Will a GPU upgrade alone help me see gains? Upgrade everything?

#1 Posted by mderbs311 (58 posts) -

Hello fellow PC gaming duders! As many around here are prepping to do, I will be upgrading my gaming PC come tax return time. While I would love to build a brand new from-the-ground-up PC, financially that may not be viable. So I would appreciate some advice on whether or not my current rig would benefit from a few small upgrades, and if it would hold me off until I have the funds to replace everything! And now specs!

CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 440 @ 3 GHZ

MB: Biostar TA870+

RAM: 8 Gigs 1666 DDR3 (Only operating at 1033 due to me not realizing it was specialized for intel boards, ima derp)

GPU: XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GHZ

HD: Western Digital 500 Gig 7200 rpm

PSU: Coolmax 600 Watt psu

Now I should state that I built my rig in mid 2010 and it has performed admirably this entire time, and continues to do so. Ive been able to run pretty much every game I have (That I have installed and tried, my steam library is...big) on Max/High settings gaming on a 23 inch 1080p monitor, getting perfectly acceptable framerates, at least as far as I can tell. Im sure im not getting 60 frames in a lot of games, but i game with V-Sync on anyhow due to lots of screen tearing, and they run smooth enough for me. Even newer titles like Skyrim, Battlefield 3(only the single player, havent touched the multi), Saints Row the Third, Max Payne 3, Hard Reset and Spec Ops: The line, all run at High settings. And the titles I havent bought yet, like Sleeping Dogs, Dishonored and Borderlands 2 Im sure would all run well enough, and STILL look better than their console counterparts!

But even though I am happy with my performance so far, I know that some of the newer titles coming out and over the course of the next year will bring my rig to its knees, such as Assasins Creed 3 and Farcry 3. And I do have that itch to play my current games cranked to 11, SO! Im looking into acquiring a Radeon HD 7970 GHZ Edition with my tax money. Im a bit of an AMD loyalist, and would consider the GTX 680 as well, but ive read some benchmark tests, and the GHZ edition amd card seems to run a bit faster and better than a 680, and I can get one for about a hundred bucks less than the 680. Would I benefit from it greatly? Enough to maybe get me through the next years titles at high settings? Or is the rest of my system too much of a bottleneck?

Am also thinking of adding a 256 Gig SSD to my setup, whether this one or my eventual new build. Im very interested in the speed gains ive read about, but truth be told it kind of sounds SUPER annoying to set up! I Would like to put the OS on it and run games and my my art programs from it, but how do you set up the drives so that everything else is on the secondary HD? If the OS is installed on the SSD, wont all my music and video folders be there as well? Ive heard you have to really manage them so that it doesnt fill up with miscellaneous files and what not. I know about Steam Mover so that would help me keep games installed no matter what and just keep the ones I am currently playing on the SSD, but everything else would be on a 1 TB drive. Any good links to tutorials about properly setting up a gaming system with an SSD?

Thank you in advance to anybody taking the time out to read this diatribe! And thanks for any advice I recieve! Going to bed now, will check back later!

#2 Posted by Winternet (7936 posts) -

I'd say to upgrade the CPU as well. But, I'm mainly saying that because I don't know the first thing about AMD and their CPU line.

#3 Posted by Inkerman (1448 posts) -

Managing files (IMO) is very easy. I don't use the default 'My Music', 'My Docs', etc, I have separate files which sit on my normal hard drive, and keep most of documents in my Dropbox file, which also sits on my HDD. Personally, I haven't had any issues with managing my files, but I think I may be the exception to the rule, I haven't encountered anyone with files as organised as mine.

#4 Posted by AndrewB (7190 posts) -

You could upgrade the AMD processor for super cheap because AMD parts are selling that way. For gaming, I'd probably for now stick with a decently overclockable quad core part. Graphics card helps even the lowliest of computers, but obviously creates a new bottleneck if the rest of your PC isn't up to snuff. Buy as good a card as you can afford. The bad part is that we really don't know what the specs of the next consoles are going to be alongside their PC equivalent parts, so planning for a future where games are designed for consoles and ported over to PC is rough. Crazy rumors placing the next 360 with an 8 core processor scare me because I just bought a new system not too long ago myself.

#5 Edited by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

Get the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition and a Cooler Master Hyper 212 cooling unit, launch the AMD Catalyst centre and auto tune your CPU and you will have a quad core processor at 4.2ghz from the stock 3.4ghz and runs way more stable and quiter than the stock fan that comes with it. That way you don't have to get a new motherboard, I play Far Cry 3 on high settings with a 5850 and it only uses 40-50% of CPU resources, so that should suss you out for a while, also get a cheap SSD for Windows and your demanding games. Also that graphics card your looking at comes with Far Cry 3, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman Absolution on Newegg.com

I got the Intel 120GB SSD it was simple to install and windows boots up in seconds, no joke. Load times are gone in games and open world games seem to just perform better. The space isn't really an issue as I just transfer the real demanding games that I am playing at the moment onto the SSD and leave the rest on the HDD, there's a feature in Steam which does this for you now.

EDIT: After comparing the stats of the 2 processors on this site, it seems your processor is more powerful than I thought, if you want to make the jump I would say go for a Phenom II x6 series instead, But it seems you CPU is pretty comparable to mine and it doesn't seem to hold my gaming back.

#6 Posted by WasabiCurry (415 posts) -

@AndrewB: I would totally agree with AndrewB that not knowing what the consoles specs will completely throw off on what is average for PC. Future proofing as one might say is never a good idea, but I do not believe the new consoles will not be as powerful as many would assume. There was an interesting story way back in August to where someone sold a dev kit for the "Xbox 720," and they released the equivalent specs. Who really knows if that thing was even real! Doesn't seem likely though, but again, who knows.

Anyways, I think your 8 core processor will be definitely be safe! X3 I would imagine that consoles will have either two cores or four cores. Additionally, consoles have always ran with ATI cards because they simply hate Nvidia. I would imagine hearing more about the consoles (PS4, 720, and the Steam Box [which I am calling Gabecube until further notice]) by the time April and May rolls around. I am building my system in the summer and I will be running with dual sli gtx 660ti cards or if the 680 comes down in price, I will run it with that.

Oh yeah, listen to these guys recommendations, they are solid!

#7 Edited by Devildoll (831 posts) -

Yeah you can set up "my documents" "my music" etc to reside on a different hard drive if you want. its just a simple setting on the folder. There is no law that requires you to keep your music there though, you can just keep it in a random folder on whatever drive you like.

I've got all those folders on a separate disk, so that i can format my os and still keep all that stuff without thinking about it.

There's no such thing as ram specialised for intel boards. that's just marketing bs.

Those sticks would run at 1066 or 1333 no matter what motherboard on this planet you dumped them into. The memory is tested for 1600, but motherboard and cpu standards do not "support" that, you have to go into bios and set it manually, you didn't mess up at all. Besides, you probably wont notice a difference anyway.

@AndrewB said:

You could upgrade the AMD processor for super cheap because AMD parts are selling that way. For gaming, I'd probably for now stick with a decently overclockable quad core part. Graphics card helps even the lowliest of computers, but obviously creates a new bottleneck if the rest of your PC isn't up to snuff. Buy as good a card as you can afford. The bad part is that we really don't know what the specs of the next consoles are going to be alongside their PC equivalent parts, so planning for a future where games are designed for consoles and ported over to PC is rough. Crazy rumors placing the next 360 with an 8 core processor scare me because I just bought a new system not too long ago myself.

exactly, buy as good as you can afford, when it doesnt keep up any more, you buy a replacement, there is no need to futureproof, NOW, is what's important, unless there is something revolutionary just around the corner, which is rare. ( like buying a computer just days before the Q6600 was released )

Regarding consoles with 8 cores, just remember that that's all going to be at a price of $400 or so, there is a difference between 8 cores and 8 cores.

new consoles is only going to be a good thing anyway, get this freaking industry moving a bit, make em actually do high quality assets instead of trying to optimize em to fit in 256 MB's of ram.

@WasabiCurry: ps3 has a nvidia chip you know, there's no hate, its all about money, this time the best deal was struck with AMD, that's all.

Probably also due to them leading in power efficiency up until nvidia released their 600 series, which is very important with consoles since they are so tiny and cant deal with all the heat, without making a racket.

#8 Posted by WasabiCurry (415 posts) -

@Devildoll: Thanks for pointing that out! I didn't know that PS3 had a Nvidia chip in it so my bad!

#9 Posted by Mirado (948 posts) -

@mderbs311: How much money do you have to work with? Spending $100 on an AMD processor that is years old already is the worst idea possible; if you're going to upgrade your CPU, take that money, buy a new mobo and switch to Intel. AMD has completely fallen apart when it comes to price/performance and there's no reason to buy anything other then Intel CPUs anymore.

Don't put in anything like a 680 without a new CPU; you'll be bottlenecked like crazy by your old one.

#10 Edited by Devildoll (831 posts) -

@Mirado: I'd urge him to do that too, since he is planning on getting such a high end graphics card.

But that wouldn't be doable on 100 bucks, since the current cpu's alone go for about 200.

#11 Posted by Mirado (948 posts) -

@Devildoll: Right, but I meant that I'd rather see him apply that $100 he'd spend on a X4 965 Black towards a new Intel mobo + CPU.

You're probably looking at a good $350 or so for an adequate CPU/mobo combo, at least one that would last a good few GPU iterations. That's the nice thing about CPUs; a good investment can last you 5+ years.

#12 Posted by envane (1156 posts) -

get whole new mobo cpu and ram , then a gpu , then a ssd .. in that order of priority .. ppl have explained the benefits already ..it sucks nowadays you basicly end up upgrading everything in sets

#13 Edited by Devildoll (831 posts) -

@Mirado: he could get a dirt cheap motherboard, that wouldnt decrease the longevity or performance of the cpu. ( unless it broke of course )

a 965 would do today,atleast with some overclocking, but a 2500k or 3570k would be preferred, and would allow him to keep that running for a decently longer period without upgrades.

yeah i would probably hold of untill i could afford an intel cpu as well.

i'm actually still running my i7 920 from 2008, and have switched my graphics card out two times, but the cpu is still trucking, maybe getting a little slow for higher framerates in a few games nowadays.

@envane: he can keep his current ram, as long as it'll run at 1,5 v, intel's modern platforms are a bit delicate on that issue.

he wont get that big a performance boost by just replacing the 440, better wait untill he can afford cpu and gpu, that way more time will have passed and he'll get more horsepower for is money as well.

#14 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@mderbs311: The way windows handles music and all that now is with "Libraries" which are just a collection of folders that can be anywhere even across multiple hard drives. So I wouldn't worry about the SSD affecting that stuff, pretty much everything will let you quickly change that path. You can also not have that disc be your C:/ disc and that'll make most of it work automatically if I had to guess.

Also, I'd suggest getting a mid range Sandy Bridge CPU, a MOBO to support it, and a new video card. You could get away with doing the CPU/mobo first and then wait a bit to do the GPU, or the other way around, if you'd like. I recently moved away from a 5770 to a GTX 680, and even though it's been hell getting my PC to work (it;s a $1500 dollar machine but barely works at the moment) I can tell you right now, I have never enjoyed anything more than getting rid of my 5770. It was an awful card with piss poor performance above 720p, and a lot of issues with more recent games and pretty much anything running UE3. I'm not suggesting you get a 680, but I would say that a 5770 won't get you too much further.

#15 Posted by mderbs311 (58 posts) -

Wow! Thanks everybody for the response! This community never disappoints!

@Winternet: Yeah, im probably going to suck it up and do that, thanks!

@Inkerman: Thanks for the reply! That makes me a lot more confident in going the SSD route!

@AndrewB: Will definitely be buying the best graphics card I can afford!

@Bourbon_Warrior: Duder thanks so much for the detailed reply! Will definitely look into the 965 if I decide to upgrade my cpu with this current motherboard, as it seems to be the best offering for gaming with my socket type. Looked at the Phenom II six cores and they are super hard to find and also way lower clocked with less overclocking potential, so the 965 seems to be the best option. It all depends on how much free cash I have come February! And yeah, that 3 free game deal with a 7970 definitely caught my eye!

@WasabiCurry: Yeah, future proofing is nigh impossible these days for sure! Also good luck with your build when you go ahead with it! Let me know how it turns out! Yeah, im kind of limiting myself to 400 bucks for the GPU, and since the 680 and 7970 GHZ edition are so neck and neck, and I can get the 7970 for a hundred less, its my pick! Although, if the 680 manages to drop a hundred bucks between now and Feb I would have to reconsider!

@Devildoll: Awesome, thanks for the info regarding the SSD thing! And its good to know the RAM situation isnt as bad as I thought, I was looking up info on RAM clock speeds and how much difference running at different frequencies would hurt performance and didnt get a clear cut answer!

@Mirado: Im not totally sure how much I will have to play with, but I will for sure be getting the GPU. If I have the money I would for sure love to upgrade everything, and may just do so anyway even if it takes me a bit longer. And I was definitely looking at doing an intel build with my new rig, probably going the standard i5-3000k series of CPUs. Was just trying to see if there was a cheaper way to upgrade what I had and eke out a little extra life from current parts!

So a few more question! Since I installed an OEM copy of Windows 7 on my rig, wouldnt replacing the CPU automatically require me to buy a new copy of windows, since it would think it was a "new" PC? That was one of the main reasons to see if the GPU upgrade would be justifiable on its own. If it requires me to buy windows again, then that kind of makes the decision to build a new rig for me, not that im complaining, mind! On that note, does anybody know what would happen if I upgraded my current rigs OEM copy of 7 to Windows 8? Would there be a way to transfer that to a completely new rig? Or is that upgrade of Win 8 tied to my current Mobo since its coming from an OEM copy.

Aaand, once my new rig is complete, is there an easy way to transfer my steam library (Saves, Installed games etc.) from my old HD to the new SSD? I really dont want to have to download and reinstall EVERY single one of the games I am currently playing. Stupid US Data caps!!!!

Again, thank you SO MUCH for all your replies and advice! You guys are awesome!

#16 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@Mirado said:

a good investment can last you 5+ years.

Yep, I'm in year 3 of my i5, non-Sandy Bridge, still zero reason to upgrade for gaming or general use.

#17 Posted by mderbs311 (58 posts) -

@MordeaniisChaos: Yeah, ive read up a little on the "libraries" issue and being able to change the paths and stuff and where it saves stuff to. And thanks for the reply! Given the responses here I am definitely leaning on just saving a bit longer and building a new gen intel build. Im sorry you had so much trouble with your 5770 but I gotta tell you mine has been running like a champ! It was touted as the best mid range card at the time I bought it, at 200 bucks then, and I have never had any problems running games smoothly at 1080p! Its still chewing through newer titles at high settings too, barring the occasional dip in frames when stuff gets crazy! Im currently working my way through Spec Ops: the line and its awesome!

#18 Posted by TyCobb (1924 posts) -

There is nothing wrong with the machine for now. Just get yourself a top of the line video card and a bigger PSU to handle the new beefy card and new upgrades later on.

In a year, get a new CPU and Motherboard. Your RAM is fine. Your HDD is fine. No need for SSD unless you just want one for the hell of it.

I really think you are fine with just getting a new video card for now. It will definitely be an improvement.

#19 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@mderbs311: Ever tried to play Witcher 2 on it? lol, dear god.

To be fair, my rig had more issues than just my video card. And there were games I could run at 1920x1200 without too much trouble, but anything particularly intensive just didn't even really run. My recent build loads about 10 times (seriously, I'm not lying) faster, runs about 4 times the framerates, and so far the only thing that pushes it below 60 is Metro 2033. FarCry 3 did it like, one time, but that was pretty small and nVidia released beta drivers that increased performance in FarCry 3 by about 40% the next day.

#20 Posted by Mirado (948 posts) -

@Devildoll said:

@Mirado: he could get a dirt cheap motherboard, that wouldnt decrease the longevity or performance of the cpu. ( unless it broke of course )

a 965 would do today,atleast with some overclocking, but a 2500k or 3570k would be preferred, and would allow him to keep that running for a decently longer period without upgrades.

yeah i would probably hold of untill i could afford an intel cpu as well.

i'm actually still running my i7 920 from 2008, and have switched my graphics card out two times, but the cpu is still trucking, maybe getting a little slow for higher framerates in a few games nowadays.

He could very well go cheaper, but I think we might finally see usage for PCI-E 3.0 in the next two years, so if you assume he'll be hanging onto the CPU for a good five years or so, no reason to artificially shorten the time to upgrade. My rule of thumb is simple; invest as much as you are willing to push as many bottlenecks as you can as far as you can into the future. Your money will always pay off, because you can enjoy the increased performance in the short term and the peace of mind in the long term. But remember to build for your use case; as there is no such thing as future proofing, buying something ridiculous you can't take advantage of in the near future is a waste.

As for me, I got a 2600k in 2011 and I can't see it going out of use for years.

@mderbs311: Just make sure that you look into how your specific CPU is running in current games. The last thing you want is to sink $400+ on a GPU and return with 20% better performance. A new GPU should make your system feel brand new.

I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics of Windows licensing, but an upgrade copy of 8 is only $40. Just apply the key to the new machine/install instead of your current one, and you're in the clear.

As for transferring your Steam library, check this out. It's not that hard. I built a NASbox and fooled around with Symlinks to get it to work with a network drive (bottom of part two), but for a local disk that should be all you need to do.

#21 Edited by Bane (363 posts) -

@mderbs311 said:

[...] Now I should state that I built my rig in mid 2010 and it has performed admirably this entire time, and continues to do so. [...]

If that's the case I wouldn't change anything. If it ain't broke...

If I were you (and we're in the same boat) I'd wait until you can upgrade your monitor as well. 1080p is child's play to a modern gaming PC. I don't see any sense in building a rig that can push 4 million pixels when your monitor has 2 million.

#22 Posted by WEB_War4 (111 posts) -

If you go into the properties of the folders under your user account folder (contacts, desktop, downloads, favorites, links, documents, music, pictures, podcasts, videos, saved games, searches) there is a "Location" tab that lets you change the default location of all of those folders. I have them spread across three different storage drives and don't have to worry about what gets saved where. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to change where the main user folder lies, which would save me some time with a windows reinstall.

#23 Posted by envane (1156 posts) -

@Devildoll: yeah i have a 950 , its doing well but i still want to upgrade it (because thats what crazy ppl do) , i cant really justify buying anything else in this socket set however , since the next processor up basically = the same cost as a 3770k + a new motherboard with money to spare .. stupid ebay retailers keepin them prices jacked up.

im trying my best to hold out till next cpu/gpu cycle

#24 Posted by wemibelec90 (1280 posts) -

@mderbs311: I have a rig very similar to yours (my card is a 5750 and my processor is an Intel, but very similar). I just bought a 660 which will be here tomorrow. If you like, I can post how much of an improvement it seems to be.

#25 Posted by qawsed (140 posts) -

I had an X2 255 and a 5670. Claims that CPUs don't contribute much and that it all comes down to the GPU are greatly overstated. I eventually upgraded to a GTX 570 but the CPU was bottlenecking things. I basically built a new machine with a 3570K. The difference between the X2 255/GTX570 and the 3570K/GTX570 was really, really, huge.

#26 Posted by mderbs311 (58 posts) -

@wemibelec90: Yeah that would be awesome, thank you! Im pretty what ill do is buy the new GPU, put it in my rig just to see how it performs and just very quickly save up to buy the rest of my new pc, but I would like to see what other duders with a similar setup get in performance gains with just the GPU upgrade!

@qawsed: Oh im sure the improvment in performance would be huge and easily noticeable, to be sure. Its just a matter of how much it would help my system in the short term until I save up the money to get the rest of the components. Thanks for the input!

#27 Edited by Devildoll (831 posts) -

@envane: i never "upgrade" to something from the same generation/architecture, if feel like someone has made a poor initial choice if they do so, only valid reason imo would be if they were initially low on cash, and then suddenly won the lottery a couple of weeks later.

If im upgrading, its proably going to be an ivy bridge-e or some haswell cpu.

@qawsed: when people say that cpu's dont matter, they are usually talking 2500k vs 2600k etc. ( some kind of quad as baseline at least )

cpu bottlenecks in games can be eliminated for a long while by just buying something for 200 bucks, as opposed to gpus for 500 bucks, which still cant ace certain games with flawless framerat at max settings.

using a x2 225 for gaming is kind of like using a geforce 520 or radeon 7350 for the same purpose.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.