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CPU Upgrade vs. RAM Upgrade

Last response: in Systems
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July 31, 2012 4:04:54 AM

This is fairly embarrassing, but for the life of me, I still cannot figure out which is more important for a computer: the CPU speed, or amount of RAM.

I'm looking to do a minor upgrade for my computer, which is why I ask this. I currently have:

AMD Phenom II X 2 555 (unlocked to X4)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
BIOSTAR TA785G3
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OCZ Platinum 4GB (2x2GB)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Sapphire Radeon 6870
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If I were to upgrade either the CPU or the RAM, which would be most beneficial? I use my rig for light gaming (Batman: Arkham City/Asylum, COD), movie watching, and other general work.

Thanks in advance!
July 31, 2012 4:13:42 AM

Depends...

If you are using all of your RAM yet your CPU is only under 50% stress then obviously you need more RAM. And vice versa... Usually a CPU impacts performance more though... Is what I would say
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July 31, 2012 4:19:07 AM

You actually have a really well balanced system. The ram wouldn't do you much to upgrade at all though.

If you haven't before, perhaps try your hand at overclocking the cpu and gpu. I think that'd net you the best gain..and for free. You're only investment would be time.

At this stage, the only thing that'd bring a worthwhile upgrade to your system would be a gpu, but the 6870 is quite good so i don't think it'd be a smart time to upgrade for you just yet.
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July 31, 2012 4:30:10 AM

izoli said:
Depends...

If you are using all of your RAM yet your CPU is only under 50% stress then obviously you need more RAM. And vice versa... Usually a CPU impacts performance more though... Is what I would say


Hmm... every once in a while, I will max out my RAM, but CPU stays fairly low.

I guess my question is: what exactly are each used for in terms of the computer? Improving CPU will do what? Adding RAM will do what? Not sure why this still trips me up =/


lucuis said:
You actually have a really well balanced system. The ram wouldn't do you much to upgrade at all though.

If you haven't before, perhaps try your hand at overclocking the cpu and gpu. I think that'd net you the best gain..and for free. You're only investment would be time.

At this stage, the only thing that'd bring a worthwhile upgrade to your system would be a gpu, but the 6870 is quite good so i don't think it'd be a smart time to upgrade for you just yet.


Thanks! I overclocked the CPU a little bit (3.4 I think) but after a while, it gets fairly unstable. Would adding RAM not be beneficial? I'm just really uncertain about how each component plays into performance. What would adding RAM do?
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July 31, 2012 4:32:04 AM

Upgrade your system hard drive to SSD. This will change your experience more than upgrading your cpu or memory.
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July 31, 2012 4:36:38 AM

marshsmello said:
Upgrade your system hard drive to SSD. This will change your experience more than upgrading your cpu or memory.


Yeah I've got a generic SSD and that was a HUGE change from HDD, no doubt. I'm just trying to figure out what's the best thing to do now.
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July 31, 2012 4:40:39 AM

Thing of the CPU as the engine of a vehicle. The RAM is the gasoline and an SSD is a NOS system without the possible failure of equipment. The more cylinders the more of a workhorse it is. The faster the RAM the higher the octane.
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July 31, 2012 4:45:47 AM

If your RAM gets maxed out then you CPU will start sending/receiving data via HDD which is several times slower and will cause your performance to decrease drastically(even with an SSD).

So if there are times where you are at 100% RAM usage and you notice your performance is going downhill you need to upgrade the RAM. If there are times your CPU is at 100% usage and your performance decreases you need to upgrade your CPU. Or just lower settings on things/exit un-needed programs/etc.

4GB of RAM I personally consider pretty weak nowadays, I generally hang around 6-8GB when I am actively doing things. That doesn't mean much for you though 4GB might be just fine. Just check out your monitors and see what they say and go off of that.
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a b à CPUs
July 31, 2012 5:01:43 AM

still running on 4 gb, it still quite fine for me now days...

Go with ssd or cpu is a better choice i think...

nothing much since your system is well balanced, tip the balance and u will get bottleneck somewhere else...
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July 31, 2012 5:18:14 AM

skyl4r_z0 said:
If I were to upgrade either the CPU or the RAM, which would be most beneficial? I use my rig for light gaming (Batman: Arkham City/Asylum, COD), movie watching, and other general work.

Thanks in advance!


Definitely upgrade the ram, add the same exact ones you have now and max out the board at 8GB

If you don't, and upgrade the CPU, your bottleneck will be the ram that you then wished you upgraded.
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July 31, 2012 7:00:36 AM

dingo07 said:
Thing of the CPU as the engine of a vehicle. The RAM is the gasoline and an SSD is a NOS system without the possible failure of equipment. The more cylinders the more of a workhorse it is. The faster the RAM the higher the octane.


Haha, how does that translate to how my computer works? Does more RAM mean I open programs faster? Does a better CPU mean I can handle more programs running at once? That's what always gets me.

For example, if Scenario 1 is me upgrading my CPU and keeping everything else constant. Scenario 2 is me adding more RAM, and keeping everything else constant. Which scenario would give me a more tangible performance boost?

izoli said:
If your RAM gets maxed out then you CPU will start sending/receiving data via HDD which is several times slower and will cause your performance to decrease drastically(even with an SSD).

So if there are times where you are at 100% RAM usage and you notice your performance is going downhill you need to upgrade the RAM. If there are times your CPU is at 100% usage and your performance decreases you need to upgrade your CPU. Or just lower settings on things/exit un-needed programs/etc.

4GB of RAM I personally consider pretty weak nowadays, I generally hang around 6-8GB when I am actively doing things. That doesn't mean much for you though 4GB might be just fine. Just check out your monitors and see what they say and go off of that.


Hmm okay I guess I'll go back to monitoring the CPU and RAM. I'm definitely leaning for more RAM though.

rdc85 said:
still running on 4 gb, it still quite fine for me now days...

Go with ssd or cpu is a better choice i think...

nothing much since your system is well balanced, tip the balance and u will get bottleneck somewhere else...


Thanks! I was worried that my system was out of whack with the old CPU and slightly newer GPU, but both you and lucuis say my system is balanced. Yay for me, cause I built this back in 2010 on a tight budget, with the 6870 as my only upgrade since my 8800GT crapped out on me =/


dingo07 said:
Definitely upgrade the ram, add the same exact ones you have now and max out the board at 8GB

If you don't, and upgrade the CPU, your bottleneck will be the ram that you then wished you upgraded.


Should I switch them out and get a whole new set of 8GB RAM? I don't know that much about RAM, but it seems to popular on Newegg.

Thanks EVERYONE for all your insight!
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a b à CPUs
July 31, 2012 7:57:14 AM

the reason i said ssd is u can notice the improvement right away in opening/closing and closing application. It might not wise choice if u in tight budget but if u had spare why not..

the reason i don't recommend memory because i'm noticing in game/ every day work it rarely used up 4 gig yes u may had 0 free but u still had standby that can be free when it needed... (if u still get a ram go with max1600 above that it will only looks good on benchmark)

If u upgrade your cpu u will notice the improvement but it will cost much to get noticeable performance gain but u will still notice it (example if u go to pII X4 BE and O.C it)..

In the end u might consider saving money to build newer one.

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July 31, 2012 1:01:49 PM

What I'm getting at is you're still running a 1970's Pinto! Whether you try to put a Porsche boxster engine in it, or add NOS to the existing engine, it's still an outdated machine.

Save your money for a new build - built around a new modern motherboard with new chipset and processor.

My $0.02
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July 31, 2012 6:06:53 PM

I agree with the other people, if you have the means to save up sometime reasonably soon for a nice build I would just save up and buy an overall better comp. But... If you just don't have much money to spare I would point you towards the section of RAM upgrades... 2 sticks of 4GB@1600... Or 1333...

Lmfao my lord it only has 2 RAM slots... Sorry I shouldn't laugh :[...

Too bad my old motherboard is LGA1366 socket or I would sell you my old motherboard for a gewd price since I just upgraded.
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August 2, 2012 5:27:57 AM

rdc85 said:
the reason i said ssd is u can notice the improvement right away in opening/closing and closing application. It might not wise choice if u in tight budget but if u had spare why not..

the reason i don't recommend memory because i'm noticing in game/ every day work it rarely used up 4 gig yes u may had 0 free but u still had standby that can be free when it needed... (if u still get a ram go with max1600 above that it will only looks good on benchmark)

If u upgrade your cpu u will notice the improvement but it will cost much to get noticeable performance gain but u will still notice it (example if u go to pII X4 BE and O.C it)..

In the end u might consider saving money to build newer one.


Ah okay. That is another possibility haha. I guess I didn't think of it because I want to use this for as long as possible. I don't know what to do with these parts if I do upgrade them. Is there a special recycling place for old computer components?

dingo07 said:
What I'm getting at is you're still running a 1970's Pinto! Whether you try to put a Porsche boxster engine in it, or add NOS to the existing engine, it's still an outdated machine.

Save your money for a new build - built around a new modern motherboard with new chipset and processor.

My $0.02


XD thanks for that analogy. It's outdated, I agree, but it works well and I'm happy with it for now. I guess I'll hold off for a new build like you all say.

izoli said:
I agree with the other people, if you have the means to save up sometime reasonably soon for a nice build I would just save up and buy an overall better comp. But... If you just don't have much money to spare I would point you towards the section of RAM upgrades... 2 sticks of 4GB@1600... Or 1333...

Lmfao my lord it only has 2 RAM slots... Sorry I shouldn't laugh :[...

Too bad my old motherboard is LGA1366 socket or I would sell you my old motherboard for a gewd price since I just upgraded.


Thanks for the offer! I built this thing in the days when motherboard + CPU combos could be had for around $120 or less. Thanks for the advice though :)  Much appreciated!

It looks like I'll be upgrading RAM, if anything at all. Sounds like the general consensus is to save up for a new rig, and I'll definitely look into that. Thanks EVERYONE!

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