Upgrade Paths: CPU or GPU?

Current System
CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 445 (3.1GHz) -- shows up as Phennom II X4 B45 3.3GHz once 4th core is unlocked by mobo
CPU Cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212
Motherboard: ASRock 870 EXTREME3 -- used to "auto-overclock" to 3.3GHz and unlock 4th core
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD 5770 (Juniper XT) 1GB
PSU: OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ500MXSP 500W
Case: Antec Two Hundred V2
OS: Windows 8 x64
SSD: OSZ Vertex 2

Approximate Purchase Date: nowish
System Usage: Gaming @ 1080p resolution
Preferred Website:
Location: I have a Microcenter nearby. No Fry's.
Overclocking: Yes, probably. Currently my motherboard is doing it for me because I've been lazy about it.
Budget: Not on a strict budget, but want to find out which upgrade path will give me the best bang for my buck.

I'd like to get some advice on what components I should think about upgrading first. The newest game I have thrown at is is Borderlands 2. So far it has performed pretty well. I've had the graphics cranked all the way up on everything at 1080p, with the exception of that physics engine in Borerlands 2, and have always run at acceptable framerates (30-45 mostly).

Now having said that, I can still tell that the system is a bit long in the tooth, and I'm probably going to need to be upgrading in the near future to keep up with the current games like Bioshock Infinite and Destiny. My question is what should I focus on first? Should I just upgrade the GPU to something more current and try to live off of that? Would that require a new PSU? It seems to me like it might not be worth it to try to just upgrade the CPU. Would that even be worth it? Or would it only be worth my while to switch to Intel and replace the motherboard and CPU all at once?

tl;dr: I want to play Bioshock Infinite at the higher settings at 1080p. Do you think my system will handle it? If not, what should I look into upgrading first? Thanks!
13 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about upgrade paths
  1. Upgrade the CPU to a phenom 2 x4 965 Be and get a better GPU. Something like an hd7850.
  2. tiny voices said:
    Upgrade the CPU to a phenom 2 x4 965 Be and get a better GPU. Something like an hd7850.

    Thanks for the input!

    Do you think the performance increase I'd get from the CPU upgrade would be enough to justify the $100 spent? Or would I be better off investing that into switching to an Intel chip and board? It seems to me that in general, the i5s still rank head and shoulders above most of the AMD offerings these days, granted I realize it would require a much bigger investment.

    EDIT: Follow-up question... Would you recommend the X4 965 BE over the X6 1045T, which benchmarks higher?

    EDIT2: Nevermind, I did some research. Sounds like the X4 is still better for most gaming due to the higher clockspeed.
  3. After doing some more reading, I'm thinking about going down a slightly different path now. What do you think of this...

    I'm thinking about dropping some cash on the GPU and picking up an HD 7850 for as cheap as I can, and then putting some time into overclocking the CPU. I've read about people with the same CPU as me getting them up to 3.6-3.8GHz. Thoughts?
  4. Best answer
    Well seeing that the mobo is AM3 and not AM3+ that limits you a lot. I would recommend a 7850/7870. Then a $120 LGA1155 mobo with a i5-2500k or a i5-3750k. That's the best route to take. The cheaper but not as good performance way is to get the 7850/7870. And a AM3+ mobo with a 6300. With both of these you may want to consider a $50-$60 Zalman Fan or a Corsair water cooling. Sticking with stock cooler is cheaper though.

    Anyways. If you were to add one component to your build. The one that would increase performance the most would be a Graphics Card. There aren't any CPUs worth buying that fit your motherboard.
  5. Sweet, that's kinda what I was thinking. GPU today, CPU+motherboard tomorrow =)

    You mentioned water cooling or a Zalman Fan. Would you recommend one of those even over the Hyper 212 I already have?
  6. I didn't see that Hyper 212 you have there. It'll do but the H10 would allow a lot for OCing then air cooling would. So in this order would be your best bet. GPU, CPU/Mobo then liquid cooling. Somewhere along there if you prefer fast map loads and fast boot times then you could get a SSD.
  7. Well I decided to pick up an HD 7850 2GB. Newegg has a deal where you get a free copy of Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider with purchase. Seeing as I was definitely going to buy Bioshock anyway, it ended up being a really good deal for me. Plus hey, free Tomb Raider.

    I picked up the Sapphire OC'd version:
  8. Best answer selected by triviallytravis.
  9. Best answer selected by triviallytravis.
  10. Best answer selected by triviallytravis.
  11. Best answer selected by triviallytravis.
  12. Best answer selected by triviallytravis.
  13. Not bad. Tell me how she runs. Like 100+ fps?
Ask a new question

Read More

New Build CPUs Systems Product