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What should I upgrade first (GPU or CPU)?

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  • GPUs
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June 29, 2012 3:55:52 PM

Hello there!

First of all, here's my gaming rig: GTX 460 1 GB, Quad Core Q9300 @2'7 GHz, 6 GB RAM DDR2, motherboard Gigabyte GA P35 DS3.
I'm going to earn some cash soon and I'd like to upgrade part of my computer. Some weeks ago I wanted to upgrade CPU + CPU fan + motherboard + DDR3 RAM all at once (it would cost like 350 € / 450$). I had thought about i5 2500K + 4 GB 1600 MHz.

Yesterday I realized it might be possible to buy a new GPU instead of all the other stuff. ATI 7870 2 GB seemed like a nice choice. It's relatively cheap compared to its performance, and I really want one of those now.

Problem is my CPU (Q9300) might not be good enough for that ATI 7870, and maybe it would make a bottleneck and not work as it should.

Could anyone please tell me if I wouldn't sense much of a botteleneck with my CPU and the GPU I'm about to buy... or if I should buy CPU + MB + DDR3 RAM as I first thought?

Thank you very much!!

More about : upgrade gpu cpu

a b à CPUs
June 29, 2012 4:26:58 PM

Best bang for buck upgrade .
Video card .The7870 is a good bit faster than the GTX460.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...
4 tiers higher in Toms chart.
An after marker cooler for overclocking your cpu would be next.( can be reused in your next upgrade.
The Q9300 will slightly bottleneck the 7870 at stock but overclocked slightly to 3.2 and you would have to run benchmarks to tell any difference.
June 29, 2012 5:00:32 PM

Unolocogringo said:
Best bang for buck upgrade .
Video card .The7870 is a good bit faster than the GTX460.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...
4 tiers higher in Toms chart.
An after marker cooler for overclocking your cpu would be next.( can be reused in your next upgrade.
The Q9300 will slightly bottleneck the 7870 at stock but overclocked slightly to 3.2 and you would have to run benchmarks to tell any difference.

Thank you Rick, that's what I needed to hear!

I would appreciate as many other opinions as possible!

By the way, would a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO fan work fine for my Q9300? I had planned to buy it along with the i5 2500K.
Related resources
a b à CPUs
June 29, 2012 5:06:20 PM

It will work great as long as you have room in your case. It is pretty tall and needs a wide case for clearance.
Good choice ,I run the 212Evo on a 6core AMD @3.4 with max temp of 54c
June 29, 2012 5:11:50 PM

Wow thanks again for the quick answer!

Last question (I hope): is my motherboard capable enough to work fine with ATI 7870? I think my MB (Gigabyte GA P35 DS3) is a little old, so I prefer to be sure there won't be any problem :D 

+2 for you mate
June 29, 2012 5:26:06 PM

why dont you upgrade, CPU, motherboard and RAm and also get another gtx460?
June 29, 2012 5:28:04 PM

as long as your motherboard supports PCI express, then it works
a b à CPUs
June 29, 2012 5:30:13 PM

You should be fine with the video card upgrade.
Several other posters on here have upgraded to the 7850/7870 with your motherboard and no reported problem, also none found on a google search either.
a c 346 à CPUs
June 29, 2012 5:34:15 PM

I suspect you have a well balanced rig.

The usual suggestion to upgrade the graphics card first might not apply.

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.
June 29, 2012 6:02:57 PM

Hey this is just a personal opinion over here but are you sure after using Nvidia you want to shift to AMD cards?
Hey I am not trying to start the never ending debate of Nvidia VS AMD but something I have personally expierienced. Never the less the HD 7870 is a great card for its value but if you can spend go with Nvidia.
Back to your question.
Both your GPU & CPU are pretty good.
So you can upgrade anything you want but personally I would go for GPU as gaming mainly needs GPU than CPU. Moreover your CPU is good already.
It might cause a little bottleneck with 7870 but it should not be by much.
And I presume you would change your CPU soon enough so till than the GPU upgrade should suffice.
June 29, 2012 6:42:50 PM

I've tried lowering my resolution in 2 games (Call of Duty: MW3 and Battlefield 3) from 1920x1080 to the lowest resolution, and in both games, I got the same frames... weird, isn't it? Does it mean my CPU is causing a serious bottleneck to my GTX 460?

Maybe it explains why while recording with fraps games like COD, frames wouldn't be more than 30-35 (even in lowest settings)...

What do you think?

+1's for everyone, you are helping me so much! Thanks!
a b à CPUs
June 29, 2012 6:56:56 PM

Recording, not monitoring with fraps will take a heavy toll on frame rates.
Try again but only monitor frame rates ,do not record and see what FPS you get.
June 29, 2012 7:02:55 PM

Unolocogringo said:
Recording, not monitoring with fraps will take a heavy toll on frame rates.
Try again but only monitor frame rates ,do not record and see what FPS you get.

I meant I had tried to record many games, but always my frames wouldn't be others than 30-35 maximum.

Monitoring frame rates in 2 different games, and changing my resolution from 1920x1080 to 800x600, my frames are exactly the same... any idea?
a c 346 à CPUs
June 29, 2012 7:17:39 PM

Bloodyclaws said:
I meant I had tried to record many games, but always my frames wouldn't be others than 30-35 maximum.

Monitoring frame rates in 2 different games, and changing my resolution from 1920x1080 to 800x600, my frames are exactly the same... any idea?


That is an indication to me that it is your cpu that is more limiting than the graphics card.

Most games use only 2 or 3 cores, so part of your quad Q6600 is not that helpful.
The individual cores are not that strong, compared to newer Intel offerings.

Can you OC your q6600 a bit and see what happens at the lower resolution?
a c 346 à CPUs
June 29, 2012 7:19:57 PM

I meant Q9300, not Q6600.
Dumb mistake from me, dumb inability to edit from the forum.
a b à CPUs
June 29, 2012 10:47:25 PM

Do the games look blocky, blurry and plain ugly at 800x600?
If they look the same you have scaling turned on and the video card is rescaleing the image to fit your monitors native resolution.Reguardless of game settings.
June 29, 2012 11:50:35 PM

Unolocogringo said:
Do the games look blocky, blurry and plain ugly at 800x600?
If they look the same you have scaling turned on and the video card is rescaleing the image to fit your monitors native resolution.Reguardless of game settings.

Indeed it looks blurry and ugly.

I'd prefer not to OC my CPU... when idle, all cores are around 55 - 60ºC. While playing are about 80º, so... I don't want it to explode :p 

I think it's strange that it's so hot, my case is Phantom 401 (4 fans) and my heatsink for the CPU is not too bad (actually it's huge lol), while my GPU is around 40ºC when idle.
a b à CPUs
June 30, 2012 12:10:47 AM

Those cpu temperatures are very high.
We might of found your problem,
If your cpu is that high playing games it is definately throttleing to save itself. Meaning the cpu slows down to keep from frying itself.

First thing I would suggest is to reseat the heatsink with new thermal paste. Is it the stock cooler that came with the cpu?
the pushpins are bad about "creeping" out of the motherboard.
June 30, 2012 10:43:02 AM

Unolocogringo said:
Those cpu temperatures are very high.
We might of found your problem,
If your cpu is that high playing games it is definately throttleing to save itself. Meaning the cpu slows down to keep from frying itself.

First thing I would suggest is to reseat the heatsink with new thermal paste. Is it the stock cooler that came with the cpu?
the pushpins are bad about "creeping" out of the motherboard.

My heatsink isn't the one that came with the CPU, it's much bigger and better, I think.
I'll try to reseat it with new thermal paste later, anyway I think I'm going to buy new CPU + MB + RAM first. If my Q9300 is slowing down to not fry itself, if I get a new i5 2500K, frames will increase hugely, right?

Thanks!
!