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  1. #1
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    Tell me how I should upgrade from my ancient computer!

    Hello, good burghers of RPS.

    After a long period of mostly playing indie & rather older games on my desktop PC (for example, FTL, SpaceChem, etc), I find myself in the position of once again having some "AAA" specced games on my to-play list.
    My currently specced desktop, the newest piece of which is a stalwart NVIDIA 8800 GT, is obviously not up to the task.
    (I discovered this when trying to play Deus Ex: Histrionic Rhamphorhynchus and finding that, with all the settings turned right down, and even taking into account the fact that my monitor only goes up to 1440x900, I can only get more than 2FPS when there are no enemies on the screen at all. I do not exaggerate.)

    So, after a bit of poking around and trying to update my knowledge of what's "good" nowadays (helped a bit by http://www.logicalincrements.com/ ), I've come to the conclusion that it's probably much cheaper just to buy an Xbox360. I'd really rather not do that, though, so I come to you good people to see if you can save my PC gaming alternative.

    Luckily, both my hard disks are SATA, and my PSU was apparently fancy enough when I bought it to actually have 8pin CPU power connectors as well as 4pin ones, so I think I should just have to upgrade the motherboard/cpu/ram and, obviously the graphics card to actually get to a "modern" state.

    The problem is, of course, the tension between what I'd like to have (something awesome) and what I can reasonably spend money on without feeling terribly guilty / eating into budgets for things that aren't mere frippery. For example: is it really worth getting an i5 or an i7 over an i3 for your processor? Is an NVIDIA 650 actually going to be sufficiently future proof to play modern games (and future games) at something resembling a reasonable frame rate (esp. if I later upgrade my monitor), or do I have to splurge on something horribly expensive like a 660 or higher?
    What, in short, is a "reasonable" system? (Ideally, I'd like to spend 300 on upgrading, but that seems to be impossible without making multiple compromises. Generally, though, lets keep costs down, if possible.)

    I should note that I'm running a purely Linux system here, so I'm also concerned with driver support etc. As such I'm strongly inhibited from buying ATI graphics cards as I've had multiple horrible experience with their drivers in the past.

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    A Core i5 is worth it over a Core i3. A Core i7, not so much. But a Core i3 is decent enough if you need to keep the price down.

    A GTX 650 is a bit on the meh side. A GTX 650 Ti is a better idea, though AMD does unfortunately do better in that price range.

  3. #3
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Yeah, I have terrible luck with the linux ati drivers (fglrx). Nvidia's were better in 2003 than fglrx was in 2012. Ok, that might be a bit rosy memory, but yeah, nVidia has better linux drivers in my opinion.

    EDIT: Apparently I can't read. Your budget is in there. Carry on.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    If you can stretch 20-25, here's a decent setup:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: Intel Core i5-3350P 3.1GHz Quad-Core Processor (130.98 @ Scan.co.uk)
    Motherboard: MSI B75MA-E33 Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard (42.98 @ Novatech)
    Memory: Corsair XMS3 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory (32.99 @ Amazon UK)
    Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB Video Card (114.78 @ Scan.co.uk)
    Total: 321.73
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-01 21:00 GMT+0000)

    It'll cost a couple pounds more with shipping (well, to buy from the "more expensive" stores with free shipping).

  5. #5
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    Cheers, that looks like vaguely the direction I was heading in, but with less confidence that I was picking the right stuff.
    As far as memory goes, CAS timings are still less important than general clock speed, right? (so DDR3-1600 is pretty good, and I shouldn't sweat 10-10-10 v 9-9-9 ?)

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    Indeed. CAS latency doesn't really matter all that much. If you can get lower latency for the same price by all means go for it, but if it's more expensive by a few percent it's just not worth it from an efficiency of money invested standpoint.

    I'd advice going for a single 8GB module though. That board only has 2 memory slots, so if you ever want to upgrade you'd have to toss out (or sell) the 2x4gb modules. A single 8GB doesn't give you dual channel, but you can keep an eye on memory prices. At some point the second stick will go for very little cash indeed (it's already approaching that point for PC1600). Or, if you want to spring for it, go for 16GB right away.

    I did this with my current build and got my second 2x2GB set of sticks for about 30 euros delivered while the first pair set me back around 80.

    More memory is always nice, and you're maxing out your capacity with this initial buy, so keep that in mind.

  7. #7
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    I'm surprised an 8800GT is that bad - it's not long ago they could still hold their ground against low/midrange cards (on straight numbers, it's 70% the power of my cheapo 5670) - I suspect your CPU might be more the issue???

    You'd not want to carry that GPU into a new PC tho - so you need something completely new there anyway.

    As far as budget builds, I always point at AMD because you get a decentish board but a lower-end APU (e.g. a CPU with decent built-in graphics) with a view to adding a GPU (which may even Crossfire with the onboard one) when you have more cash and then replacing the APU when the higher-end ones are dirt cheap (in about a year - 18 months usually) - that gives you 3 PCs in one go - in 3 payments!!

    If you're averse to AMD tho - that's not going to work - tho your budget might JUST stretch to an i5/half-decent board and 4Gb perhaps?

  8. #8
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    The 8800GT isn't a bad card at lower resolutions.
    I'd still be using mine (@1366x768) if it hadn't broken down recently.
    Maybe turn off AA, and set AF to 4x.

    Maybe you can find out what the bottleneck is, with the games you are having problems with.
    What CPU & RAM are you using currently?

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    It's hard to recommend anything really because you're using Linux. Aside from PC exclusives and a few "enhanced" ports like Just Cause 2 or Mass Effect 3, all AAA titles target a geforce 8800GTX as mid range and 8800GT as minimum. That means that you are guaranteed 60fps performance on mid to high settings with an 8800GTX (RAGE runs 60fps maxed actually, you can mix and match with BF3 and get 60fps) while an 8800GT gets you a stable 60fps on medium settings.

    Getting 1fps in Deus EX:HR is way too low for an 8800GT, when others are running it relatively well at high settings on the same card

    Linux, and subsequently WINE, is sort of a wildcard. The only way you are guaranteed to get real performance in that scenario is by going completely overkill and spending at least $2000 on a core i7 3770 and a gtx680.

    If you really want to stick with Linux and can't afford to spend that much, I say go for a 360.
    Last edited by mashakos; 01-02-2013 at 11:56 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad guy View Post
    The 8800GT isn't a bad card at lower resolutions.
    I'd still be using mine (@1366x768) if it hadn't broken down recently.
    Maybe turn off AA, and set AF to 4x.

    Maybe you can find out what the bottleneck is, with the games you are having problems with.
    What CPU & RAM are you using currently?
    Oh, I don't have AA or AF on. (I've never really seen a huge benefit from them.)

    Indeed, since I can at least get DX:HR to play reasonably without enemies on the screen, I'm fairly sure it's not actually the 8800GT that's the bottleneck - it's just that it's the newest bit of my system, so it was mentioned in the context of "everything else in my desktop is older and worse than this".

    Currently I have an Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and a mighty 2GB of (presumably DDR2, I honestly forget) RAM, which I suspect can't cope with the added effort required to handle in game AI as well as everything else.

    As tjrp notes, though, if I'm going to be upgrading the CPU (and consequently the motherboard and RAM) anyway, it seems like I'd be switching to the GPU being the bottleneck, so it's worth considering if a balanced system is worth the effort.

    And finally: mashakos, I know you're trying to be helpful, but I actually know from the AppDB entries and discussion that DX:HR is actually pretty performant in Wine, so I'm fairly sure it's not Wine being the issue here.

  11. #11
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    I reckon your problem is still software-based - that CPU isn't terrible and 2Gb of RAM would be OK if you were running XP or even W7 (just) - but that doesn't help solve anything...

    If you were curious you could throw W7 on there (30 day eval copy) and see what happens - if it's no better, you've proven a point if nothing else...

    The thing with an upgrade is that a new, half-decent GPU would be most of 100, memory will be about 50ish so that's half your budget gone - a decent mobo with upgrade potential and some OCing ability will be more than half of the rest leaving not-enough for a CPU...

    and that all assumes your PSU is upto the job - if it's similar vintage to the other kit, it's probably due for replacement!?

    The trick with upgrading desktops is to do it whilst some of your hardware is still usable - but I keep failing at that too,. sadly...

  12. #12
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    I upgraded the PSU when I got the 8800GT, and it was an expensive 600W PSU at the time (it was one of the better CoolerMaster branded ones, with the precursor to the 80+ Bronze rating), so I'm willing to rely on it being up to the task for a bit longer.

    And, yes, I hear you on the piecemeal update policy, trjp - it was my intention to do just that, but the AMD CPU socketing changed a bit faster than I was expecting, so that kinda put paid to my original "upgrade CPU at least once, with motherboard firmware updates" approach I was planning...

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boris View Post
    More memory is always nice, and you're maxing out your capacity with this initial buy, so keep that in mind.
    Thing is, 8 GB will last a long time. And combining two different sticks of memory later on may lead to compatibility issues.

    Quote Originally Posted by aoanla View Post
    I upgraded the PSU when I got the 8800GT, and it was an expensive 600W PSU at the time (it was one of the better CoolerMaster branded ones, with the precursor to the 80+ Bronze rating), so I'm willing to rely on it being up to the task for a bit longer.
    Cooler Master isn't really a good brand when it comes to PSUs, but if it was one of their more expensive units it's probably good. They're one of those companies that just don't give a crap about cutting too many corners to meet a price point, especially with their mainstream or budget power supplies.
    Last edited by Sakkura; 02-02-2013 at 05:13 PM.

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Boris's Avatar
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    If they're the same speed and latency, it'll work fine. I'm running mismatched sticks with no ill effect.

  15. #15
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    On PSUs - reckon on losing 10% a year on cheaper ones - 5% on decent ones.

    If you're still covering the power reqs of your PC - you should be OK. I find, on the better PSUs, that the first thing to fail is usually the fan anyway (starts to buzz/rattle/thrum as the bearings start to wear-out).

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aoanla View Post
    And finally: mashakos, I know you're trying to be helpful, but I actually know from the AppDB entries and discussion that DX:HR is actually pretty performant in Wine, so I'm fairly sure it's not Wine being the issue here.
    Noticing the huge disparity between your experience and others (1fps minimum settings vs. 30fps high settings) I at first looked at the most likely culprit: WINE. Then you posted that you are using an 8 year old CPU and.. yeah. You really need to get a new PC.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sakkura View Post
    A Core i5 is worth it over a Core i3. A Core i7, not so much. But a Core i3 is decent enough if you need to keep the price down.
    I was using a core i3 for a year before i upgraded to i5 and i didn't really notice anything significant. i should have stayed with i3.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sakkura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ambing1 View Post
    I was using a core i3 for a year before i upgraded to i5 and i didn't really notice anything significant. i should have stayed with i3.
    Performance shortcomings are only noticed later in the ownership cycle unless the lack of performance is very severe. More games are relying on quad-core CPUs over time, and I can assure you a Core i3 will run out of steam before a Core i5 will.

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