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Should I upgrade my CPU or GPU first?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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December 2, 2012 8:16:17 PM

This is my first gaming build and I'm looking to make my first big upgrade. Here are my specs:
Intel i3 2120 3.3ghz
8Gb RAM
Windows 7 HP 64 bit
EVGA GTX 550Ti 2GB
500GB 7200RPM hard drive

For the GPU, I'm thinking of going for a Sapphire HD 7950 3GB and an i7 for the CPU. Which upgrade would give me a higher performance boost for gaming?

More about : upgrade cpu gpu

a b U Graphics card
December 2, 2012 8:20:27 PM

you would want the i5 for gaming, HT doesn't add performance to games for the most part... with that you could upgrade to the 7970 and have a bomb gaming machine...

down the line add a 128GB SSD for an OS drive.

edit* for right now the you would see the biggest boost from a new GPU... your CPU is a solid gaming CPU, till you get to the i5
a c 165 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
December 2, 2012 8:36:55 PM

@ Pandacoot: You do n't specify the monitor resolution...Hint.
The 7950 is a monster card, I've just added one to my i5 750 build as its mid life upgrade, but a few points to bear in mind.
First, make sure the powersupply has the right PCI-E leads to power it, you should NOT use molex/PCI-E converters to run such a card.
It can produce a fair amount of heat, and most of the cards out there dump their heat into the case, so good ventilation is also a must.
As Ohmybad says, the i5 is a better gaming chip.
Do n't forget to add a decent cooler into the mix and go for a 'K' chip so you can overclock later to unleash more performance.
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December 2, 2012 10:30:45 PM

Thanks for the replies. I'm a bit new to all of this, as is probably obvious. My resolution is 1920x1080.
Cool, I'll look in to i5's instead of i7's in the future. That'll save me a bit of dough.
As for my PSU, I've got a pretty beefy 600W OCZ, so I don't think power will be a big issue. My rig also runs relatively cool as of now and I've got solid ventilation, so I don't think that should be a problem either. Mostly I'm just looking for the highest performance, and it looks like both of you recommend upgrading my GPU first and then upgrading to an i5 in the near-ish future. There's no chance of my i3 bottlenecking the 7950 in a serious way, though, is there?
December 2, 2012 10:50:28 PM

it will be a bottle neck but a hard to reach bottleneck. it mostly depends on the games you will be playing.

when it does bottleneck it won't be anything major you will find your games will still look very good with toned down settings
a b U Graphics card
December 2, 2012 10:51:24 PM

Get a i5 3570k with Radeon 7950. i7 are more for rendering, encoding and other stuuf which professionals do. i5 is for gaming, i5 3570k and i7 3770k are similar to each other in games.

i3 would not bottleneck but would lower your performance in multiplayer matches. Online matches like the 32 & 64 Players matches of BF3 will run slow on Dual Core i3 and would be good if you get a i5 Quad Core processor.
December 2, 2012 11:26:53 PM

I don't play many big, demanding multiplayer games. As far as multiplayer goes, my go-to is Team Fortress 2, which isn't very demanding at all.

Thanks for the specifics on the i5's. That'll be my next upgrade after the 7950. I assume that the i3 won't prevent me from maxing out games that the 7950 would otherwise be able to max, correct?
a b U Graphics card
December 2, 2012 11:35:19 PM

Definitely the GPU right now. That would give you the most benefit out of the two.
a b U Graphics card
December 3, 2012 7:25:35 AM

You'll not get much effect but just incase.
Get a new GPU first then go for a better CPU.
December 3, 2012 1:21:37 PM

Sumukh_Bhagat said:
You'll not get much effect but just incase.
Get a new GPU first then go for a better CPU.


You mean I won't get much effect out of the GPU upgrade?
a c 165 U Graphics card
a b 4 Gaming
December 3, 2012 3:12:04 PM

You'll get a very significant improvement jumping from a 550 to a 7950.
As has been said already, the CPU is going to a restriction, but it's not too bad, the i3s' can get very close to i5s' in many games, it's only in those few that really use multiple cores (like BF3) that it will hurt.
December 3, 2012 4:54:45 PM

Great, ok, that's what I thought. Guess I misunderstood
!