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When should I upgrade GPUs vs. my CPU?

eidairaman1

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#26
The Fastest Quad Core for AMD is the 980 operating at i believe 3.7GHz, Course the Hex Cores are runnin around 4.0-4.2 GHz

Hey guys. I'm trying to get a rough idea of when I should stopped upgrading my GPU vs. my current CPU. I have an OC'd Phenom II X4 955 (3.6 Ghz is the best I can get out of it) and my current card is a GTX 460 1GB. I only game at 1680x1050, like my monitor and don't want a larger one. With Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim coming out this fall I'd like to push the video settings as much as possible, so I was considering a new GPU. I know from Fallout 3 when I upgraded from my 8800 GTX to the GTX 460 1GB I was able to max the video settings, so it seems I had enough CPU headroom to keep from bottlenecking. No one has a crystal ball of course so it hard to say what Skyrim will demand.

Basically, just wondering when I'm going to hit the ceiling with the X4 955. I don't want to spend $300 for something like a GTX 570 only to discover my gaming performance isn't much better due to the CPU.
 

Tatty_One

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#27
I seem to do things the opposite to some here, I have had my C0 stepping 920 CPU for more than 2 years now, I run it 24/7 on air @ 4gig on 1.285V with HT enabled...... I cannot see anything that is remotely cost effective that will give me more visible powerzzzzz so I just upgrade my GPU about once every 6-8 months or until such a time that my current GPU struggles with a game I wanna play at 1920 x 1200...... that has always been my way of doing things, once you have the "right" CPU, the GPU choice is made so much easier :D
 
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#28
GPU for sure, always GPU before CPU. Even though your rez isnt high both your CPU/GPU would be fine for many yrs to come.

Your CPU isnt holding your card back, im running 2 X 4870X2's that will out perform two GTX460's and my CPU is not realy holding these back ether at my Rez.

You can ether go two ways about this, go with a better GPU and watch the performance increase in games, or you can get a AM3+ mobo and have it ready to do BOTH in lets say 6months time? at least that way you can still use all your parts and it wont break the wallet.

Ive learnt this lesson from many yrs of gaming, always go GPU then go CPU unless your CPU is just that crap that its holding back your GPU WAY to much, and your's is not.
 

jhokie

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#29
I am apparently in the minority here...

I think it would be a questionable decision to do a complete mobo/processor upgrade right now, particularly if your system is only used for gaming. A phenon 2 X4 clocked at 3.6 ghz is going to play the majority of games well right now.

Check some benchmarks before you buy... this tomshardware article has the best cpu for comparision a i5-2400 but you can still get an idea.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-gaming-cpu-core-i3-2100-phenom-ii-x6-1075t,2859-3.html

Sandy bridge die shrink and bulldozer isn't far off now. I think it's best for you to wait and see what is around the corner. Your cpu may not limit Skyrim at all. You do have a quad core at a nice clock rate.
 
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#30
I think you should be more than covered for whatever comes out. You can always go to a c3 stepping Phenom II, Phenom II X6, or a bulldozer. Any game a 955BE can't handle, I expect will support 6+ cores. The GTX 460 might not cut it if you really wanna smash face with maxed settings and filters on the newest games though.

Regardless, here is how you evaluate: Take whatever game you like, and go look at benchmarks. The 1024x768 benchmark on like jank settings is there to tell you what framerate the CPU is capping the game at, so long as the bench is done with a good GPU. By 1280x1024, you may see some GPU limitation come into play. (You will generally find a good set of this information in CPU benchmarks of a game.)

Then you wanna go look at a benchmark done with some blazing fast i7 at like 8million gagillion terahertz of omgicanrun80versionsofwinraratthesametime cpu running various gpu's at 1680x1050 high settings, this is pretty much gonna be GPU limited unless it's an ancient game in which case it won't matter or some game that uses more CPU than GPU at that res, which AFIAK doesn't exist except in the trivial case of well hmm, am I getting my 280 fps cap from the cpu or the gpu... *looks concerned*

Anyway, whichever number is lower, your gpu with psycho i7 or your 955 cpu at 1024, that will pretty much indicate where you are being limited. I'm sure there are cases where this is wrong, but I think it's generally a pretty good indicator. BETTER IDEA: You can run your own CPU "benchmark" by monitoring your avg and min framerate at 1024 if you can't find someone else doing it, then compare that to your framerate at 1680 w/ good settings, if they are the same you're CPU limited, if the 1680 is slower, you have at least some GPU limitation.

AFAIK there aren't really any games out that are gonna be held back by a Phenom II X4, as it will provide like 80FPS in most games if your graphics card can keep up.

My guess is you're going to want to replace the GTX 460 long before you become CPU limited. You could go with an SLI setup (which, depending on what you have, will require another GTX 460, an SLI motherboard, and a spiffy power supply.) However, from what I've seen the 460 isn't even much better than a HD 4890/GTX 275 at your resolution and costs a lot more, so I wouldn't even bother.

I'd move up to a 6950 1gb/6970 if you see the need. If they ever release a 6970 1gb that would be perfect. In fact you might want to dump the 460 while it still has the mystique of being remotely new masking its mediocre performance.

BTW, Intel CPU's are bloody amazing and absolutely the performance kings and benchmark masters, and they are a good value in terms of benchmark performance per value, but in terms of gaming performance for value, they are pretty far behind AMD right now since a graphics card will cut off the unrealizable frame-rates intel cpu's can provide at the same place it will for an AMD.
 
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#31
6950

I have a 955 BE at 3.6 and have an unlocked 6950 at 880 Mhz. For most games there is very little in the way of bottlenecking of the GPU...that being said I would definately benefit from a better CPU like a good i5 processor I imagine. Also though the 955 is apparently quite good at gaming in high def so the obvious advantages of i5 chips etc are not as big as you may expect. games that have bottlenecks are mainly games like GTA4 etc. badcompany 2 call of duty and other modern titles no issues. I say go for a 6950 or a gtx 570 but I sort of wish I upgraded my motherboard and CPU first to get most out of the GPU. It has been a very cheap solution for me to drop in the 6950 i must say. £200 instead of like £500 to upgrade my motherboard and get decent i5/i7 chip.
 
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#32
Hey guys. After several months of kicking this around I purchased an EVGA GTX 560 Ti FBP. I began having issues with my current card - GTX 460 1GB. It will not hold any sort of OC without causing BSODs. Its now back to the stock clocks (675 Mhz) and that's just not acceptable. I know with my current CPU that the GTX 560 Ti should be a decent match and probably the last card I should ever buy for it. Even if I don't get a big boost in my games I should see some additional smoothness and definitely better than a GTX 460 @ stock. That particular model of GTX 560 Ti is pretty reasonably priced ($233.99 at Amazon with a $15 rebate - plus I had a $40 gift certificate). It also has the quiet reference cooler and a lifetime warranty. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004K1EUWO/?tag=tec06d-20

Thanks again for all of you who contributed. I appreciate it!
 
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#33
Sounds like a great match what you have done. I personnally think the 560 Ti is great and apparently not too far off the specs of a HD 6950 which i have. I dont have any bottlenecking in most games (when CPU overclocked). Just dont expect miracles :).