Gaming/CAD Upgrade Help

dshea

Junior Member
Apr 9, 2012
6
0
0
Hello Everyone,

I am looking to make an upgrade to my current PC setup. I'm thinking CPU, MoBo, and/or GPU. Below is a PartsPicker of my current setup. I use the PC for gaming, CAD, and programming.

Part list permalink / Part price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz Triple-Core Processor ($72.99 @ SuperBiiz)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus 76.8 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler ($22.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Biostar TA880G HD Micro ATX AM3 Motherboard ($104.85 @ Amazon)
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws Series 16GB (4 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda Green 2TB 3.5" 5900RPM Internal Hard Drive ($118.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Hard Drive: Samsung 830 Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($179.00 @ Adorama)
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB Video Card ($158.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Case: Antec Three Hundred ATX Mid Tower Case ($54.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: Corsair 850W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($169.99 @ NCIX US)
Optical Drive: LG WH12LS39 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Monitor: Asus VS247H-P 23.6" Monitor ($181.99 @ Mac Connection)
Monitor: Asus VS247H-P 23.6" Monitor ($181.99 @ Mac Connection)
Total: $1406.75
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated 2012-04-09 23:52 EDT-0400)

Do you all think upgrading the motherboard/processor and/or GPU is "worth it"? I know that's subjective, but your opinion is valued!

I'm very interested in picking up Ivy Bridge when it's released at the end of the month, but I need some help picking out CPU and MoBo. I'm not too concerned about price, but if I'm making a jump from i5 to i7 I think it needs to be justified. I was leaning towards an i5-3750k for CPU and an ASUS mobo (heard they're still pretty good at the motherboard thing). Thoughts on this?

I'm pretty clueless when it comes to upgrading the GPU. I would prefer strongly to go AMD/ATI for my next GPU. Any suggestions for good manufacturers and a decent description of the difference between the cards at the mid-high end would be greatly appreciated.

Finally, if I make upgrades to all three (motherboard, CPU, and GPU), I will be moving most of my old hardware to a new build for either HTPC or file server duties. If I go this route, what cases would you suggest? Consider I currently have the Antec300 which could be repurposed for the new HTPC/file server or I could buy a new case for the HTPC/file server. Thoughts?
 

bononos

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2011
3,885
156
106
.... Do you all think upgrading the motherboard/processor and/or GPU is "worth it"? I know that's subjective, but your opinion is valued!

I'm very interested in picking up Ivy Bridge when it's released at the end of the month, but I need some help picking out CPU and MoBo. I'm not too concerned about price, but if I'm making a jump from i5 to i7 I think it needs to be justified. I was leaning towards an i5-3750k for CPU and an ASUS mobo (heard they're still pretty good at the motherboard thing). Thoughts on this?.......

If you're 460 is holding up well on your gaming then maybe you can keep it for a while longer. What is the reason for your strong preference for ATI?

The highend Nvidia 680 just debuted so wait for the other 6xx cards to come out. The 7xxx cards have all been reviewed. 77xx/78xx/79xx are the low/mid/high end respectively.

Asus mbs are good but I just feel that the low/mid range models are overpriced and I prefer to get Asrock/Gigabyte at that price range. MSI got a bad rap for their exploding/burnt vrms about 2yrs ago and might still be an ongoing issue.
 

jaydee

Diamond Member
May 6, 2000
4,496
2
81
How do you feel your current setup is deficient? Answer that, and we can better help you pick out new parts.
 

Ken g6

Programming Moderator, Elite Member
Moderator
Dec 11, 1999
16,234
3,817
75
First question: Have you tried unlocking the fourth core of your X3? Have you tried overclocking? If done carefully, neither should be permanently harmful, and one or both could be very effective.

If you decide these changes aren't enough, please answer the questions in [thread=80121]the stickied thread[/thread].
 

dshea

Junior Member
Apr 9, 2012
6
0
0
I tried to organize this in the cleanest, most readable order. My apologies if it is too long or appears disorganized.


First question: Have you tried unlocking the fourth core of your X3? Have you tried overclocking? If done carefully, neither should be permanently harmful, and one or both could be very effective.

If you decide these changes aren't enough, please answer the questions in [thread=80121]the stickied thread[/thread].

I have unlocked and overclocked my CPU to x4/3.5GHz. My CPU does not have an unlockable L3 cache. I tried to answer as many of the questions from the sticky thread in my initial post, but I will explicitly answer them here for clarity's sake:

1. What will you use your PC for?
Gaming, CAD, and programming.
2. What is your budget?
I am willing to spend up to $1000 on the upgrade.
3. What country will you buy parts from?
I will buy parts from the USA.
4. Do you have any preferred brands?
I prefer AMD for the graphics cards (explanation below)
5. Do you intend to recycle parts from an old build?
Yes. This post is about upgrading a currently existing build. I will replace some or all of the following items: CPU, motherboard, GPU, and case.
7. Do you plan on overclocking or keeping stock speeds?
I will likely overclock.
8. What resolution will you be using?
I have two 1080p monitors. My games vary, but I will plan for 1080p gaming.
9. When do you plan to build?
I will complete the upgrade between 2 weeks and one month from now.


How do you feel your current setup is deficient? Answer that, and we can better help you pick out new parts.

I'm disappointed that my work PC seems to be just as snappy as my home PC (listed above). My work PC is a standard Dell model with a mechanical HDD and an i3. My work PC seems to keep up with my home PC in typical light work and even most CAD modeling. My home PC is only better than my work PC if I have a large SolidWorks assembly.

My hypothesis is that my work PC can keep up with my home PC due to its processor. Therefore, I thought that upgrading my processor could make my home PC even snappier. Does this make sense? Perhaps I've already reached a plateau. Also, bonus for upgrading Motherboard/CPU is that new MoBos have SATA3 capability and my current MoBo only has SATA2 slots.

Finally, as I will mention below, I have issues if I have a game open on one monitor and open an internet browser/Word/anything on the other monitor. The frame rate of the game plummets (a problem for some online games) and my computer slows a little. I'm not sure if that is caused by the GPU or the CPU.


first of all, upgrading to a modern Intel processor would definitely be 'worth it'

that said, if you are happy with your current system, there's no reason to upgrade.

The performance upgrade between processors is precisely what interests me. As I mentioned above, I will upgrade the motherboard and processor if it truly can make a difference in overall snappiness of Windows and my applications. I'm wondering how much of a performance boost I will see in real day-to-day use. Does anyone know for sure?


If you're 460 is holding up well on your gaming then maybe you can keep it for a while longer. What is the reason for your strong preference for ATI?

The highend Nvidia 680 just debuted so wait for the other 6xx cards to come out. The 7xxx cards have all been reviewed. 77xx/78xx/79xx are the low/mid/high end respectively.

Asus mbs are good but I just feel that the low/mid range models are overpriced and I prefer to get Asrock/Gigabyte at that price range. MSI got a bad rap for their exploding/burnt vrms about 2yrs ago and might still be an ongoing issue.

The 460 does well for the gaming but suffers if I have anything else open with the game at the same time. For example, if I have a game on one monitor and open a internet browser on the other to do a quick search, my game's frame rates plummet. I'm not sure if this is caused by the CPU or the GPU.

My main reason for upgrading my GPU is that I'm under the impression I may be able to get a decent discount on an AMD GPU. If that's not the case, I do not have a brand preference and I would only upgrade the GPU if my current frame rate issue is caused by the 460.

Thanks for the quick breakdown on what all the numbers mean, that is helpful when looking at cards. Are there preferred or "better" brand manufacturers (e.g. EVGA) for GPUs?

I've heard the overpriced bit about ASUS MBs in the past, but I'm a sucker for reliability and ease of use. Does the UEFI BIOS make a difference? Perhaps in boot speed? Are ASRock and Gigabyte equally or comparably reliable to ASUS? I didn't know about the MSI info, so that's good to know.
 

mfenn

Elite Member
Jan 17, 2010
22,400
5
71
www.mfenn.com
Losing gaming performance when having multiple windows open sounds like a driver issue to me. Are you running Windows 7 with the newest Nvidia drivers?

As for the rest, I'd say that an i5 and accompanying mobo would definitely increase the overall feel of the machine, especially since you have the other important bases covered (SSD and lots of RAM).

i5 2500K $210 AP
P8Z68-V LE $128
 

dshea

Junior Member
Apr 9, 2012
6
0
0
Losing gaming performance when having multiple windows open sounds like a driver issue to me. Are you running Windows 7 with the newest Nvidia drivers?

Hi mfenn, excellent point! I am running Windows 7, but I did not have the newest drivers. Reading the release notes, it looks like they have increased gaming performance. Do you know if there is a way to auto-update the drivers via the nVidia control panel (or any other way)? I'm downloading the newest drivers as I type this.

As for the rest, I'd say that an i5 and accompanying mobo would definitely increase the overall feel of the machine, especially since you have the other important bases covered (SSD and lots of RAM).

i5 2500K $210 AP
P8Z68-V LE $128

This is a topic of confusion for me. I was going to wait for the Ivy Bridge processors and (probably) get the i5-3750k. I see a lot of articles/posts/comments where people say it is not worth waiting for the Z77 chipset and IB processors, but why not? I understand the improvements are marginal at best, but I'm about three weeks (assuming no more delays) from the release of the processors, so why not just wait for it?
 

bononos

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2011
3,885
156
106
........
I'm wondering how much of a performance boost I will see in real day-to-day use. Does anyone know for sure?

........

My main reason for upgrading my GPU is that I'm under the impression I may be able to get a decent discount on an AMD GPU. If that's not the case, I do not have a brand preference and I would only upgrade the GPU if my current frame rate issue is caused by the 460.

Thanks for the quick breakdown on what all the numbers mean, that is helpful when looking at cards. Are there preferred or "better" brand manufacturers (e.g. EVGA) for GPUs?

I've heard the overpriced bit about ASUS MBs in the past, but I'm a sucker for reliability and ease of use. Does the UEFI BIOS make a difference? Perhaps in boot speed? Are ASRock and Gigabyte equally or comparably reliable to ASUS? I didn't know about the MSI info, so that's good to know.
If by day to day use, you mean browsing and emails then probably very little or nothing. But an i5 cpu upgrade should give a good speedup in CAD - do you have a faster pc in the office to compare?

I don't know if theres a significant difference in quality btwn manufacturers for high end gfx cards. I don't like XFX because of their past reputation but many find them ok. For mid-high to low end cards - its probably necessary to eyeball the cards in person to see if the cooling solution is big and sturdy enough and that the vrms are adequate and the capacitors are from a reliable brand, or rely on a detailed reviews. MSI Lightning video cards don't seem to suffer from their motherboard issues I mentioned earlier.

I don't think boot speed is a big enough difference to bother with UEFI, but its becoming standard so its not something to worry about. Asrock and Gigabyte are perfectly good but since you're using your pc for work then the price difference btwn brands is just a piffling amount. What I meant was that for the price you pay for a smaller m-atx Asus board you can get a decent full sized Gigabyte board.
 

jaydee

Diamond Member
May 6, 2000
4,496
2
81
I would also open up your task manager and see if all your cores are fully or near maxed out when your computer "doesn't feel snappy". I says this because I don't feel an i3 w/HDD shouldn't feel faster than an (effectively) Athlon x4 @3.5GHz w/SSD. Something doesn't add up. Seems like you have another problem.

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/186?vs=289
 

mfenn

Elite Member
Jan 17, 2010
22,400
5
71
www.mfenn.com
Hi mfenn, excellent point! I am running Windows 7, but I did not have the newest drivers. Reading the release notes, it looks like they have increased gaming performance. Do you know if there is a way to auto-update the drivers via the nVidia control panel (or any other way)? I'm downloading the newest drivers as I type this.

There's no auto update built into the Nvidia control panel that I'm aware of. Microsoft will very occasionally push new drivers to Windows update, but you can't really rely on that.

This is a topic of confusion for me. I was going to wait for the Ivy Bridge processors and (probably) get the i5-3750k. I see a lot of articles/posts/comments where people say it is not worth waiting for the Z77 chipset and IB processors, but why not? I understand the improvements are marginal at best, but I'm about three weeks (assuming no more delays) from the release of the processors, so why not just wait for it?

The i5 3570K will be marginally faster than the i5 2500K. If you feel like waiting a few weeks that's fine, but it's not like you'd be missing out on something big by going with the i5 2500K.
 

dshea

Junior Member
Apr 9, 2012
6
0
0
If by day to day use, you mean browsing and emails then probably very little or nothing. But an i5 cpu upgrade should give a good speedup in CAD - do you have a faster pc in the office to compare?

I don't know if theres a significant difference in quality btwn manufacturers for high end gfx cards. I don't like XFX because of their past reputation but many find them ok. For mid-high to low end cards - its probably necessary to eyeball the cards in person to see if the cooling solution is big and sturdy enough and that the vrms are adequate and the capacitors are from a reliable brand, or rely on a detailed reviews. MSI Lightning video cards don't seem to suffer from their motherboard issues I mentioned earlier.

I don't think boot speed is a big enough difference to bother with UEFI, but its becoming standard so its not something to worry about. Asrock and Gigabyte are perfectly good but since you're using your pc for work then the price difference btwn brands is just a piffling amount. What I meant was that for the price you pay for a smaller m-atx Asus board you can get a decent full sized Gigabyte board.

I do not have a faster PC in the office personally, but I'm sure I could find one. As for the graphics cards comments, thank you. It's good to know. What are VRMs and how can I tell if a cooling solution isn't sufficient? As for the capacitors, I notice some board manufacturers always point out that their capacitors are "All reliable Japanese capacitors". Is that what I should be looking for?

As for UEFI, I guess I don't get/buy the hype. What's the bonus? Is it all in ease of use, because I don't feel like a standard BIOS is insufficient. And correct, small price differences aren't a huge issue for me. Honestly, with this upgrade, I may or may not buy anything at all. I'm pretty happy for the most part, but it just shocks me that the Dell seems to be as responsive as my home rig!

I would also open up your task manager and see if all your cores are fully or near maxed out when your computer "doesn't feel snappy". I says this because I don't feel an i3 w/HDD shouldn't feel faster than an (effectively) Athlon x4 @3.5GHz w/SSD. Something doesn't add up. Seems like you have another problem.

I was watching my task manager during some gaming last night and I did notice 1 (rarely 2) core(s) will reach 90+% usage. Also, I didn't notice the frame rate dropping if I used an internet browser while the game was running. Sudden change, but I suspect the GPU driver update may have helped.


There's no auto update built into the Nvidia control panel that I'm aware of. Microsoft will very occasionally push new drivers to Windows update, but you can't really rely on that.

The i5 3570K will be marginally faster than the i5 2500K. If you feel like waiting a few weeks that's fine, but it's not like you'd be missing out on something big by going with the i5 2500K.

Fair enough, that's good info. I guess I'll actually pay attention when I see news posted about things like nVidia drivers! As for the 3570k vs 2500k, if I buy one I'll probably just wait for the 3570k. Waiting a few weeks would be fine.

----
So, in total I see the CPU/MoBo upgrade as providing a number of (marginal?) upgrades:
MoBo:
- SATA3 for the SSD
- Higher RAM bandwidth
- PCIe 3.0 (can't even really use this yet, right?)
- UEFI BIOS (not even sure this counts)

CPU:
- L3 Cache
- Overall performance boost
- Greater overclocking potential
- New graphics processing technologies (splits work between IGP and discrete card, if I remember correctly?)

The graphics card update seems more reasonable right now to me, honestly. My main reasoning is although the performance boost appears similar to an i5-2500k vs Athlon II X3 (read: doubles performance in most situations), the idea behind getting a decent discount on a single AMD product makes me think this is an upgrade that would last for some time.

Thoughts on that summary are appreciated. Thanks for your help in trying to figure this all out, Anandtech forum members!
 

mfenn

Elite Member
Jan 17, 2010
22,400
5
71
www.mfenn.com
The graphics card update seems more reasonable right now to me, honestly. My main reasoning is although the performance boost appears similar to an i5-2500k vs Athlon II X3 (read: doubles performance in most situations), the idea behind getting a decent discount on a single AMD product makes me think this is an upgrade that would last for some time.

It doesn't really work that way unfortunately. Bench charts are very useful, but they represent an idealized case where there are no performance bottlenecks other than the component that is being changed. In reality, you overall system performance is determined by dozens of factors, all of which can have an impact on another.

Given that you seem to be very much CPU limited in a lot of situations, I don't think that upgrading to a 7870 would get you anywhere near double the performance in games. Obviously, it would have no impact on non-gaming scenarios.

In my opinion, if you're willing to drop the $350 that a 7870 costs, you would be much better served by a Z68 mobo and an i5 2500K.
 

dshea

Junior Member
Apr 9, 2012
6
0
0
It doesn't really work that way unfortunately. Bench charts are very useful, but they represent an idealized case where there are no performance bottlenecks other than the component that is being changed. In reality, you overall system performance is determined by dozens of factors, all of which can have an impact on another.

Given that you seem to be very much CPU limited in a lot of situations, I don't think that upgrading to a 7870 would get you anywhere near double the performance in games. Obviously, it would have no impact on non-gaming scenarios.

In my opinion, if you're willing to drop the $350 that a 7870 costs, you would be much better served by a Z68 mobo and an i5 2500K.

That's a very valid point. I guess for now I'll go for the processor upgrade. Maybe I don't need any upgrade at all, but I'm craving the build!
 

bononos

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2011
3,885
156
106
I do not have a faster PC in the office personally, but I'm sure I could find one. As for the graphics cards comments, thank you. It's good to know. What are VRMs and how can I tell if a cooling solution isn't sufficient? As for the capacitors, I notice some board manufacturers always point out that their capacitors are "All reliable Japanese capacitors". Is that what I should be looking for?

As for UEFI, I guess I don't get/buy the hype. What's the bonus? Is it all in ease of use, because I don't feel like a standard BIOS is insufficient. And correct, small price differences aren't a huge issue for me. Honestly, with this upgrade, I may or may not buy anything at all. I'm pretty happy for the most part, but it just shocks me that the Dell seems to be as responsive as my home rig!
.....

VRMs regulate the power needed by the video card. It consists of a few components - some of which may not be of a sufficient rating to do the job. VRMs started getting more attention after the MSI mb problems about 2 yrs ago - the number of power phases is related to this issue. The components may be under heatsinks so you might not be able to read it off by looking at it firsthand or from pics. http://www.overclock.net/t/943109/about-vrms-mosfets-motherboard-safety-with-125w-tdp-processors
http://www.overclock.net/t/946407/amd-motherboard-vrm-information-list
I don't know if there is a list for Intel mbs.

The cooling should be at the minimum as good as reference Nvidia/Radeon. Sometimes a manufacturers own non-reference cooling solutions perform worse. I had some old posts on this.