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Where's my bottleneck?

Adhesive33Adhesive33 Member UncommonPosts: 227

So, I threw together a budget system about 3 years ago, and it has held up pretty well, but I'm trying to figure out if I can squeeze out any extra performance with a $100-200 upgrade, or if I should just wait to rebuild with a whole new mobo. Current system:

ASUS 965P-S3

E4300 Core2Duo OC'd @ 3.0Ghz

3GB RAM

Radeon 4850

CoolMaster SilentPro 600W

I thought about throwing in another gig or two of RAM, but honestly, I've never seen a game use more than 2gigs, so I'm not sure if it will really make that much of a difference. I've thought of upgrading my CPU, but the only thing my mobo supports that's better is an early quad-core, and again, most games I play don't use more than two cores, so I think it would be a waste. That leaves the GPU, I could upgrade to a 6970 or GTX 460, but would I see much of a difference with my current CPU?

 

Maybe my best bet would be to just throw in an SDD?

Comments

  • ScrimMalteseScrimMaltese Member Posts: 469

    Well, you have 3GB of ram on a Dual Channel board. 

    I would start there. 

  • Adhesive33Adhesive33 Member UncommonPosts: 227

    Originally posted by ScrimMaltese

    Well, you have 3GB of ram on a Dual Channel board. 

    I would start there. 

    Two sticks of 512MB and two sticks of 1GB, running in dual channel @800Mhz

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,115

    If you've got a 32-bit operating system, then even if you add more memory, Windows may still only let you use 3 GB.

    There's not a glaring problem of, you need to fix this.  If the problem is that the system generally feels sluggish, an SSD will fix that, but from the age of your system, you're probably running Vista, which doesn't really know what to do with an SSD.  If the problem is that you want better frame rates in games at higher settings, an SSD won't fix that.

    In your case, I probably wouldn't want to sink more money into the system.  Rather, I'd be more inclined to keep it as it is until you're ready to replace it outright.  There isn't some immediate need to replace it, though, so you can easily time it to buy at a time that makes sense.

    If you want a $1000-$1500 gaming system, right now is actually a pretty good time to buy.  For a budget gaming system, it would be better to wait for Llano to launch in a few weeks, but that's not for you, as it wouldn't be an upgrade over what you have now.  For something higher end, with multiple video cards in CrossFire or SLI, you might want to wait for Bulldozer to launch in a couple of months.  The Zambezi processors themselves probably won't be any better for gaming than the Sandy Bridge processors you can get today, but you can't get a high end chipset appropriate to CrossFire/SLI with a Sandy Bridge processor, but will be able to with Bulldozer.

    After Bulldozer launches in a couple of months, there's nothing terribly important coming in gaming desktop processors until at least 2013.  The high end version of Sandy Bridge will launch late this year, Ivy Bridge will launch around the start of next year, and then a refresh of Bulldozer later that year, but those won't be terribly important for gaming desktops.

    On the video card side, the 40 nm video cards are basicaly all out, with only the exception of Barts (a downgrade for you) coming soon, and perhaps some alternate bins of a few cards to fill minor lineup holes.  The real advance is waiting for the transition to a 28 nm HKMG process node.  The top card of AMD's upcoming Southern Islands has already taped out, and could launch as soon as July if all goes well.  It's unlikely that all will go well, so my best guess is that it's coming in the fall, and it's plausible that problems at TSMC could delay it until next year.  Lower end Southern Islands cards are to be manufactured at Global Foundries, and probably coming in the fall.

    On the Nvidia side of things, their next architecture is Kepler, and will also be on TSMC's 28 nm HKMG process node.  Nvidia isn't as quick to adopt new process nodes as AMD, and trying to do a new architecture and a new process node at the same time tends to lead to delays.  My guess is Kepler launches around the end of the year.  Once both Southern Islands and Kepler are out, it will be quite a while before there are any terribly important video card launches.

    It's likely that early 2012 will also be a great time to buy a new gaming desktop.  There's no real reason to delay longer that, though, regardless of your budget, unless you simply don't have the money to spend.

  • Adhesive33Adhesive33 Member UncommonPosts: 227

    Originally posted by Quizzical

    If you've got a 32-bit operating system, then even if you add more memory, Windows may still only let you use 3 GB.

    There's not a glaring problem of, you need to fix this.  If the problem is that the system generally feels sluggish, an SSD will fix that, but from the age of your system, you're probably running Vista, which doesn't really know what to do with an SSD.  If the problem is that you want better frame rates in games at higher settings, an SSD won't fix that.

    In your case, I probably wouldn't want to sink more money into the system.  Rather, I'd be more inclined to keep it as it is until you're ready to replace it outright.  There isn't some immediate need to replace it, though, so you can easily time it to buy at a time that makes sense.

    If you want a $1000-$1500 gaming system, right now is actually a pretty good time to buy.  For a budget gaming system, it would be better to wait for Llano to launch in a few weeks, but that's not for you, as it wouldn't be an upgrade over what you have now.  For something higher end, with multiple video cards in CrossFire or SLI, you might want to wait for Bulldozer to launch in a couple of months.  The Zambezi processors themselves probably won't be any better for gaming than the Sandy Bridge processors you can get today, but you can't get a high end chipset appropriate to CrossFire/SLI with a Sandy Bridge processor, but will be able to with Bulldozer.

    After Bulldozer launches in a couple of months, there's nothing terribly important coming in gaming desktop processors until at least 2013.  The high end version of Sandy Bridge will launch late this year, Ivy Bridge will launch around the start of next year, and then a refresh of Bulldozer later that year, but those won't be terribly important for gaming desktops.

    On the video card side, the 40 nm video cards are basicaly all out, with only the exception of Barts (a downgrade for you) coming soon, and perhaps some alternate bins of a few cards to fill minor lineup holes.  The real advance is waiting for the transition to a 28 nm HKMG process node.  The top card of AMD's upcoming Southern Islands has already taped out, and could launch as soon as July if all goes well.  It's unlikely that all will go well, so my best guess is that it's coming in the fall, and it's plausible that problems at TSMC could delay it until next year.  Lower end Southern Islands cards are to be manufactured at Global Foundries, and probably coming in the fall.

    On the Nvidia side of things, their next architecture is Kepler, and will also be on TSMC's 28 nm HKMG process node.  Nvidia isn't as quick to adopt new process nodes as AMD, and trying to do a new architecture and a new process node at the same time tends to lead to delays.  My guess is Kepler launches around the end of the year.  Once both Southern Islands and Kepler are out, it will be quite a while before there are any terribly important video card launches.

    It's likely that early 2012 will also be a great time to buy a new gaming desktop.  There's no real reason to delay longer that, though, regardless of your budget, unless you simply don't have the money to spend.

    Thanks for the write-up. I'm thinking a complete rebuild in 2012 sounds like the best plan. I am running win7 64-bit right now, though, and honestly the only performance issue I'm really having seems to be load times. Once everything is loaded I maintain decent frames on pretty much any MMO I play...the load screens can be killer though, especially in games like Lotro.

  • ShinamiShinami Member UncommonPosts: 825

    Your question "Where's my bottleneck" 

     

    Your gaming performance bottleneck is primarily located in your processor and video card. 

     

    Your processor although overclock will bottleneck future video cards from performing at their maximum and a lot of games today will run 4 threads and utilize processor cache. I list your video card as a bottleneck from the point of view of games themselves. You simply won't get the frames required to have a good framerate under the latest games today with that card. 

     

    Question Answered -----

     

    Now to add in a comparative. 

     

    Shall you seek to upgrade a system, I would like to state that a Q6600 at 3ghz Bottlenecks a 480 GTX, 570 GTX and 580 GTX. They also bottleneck a 6950 and 6970. I've tested this thoroughly and found that the bottleneck is minimized when settings like AA are disabled, however we dont buy expensive video cards to skimp on effects and internals....If you wish to upgrade processors, either wait for AMD's latest processor to be released or go for a 2500K - 2600K Intel Processor. 

     

    The problem with upgrading your system is that before you can buy a super good video card, you will have to deal with your processor bottleneck. This means buying a new motherboard, processor and RAM (which is a NEW computer outright) Also it doesn't hurt to run with a SATA III Hard Drive or SSD for Windows 7. 

     

    Point is you have your work cut out for you. I recommend a new system build when the time comes. 

  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,060

    Pretty much what everyone else has said:

    There are a lot of little things you can do to improve performance minorly, but nothing (aside from the SSD suggestion) will make any huge impact right now, and if you did all the little things, you'd have a new computer.

    I'd just hold out until you are ready to get an entire new computer.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,115

    Loading times in games are likely to be some combination of loading data off of your hard drive, having the processor process that data somehow, and downloading data from the servers.  The second alone shouldn't make loading a zone take all that long.  How long the third takes can vary greatly by game--and by your Internet connection.  The first can be mostly fixed by an SSD.

    You can check to see what the holdup is in Task Manager, in whatever games you play.  Open Task Manager, check the networking tab, and then transfer from one zone to another.  If there's lots of network activity, then that's what it's doing.  If not, then it's either waiting on the processor or (more likely) the hard drive.  Note that even if it is purely waiting on network activity, that won't push network activity to anywhere near 100%.

    You can also check processor usage on the "performance" tab.  If the game maxes out at least one core, then that's what it's waiting on.  If there's some processor activity, but nowhere near maxing out either core, then it's waiting on something else.  It's not likely to be processor bound for long in a loading screen, if at all.  Loading the program initially can easily involve a lot more processor activity, though.  It takes my netbook about twice as long as my desktop to load Windows, even though my netbook has a faster SSD.

    If you're not waiting on the processor or the Internet connection, then it's waiting on your hard drive.  With an SSD, you'd have to wait a whole lot less.  An SSD doesn't completely eliminate loading times, though.  For example, in Guild Wars, it's more like 10 seconds on my older desktop with a hard drive, versus 3 seconds on my netbook (which has a slower processor than the older desktop) with an SSD.

    Note that the loading screen may be waiting on one thing for a while, then wait on something else.  For example, in Champions Online, the start of the loading bar is waiting to make sure that the server will let you into the intended zone (occasionally this can take quite a while if the server has to create a new zone), then the middle 80% or so of the loading bar is waiting mostly on storage access, and then the last 10% or so is waiting on Internet activity.  An SSD makes the middle 80% only take a few seconds, but the last 10% can also take a few seconds.

    If you've ever played League of Legends, it shows you the loading progress of all of the other players, while you're waiting for a game to start.  It's flagrantly obvious who has an SSD and who doesn't, just from how fast a player loads the game.  It's also obvious who needs more memory and is taking massive amounts of time paging to disk.

    If you want a relatively cheap SSD, then a few options are:

    30 GB for $75:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227510

    50 GB for $110 after rebate:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227550

    60 GB for $130:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147062

    In a new system, you'd ordinarily want to put the OS on an SSD.  That can be a pain to do on an existing system, though.  You could just put whatever programs are annoyingly sluggish on the SSD and it will fix those.

    The OCZ Onyx is pretty slow for a modern SSD, but it's easily an order of magnitude faster than even a relatively fast hard drive in random read IOPS, and that's the real bottleneck for loading times.  It's also a lot faster than any hard drive in random write IOPS, even if it trails way behind the better SSDs there.  There are a few SSDs on New Egg cheaper than that, but don't get them, as you don't want to have to deal with a st-st-stuttering JMicron controller that will make you wish you had your hard drive back whenever you try to write small files to the SSD.

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