Hello guys, I'm thinking of upgrading my desktop after I'm done with my major examinations and before I have to enlist in my country's military (its compulsory, but pretty safe and its only 2 years). I'm thinking of playing Battlefield 3 and Skyrim on as high a setting I can manage, so I was wondering about some upgrade options. As of now, all that is left is me battling with my self control over how much I spend
1st off, I NEED to change the GPU, its an Nvidia FX540 (as far as I can recall at this moment). The computer was my sisters' and she's an architect, but I inherited it. I was thinking of going for Nvidia and also thinking of splurging a bit. So, the cheapest card I would go for would be a GTX560ti, but the greedy elitist part of me wants a GTX580. The real question is, how much difference can I expect between the 2? Or should I go for the middle ground (GTX570)? I can afford the 580, but I wonder if its actually worth it.
Number 2 on the list would be regarding my CPU. The computer has a core 2 quad q9550, would upgrading to a... say i5 2500k be worth it? If I do upgrade, I'll have to get another motherboard and stuff, but I've expected it and saved enough. Any thoughts on the performance difference? That being said, my self-control is being stretched to the limit by my desire to just say "to hell with it" and do a full system upgrade. The rest of the parts aren't great and I may have to replace my 450W PSU, but I still want enough capital to test out a SSD.
Any input would be great. Thanks.
First off, make sure your PSU can handle whatever new hotness you'll be plugging it into.
Have a look at AnandTech's Bench tool - you can compare your current CPU and GPU to modern ones across a wide variety of synthetic benchmarks and games. Be wary of anecdotal hardware hooey. Groups like AnandTech, Tech Report, PC Perspective, etc, have been testing and using this sorta hardware for a decade or more and are pretty unbiased.
Base your GPU purchase on the resolution you'll be gaming at. 1920x1200 and smaller, a 560 Ti or 6950 would be plenty, any larger and you'd want a 570/6970 or something beefier. I recommend Nvidia right now as they seem to have driver fixes out quicker, but I have an AMD card in my main PC (6950 flashed to 6970) and it's absolutely fine. Flip a coin or follow whatever brand loyalty you might have...
CPUs aren't taxed much by shooters but apparently BF3's engine can use eight threads. We don't know how scalable the engine really is (i.e. how often will it use eight threads?) but I'd guess it'll use two and perhaps four threads quite efficiently. I just recommended somebody update from your exact processor to a 2500 platform for this season's games. Intel has the handy Ark website where you can compare their processors — here's the i7 2600 and 2600K alongside the i5 2500 and 2500K.
i7's have HyperThreading enabled so each core can work on 2 threads, effectively giving you an 8-core processor. The K versions lack stuff which is specific to virtualization software but they have an unlocked multiplier making for straightforward overclocking. Otherwise they're all the same (they are in fact, afaik, exactly the same hardware, only different in software). The K's also have the beefier version of the on-die GPU which isn't really much of a difference at all if you're using a discrete GPU anyway.
If you use your PC with efficiently-threaded software (e.g. professional 2D/3d or A/V stuff, scientific apps, etc) the 2600 would be worthwhile, otherwise the 2500 is fine.
As far as the necessary mobo and RAM is concerned, I recommend Asus motherboards right now because they have the best UEFI BIOS at the moment. You'll want a P67 or Z68-chipset. They're the same hardware but Z68 has some extra software which allows the PC to tap the CPU's onboard GPU when you do stuff like video en/decoding — that provides a massive speed improvement. Z68 isn't much more expensive (if at all anymore) so I just recommend people get it instead.
I like one board in particular and have worked with it myself — this one. It's cheap ($120 over here) but it has plenty of expansion slots and it has an internal USB 3.0 header which is great if you have a modern case. Very few boards have internal USB 3.0 headers right now, let alone ones in price range. The board isn't for OC'ing, though, so if you want to really push a K-series processor you'll want one of the pricier motherboards with more power phases (e.g. the "Pro" model).
RAM is commoditized and interchangeable; just get a kit of two 4GB 1333 or 1600 modules from somebody like Kingston, G.Skill, Crucial, Mushkin, GeIL, Patriot, Corsair, etc. DDR3 RAM is at an all-time price low right now... it's absurdly cheap. I recommend against 16GB as 1) most people will rarely even use 8GB and 2) you often have to tinker with the RAM's voltages in the BIOS to get 16GB working with Z68 boards. But if you're fine with that, feel free.
Last edited by Jambe; 23-10-2011 at 08:51 PM.
Reason: RAM talk