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View Full Version : My noobish upgrade decisions: am I wrong?



Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 09:23 AM
Hello RPS forum! It's been a while - but like any good friend, here I am, back and smiling as soon as I need your help!

So here's the setup: my summer holidays are coming, and I figure it would be a nice time to clean up and do some minor PC upgrades. My rig:



Operating System
MS Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1

CPU
Intel Core i5 2500K @ 3.30GHz
Sandy Bridge 32nm Technology

Cooler
Artic Freezer Pro Rev 2 (http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/detail?sArticle=4.%3F)

PSU
Corsair GS800

RAM
8,00 GB DDR3 @ 665MHz (9-9-9-24)

Motherboard
Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. Z68X-UD4-B3 (Socket 1155)

Graphics
SAMSUNG (1920x1080@60Hz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 (EVGA SC)

Hard Drives
977GB Seagate ST31000528AS ATA Device (SATA)

Optical Drives
TSSTcorp CDDVDW SH-S223C ATA Device

Audio
Realtek High Definition Audio

Tower
NOX Coolbay HX



The obvious upgrade is an SSD, of course - I'm looking at the Samsung 830; the 128GB seems a no-brainer, and I'm tempted to strech my budget for the 256GB version.

Secondly, I'm not entirely satisfied with the way the onboard audio card interacts with my dolby surround sistem, so I'm considering getting one of the cheapest ASUS XONAR audio cards. I feel pleasently geeky about having a dedicated audio card on my rig! :D

Any toughts? I dind't mention budget because I haven't really figured one out; under 400€ would be nice, but I'm flexible.

Bonus question:

A windows reinstall is eminent. Any instalation/configuration tweaks sugested for maximum gaming performance? Recomended performance-boosting apps? Low-impact security tools?

Thanks, I'm looking forward to upgrade my gaming setup knowledge with your help!

Hunchback
09-08-2012, 09:33 AM
Your rig is pretty decent already. Get the SSD you want, use it just for the OS. Apparently the system perf boost is amazing, but it won't change a thing in gaming.

Then get ASUS Xonar DGX and you should be set.

As for windows - i wouldn't suggest using "boosters" and shit like that, it's more likely to break than make.

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 10:20 AM
Hey Hunchback! Thanks for your advice!

So the SSD doesn't impact gaming at all? I was led to understand that, as more and more games load assets on the fly, using one would prevent annoying stutters in open worlds / wide levels. Did I get it wrong?

Is the XONAR DGX very different from the XONAR DG PCI? I ask because my GTX570 is pretty bulky and is right below the PCI-Express port, and I'm woried that sticking a card there would lead to excessive heating of both parts. That said, the XONAR DGX seems thin enough!

Thanks again!

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 10:44 AM
About "boosters":

I believe I was not clear when I talked about the windows reinstaliation; my fault. I'm not looking for those programs that claim to "free up your ram" or otherwise magically boost performance.

What I'd like to know is if it's worthwhile messing with windows settings and services, for example; if it's worthwhile using the "soft overclock" software that comes bundled with my EVGA GTX and Gigabyte MB; and what kind of security - Firewall / AV / etc - setup I can achieve without compromising gaming performance.

What do you think?

Hunchback
09-08-2012, 11:15 AM
About SSD - If you mean to install your games on it, then by all means it should boost loading times at the least, and probably general performance as well. I just didn't consider that options, since the prices are still damn high on SSD and space is low. Then again if you get a 200gb or so one, and only play 2-3 games you should be fine.

About the soundcard - I think both cards have the same specs, but i am not sure and by no means an expert. Check the detailed specs on the asus site. I suggested the DGX because it's PCI-E and that's the future. Since you wouldn't really need to upgrade your sound card in the near and far future, going for the PCI-E version seems the better choice of investement to me. In short, MBs will come with PCI-E only slots sooner than you'll need to upgrade your sound.

As for software - I am not sure about all those soft-oc, i did use them at some point then dropped them after a system reinstall. To be honest i don't notice any difference. Windows 7 already manages CPU clocks. It doesn't manage fans though so you might want to install some software that does that. I don't use anything like that at the moment, but i am not really a reference in top-tuned system. As for security and AV, i am using Microsoft Security Essentials, since i am running a genuine Windows nowadays. It's lightweight enough and seems to be doing as well as any other AV as far as prevention goes. It seems slightly less effective at disinfection though, i once caught a virus by forcing the execution of an infected .exe and the AV failed to remove it. Spent a day or two reading the net and using 150 tools and reg editing and shit to get rid of it.
Note: I DID get my Battle.Net account hacked by a key tracker and MSE didn't ever notice it, keep that in mind.
Other than that, the basic windows 7 firewall is good enough for me. It's also free, like MSE.

Mohorovicic
09-08-2012, 12:10 PM
You could fit quite a few games on a 200GB SSD.

But I really don't think you'd notice anything past faster loading times.

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 01:37 PM
Great! Thanks for the help so far, it certainly clears up some points that I read during my research.

I've read somewhere (please correct me if I'm wrong) that leaving 10% SSD space unpartitioned will increase lifetime and decrese the rate of performance loss. That would make the usable splece on a 128GB something like 115.

My current windows install drive is at roughly 50GB. Perhaps I could cut off some fluff but as it stands, that would leave me with 65GB for games.

Considering some of my always-instaled-because-I-play-them-often games are pretty huge (World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, etc), the remaining space on a 128GB is feeling pretty limited. :/

New question: viable to get a 128GB for now, and then add another one later on? Or would that cause performance issues?

Thanks for all the responses so far!

Sakkura
09-08-2012, 01:46 PM
New question: viable to get a 128GB for now, and then add another one later on? Or would that cause performance issues?

Nothing wrong with that, as long as your case has room, and your PSU and motherboard have available connectors. Your motherboard seems to have an extra SATA controller, raising the number of SATA3 ports from the standard 2 (with Intel Z68 Express) to 4, so it looks like you're good. Just check your manual for what should be connected where.

Hunchback
09-08-2012, 03:36 PM
Didn't know SSDs had "life span" really. Do they get damaged?

Sakkura
09-08-2012, 03:49 PM
Didn't know SSDs had "life span" really. Do they get damaged?
They can only sustain a limited amount of write cycles. They get worn out eventually. But as long as you don't do silly things like defragment it, it's still going to last several years before it becomes a problem.

HDDs would get worn out over time too, but it would take far more write cycles. They're more susceptible to wearing out mechanically (something that doesn't affect SSDs).

This kind of wearing would also just manifest as gradual performance degradation, not just a sudden *poof* dead drive. With current-generation firmware, I don't think it's something to worry about.

Shooop
09-08-2012, 05:23 PM
A SSD is always a good choice if you can afford it, but keep your old fashioned HDD. You can use it for storage and programs that don't take advantage of the SSD's speed. And whatever you do NEVER defrag it.

A dedicated sound card is essential if you listen to music, onboard has come a long way but it's still lagging behind. But I've had nothing but trouble with anything ASUS, including a XONAR I used to have so keep your warranty close at hand.

Seems like a solid build to me. What are you hoping to run?

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 08:34 PM
A SSD is always a good choice if you can afford it, but keep your old fashioned HDD. You can use it for storage and programs that don't take advantage of the SSD's speed. And whatever you do NEVER defrag it.

Doesn't Windows 7 automatically defrag stuff without even asking?


A dedicated sound card is essential if you listen to music, onboard has come a long way but it's still lagging behind. But I've had nothing but trouble with anything ASUS, including a XONAR I used to have so keep your warranty close at hand.

I think that's just audio cards being finicky in general. I've had trouble with Creative and Auzentech, I might as well try my luck with Asus. At least it's a relatively inexpensive product.


Seems like a solid build to me. What are you hoping to run?

Mostly anything. I have a preference for open-world games and RPGs in general.

But really, I like to enjoy a wide variety of games and to have the pleasure of going to the graphic settings and cranking them all as far up as they'll go. I play on an HDTV at 1920x1080, and all thigns considered, it's not an extereme resolution, thus so far my rig has been able to max out most games.

I do feel that performance is slightly less than what I would expect from my rig - ocasional stutters and framerate issues - hence me asking about optimization tips and strategies. Also, I figure the HDD is somewhat of a bottleneck.

I'm not looking for a huge jump in performance here, just the cherry on top of the cake. :)

FriendlyFire
09-08-2012, 08:47 PM
Windows 7 also detects that a drive is an SSD and deactivates defragmentation.

Bear in mind that games these days are designed for consoles, which tend to run off optical disks! SSDs rarely prove worthwhile for speeding up games, bar minor speedups with loading screens. PC exclusives get larger benefits, but even then your primary reason for buying an SSD should not be games, to put it simply. An SSD does marvels to the overall snappiness of the OS, but it's not going to improve frame rates.

This isn't to say you shouldn't get one. I couldn't think of making a new computer without putting an SSD in it nowadays.

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 09:06 PM
Bear in mind that games these days are designed for consoles, which tend to run off optical disks! SSDs rarely prove worthwhile for speeding up games, bar minor speedups with loading screens. PC exclusives get larger benefits, but even then your primary reason for buying an SSD should not be games, to put it simply. An SSD does marvels to the overall snappiness of the OS, but it's not going to improve frame rates.


Thanks for pointing that out. :) While people have focused on the SSD part of my question - understandably so, since it's the biggest investment - I was also looking for more general performance tips.

I understand that an SSD will not improve framerate - although I have been led to believe that it might reduce stutter from caching and loading on-the-fly.

I mentioned framerate because I was hoping for someone to give me some tips as to how to make the most out of my rig, performance-wise.

Thanks for the input so far people, it's been educational. :)

Sakkura
09-08-2012, 11:08 PM
Well if you want more performance, an obvious solution would be to overclock. What CPU cooler do you have, and what particular make and model is your GTX 570?

You could also add another GTX 570 for a major improvement, but of course that's not going to be cheap. And it requires a PSU that can handle the extra card.

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 11:23 PM
Well if you want more performance, an obvious solution would be to overclock. What CPU cooler do you have, and what particular make and model is your GTX 570?

You could also add another GTX 570 for a major improvement, but of course that's not going to be cheap. And it requires a PSU that can handle the extra card.

My GTX 570 is an EVGA SC; the PSU is a corsair GS800.
Cooler is an Artic Freezer Pro Rev 2 (http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/detail?sArticle=4.%3F).

When I first got my card, I dabbled with the steps described on the EVGA forum's OC guides, but I didn't notice much of a diference. I then concluded that OC'ing was something that was nice to get benchmark scores to show off online, but would have little impact on my gaming. Was my conclusion premature?

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, what would you recomend I check next?

Ash_firelord
09-08-2012, 11:27 PM
P.S.: my box is a NOX Coolbay HX. Ventilation is fine, but I think I would struggle to fit another high-profile GTX570.

At any rate, I'm planning to get a GPU upgrade after the new next-gen consoles come out, I figure that will have me set for most of the generation. My GT8800 certainly lasted most of this one.

Sakkura
10-08-2012, 12:49 AM
My GTX 570 is an EVGA SC; the PSU is a corsair GS800.
Cooler is an Artic Freezer Pro Rev 2 (http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/detail?sArticle=4.%3F).

When I first got my card, I dabbled with the steps described on the EVGA forum's OC guides, but I didn't notice much of a diference. I then concluded that OC'ing was something that was nice to get benchmark scores to show off online, but would have little impact on my gaming. Was my conclusion premature?

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, what would you recomend I check next?
Well, you can overclock your CPU as well as your graphics card. Depending on what's the worst bottleneck in each game, it'll impact the framerate more or less. Something like Skyrim or WoW probably wouldn't notice if you overclocked your graphics card, but overclocking your CPU could help quite a bit. The majority of games will be the other way around.

Since your graphics card is already overclocked from the factory, there may not be a lot more room to scale. You might want to check what temperatures you get when you put it under load. I use HWMonitor (http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/hwmonitor.html) for it, there are lots of other options though.

Ash_firelord
10-08-2012, 08:10 AM
Well, you can overclock your CPU as well as your graphics card. Depending on what's the worst bottleneck in each game, it'll impact the framerate more or less. Something like Skyrim or WoW probably wouldn't notice if you overclocked your graphics card, but overclocking your CPU could help quite a bit. The majority of games will be the other way around.

Thank you for the tip.

Can you please suggest any resourses I could look at to learn about CPU overclocking? I have some software that came with my motherboard, but it doesn't feel all that great, and certainly isn't compreensive enough - basically a couple of buttons that say "push me and PC will be better, magic!".

Ash_firelord
10-08-2012, 08:22 AM
You could also add another GTX 570 for a major improvement, but of course that's not going to be cheap. And it requires a PSU that can handle the extra card.

While I'm probably not going to do this, I am curious about one thing: would I need to get another EVGA GTX570 SC, or would any GTX 570 do?

Mohorovicic
10-08-2012, 10:00 AM
For a 1920x1080 your PC is seriously fine. More than fine. And if anything, you will never need to OC the CPU, ever, since stock 2500 can chew pretty much anything you can throw at it gaming-wise.

Ash_firelord
10-08-2012, 11:14 AM
For a 1920x1080 your PC is seriously fine. More than fine. And if anything, you will never need to OC the CPU, ever, since stock 2500 can chew pretty much anything you can throw at it gaming-wise.

Thanks. I'm sure it's fine. I can run most games at max everything. But I'd like it to be more than fine, and as I got a bit of spare cash to spend and time to use on tweaking my rig, I figured - why not?

Batman: Arkham City, for instance, has framerate issues with all settings on max. Skyrim drops below the smooth 60FPS when serious shit hits the fan in populated areas. Assassin's Creed 2 gets the ocasional stutter on the areas with the widest FOV.

Is this important stuff? No, not at all - I still have a blast gaming on my rig. But just like a motorhead will have a blast making sure every bit and piece of his vintage 1920's car is polished and running fine, I have a blast getting everything running at 101%.

To repeat the metaphor I used earlier: I have my cake, and I like it. I'm just looking for a cherry to put on top. :)

Maybe it's not possible without throwing a lot of money at it; that's a possibility. But considering my screen resolution and the kind of hardware I have, I honestly think it should perform a bit better than it does.

Alex Bakke
10-08-2012, 02:42 PM
They can only sustain a limited amount of write cycles. They get worn out eventually. But as long as you don't do silly things like defragment it, it's still going to last several years before it becomes a problem.

HDDs would get worn out over time too, but it would take far more write cycles. They're more susceptible to wearing out mechanically (something that doesn't affect SSDs).



This is largely a thing of the past now. When SSDs were still 'new', they didn't come with a command called TRIM - Which recognises and deletes unnecessary copies of files that are left over after the new files have been written to the drive. TRIM has boosted the life of SSDs to that of a standard HDD now. With normal usage you can expect to get 5-7 years out of one before you should think about replacing it.

Moraven
10-08-2012, 03:25 PM
Good review of two new Xonars vs on board sound.
http://techreport.com/articles.x/23358 (http://techreport.com/articles.x/23358)

I built my PC in Feb with a SSD, 128gb. Enough space for a few games, definite noticeable chance on load times.

Not familiar with those games and fps drops, but it will not hurt to overclock your video card and cpu. As long as your cooling and airflow is good.

Sakkura
10-08-2012, 07:57 PM
This is largely a thing of the past now. When SSDs were still 'new', they didn't come with a command called TRIM - Which recognises and deletes unnecessary copies of files that are left over after the new files have been written to the drive. TRIM has boosted the life of SSDs to that of a standard HDD now. With normal usage you can expect to get 5-7 years out of one before you should think about replacing it.
That's why I said it's not really a concern with current-generation firmware. It's still not on par with HDDs in this regard though.

Sakkura
10-08-2012, 08:12 PM
Thank you for the tip.

Can you please suggest any resourses I could look at to learn about CPU overclocking? I have some software that came with my motherboard, but it doesn't feel all that great, and certainly isn't compreensive enough - basically a couple of buttons that say "push me and PC will be better, magic!".
Overclocking software isn't really much good. It's always better to do it manually.
There are many excellent guides to overclocking around the net. Here's (http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/265056-11-2600k-2500k-overclocking-guide) one that's actually tailored to your CPU.


While I'm probably not going to do this, I am curious about one thing: would I need to get another EVGA GTX570 SC, or would any GTX 570 do?
Generally no. Getting a different one might cause compatibility issues, but it should work with any other GTX 570. Both cards would run at the frequency of the slower one, so if you got a second card with a lower clock, you'd want to at least overclock it to match your EVGA card.

Ash_firelord
10-08-2012, 08:40 PM
Good review of two new Xonars vs on board sound.
http://techreport.com/articles.x/23358 (http://techreport.com/articles.x/23358)


Thanks! I might just have found my new soundcard.


Overclocking software isn't really much good. It's always better to do it manually.
There are many excellent guides to overclocking around the net. Here's (http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/265056-11-2600k-2500k-overclocking-guide) one that's actually tailored to your CPU.

Great! Thank you, I will check it out.



Generally no. Getting a different one might cause compatibility issues, but it should work with any other GTX 570. Both cards would run at the frequency of the slower one, so if you got a second card with a lower clock, you'd want to at least overclock it to match your EVGA card.

Good to know! However it seem much less of a hassle and not that much more expensive to get a fully new GPU in a year or so. Of course, I'll keep my eye out for second-hand GTX570s on the cheap...

Sakkura
10-08-2012, 09:12 PM
Yeah there are definitely drawbacks to multi-GPU setups. And it's not like a GTX 570 is a weak card anyway.

Shooop
16-08-2012, 05:25 PM
I've read modern video cards don't need to run at the same clock anymore when in SLI on the nVidia forums.

But ultimately I'd recommend one more powerful card rather than two lessers because some games don't run SLI well and it generates a lot more heat. This is especially important if you have a mid instead of a full tower case.

Jesus_Phish
16-08-2012, 05:37 PM
I'd love to get a SSD for my os, but the thought of installing windows again *shudders*. And then making steam work with it again without having to download everything. Is there a new easier way to do this?

*EDIT*

Sorry for hijacking the thread, I'm also interested in getting an SSD for my PC and didn't want to clutter the forum up with another thread of a similar topic

Finicky
17-08-2012, 12:51 AM
id5 and ue3 games will see some benifit from an SSD, these shitty engines suck at texture streaming and are too retarded to properly cache through ram, so installing games that use these engines on an SSD will alleviate the slow LOD switching of textures a bit.

Still, it's pretty pointless to get an SSD for gaming, loading times on a good HDD are already negligable and there is 0 performance increase.

Bang for buck a good monitor >>>>> modern gpu >> a quad core cpu (phenom II or better is all you need) >>>> more than 4GB ram >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SSD

Stay away from SLI, it's a headache with compatibility/driver issues/cap versions, microstutter is unavoidable due to the very nature of each gpu rendering a frame in turns + you get a bunch of extra noise from the fans having to work overtime to cool things.

If your money is burning a hole in your pocket :
You have a fancy PC combined with a shitty samsung TN panel monitor.... Replace that with something that doesn't suck it's the best bang for your money.

Wolfenswan
17-08-2012, 01:27 AM
If you're getting a XONAR you def. want to look into these third-party drivers (http://brainbit.wordpress.com/category/uni-xonar/).

I've been running with a XONAR DG since my onboard broke and I'm perfectly content. However I'm only using headphones and 2 speakers.

Sakkura
17-08-2012, 07:43 AM
I've read modern video cards don't need to run at the same clock anymore when in SLI on the nVidia forums.
It wouldn't be all that helpful if they didn't. It would just mean you were introducing microstuttering on purpose.