Looking to build a WoW system

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Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 3:39 pm

I'm looking to build a system to play World of Warcraft with all settings cranked to maximum, on a high-def tv at 1080p resolution. I will re-use my Xonar Essence ST in the new build, and be sending the audio out to a receiver encoded in Dolby Live, so I'm assuming I'm going to need a pretty good processor for this as well, since the Xonar Essence is NOT hardware accelerated. I also want to use top-o-the-line parts, for durability and longevity purposes, so I'm wanting to stick with brands like Asus and Gigabyte. Right now I am using an old HP Pavilion with a core 2 duo E4400 CPU with a GeForce GTX 460 Fermi, and a bigger power supply swapped in to power the GPU. I figure anything new will be a BIG improvement, but I want to run WoW with all settings at max, and never having to worry about dropping below 60 FPS. Maybe I can keep it within an $800 budget?
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 3:44 pm

That CPU could be improved, but the graphics card is nothing to sneeze at. WoW doesn't need much graphics finesse, so your 460 is overkill unless they've raised the bar extremely high with Mists of Pandaria (highly doubtful).

Are you looking for a certain form factor PC?
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 3:59 pm

It's not that they've raised the bar, but things still can get dicey if too much information is being thrown out from the server, and no amount of additional horsepower is going to fix that. The worst places are highly phased zones and 25-man raids.

I would start with the Econobox and trim, upgrade, and tailor. It should give you more than enough headroom for WoW, with the server exception mentioned above, and depending on whether or not you need a new Windows license, you have up to $200 to float as desired. For changes, I would check out mATX boards and cases, upgrade to the 8GB RAM kit, and look at replacing the GPU with a 7870 or 660. The 460 and 650 Ti are probably more than enough for WoW, especially with 8GB RAM, but if you have a stronger card, you'll be able to crank out better graphics in other games.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 4:08 pm

According to the GeForce site, the average for a GTX460 with all of the settings maxed at that resolution should be about 61 FPS. To never drop below that, you're talking about upgrading the graphics card as well as the processor. But, in all honesty, it is WoW. You don't need to never drop below 60 FPS. And most systems lag at some point, so you may get moments when almost anything drops below that mark. My personal recommendation would be do the upgrade, keep the graphics card and see what you are getting for frame rates, then upgrade that as well, if needed. Leave room in the budget, but save your money until you get the processor upgrade and see how much that is bottle-necking your current card.

For gaming, I wouldn't really recommend going beyond a i5-3570K. The K is only really necessary if you plan to overclock at all. Of course, if you happen to have a Microcenter near you, you can get some killer deals. You can get an i5-3570K and a Gigabyte GA-Z77-DS3H motherboard -- that is a full ATX board, so not the most friendly for a living room system -- for $260+tax (in-store only). You'll need to budget for memory and a case.

One thing to consider is that the Haswell processors are being released in June. If you've waited this long, you might consider waiting a few more weeks...either to see if the current generation processors and motherboards drop a bit in price or to just get the latest generation processor and its super-low power state possibilities (if your power supply supports them).
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 4:11 pm

I've never played WOW but a 460 seems like it would be more than enough, it doesn't seem to be a graphics intensive game. Although maybe with dozens of characters to render in a heavy raid it might bog down?

Updating to 2500k, 3570k, 2600/2700k, 3770k and a z77 based board should be be more than WOW would ever need, you could even get an i5 3450 and I'm sure it would be overkill.

Someone will also likely tell you that Haswell is around the corner, so if you can wait a month, you can get slightly better performance than the current Ivy Bridge chips and good power efficiency and a significant improvement to your integrated graphics. I wonder if you'd be able to get 60fps with Haswell on-die gpu?

However again I must emphasize that I've never played WOW and hence have no idea what it would actually require to get 60FPS. But updating CPU is definitely in order in this case. Upgrade your CPU, motherboard, and RAM and see how it performs. If you think it's still missing the smoothness you're craving, look in to a gpu upgrade after updating your CPU and its related accoutrements.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 5:15 pm

I think my problem is the processor and the fact that my PCI-E bus is not PCI-E 2.0. With settings at medium, I average about 40 to 45 FPS, sometimes dropping down to 15 in Dalaran. I'm only running 2 gigs of ram also. I would prefer building a system with a Mid-size or Full-size tower, and a fullsize motherboard. I know WoW uses real-time shadows on max setting, as well as sun-flares, and is optimized for FXAA with Mists of Pandaria, so the recommended graphics requirements have probably jumped significantly since WotLK. IIRC, WoW also takes advantage of Ambient Occlusion. I just haven't built a system in about 4 years, so I have no idea how much horsepower does what.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 5:27 pm

Justfor point of reference, my i5-3570K and GTX 680 can still be brought down in to the 20's FPS in raid situations. That's at 1080p 120 Hz, running WoW in fullscreen windowed mode because I have two displays.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 7:20 pm

Prestige Worldwide wrote:Someone will also likely tell you that Haswell is around the corner, so if you can wait a month, you can get slightly better performance than the current Ivy Bridge chips and good power efficiency...
I'll join that group. Can you wait one month for the Core i5-4670K and an Asus Z87 motherboard to arrive before you upgrade?
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 7:35 pm

If WoW is still the same as ever, mods that parse the combat log are the biggest issue in heavy raids. Running without those mods was always a whole lot faster.

Cataclysm ran fine on a 460 with enough CPU. Full dymanic shadows halved the framerate (from 80 to 40) in busy cities saturated with other players like UC and Org, but pretty much every other slowdown I remember was mod-related on an old C2Q and a GTX460.
Hell, my old laptop put in a good showing at 1080p with only a 4650 and crippled with DDR3 instead of GDDR5. Turn off all your mods and see how it runs. If it's beautiful then your mods are the problem and spending loads of money won't really improve things very much.

From what I remember, the biggest improvements I experienced were moving to a quad-core from a dual-core, and running WoW off an SSD instead of a spinning disk.
Graphics card upgrades always helped, but whilst they improved the average framerate, they didn't really do much for the miminum FPS you get when loading new areas and dealing with effects-intensive raid bosses.
Last edited by Chrispy_ on Tue May 07, 2013 7:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 7:40 pm

I think my current problem is I'm running an E4400 CPU, which is an older Core 2 Duo, and PCI-E x16, which is probably bottlenecking my video card. Since WoW is heavily reliant on the CPU, the restricted path between the CPU and the GPU might be killing the performance. I'm running WoW in DirectX 11 mode, which helps a bit over DirectX 9 mode, but still not enough.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 7:53 pm

Yeah, get yourself an i5 quad core, either now or in a couple of months when Haswell is available (Haswell isn't going to be a massively faster or cheaper than Ivy bridge, if all the leaked benchmarks are right).

PCI-E 1.0 x16 isn't a bottleneck for a single GTX460. Even a demanding GTX 680 runs at over 90% of it's full potential in a 1.0 x16 slot.
Don't let me put you off a graphics card upgrade though, a 660Ti or 7950 Boost would be fine sidekicks for a new quad core.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Tue May 07, 2013 11:57 pm

Have you tried the 64 bit client at all? I've heard it improves the tougher areas....I wouldn't know since I don't play WoW
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 1:05 am

The 64 bit client runs by default. I don't think it makes a difference if I check the box to run the 32 bit client either.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 1:18 am

yeah I just looked and hadn't realized it was built into the game now

I think the core 2 arch tends to run 64 bit code noticably slower but I don't recall where I saw it. Not much pushes CPUs these days (especially not DX11 games) though so *shrug*

With both Haswell and Kaveri around the corner it's not a good time to replace the system yet but I'm definately replacing my i7 920 with one of those options.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 3:25 am

I'm thinking two options:

1) Upgrade GPU/CPU/Mobo/Memory/etc. Lots of money and tons of options.

2) Upgrade CPU to the maximum the mobo can handle and add memory. You might be able to pull off simply a CPU upgrade on the cheap, as long as you upgrade the mobo bios to the latest/greatest, and see what CPUs are supported with the latest bios. 45nm Penryn (especially later steppings) were legendary overclockers; maybe get one of those late-gen Q9450 (from Ebay?) and overclock the crap out of it.. for old times' sake? Whatever you do, get a FRESH one - the used ones being sold are probably overclocked to the point that they barely work

If CPU is your limiter, 2) would be the cheapest way to get around that. If you must, you could even add some better cooling on it. Hell - instead of spending $800, you could spend $300 INCLUDING an SSD for OS.

Or, you could go with 1): wait until Haswell is out (one more month) and pick up the cheap deals from prev-gen stuff

(EDIT: typo fixes)

EDIT2: I think this is a 'binary' decision - either you want to upgrade your old system to run fast enough for your current needs, or you're willing to pay the extra for a system upgrade for future-proofing. Once the new Haswell systems are out, you can probably pick up some Ivy Bridge ones really cheap... they would still offer PCIeG3 graphics connectivity, pretty good memory options, and all you'd have to replace is mobo/cpu/memory (maybe $300-$400, depending). That would give you decent performance for the next 3-4 years or so.

If you upgrade, don't forget the AMD options. You could upgrade the CPU/Mobo/Memory cheaper than on an Intel system, and it would definitely fix your CPU bottleneck better than going with the highest-end LGA775 CPU... probably at the same price, too. PCIeG2 would be the supposed downside, but I really don't think the PCIg2 link is going to become an issue anytime soon. (CPU performance would be a second downside, but if you're looking for WoW performance, both will work perfectly well)
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 7:00 am

Start with RAM, WoW needs RAM. 2 gb is a bottleneck for sure. Up your RAM to 4 or even better 8gb, and retest, you should see a big diff.

FWIW, my FPS will drop in 25's and certain other places, and my system is way overkill for this game.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 8:25 am

elmopuddy wrote:Start with RAM, WoW needs RAM. 2 gb is a bottleneck for sure. Up your RAM to 4 or even better 8gb, and retest, you should see a big diff.

FWIW, my FPS will drop in 25's and certain other places, and my system is way overkill for this game.

To buy more RAM for his system with an E4400 means buying DDR2, which in this day and age is a big no-no. I'd go with an Econobox, myself, and just get 2x4GB memory and a faster graphics card, either a 660 or a 7850. The i3 CPUs of right now are a revelation compared to an old Conroe CPU, and it's going to be a while before Haswell filters down into his price range.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 9:01 am

Prestige Worldwide wrote:I wonder if you'd be able to get 60fps with Haswell on-die gpu?


According to NotebookCheck.net, The 650M gets ~26FPS with all settings cranked at 1080p. The haswell GT3e is supposed to be <= the 650m, so no, don't expect a mountain mover here. Though it's certainly great for Intel, and it would be great performance for a laptop thanks to power savings, it's not enough.
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Re: Looking to build a WoW system

Postposted on Wed May 08, 2013 11:19 am

derFunkenstein wrote:The i3 CPUs of right now are a revelation compared to an old Conroe CPU, and it's going to be a while before Haswell filters down into his price range

Tomshardware actually just published an article related to this. For MMO games though, you need a good CPU and a fast internet connection first and foremost. Intel i5, 8GB RAM, and re-use the existing GTX 460 to see where that gets you. IF that's still not enough, then you can look at a GPU upgrade, but it would be silly to throw down for a new GPU without testing first when the existing one is still decent.

[Side rant] I know Toms are idiots, but again, they come up with good ideas for articles, they just fall short on the execution. Case in point, in the article linked above, their "inside the second" measurements are at a sample rate of 1/sec. yet they can't figure out why they aren't seeing the reported minimum framerates in their graphs. Guess what, at a sample rate of 1/sec and ~50fps, you're missing 98% of frames/frametimes in your graph.
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