Next Optimal Upgrade to Maximize Gaming Performance?

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.
10 answers Last reply
More about next optimal upgrade maximize gaming performance
  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. I have one of the side panels off at the moment.

    I'm using:

    Thermaltake V3 Black Edition ATX Mid Tower Computer Case

    http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0323929

    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?
  5. 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..
  6. 3d mark i get p7615 with crossfire 6870...
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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
  10. 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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