cooling it would hit 55C+. So that seems like a good improvement. Right now with just a couple things open it hovers around 23-25C.

Do these temps seem safe to start overclocking? I've overclocked before in the past but not by much...
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 15, 2012 9:17:43 PM

32C with Prime95 running at 100%? Is this running in a closed case, or out in the open? 'Cause 32C is unbelievably excellent for all cores at 100%! That's what my i5-2500K idles at with the 212 EVO!
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June 15, 2012 9:37:39 PM

Yeah ~32C with the CPU at 100%. It's a closed case. I just tried the AMD OverDrive thing to see how it did...It got up to 3600mhz @ ~41C but then suddenly got a BSOD right around when it hit 3600mhz.

When OC'ing in BIOS should I just up the multiplier or try upping FSB as well?

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a c 309 à CPUs
June 15, 2012 9:50:51 PM

I rarely O/C. But when I do, I just up the CPU multiplier and let the FSB take care of itself. When I get to the point that stability is iffy, I might raise the voltage a point at a time. But I'm no expert when it come to O/Cing. I just do it for fun. Going to from 2.8GHZ to 3.6GHZ is quite a climb. I'd be happy if I had that chip stable at 3.4GHZ.

Man! I still can't believe those temp numbers. Not that I doubt you. I'm just surprised it stays that cool at 100% usage. Was that at stock speed?
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June 15, 2012 9:53:44 PM

Yeah that 32C was at stock speed. I've got it at 3ghz right now and with Prime95 going it's stable at 38-39C.

I'm gonna do some more testing, hoping for around 3.4ghz or 3.5ghz stable.
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a c 309 à CPUs
June 15, 2012 9:58:45 PM

If you can keep the triple core stable at 3.3-3.4GHZ, you'll have more than enough CPU to upgrade your graphics card to something with a bit more speed if you ever need to. Looks like you have a winner there. Congrats.
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June 16, 2012 2:41:53 AM

Well just changing the multiplier it's stable at 3.2ghz.

At 3.3ghz I get an error pretty quick in Prime95 and at 3.4ghz it crashed shortly after booting. Think I should try increasing the voltage a bit?
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June 16, 2012 2:49:40 AM

Ahh, will do - thanks!
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!