Question about individual core performance

Discussion of all forms of processors, from AMD to Intel to VIA.

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Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:18 pm

Hello, first time poster - I'm hoping to tap into minds wiser than mine as I begin planning and budgeting for a home built gaming desktop.

My favourite game is Medieval 2 Total War, and from what I've gathered from the Total War forums is that the game will only use 1 core on multi-core processors, which means that otherwise great gaming machines can experience a lot of low FPS during the game's battle sequences esp. on high detail.

So what I'm asking is this: Is buying the latest, most expensive processor from Intel the best choice to cope with this problem, or is there a counter-intuitive better choice?

I also know little about overclocking, and I wonder how it might factor into this.

I appreciate all replies!
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:27 pm

Many games these days still want the highest per-core performance that you can get, and the name of that game is Intel. Tech Report did a good write-up about just this issue in their last System Guide, I recommend you read (or at least skim) it: http://techreport.com/review/26082/tr-f ... em-guide/2
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:30 pm

With the recent announcements from Intel regarding desktop processors with a better integrated heatsink, I'd advise you to wait until those are out, grab one, and overclock the nuts out of it.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:37 pm

Ok, so am I to understand correctly that within the Intel processors there's little to no variance in single core preformance?

Would overclocking help?
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:41 pm

There is variance in the single-core performance, and if I had to guess, the Xeons have the best (but they all require specific motherboards AFAIK). Other than that, you can grab the highest-end i7, but unless you're rolling on cash, spending $1000 on a CPU is not the best use for it.

The big issue right now is that the current generation of Intel CPUs, besides having great performance and absurdly low power consumption, have very poor overclocking headroom. Hence my recommendation for "wait a bit for the new ones, then go big on overclocking".
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:54 pm

morphine wrote:There is variance in the single-core performance, and if I had to guess, the Xeons have the best (but they all require specific motherboards AFAIK). Other than that, you can grab the highest-end i7, but unless you're rolling on cash, spending $1000 on a CPU is not the best use for it.

The big issue right now is that the current generation of Intel CPUs, besides having great performance and absurdly low power consumption, have very poor overclocking headroom. Hence my recommendation for "wait a bit for the new ones, then go big on overclocking".


Thanks Morphine :) ( you too Firestarter ) . As far as waiting for the new ones, it's just as well because I haven't got the scratch together - I'm looking at an autumn purchase. So, I've got time to plan - and Tech Report's guide is how I found this place, and has been very informative - but I don't want to put all this money and effort into building a PC, and not be able to maximize my enjoyment on a game that is 8 years old.

Okay, so I need to better understand overclocking and heat management. At the risk of trying your patience, any beginner's guides you would recommend?
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:56 pm

There is some variance, around 30% in synthetic tests. Overclocking, which you can only do on processors with the K suffix, can increase that gap.

What graphics card do you have?
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:59 pm

UndrState wrote:Okay, so I need to better understand overclocking and heat management. At the risk of trying your patience, any beginner's guides you would recommend?

a) Buy a good heatsink/fan. I'm a fan of Scythe and Noctua.
b) Buy a "K"-suffix processor. Those are the unlocked variants.
c) Bring the multiplier up in the BIOS. Make sure that all the memory, voltage, PCIe, etc settings are not automatically messed with by the motheboard (some do this). Keep cranking it until Prime95 crashes within ~1 hr (Mark I Eyeball estimate).
-- c.1) Keep watching the temperatures. You wanna stay below 80ºC at full load, 75ºC preferably.
d) Dial it back a couple notches when you're done, and leave Prime95 running overnight.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:00 pm

You're looking for single thread performance, not single core. Technically, the processors with hyperthreading have better performance per core because they run two threads on each core, but you need a program that uses at least one more thread than the number of cores to take advantage of that.

The lower end Intel processors are missing a few things like turbo boost and AVX 2.0, but they also run at lower clock speeds. The other difference is that they have a smaller cache which can make memory access slower.

Your best bet right now for maximum single threaded performance would be to get a 4670K and a good cooler and overclock it. The 4770K is faster for heavily threaded programs because of hyperthreading, but that won't help you with this specific game. It will be faster for other, newer games, but not by as much as the price difference would indicate.


What is your current CPU? You may not need the fastest processor on the planet to get the boost you're looking for.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:06 pm

Sorry guys, I should've made it clearer - I currently have no computer ( I'm writting this at work), so I'm really starting from the zero point.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:07 pm

morphine wrote:c) Bring the multiplier up in the BIOS. Make sure that all the memory, voltage, PCIe, etc settings are not automatically messed with by the motheboard (some do this). Keep cranking it until Prime95 crashes within ~1 hr (Mark I Eyeball estimate).
-- c.1) Keep watching the temperatures. You wanna stay below 80ºC at full load, 75ºC preferably.


If you don't have much overclocking experience, one option would be to use the mobo's automatic overclock functions - some have it in the bios, some offer a Windows software tool (or even a button on the mobo). The overclock won't be as good as what is possible with 'manual' overclocking, but you can get some boost with near-zero hassle.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:09 pm

NeelyCam wrote:
morphine wrote:c) Bring the multiplier up in the BIOS. Make sure that all the memory, voltage, PCIe, etc settings are not automatically messed with by the motheboard (some do this). Keep cranking it until Prime95 crashes within ~1 hr (Mark I Eyeball estimate).
-- c.1) Keep watching the temperatures. You wanna stay below 80ºC at full load, 75ºC preferably.


If you don't have much overclocking experience, one option would be to use the mobo's automatic overclock functions - some have it in the bios, some offer a Windows software tool (or even a button on the mobo). The overclock won't be as good as possible, but you can get some boost with near-zero hassle.


Is there a risk in the overclocking process? I'd rather take the time to educate myself if it'll get me more bang for my buck, but I wouldn't want to break anything.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:14 pm

Yeah there's always a risk in overclocking, but if you use the auto widget, or just take it slow and increase speed and/or voltage in small increments, then you'll probably be alright.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:16 pm

That particular game has really low requirements (Pentium 4 1.5GHz). So you won't need to overclock anything to just play that game. If you are playing mods then you might. More recent games from the Total War series are a lot more demanding (Shogun 2 especially), so a high end CPU would do you well if you think you'll play those at some point, though overclocking probably still won't be required.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:30 pm

puppetworx wrote:That particular game has really low requirements (Pentium 4 1.5GHz). So you won't need to overclock anything to just play that game. If you are playing mods then you might.



Right, but what I'm going for here is to run this game at it's best and still get good FPS. My laptop (a VIAO, what did I know...) played the game ok before it died, RIP, but the the battles could get realy atrocious, esp. if you wanted to zoom in to the action and see what was going on. Now the Total War forums have people with much better machines than mine was, and they all still complained of the same problems.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:41 pm

puppetworx wrote:That particular game has really low requirements (Pentium 4 1.5GHz). So you won't need to overclock anything to just play that game. If you are playing mods then you might. More recent games from the Total War series are a lot more demanding (Shogun 2) especially, so a high end CPU would do you well if you think you'll play those at some point, though overclocking probably still won't be required.

This is a good point. Even modern games max out at, what, two threads? Developers still haven't made great use of extra cores and/or threads.

However...remember that your computer is running more than just your game. A fast dual core processor is going to do a lot better than a P4 because you're not only running faster than the minimum requirment, but the second core allows the CPU to split off tasks. Basically, your game can run on one thread and not get in the way of Windows or vice versa.

What I'm trying to say is that yes, more CPU power will make things "better", but you'll probably be more than happy with a middle of the road, quad-core i5. You can even spring for a 4670K and keep the option of overclocking open.

You can splurge on more, but you'll start to see diminishing returns. And it might just be that game is part of the problem, not your hardware. Some games just try to throw more variables and calculations than consumer hardware can handle (try using a Mothership in SC2), and you'll have to settle for having great performance most of the time.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:45 pm

I'll make it simple, buy an Intel i5. Some games are starting to exceed i3 capability (expecially if you're running any other programs in the background), and very few/any use all 8 threads on an i7. All i3/i5/i7 processors are built on the same architecture. So, small differences such as L3 cache sizes aside, they'll all have the same performance per clock speed (IPC). The only thing that would make one appreciably faster than another running a single thread is a higher clockspeed. Most games today can utilize 2+ cores though.

Go to a Microcenter if there's one close enough to you and take advantage of their CPU+mobo combos.* Heck, roughly every 3 months they sell i7's for ~$250. If you could catch one of those sales, I'd just spring for an i7 and be done with it for 5+ years (this all depends on your budget of course, an i5-4670K for $190 is equally capable of lasting 5 years)

* Microcenter combo discounts only apply to the i7-4770K, i5-4670K, and i3-4340 as mentioned at the top of their catalog page. But consider the combo discount a "free upgrade" from their non-K (ie non-overclockable) equivalents.

Make sure to check out TR's system guide.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:49 pm

BTW, if you're looking to get maximum performance in games by overclocking the ever loving **** out of an Intel CPU, be sure to factor in your motherboard purchase into the budget as well. A bottom of the barrel motherboard will most likely limit your overclocking headroom (and the cheapest chipsets cannot overclock at all).
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 4:04 pm

Firestarter wrote:BTW, if you're looking to get maximum performance in games by overclocking the ever loving **** out of an Intel CPU...A bottom of the barrel motherboard will most likely limit your overclocking headroom

That statement typically only applies when you're increasing voltages (hence "ever loving ****"), and even then, you're talking about +/-200MHz in most cases. You're probably just as likely to see similar variations based on your luck-of-the-draw with your CPU (some chips overclock better than others, see:"binning"). I would recommend leaving CPU voltages at stock values for an "everyday OC." That won't get you much with today's Haswells on stock voltage (Devils Canyon Haswells will probably fare better) but upping voltages on Haswell sends temps through the roof.

I don't condone the purchase of "bottom-of-the-barrel" motherboards, but something between $90 and $120 should serve the vast majority of (non-professional) overclockers just fine.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:35 pm

morphine wrote:There is variance in the single-core performance, and if I had to guess, the Xeons have the best (but they all require specific motherboards AFAIK). Other than that, you can grab the highest-end i7, but unless you're rolling on cash, spending $1000 on a CPU is not the best use for it.


E3 12xx v3 Xeons will work with any LGA 1550 motherboard that has the requisite BIOS support (most do, or can be updated to the latest firmware for support).

The E5 Xeons are LGA2011 and will generally work with most Sandy Bridge-E or IVB-E motherboards, again, as long as your motherboard supports them in BIOS.

If you want to 2P, 4P or 8P, then obviously you'll need a workstation or server board with multiple sockets, but that's beside the scope of the post (getting good single thread performance).
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:33 pm

Given that the recommended CPU for Medieval Total War 2 is a Pentium 4 3.0GHz I don't think any of the latest Intel processors is going to have an issue running the game with decent performance. That being said you do want to choose the best processor you can for the money available. Currently that looks to be an Intel processor. Whether you need an I-5 or I-7 (or even falling back to an I-3) will depend on how much you have to spend and what else you want to run on your system. Judging by the various reviews Scott and the other TR people have done it seems an I-5 is fine for the latest games, but moving up to an I-7 won't hurt your performance if you have the money (and can't get better use out of it by upgrading another portion of your system like a new graphics card or an SSD.)
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:20 am

I have to say "wow", thank you all very much for all the responses.

I still feel like people are doubting what a big problem FPS in battles can be, so I'll quote our resident expert over in the twcenter forums:

" Re: M2TW and the CPU problem

This does only use one core. The fastest multi-core so far has been the main idea and Intel. Even then, if you get an aftermarket cooler for it and get a good stable overclock, no bets on an even 30fps zoomed in. The game is too old and it was too unoptimzed when released. This part of the hardcode was never updated. "

http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthre ... highlight=
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:21 am

UndrState wrote:The game is too old and it was too unoptimzed when released. This part of the hardcode was never updated.

This is a prime example of a game that is too far gone/obsolete to worry about (released in 2006? come on). If you base your CPU choice solely on this, you'll be ignoring the much more relevant games and gaming experience that exist today and in the future.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:44 am

UndrState wrote:Hello, first time poster - I'm hoping to tap into minds wiser than mine as I begin planning and budgeting for a home built gaming desktop.

My favourite game is Medieval 2 Total War, and from what I've gathered from the Total War forums is that the game will only use 1 core on multi-core processors, which means that otherwise great gaming machines can experience a lot of low FPS during the game's battle sequences esp. on high detail.

So what I'm asking is this: Is buying the latest, most expensive processor from Intel the best choice to cope with this problem, or is there a counter-intuitive better choice?

I also know little about overclocking, and I wonder how it might factor into this.

I appreciate all replies!


Welcome to the Tech Report! Enjoy your stay :)

Whenever you get around to building/buying a machine, my recommendations is to go for the current equivalent to the 3570k or 4670k - basically, the quad core i5. Those really seem like the sweet spot for gaming. The gaming rig in my sig handles everything I throw at it well, even CPU intensive games like Guild Wars 2. If you aren't getting the speed you want/need at stock, just do a bit of overclocking (there are *tons* of guides out there - I found several and my first overclock on my 3570k went fine). Then pair that CPU with an equivalent GPU (I probably went a bit underpowered with the 7850, but its was cheap when I bought it and haven't really regretted it) to keep everything in balance. Good luck!
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 11:58 am

Skimming the thread you linked I feel I need to point out a very critical fact: Going dual core in by itself does not inherently harm single-threaded performance. A modern CPU is going to have MUCH higher single threaded performance than an older single-core CPU. Take these benchmarks for example:

See the single-threaded result under the 'chess2.pov' benchmark for the 2.93 GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800, arguably the fastest CPU available in the summer of 2006:

http://techreport.com/review/10351/inte ... cessors/14

Compare that to the same benchmark (<3 at TR for keeping this test for so long) running Intel's 3.6 GHz (4.0 Turbo) Core i7-4960X,

http://techreport.com/review/25293/inte ... reviewed/8

The trade-off between single-threaded performance and multi-threaded performance is only between CPUs of the same type. Take the i3-4340, for example. The 4340 is a dual-core part running at 3.6 GHz, with a 54 watt power rating, and a $160 price tag on newegg. To get that kind of speed in a quad-core, you would have to get something like an i7-4771, which still only runs at 3.5 GHz, but has an 84 w rating and costs $320. If you wanted to stay in a similar price range to the dual core 4340 with a quad-core, you would have to get something like the i5-4430, which is only 3 GHz and still costs $190.

Note that all of this ignores the Turbo-Boost feature on some Intel chips. Turbo-boost will selectively boost the clock speed of one core when the other cores are mostly idle, bringing back some of the lost single-thread speed of moving to a quad-core part. Depending on the workload, and the CPU involved, this can completely negate the clock speed disadvantage of the dual-core parts compared to the quad-core ones (the i7-4771, for instance, can turbo one of it's cores to 3.9 GHz).

Basically, I think you're worrying too much about the single/dual thread issue, because any modern CPU is going to be much, much faster than one back when that game was released.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 12:54 pm

Your choice of CPU (Intel) is really not limited here. Since you don't need any fancy new instruction sets, lots of cores, or even hyperthreading there are lots to choose from. Since you are going from a laptop to a brand new desktop CPU, your performance is going to be vastly better.

You have not laid out a budget yet, so that is why it is somewhat hard to recommend. But from what I read (even from you posted) a K series (for overclocking) i5 should be fine. Heck, even an i3 should work (although i3's aren't overclockable).

When you set a budget, don't forget you will need a display, keyboard, and mouse!

The difference between the i5 and i7 (aside from hyperthreading) is .1 GHz on both base and turbo frequencies (<3% difference). The price difference is about $50 right now as the 4770k is currently discounted. As stated earlier, you could get an even better deal at MicroCenter. A 3% difference at 30 FPS would net you almost 1 more FPS (theoretically). Only you can decide if that is worth it to you :)

For overclocking you need to ensure that your case is big enough for the cooler you choose and that you ensure you have enough fans and that they are ventilating the case properly. As stated, even with a good motherboard, well-cooled case, and great cooler the CPU may not overclock well. But you won't know that until you try it.

You could buy the i5-4670k, the Asus Z87M-Plus, a Noctua NH-D14 (or a Coolermaster Neptune 280L, if you want to try a closed loop cooler) and a CoolerMaster HAF 932. Then see how your stock performance is. If you want more speed, start by allowing the system to choose the overclock. If you need even more, you can start tweaking (carefully!) to see if you can bump it up. I think, though, that with a modern processor (and modest - probably the automatic) overclock you will be pleasantly surprised with a system that will last you more then a few years. You are probably talking roughly ~900 for this build, and that is before the memory, power supply, and graphics card is added in. So you are probably looking at ~$1500 for a build like this (depending on how much you are going to spend on a monitor - which drives the decision of graphics card you are going to want to buy). It could push up to $2000.....is that in your range? You could easily lower this by choosing a slower/non-overclocking/i3......and only lose a little performance (probably between 10-25% depending on where you went) but the cost would drop as well....

But, as noted above, using an i3 would still be a great choice (since your only current parameter is single threaded performance) but with a much lower cost. You no longer need a big base with lots of fans and room for a big cooler/radiator. The price for an i3 build then probably drops to about ~$500 for the base components (processor, motherboard, case, ssd) vs ~$900 above with a ~1% drop in single threaded performance out of the box. Is 1% (and the chance to overclock to add some more) worth $400 to you? Only you can answer that question.... This system is still quite powerful. And, if you buy it now and decide you want an i5 or i7, you could buy it and replace your CPU (and add an aftermarket heat sink).

So it really depends on if you are after squeezing out every ounce of performance you can or if you are budget constrained (aren't we all?) and what components will best fit those needs. But, as has already been stated, going from a VAIO to a brand new desktop system you should be pleasantly surprised (even with an i3).
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 2:51 pm

Hi mattshwink - I suppose it would've been helpful on my part to have indicated how much I was willing to spend. Before peripherals, I'm looking at $2000-2500 range. I've been using Internet Explorer on my Xbox while my GF has been going to school ( and doing work on a PC I paid for, BTW), so now that she's finally getting out and employed god damn right I'm gonna get myself a decent rigg. :cry: it's been too long. Seriously though, the promise of maximizing quality and performance of this particular game has been a carrot on a stick for me for some years.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:50 pm

All right then, $2500 or under is a good budget. You said that is excluding peripherals, but I am going to include an LCD, since you will want something nice to look at while driving all those pixels:

Display: Dell UltraSharp U2713HM 27": $599
CPU: i5-4670K: $240
Motherboard: ASUS Z87M-Plus: $130
Memory: G.Skill Ares 8 GB(2 x 4GB) F3-1600C8D-8GAB: $83
Case: Cooler Master Cosmos SE: $150
Cooler: Corsair H100i: $110
PSU: Corsair CX600M: $80
Thermal Paste: Prolimatech PK-3: $15
Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 770: $360
SSD: OCZ Vertex 450 (256GB): $220
OS: Windows 8 64 bit: $102

Total: $2096

As this is under your budget, we could swap out the i5-4670K for an i7-4770K (adds $60, total cost $2154). This is still within your budget, but since you don't need hyperthreading this only gives a theoretical increase of ~3% on the the CPU clocks (both base and turbo).

You also may need more storage, and there are a lot of good SSD deals out there right now (and you can add mechanical if you need a lot more storage).

There are also lots of options with LCD's, and folks have had a lot of good things to say about the Korean IPS monitors. They are cheaper, but have a smaller feature set (no OSD).

Also, if you live close to a MicroCenter you should be able to find good CPU-motherboard deals at a great price.

Edit: Updated the motherboard (too much basketball), the PSU (graphics card will require 2 x 6pin connectors if the 770 is chosen, and added Windows)
Last edited by mattshwink on Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:03 pm

mattshwink wrote:Motherboard: ASUS H87M-E: $86

PARTY FOUL... H87 cannot OC a K-series CPU.

Furthermore, why such a HUGE case ($150 nonetheless) and a $20 (after MIR) PSU to power a $2000 tower.....not a good choice (not to mention you should probably have a 550W PSU for that config.

Bottom line, a $1500 tower is the sweet spot (just not laid out the way mattshwink suggested). Any higher and the law of diminishing returns kicks in hard. I would say best price range for smooth 1080p performance would be closer to $1100. Speaking of which, I'm very happy with my 24" Asus IPS monitor for $150. (was on 48-hour sale earlier this week for $135)
i5-3570K, ASRock Z77 Pro4-m, Asus GTX660 TOP, 120 GB Vertex 3 Max IOPS, 2 TB Samsung EcoGreen F4, 8GB G-Skill @1.25V, Silverstone PS07B
DPete27
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Re: Question about individual core performance

Postposted on Fri Mar 21, 2014 4:45 pm

UndrState wrote:Hi mattshwink - I suppose it would've been helpful on my part to have indicated how much I was willing to spend. Before peripherals, I'm looking at $2000-2500 range. I've been using Internet Explorer on my Xbox while my GF has been going to school ( and doing work on a PC I paid for, BTW), so now that she's finally getting out and employed god damn right I'm gonna get myself a decent rigg. :cry: it's been too long. Seriously though, the promise of maximizing quality and performance of this particular game has been a carrot on a stick for me for some years.


Dude. You need a $1000 computer. Not a $2000 one. If anything, set aside $600 from that and you'll have your upgrade budget already for 3 years from now. Seriously though, your game will run maxed out on a $700 computer.
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