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Next Optimal Upgrade to Maximize Gaming Performance?

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April 10, 2012 10:05:21 PM

Hey guys,

I was just curious in what would be my next best upgrade.

Here's my current rig and my thoughts on some of the parts:


PSU: OCZ StealthXStream 600 Watt

- Haven't run into any issues where the power supply may seem to be the problem. But, I may be wrong...

MotherBoard: MSI 870A-G54

- This one's tricky. I picked up this motherboard about 1-2 years ago (closer to 2 I believe), and its been running great even with massive overclocks. Ever since I reformatted Windows 7 (about a month ago), Windows has been telling me, under device manager, I see "Other Devices," and then "USB Component or USB device," (something like that), I;ve tried re-installing a few USB drivers from the CD that came with the mother board AND re-installing drivers through Live Update 5 (MSI's Automatic Update Utility). Yet, Windows can't confirm that those specific drivers have been installed.

- Also, the motherboard supports RAM frequencies of 1600 Mhz but, says that its 1600 Mhz (Overclocked) on their website. I figured it'd be alright just pushing the voltage to 1.662 and manually setting it to it's CL9 timings.

- (Not too sure about this one). It feels like I'm having to up my voltage regularly... For example, I overclock my unlocked CPU from 3.8 to 4.0 Ghz. I've hit 4.0 Ghz @ 1.329v in the past, booted into Windows fine, played Battlefield 3 for about 10-20 minutes and then crashed. Reset my CMOS jumpers, got into BIOS, and tried the same settings and upon restart, the computer won't post.

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 960T Black Edition @ 3.0 Ghz (Unlocked to Phenom II X6 1605T/1600T @ 3.8 Ghz.)

- The 960T at stock, when idling, pulls about 95-105 watts. I know the motherboard is capable of handling up to 125 watts because it's under specifications on MSI's website, but unlocking the 2 extra cores pushes this CPU towards a whoppin 161 watts. Is this okay?

- I'm currently overclocked with these settings and so far it seems stable:

- Using a Cooler Master Hyper 212+ with 2 fans for "Push-Pull," effect.
AMD C'n'Q and C1E Support = Disabled
FSB = 200
CPU Ratio = x19 (Whatever it was to get 3.8 Ghz).
CPU-NB Freq. = Right around 2400 Mhz @ CPU-NB Ratio = x12
HT-Link Freq. = 2000 Mhz @ HT - Multiplier = x10
RAM = Settings Below :pt1cable: 
CPU Vcore Voltage = 1.318v (However, the voltages changed upon unlocking the 2 extra cores) Is this normal?
CPU-NB Voltage = 1.161v (Right around there, no less than approx. 1.15 and nothing above 1.16v).
DRAM Voltage = 1.662v (Motherboard doesn't have the option for 1.65v).


RAM/Memory: Kingston HyperX blu 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1600 Mhz CL9 @ 1.65v

- RAM seems to be working as promised.

- Current BIOS Settings for RAM:
DRAM Ratio = 1:4 = Giving me 1600 Mhz

- Manually set timings to it's XMP profile settings although I'm using a AMD CPU (Is this okay?)
- Timings = [9-9-9-27-36] Not too sure about the last number (not that important I hear?)

GPU: XFX Radeon HD 6870 1 GB Single Fan

- Very mild overclock only on the memory:
Stock Speed = 900 Mhz on the core, 1050 Mhz memory speed.
Overclock Speed = 900 Mhz on core, 1150 Mhz memory.

- Also thinking of bumping the memory speed to around 1200 as I've heard that these cards can handle it.

HDD: Samsung HD103SJ 1 TB 7200 RPM

- BIOS Raid Setting Set To: AHCI
- Just yesterday, I saw transfer rates of 11-25 MB/Sec transferring a package of 6-8 GB.
Is this okay?

Monitor: I-INC 20" Widescreen 16:9 Aspect Ratio

- A 20" Widescreen with 1600x900 as Native Resolution is fine by me for gaming and hasn't caused any problems. Connected with a VGA to DVI adapter to my GPU.


I recently purchased the CPU from Microcenter and they said that I could bring back the receipt and to receive savings on a new motherboard.

- Only 2 choices seemed appealing:

1. GA-970A-UD3 Socket AM3+ 970 ATX AMD for $50

2. GA-990FXA-UD3 Socket AM3+ 990FX ATX AMD for around $80

The other motherboards on the bundle were selling for about $10 and just didn't look "protected," I should say. Not only that, my current motherboard blows em outta the water...

Also thought about grabbing a SSD but, since fps gains are for specific games I don't see the need to get one. However, I have also thought about getting another 4 GB of DDR3-1600 RAM (same model as my current).

I am on a tight student budget (willing to spend about $80 at the maximum) and I'm terribly sorry about throwing all this out at you guys at once, but I really need some help deciding :D 

Thanks in advance.
April 10, 2012 10:10:21 PM

Not bad. Only thing I'd upgrade is the CPU, which isn't bad, to an i5, but that would entail a whole new motherboard, reassembling the PC... You get the idea. Overclock that 6870 though. You'll get a lot better performance. Otherwise, nothing that you van really upgrade for $80. Maybe a CPU cooler to overclock to >4GHz.
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April 10, 2012 10:20:14 PM

obsama1 said:
Not bad. Only thing I'd upgrade is the CPU, which isn't bad, to an i5, but that would entail a whole new motherboard, reassembling the PC... You get the idea. Overclock that 6870 though. You'll get a lot better performance. Otherwise, nothing that you van really upgrade for $80. Maybe a CPU cooler to overclock to >4GHz.


Ahhh I see, I really want to overclock the 6870 but, I've heard the Barts processing unit starts becoming unstable after 70-75C. Playing Battlefield 3 multiplayer for about an hour gets the GPU to about 65-69C even with a customized fan setting in MSI Afterburner.

Hmm... Maybe it's not aggressive enough? I put it so that after it hits 55C the fan starts spinning at around 75-80%.

And would another 4 GB of RAM not help much? While playing in a full 64 slot multiplayer server, task manager shows I'm using about 4 GB or just above, but under resources I see that actual free RAM is about 1 gig. I believe a lot of it was cached.

Thanks for your response!

EDIT: Would a second hard drive or external hard drive help?
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April 10, 2012 10:23:53 PM

Hmmm, get 4GB of RAM, and maybe 2-3 extra case fans so you can overclock that 6870.

EDIT:
A 2nd hard drive wouldn't help much. An SSD would help with boot times, but that's it. 2GB-4GB of RAM would be a good upgrade, and like I said, a few extra case fans. Also, what CPU cooler do you have? A Hyper 212 Plus would help with CPU temperatures.
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April 10, 2012 10:31:02 PM

I have one of the side panels off at the moment.

I'm using:

Thermaltake V3 Black Edition ATX Mid Tower Computer Case



I definitely could add a decently sized fan to the front panel (bottom side).

Thanks for the suggestions, any ideas on my current motherboard or power supply?

- Some of the guys at Microcenter were telling me that my PSU may not work so well, but I suck with PSUs and wasn't sure how you can tell if your PSU is having a hard time with the load?
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April 10, 2012 10:50:01 PM

6870 will be good for decent settings on bf3 .. i have a 1090t @4ghz .. and crossfire 6870s gives me a steady 60fps on the high setting preset @ 1080p while running a 46inch tv.. monitor.. as for ultra .. alas .. its a no go .. too choppy some settings at ultra are fine but msaa kills them..
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April 10, 2012 10:50:45 PM

3d mark i get p7615 with crossfire 6870...
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April 10, 2012 10:56:35 PM

Use a voltmeter and measure the watts thay are coming out of the wall into the PSU cable. OCZ is not the best PSU barnd, but they're certainly not the worst.
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April 10, 2012 11:16:09 PM

For most games, the way to better fps is via a stronger graphics card.

Changing a motherboard, and keeping the cpu will not gain you anything.

A SSD will launch the game faster, and get you faster level loads, but no increase in fps.

8gb of ram is plenty. No game uses more than 2-3gb.

Graphics cards are built to run hot, and they do. I would not worry unless it is throttling, and I would not expect that under 100c.

If you want to explore the cpu/gpu relationship for your games, then 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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April 10, 2012 11:54:53 PM

geofelt said:
For most games, the way to better fps is via a stronger graphics card.

Changing a motherboard, and keeping the cpu will not gain you anything.

A SSD will launch the game faster, and get you faster level loads, but no increase in fps.

8gb of ram is plenty. No game uses more than 2-3gb.

Graphics cards are built to run hot, and they do. I would not worry unless it is throttling, and I would not expect that under 100c.

If you want to explore the cpu/gpu relationship for your games, then 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.


Thanks for the reply. In fact, I've recently upgraded my CPU from a AMD Athlon II X4 640/AMD Phenom II X4 830 OEM to my current AMD Phenom II X4 960T/1605T (Unlocked @ Stock)/1600T (Unlocked @ Overclocked) because my CPU was the bottleneck @ 1600x900 resolution.

I don't think I'm being bottlenecked by my CPU right now. I've actually hit Ultra settings with no AA whatsoever. I've tried using MLAA 2.0 on top of Ultra Settings (No In-Game AA). implemented in AMD's 12.3 WHQL and 12.4 Beta Drivers and was surprised at how much performance improvement there was.

There is one thing tho, If I don't use RadeonPro to set my CPU's flip queue size to 1 and set Battlefield 3's In-Game console command "RenderDevice.ForceRenderAheadLimit 1," the game starts stuttering within the first minute I join. I get the whole shabang... Sudden FPS drops to 1 and rises back up, takes a few moments to hit 60+ FPS upon first joining (as if GPU had to warm up before it began working @ 100%), and etc.

I'm not sure if the fact that I have to set my flip queue size means that something might possibly be wrong with my system? Was just playing with GPU overclocked @ 940 Mhz and 1150 Mhz and to my surprise it seemed pretty stable :D 

Temps never rose above 69C.

- Would this mean I have headroom to overclock further? (cause that would just be awesome). But unfortunately, my XFX Radeon HD 6870 is a non-reference card and won't allow manual voltage control.

Quote:
EDIT:
A 2nd hard drive wouldn't help much. An SSD would help with boot times, but that's it. 2GB-4GB of RAM would be a good upgrade, and like I said, a few extra case fans. Also, what CPU cooler do you have? A Hyper 212 Plus would help with CPU temperatures.


I have the Hyper 212+ just as you mentioned with 2 fans for the push-pull effect :p 
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April 12, 2012 1:14:19 AM

obsama1 said:
Not bad. Only thing I'd upgrade is the CPU, which isn't bad, to an i5, but that would entail a whole new motherboard, reassembling the PC... You get the idea. Overclock that 6870 though. You'll get a lot better performance. Otherwise, nothing that you van really upgrade for $80. Maybe a CPU cooler to overclock to >4GHz.



So I've tested the balance of my system following geofelt's suggestions and saw FPS improvements when lowering my resolution to 1440x900 and also 1280x720 (very noticeable improvement). Since $80 can't really get me much at the moment, I think I'll be sticking with overclocking my GPU to about 980-1000 Mhz on the core and 1200-1250 Mhz on the memory.

My GPU's temperature never went above 70C at 940/1150 Mhz. Geofelt stated that GPUs are suppose to run hot and I shouldn't worry until my GPU starts throttling which lets me know I got some head room :) 

Thanks guys.
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