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Test Systems And Benchmarks

Time To Upgrade, Part 2: Picking The Parts To Replace
System Hardware
Performance Benchmarks
Base System
(Socket LGA 775)
MSI P35 Platinum (Rev. 1.0), Chipset: Intel P35, BIOS: 1.C (30/12/2009)
CPU IntelIntel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (65 nm, 2.66 GHz, 8 MB L2 Cache, TDP 130 W)
RAM DDR2 (dual)4 x 1 GB DDR2-800 (Corsair CM2C1024-6400C4 5-5-5-15)
GraphicsZotac GeForce 8800 GTS, GPU: G80, Graphics RAM: 320 MB GDDR3 (900 MHz), Stream Processors: 96
Hard DriveWestern Digital Raptor, 150 GB (WD1500ADFD), 10 000 RPM, SATA 3Gb/s, 16 MB Cache
Power SupplyPC Power & Cooling, Silencer 750EPS12V 750 W
Upgrade I: Platform
(Socket LGA 1156)
MSI P55A Fuzion (Rev. 1.0), Chipset: Intel P55, BIOS: 1.0 (07/12/2010)
CPU IntelIntel Core i7-870 (45 nm, 2.93 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 and 8 MB L3 Cache, TDP 95 W, Rev. B1)
RAM DDR3 (dual)2 x 2 GB DDR-1333 (OCZ3G2000LV4GK)
Upgrade II: Graphics
Graphics CardMSI R5870 Lightning TwinFrozr II, GPU: Cypress (900 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1024 MB GDDR5 (2400 MHz), Stream Processors: 1600
Upgrade III: Hard Drive/SSD
SSDG.Skill Phoenix 100 GB SSD (FM-25S2S-100GBP1), SandForce SF-1200, SATA 3 Gb/s
System Software & Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate x64
Updated on 2010-07-29
Drivers and Settings
ATI Radeon DriverATI Catalyst 10.7 Suite for Windows 7
Nvidia GeForce DriverGeForce Driver Release 256 258.96
Intel Chipset DriversChipset Installation Utility Ver.
Intel Storage DriversMatrix Storage Drivers Ver. 8.​9.​0.​1023
3D Games Benchmarks and Settings
Grand Theft Auto IVVersion: 1.0.3
Video Mode:
- 1680x1050, - Aspect Ratio: Auto, - All options: Low, - View Distance: 10, - Detail Distance: 100, - Vehicle Density: 100, - Shadow Density: 16, - Definition: On, - Vsync: Off, In-game Benchmark
Left 4 DeadVersion:
Video Mode: 1680x1050
Game Settings
- Anti Aliasing: None
- Filtering: Trilinear
- Wait for vertical sync: Disabled
- Shader Detail: Medium
- Effect Detail: Medium
- Model/Texture Detail: Medium
Demo: THG Demo 1
Left 4 Dead
High Qualtity Settings
Video Mode: 1680x1050
Game Settings
- Anti Aliasing: 8x
- Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
- Wait for vertical sync: Disabled
- Shader Detail: Very High
- Effect Detail: High
- Model/Texture Detail: High
Demo: THG Demo 1
Left 4 Dead 2Version:
Video Mode: 1680x1050
Game Settings
- Anti Aliasing: 4x MSAA
- Filtering: Anisotropic 8x
- Wait for vertical sync: Disabled
- Shader Detail: High
- Effect Detail: High
- Model/Texture Detail: High
Demo: THG Demo 1
Audio Benchmarks and Settings
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min.
Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 3.98.3
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min.
Convert WAV to MP3 audio format
Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kbps)
Video Benchmarks and Settings
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.94
Video: Big Buck Bunny (720x480, 23.972 frames) 5 Min.
Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, 6-Channel, English
Video: AVC1 Audio1: AC3 Audio2: AAC (High Profile)
MainConcept Reference v2Version:
MPEG-2 to H.264
MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec
28 sec. HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2)
MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kbps)
Codec: H.264 Pro
Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS)
Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Application Benchmarks and Settings
7-ZipVersion 9.1 beta
Syntax "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinRARVersion 3.92
Syntax "winrar a -r -m3"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
WinZip 14Version 14.0 Pro (8652)
WinZIP Commandline Version 3
Syntax "-a -ez -p -r"
Benchmark: 2010-THG-Workload
Autodesk 3ds Max 2010Version: 10 x64
Rendering Space Flyby Mentalray (SPECapc_3dsmax9)
Frame: 248
Resolution: 1440 x 1080
CineBench 11.5Version 11.5 Build CB25720DEMO
CPU Test single- and multi-threaded
Adobe Photoshop CS 4 (64-Bit)Version: 11
Filtering a 16 MB TIF (15000x7266)
Radial Blur (Amount: 10; Method: zoom; Quality: good)
Shape Blur (Radius: 46 px; custom shape: Trademark sysmbol)
Median (Radius: 1px)
Polar Coordinates (Rectangular to Polar)
Adobe Acrobat 9 ProfessionalVersion: 9.0.0 (Extended)
== Printing Preferenced Menu ==
Default Settings: Standard
== Adobe PDF Security - Edit Menu ==
Encrypt all documents (128-bit RC4)
Open Password: 123
Permissions Password: 321
Microsoft PowerPoint 2007Version: 2007 SP2
Powerpoint Document (115 Pages)
Adobe PDF-Printer
FritzFritz Chess Benchmark Version 4.3.2
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02 Patch 1901
Options: Performance
Graphics Test 1
Graphics Test 2
CPU Test 1
CPU Test 2
PCMark VantageVersion: Patch 1901
PCMark Benchmark
Memories Benchmark
SYSmark 2007 PreviewVersion 1.05
SiSoftware Sandra 2010Version: 2010.1.16.10
Processor Arithmetic, Cryptography, Memory Bandwith
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  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 1:56 AM
    I'm not one of the readers who criticize this type of articles.. It underlines that a 3-years-old pc is not junk and that a prudent use of newest technology (SSD) can save a large amount of money to power and mainstream user.. And still, it's possible to play to the most recent games just replacing the graphic card (no one comment "You can't play crysis in full HD with this configuration", please.. ) sorry for any potential language error, I'm italian :) 
  • -8 Hide
    TheeBadOne , September 1, 2010 2:13 AM
    I have a i-920 with SLI support, So what card would you suggest I upgrade to?
  • 1 Hide
    radiumburn , September 1, 2010 3:14 AM
    Being a budget minded gamer I would go with videocard first and overclock the processor as much as possible. Done in the past and will have to repeat in the future. After reading the article it looks like a SSD will be my next replacement after new videocard
  • 6 Hide
    theoutbound , September 1, 2010 5:11 AM
    Reading articles like this just makes me sad to actually buy certain hardware. PC components are the only thing on the planet that depreciate in value faster than cars.
  • -4 Hide
    nevertell , September 1, 2010 5:23 AM
    Oh come on. You should have bought a q9400 and a gtx 460, overclocked both and voila, you have a modern gaming rig.
  • -4 Hide
    cmcghee358 , September 1, 2010 5:55 AM
    This article just seems kind of hollow to me.

    Surprise surprise, the gamer needs a new GPU, and besides professional users there really isn't a justifiable upgrade for any other user.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 7:06 AM
    I'm not impressed. What I would do is overclock the existing processor and avoid upgrading until another generation comes out. For all intents and purposes a quad core is a quad core regardless if its i7 or Core2.

    Graphics I would just spend $50 and throw a second 8800 GTS in SLI. Yeah you're missing out on DX11 stuff, but I wouldn't be crying in my milk. On the other hand I would never tell someone to buy a 5870 as an "upgrade". If you're going to spend that much then you might as well build on a whole new platform.

    Ram can be left alone.

    Hard drive, as long as its 7200 rpm it could probably hold off for another generation or two before an upgrade. If you need more space then go for a 2 TB WD Caviar Black.
  • -4 Hide
    micky_lund , September 1, 2010 8:05 AM
    wow....people here obviously have a lot of dosh.
    my 'rents are still operating on an old P4, 1gb of ram, 80gb hdd and an 8600gt(cause i wanted a basic GPU).....i wish i could upgrade my comp to what they recommend here
  • 2 Hide
    unknown_13 , September 1, 2010 10:12 AM
    @Tom's you might wanna fix this:D 

    The latest cards support DirectX 11, while the GeForce 8-series tops out at DirectX 9.
  • -4 Hide
    killerclick , September 1, 2010 11:19 AM
    Don't forget that Tom's Hardware (like every other site of this type) sells ad space to hardware manufacturers so they don't have much incentive to tell you there is no need to upgrade or that a minimal upgrade will do just as well.
  • -4 Hide
    kung lao , September 1, 2010 1:19 PM
    - that conclusion makes me a gamer then........
    - because the video card I intend to upgrade :) 
    - however, a gamer? at 30 years old????????
    - come on, be serious.......
    - well, nevertheless a new PC I do not intend to buy in this year.....
    - later on, will see........
  • 0 Hide
    BlueCat57 , September 1, 2010 1:40 PM
    Here are some thoughts on this series:
    1. Some sort of budget or price/performance goal should be set to measure what and when to upgrade. For example the MoBo/CPU/RAM upgrade probably cost more than building a hot new gaming system.
    2. They should have linked to their article that showed about graphics cards and CPUs that showed that a high-end graphics card has more power than even the latest CPU. Not sure if I'm recalling that right but it was something like that.
    3. Hopefully Part 3 will talk about the other parts of the system. Things like: When should I replace my case, power supply, etc. What add on cards or configuration changes (RAID, sound card, etc.) will give me a cost effective performance boost.
    4. Maybe Tom's should start a web site for main stream users focused on incremental performance boosts. How do you keep your system up-to-date, tuned-up and when and what to upgrade to keep at the playable end of gaming. They could also point out which features aren't ready for the mainstream just yet - DirectX 11, SATA 6, etc.
    5. I'm still wondering why boot time is so important. I usually press the power button and go to the bathroom. Enter my password and pour my coffee. So who cares if the system boots 30 sec. faster? For that matter who shuts their system off?
  • 4 Hide
    killerclick , September 1, 2010 4:16 PM
    BlueCat57Here are some thoughts on this series:

    I'm guessing you're old.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 6:21 PM
    Much better article, I still wonder if they overclocked the older processor to 3ghz, how much that gap would decrease?
  • -4 Hide
    hellwig , September 1, 2010 8:46 PM
    I must counter the SSD argument with this: How many people don't have more than 150GB of storage, even in their 3-year old computer? You compared a 3-year old 150GB HDD with a brand new 100GB SSD. I know that 150GB wouldn't even hold all the games I have downloaded off steam, much less the ones I don't have downloaded, much less anything else. My wife converted videos from VHS to DVD recently, and those old family tapes took up a few hundred GBs. My point is, I don't think too many people are still running a single 150GB Raptor if they are financially capable of buying a $300 SSD. Two Raptors in RAID 0 would probably not see much benefit from a move to SSD, and if we're talking storage capacity, how does any amount of speed counter that fact that I can get a 2TB HDD for cheaper than a 100GB SSD? I have to think capacity trumps speed for most power users and gamers.

    "Yeah, Bioshock 2 loads real fast off my SSD, too bad I can't store it and Modern Warfare 2 on my drive at the same time. That 8-hour download off Steam between gaming sessions is a real kicker, but damn, the 30-seconds off the load time is really sweet".

    Nope, I think its bunk to recommend SSD to the Maintstream user, and as for Gamers and Power users, they'll have to determine the trade-off between storage capacity and speed. You can't store 500GB of data on a 100GB drive, no matter how much faster things load.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 8:51 PM
    you should have gotten more into details on scenario 2. What about CPU-scaling on the new dx11 cards. I am in the same position pondering a gpu-update from a 4870 on a q6600, but I don't think it will make things faster in gta4, crysis, metro.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 9:08 PM
    whatuserneamyou should have gotten more into details on scenario 2. What about CPU-scaling on the new dx11 cards. I am in the same position pondering a gpu-update from a 4870 on a q6600, but I don't think it will make things faster in gta4, crysis, metro.

    I think what you have right now can stand on it's 2 feet for a few more months. When ATI (oh wait can't call it that anymore *eye roll*) comes out with the 6000 series, then I would pull the trigger and do a gpu upgrade but leave the cpu alone. Maybe 2 years-1 year ago games didn't scale well with multiple cores (so a 3.8 ghz x2 would be better than a 2.6 x 4), but nowadays "slow" quad cores are just fine for games.

    Just my 2 cents.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2010 9:16 PM
    hellwig You can't store 500GB of data on a 100GB drive, no matter how much faster things load.

    In terms of performance, it also isn't like SSDs are a million miles ahead of magnetic drives anyways. Put up 2 defragged caviar blacks in Raid 0 ($160) vs a $300 SSD and you'll get pretty much identical performance in real usage at half the cost with 10x the capacity.
  • -1 Hide
    insightdriver , September 1, 2010 10:19 PM
    I read a bunch of articles before I made an upgrade to my high end system. For day to day use, I have a 64G SSD holding my OS. I put everything else on a 1TB 7200 drive. Boot up, program load and shutdown are all noticeably snappier. I have a few things besides the OS on the 64G drive. Far Cry is the one game I have on it. It loads very fast now; I did compare it to loading from the 1TB drive and loading from the SSD. It's way faster. So, for any user, a SSD would be an upgrade that would make any computer seem a lot faster in day to day use.

    Articles like this do help a lot of us who have older machines. In a couple of years I will be looking at articles on how to upgrade my older machine. At this time I am perfectly happy with an X58 motherboard, 6 gig of triple channel DDR3 ram, an I7-930 and a GTX480 video card.
  • 1 Hide
    dgwalker_ , September 2, 2010 1:08 AM
    Well...I don't really need to read this article. When my wife dropped my desktop a couple of weeks ago I had to replace the broken video card and motherboard, and since my old mobo was only DDR2 I had to get 4GB of 1600MHz DDR3, plus I took advantage of the situation to get a new HSF so I can better overclock my Ph. II X3 720 BE. This ends up being a blessing in disguise as I was able to get an essentially new computer for under $700. The icing on the cake will be a fresh, new install of Win 7 Ultimate 64 I'm probably set for a while...
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