Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

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Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:34 pm

Hello gentlemen,

I am in the market for a new GPU. I am trying to discover if I got a more expensive graphics card if it would even be advantageous for me.

Just an FYI, I have been scouring Google for months on this. I am not trying to waste your time.

I have a GTS 250 1GB (a rebranded 9800GTX+ if you need a reference). I frequently see GPU usage around the 100% mark when I'm gaming, so I know I can upgrade and get more performance. How much more performance is the real question.

I am trying to figure out how far my CPU's can take me. I have 2 old xeons which, combined, equate to a weaksauce i7 but running DDR2 fully buffered ECC. I am a little wary of getting the GPU I want (a 7850) or if I should just get a "pitiful" GPU like the 7770 (which is still 3-4x more powerful) or the 7790 (which is a good compromise considering the 7850 prices have all jumped in the past few days).

I get around 15-30FPS if I drop detail levels to "ultra" instead of "extreme" in StarCraft 2. Single-core CPU usage is pretty high, sometimes hitting 100% (I think everyone's does for this game, though), but I know starcraft 2 is pretty much 1-core based and that means that my 8 threads are wasted on it.

Do you know of some benchmarks which test which games are more suitable for multi-cores? I would think that my two xeons with their 4 cores/4 vc's might perform similarly to the upcoming PS4 cores, since they are lower-clocked.

Perhaps, if you know a site that might do single-threaded performance comparisons between an old (2006) Xeon vs something newer?

Also, I am unable to find the real-world performance impact of ECC Fully buffered memory on DDR2, how much real-world (not generic benchmark) performance I'd lose against the benchmarks all the web sites are doing with unbuffered DDR3.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:02 pm

I found this benchmark for April 2013 only on Passmark benchmark, showing the Xeon 5150. While it does have 1333 FSb compared to your 667, it was the closest I could find. If you must only update GPU, I would go for 7790/7850 or GTX 650Ti/Boost. They will provide a nice increase in performance and updated technology but will still be bottle necked by your CPUs. Those old Xeon's really aren't going to be good at gaming and for the majority of software, it would run better on an i7 than your twin setup. Have you thought about parting the system out and building an i3 system?
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Thu Apr 18, 2013 10:18 pm

This feels so weird, but i think i will give you the same advice that i received. You will be held back but it will be because of the sad state of affairs of game development. Those chips that you got are of no help if your game is only lightly-multithreaded. Hardware has advanced forward in leaps and bound the last decade, i wish i could say the same for the software. In a single-threaded program clock frequency will help you more than simply having more cores. If games were richly multi-threaded your chips would be beasts.

This hurts to say, but i think it would be better to just get i3 with some mid level graphics card.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:54 am

Do you plan on ever upgrading the rest of your system? If so, a more powerful card might be the better choice anyways.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:54 am

Thank you for your replies - you all have very valid points.

GeForce6200: I appreciate you finding a benchmark for the similar CPU - I am wondering how those passmark scores are so incredibly low. Passmark must be scoring on each and every feature. Obviously if I upgraded my CPU I am not going to get 10x the performance boost as that thing would lead me to believe, because I have done CPU intensive tasks on many different computers, new and old, and I'd say the single-threaded performance might be 2-3x better at the highest, in real-world applications. I do think the 650Ti/Boost and the 7790/7850 are the best options, though I am more inclined to side with the Radeons thanks to their in-game bundles.

I have also thought about parting the system out one day, but I think I would go with an 8 core AMD CPU for price/performance. I would need a new motherboard at that time, though, and I'd have to discard my IDE DVD and CD drive, get a new case because these connectors will not work on the new motherboard, probably also needs a new power supply. I'd also have to replace all my RAM! So yeah, a great jump in cost, probably around $400 on the cheap and $550 on the quality side. Well outside of my $180 budget for a new GPU, unfortunately.

uni-mitation: I really appreciate what you have to say in regards to software. The way I see it, my CPU's can handle the current software. I don't need 60FPS in Crysis 3, I am just trying to do my best. Perhaps with the upcoming PS4 taking advantage of 8 cores, these Xeons will actually get a bit better over time! One can only hope...

absurdity: I plan to upgrade my whole system in about 2 years. I wonder if I would just want a new GPU at that point, too, though, because perhaps GDDR6 might be out by then and we could also get 7970/680-performance or higher, out of a sub-$200 card.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:19 am

If you're not going to upgrade for a few years, spending the least amount on the GPU that you can get away with makes the most sense.

Your CPUs are going to limit you regardless. Maximum single/dual threaded performance is the main driver for game 'smoothness'. Just make sure whatever you get can handle your games at the resolution you're using, and you're golden.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:30 am

Star Brood wrote: I'd have to discard my IDE DVD and CD drive.
I have had a $10 Rosewill RC-204 IDE to SATA bridge adapter attached to my ancient slot-load Pioneer 106S for several years. However, for just $18 - $2.7 code "EMCXSWL37", you could get a SATA DVD burner. A BD-ROM/DVD-RW drive is $52 - $8 code "EMCXSWL37" (or $36) and a Blu-ray burner is as little as $65½.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 11:32 am

Star Brood wrote:I get around 15-30FPS if I drop detail levels to "ultra" instead of "extreme" in StarCraft 2

Huh? I suppose 3rd person games like SC2 don't require as high of framerates as first person games, but 15fps is pretty low. I would definetly drop to "high" settings if framerates are dipping that low.

Your question is a bit complex. There are games that are GPU bound like BF3 and Crysis 3 where it doesn't matter much what CPU you have. Then there are CPU bound games like SC2, Civ5, and Skyrim that will show significant performance differences depending on the CPU. Even in those games though, you can still see big improvements with better graphics cards. (granted, the cards in that article were tested on an i7-3820 to reduce/eliminate CPU limitations)

Sure, your "weak CPUs" will hold back performance compared to the same GPU in a modern i7 system, but you'll still see noticeable improvements going from your current GTS 250 to something like a 7790 or higher. In general, the peak of the price/performance curve is in the $200 range. Anything below that, your ok, anything above that and you're paying more for the improvements you're getting. Also, what resolution is your monitor? Assuming 1920 x 1080, ~$200 GPUs will get you High-Ultra/Extreme settings and 40+ fps in most games. (for reference)

With your current CPU situation, I think you're probably looking in the right price range ($140-180). If you'll be holding on to your current system for 2 more years, a GPU upgrade around the same time as the new system wouldnt be unrealistic. Therefore Airman's advice of spending the least amount on a GPU to tide you over is smart (7790/GTX650Ti Boost territory).
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 12:03 pm

To clarify the 'Xeon' vagueness a bit: a Xeon 5000 series CPU is just a Pentium D 900 with some fancy corporate/workstation features like ECC enabled. The 5050 most closely matches the Pentium D 930, the latter having a slightly higher FSB.
http://ark.intel.com/products/27210/Int ... 67-MHz-FSB
http://ark.intel.com/products/27518/Int ... 00-MHz-FSB

Per core, these CPUs are ultra weak. Remember, these are NOT Core2 based chips.

* Tries to find a semi-recent review which features a Pentium D in the charts. *

Hmm, only PassMark has usable data it seems. Over there, the Pentium mentioned above hovers around E-350 performance.

Which leads to this review, which features both the E-350 (being a bit slower) and the Pentium D 840 (being a bit faster). All gaming tests except the IGP test runs were done with a GTX460, which is a about twice as fast as a GTS250. As you can see, the GTX460 can't really stretch its legs, so an even faster 7850 for example won't be able to either.
http://techreport.com/review/20401/amd- ... desktop/12
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:17 pm

Orwell, thanks for that graph. Single threaded performance is definitely tough, and here we are seeing the CPU totally squishing the GPU down to size.

StarCraft 2 is probably the most evil game when it comes to the fact that it has comparatively horrible performance on multi-core machines. I'd say this is a worst-case scenario, but definitely an interesting read, so I appreciate that.

Games with fairly forgiving system requirements run at butter-smooth framerates, like League of Legends, Torchlight, Age of Empires Online, Black and White 2, and to an extent, Diablo 3 (my GPU seems to be choking on this one, I am getting a lot of performance boost by lowering graphical fidelity).

I am in the process of downloading Portal 2 (impulse-bought, it's $5 on Steam right now). I will see how that plays.

Right now I am considering the Sapphire Flex-Edition 7770 or the PowerColor 7850 2GB. The PowerColor is $155 after mail in rebate, free shipping, and if the price holds I will just purchase that one. Maybe I won't see performance improvement over the 7770 on my CPU in most/all games, but I'd much rather prefer an extra gig of VRAM, Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite than Far Cry 3, which just seems to be another shooter with nothing new under the sun.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:23 pm

What motherboard do you have? If your board supports it you might be able to upgrade to a core2 based xeon 51xx or 53xx. A Xeon 5160 would be an upgrade and they go for about $10 on ebay.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:35 pm

Radeon HD7850 2GB is an excellent card for 1920x1200 or lower resolutions. I'm more partial to Sapphire and XFX for brands.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:42 pm

cwj717 wrote:What motherboard do you have? If your board supports it you might be able to upgrade to a core2 based xeon 51xx or 53xx. A Xeon 5160 would be an upgrade and they go for about $10 on ebay.
Xeon 5160 is LGA771 and will not work in a 775 board. 「(°ヘ°)

(edit: Oh, apparently he has 771 already. Nevermind...!)
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:36 am

Great advice you guys. I can't see if the 5160 is compatible with PLGA771 socket, just the LGA771 socket. However, the Xeon 5345 socket says it works with both PLGA and LGA 771. The only thing I can't find is why it works in this socket but says it doesn't support ECC memory (I have ECC fully buffered memory). I'm wondering if I'm going to be throwing that money away by purchasing a CPU which doesn't even work in my system.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:00 am

Im pretty sure they are pin compatible, you just need a board that supports the newer cpus. My tyan i5000xl board supports dempsey (50xx), woodcrest (51xx) and clovertown (53xx) cpus. Oh and ECC is supported with the Xeon 5160s.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:17 am

Star Brood wrote:PowerColor 7850 2GB

I recently saw flip-mode pay grand compliments to the PowerColor 7850 saying it was very quiet. I owned a Powercolor 6850 and have no complaints about it. Their customer service is stellar also. I can't remember what I called in for, but it wasn't anything wrong with the card.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:24 am

OP, I would recommend getting a complete new system build. That Xeon-grade Cedar Mill platform is over eight years old and it has serve you well, but at this point its time for a complete overhaul.

Just pick-up a SB or IB-based Xeon and go find a Socket 1155 board with ECC support (ASUS, Tyan and Supermicro make them). Unbuffered, ECC DDR3 isn't that expensive and you easily pick-up 16GBs worth under $200. You can throw in a 7850, 650Ti, 660Ti and 7790. If you feel adventurous enough you could even pick-up a modest SSD (128GB and 256GB) as a boot/OS disk.

The said system would be at least four to six times faster than your current rig while supporting newer CPU and GPU standards.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:40 pm

Holy **** that's Netburst; I though it was Core 2 (where's Auxy's emoticons??).

Yeah, don't spent money on this system. At all. At worst, spend as little as you can to get the features you need.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:58 pm

I'm not as optimistic as Krogoth about the pricing of workstation/server motherboards with ECC support, but I do agree that it's time to upgrade your system rather than sinking any more money into obsolete parts. The graphics card upgrade is okay to try because it can easily be transferred to a new system when you give up on your dinosaur.

Some example components that would fit Krogoth's recommendations are:
$235 Intel Xeon E3-1230 V2 is a 3.3 GHz (3.7 turbo) quad-core Ivy Bridge processor with hyper-threading (for a total of 8 threads). It fits in LGA1155 and will work in many consumer/enthusiast motherboards, but if you stick it into an LGA1155 workstation/server board you can get ECC support as well.
$210 Supermicro MBD-X9SAE-V-O is an LGA1155 ATX motherboard with Intel's C216 chipset that supports up to four DIMMs of ECC DDR3 memory.
$148 2x8 GiB unbuffered ECC DDR3-1600 Hynix HMT41GU7MFR8C-PB is on the tested memory list from Supermicro.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 12:59 pm

Just for the record, I recently acquired this computer from my dad as he upgraded to an i7 Extreme workstation. So I have not had much time to get acquainted with this thing, yet. I have no need for a Xeon in particular, but the fact that it runs 8 simultaneous threads is pretty great. Multi threaded applications don't seem to perform badly at all on here. But I think I agree with Airmantharp, that I shouldn't spend money to upgrade the CPU. A new graphics card can certainly be popped into a new machine, though. And I think the 7850 will hold its value for longer than the 7770.

@JustAnEngineer: Sorry, didn't see your post yet. Yes I agree the Xeons are pricey. I also think it's quite pricey in general to build a new machine at this point. So far, most games I've played, with the big and wildly different exception of StarCraft 2, run like butter on this machine though. Some things hurt with anti aliasing, and I do often see GPU usage hit 100%, but CPU usage, theoretically, should improve over time as developers offload more data to additional cores. I want to be able to power my 1280x1024 screen in addition to these two 1050p screens, and like I said the GPU is often suffering (I think it is also locking up a lot, as I get a lot of graphics-related total system crashes). I'll let you guys know how it performs on Tomb Raider, Blood Dragon and Bioshock Infinite once I upgrade the GPU in a week or two. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, since I know at least two of those games can take advantage of 4 cores.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:27 pm

Airmantharp wrote:Holy **** that's Netburst; I though it was Core 2 (where's Auxy's emoticons??).

Yeah, don't spent money on this system. At all. At worst, spend as little as you can to get the features you need.

(((((((((꒪⌓꒪;;)))))))))

Just throw that old junk out! (*゜▽゜ノノ彡⌓

Or put it to proper use as a server, or something. It's not useful for gaming at all.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:53 pm

As much as I'd like to "throw the old junk out" this is new stuff for me. Our previous computers were just laptops. Mine is a netbook, and my wife's is a 2006 Acer. Not only did we recently acquire the stuff for free from my dad, but it was a giant leap forward in hardware capability. But we do not have a truckload of money in our budget for this stuff. We are driving around in a car on its last leg, and we need to save money to move out of this awful apartment. Two much bigger priorities.

I like the idea of the 5160's. Too bad they do not have hyperthreading - but I suppose considering how old the implementation of hyperthreading was, it probably isn't doing much.

edit: looks like the 5160's are going to be my next acquisition. Looks like this guy has the same setup as I have, but with even less RAM and playing at the same settings: http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic ... ?page=2#39
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:10 pm

Star Brood wrote:As much as I'd like to "throw the old junk out" this is new stuff for me.
I understand, I was just teasing. Hehe. I know all too well the pain of being woefully behind and too poor to afford upgrades! T_T
Star Brood wrote:I like the idea of the 5160's. Too bad they do not have hyperthreading - but I suppose considering how old the implementation of hyperthreading was, it probably isn't doing much.
Hyper-threading helps a lot more on Nehalem, Sandy and Ivy, where the CPU has more execution resources to share across a couple of threads. Older "Core" processors didn't have hyper-threading, and NetBurst-based processors didn't gain much from HT -- and in games, neither do Sandy/Ivy Bridge, at least the quad-core models. The Core i3 can make some use of it, though.
Star Brood wrote:edit: looks like the 5160's are going to be my next acquisition. Looks like this guy has the same setup as I have, but with even less RAM and playing at the same settings: http://us.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/topic ... ?page=2#39
Just make sure those LGA771 chips will work in your current boards. Even though you have the same socket -- I know a lot of early LGA775 boards meant for the NetBurst-based chips don't work with later Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. I'd check the manufacturer's CPU support list to be sure.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:16 pm

Personally if you are thinking of upgrading the cpu's in the future I would purchase the video card that matches what you will have after you upgrade..

I like the 7870 and will be upgrading to that eventually I'm just waiting for the price to drop a bit more.

If I ever do upgrade from a q6600 @ 3.2ghz to a core I5 (K) I'll already have the video card that will work well with it.

I typically game at 1920x1080 and I have 1280x1024 monitor as well if I do upgrade I'll get another monitor of the same size and resoluiton to lank my main monitor on either side.

Its all about looking to the future.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:20 pm

Thanks for all your advice, guys! I just bought a couple of 5160's for $13, some arctic silver for $4, and the ASUS DirectCU II 7850 2GB for $180 (-$10 rebate) (the PowerColor was sold out lol). Wish me luck!
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:09 am

Those 5160s yield roughly the same performance as my previous Q6600@3.0Ghz rig.

SC2 will run fine as long as you don't go crazy on the eye candy. You still may experience slowdowns during massive 4 vs 4 battles with each team near the population limit. For for a ~$200-249 drop-in upgrade, you can't really complain though.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sun Apr 21, 2013 12:20 am

Airmantharp wrote:Holy **** that's Netburst; I though it was Core 2 (where's Auxy's emoticons??).

Yeah, don't spent money on this system. At all. At worst, spend as little as you can to get the features you need.


How dare you, you little welp! Netburst was the shooting for the stars, the glorious plan to 10 gigahertz, the sweet burning smell of bacon being cooked to a golden brown, mmmmmmm, so good! I still use one for when the house needs heating, plus, it does calculations! Take that! 8) (this is as far as i go with emoticons)
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:15 am

Krogoth wrote:Those 5160s yield roughly the same performance as my previous Q6600@3.0Ghz rig. For a ~$200-249 drop-in upgrade, you can't really complain though.
Heck yes, you can complain!

Spend that $250 on current technology, instead. Core i5-3470 + motherboard costs less than that. Add a 4 GiB DIMM and you can still be under $280.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:33 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:
Krogoth wrote:Those 5160s yield roughly the same performance as my previous Q6600@3.0Ghz rig. For a ~$200-249 drop-in upgrade, you can't really complain though.
Heck yes, you can complain!

Spend that $250 on current technology, instead. Core i5-3470 + motherboard costs less than that. Add a 4 GiB DIMM and you can still be under $280.
Even a "lowly" Core i3 would smash that machine in games, and you could do that at MicroCenter for like $150, lol...

Of course, he only paid $13 for the CPUs -- the $200-250 includes the 7850, which is much more significant. Hehe.
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Re: Where will my CPU plateau on GPU performance?

Postposted on Sun Apr 21, 2013 3:53 am

auxy wrote:Of course, he only paid $13 for the CPUs -- the $200-250 includes the 7850, which is much more significant. Hehe.


This. I think his upgrade was prety well thought out.
Spent a minimum amount of money on the CPU since that platform is getting replaced either way, and most of the money on the GPU which can be brought over to a new computer.
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