Phenom II a cpu bottleneck starting where?

Gman1979

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It's time to upgrade my rig using some cash from recently getting married. Right now I have a Phenom II 550 BE C2 stepping with all four cores unlocked running at 3600 Mhz and the cpuNB running at 2400 (yes it actually makes a notable difference for this cpu). It's pretty power hungry but it doesn't seem like a priority to upgrade it yet because it still does what I need it to. My question is at what point would the cpu start holding me back as far as upgrading my video card? I plan on getting at least a 7850 but have also seen I can grab one of those 7870 myst cards for around the same price as a 7870. Would it be pointless given the cpu I have?

I was also tempted to grab a couple of open box GTX 660s locally from Microcenter but when I saw how poorly they run mining apps it was an instant no go sadly :(
 

Domini

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Any upgrade will net you a nice performance increase. People need to stop worrying about bottlenecks already unless you are still stuck on a Pentium 4/AMD64/Core2duo
 

Myrandex

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I am in a similar boat. I have a Phenom II X6 that has been running pretty nice for some time. I haven't been able to get myself to part with it yet. Its been a curiosity of mine though, but I think it is still good enough lately.

Jason
 

Gman1979

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Any upgrade will net you a nice performance increase. People need to stop worrying about bottlenecks already unless you are still stuck on a Pentium 4/AMD64/Core2duo

I was only concerned about the cpu being a bottleneck if it would make getting the higher end card less attractive to the point I could justify spending the extra $ on something else in the rig. But after checking the prices today, the difference between the cards I was looking at is near nothing so it kind of worked itself out for the moment.
 

naticus

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Any upgrade will net you a nice performance increase. People need to stop worrying about bottlenecks already unless you are still stuck on a Pentium 4/AMD64/Core2duo

My Phenom II x4 Black Edition bottlenecked my MSI 670, so.. it is a real concern.
 

Domini

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My Phenom II x4 Black Edition bottlenecked my MSI 670, so.. it is a real concern.

You will always have some slight bottleneck, but it wont hinder the performance where the game is unplayable...
 

ITSTHINKING

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You will always have some slight bottleneck, but it wont hinder the performance where the game is unplayable...

I ran a radeon 6800 series card a few months ago on a e8500@3.7 and I saw a decent increase in my games frame rates. But I definitely wish I had a faster processor to feed it at the time.
 

Joga

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I'm in a pretty similar boat. I had a budget build about 2 years ago with a Phenom II X4 955 (@ 3.6 GHz) and a 6770. Upgraded to a 7950 last month, and I'm upgrading to Haswell when it comes out in about 2 weeks. But in the last month I've gotten quite familiar with how CPU limited or not limited I am.

From personal experience: generally it's not *too* big of a deal, but it can be annoying at times. I'm not always CPU limited, but it's very obvious when you are. For example, playing through Tomb Raider, I usually get about 70 FPS (FXAA, everything maxed except TressFX off). However, whenever I'm overlooking a vista or large area/town, my framerate drops into the 40s or even upper 30s.

For example, all throughout "Shantytown" (lots of buildings, lots of stuff on screen) I was pretty badly CPU limited and hovered around 40:

In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/qwlPHfQ.jpg (was night in-game so I fiddled with the colors a bit so it's easier to see)
GPU-Z screenshot while this was going on: http://i.imgur.com/Oyeej1r.png (Pretty much maxed out CPU, only 70% GPU usage.)

And this seems to be a recurring theme - in Borderlands 2 I'll usually have like 120+ FPS, but when I got to the first city I was suddenly in the 50's - alt-tabbed and lo and behold, my CPU was pegged to the max and my GPU usage was like 40%. Same in Far Cry 3 - whenever there's a scene where there's a long draw distance or lots of objects on screen at once (like in a town) my framerate would drop precipitously and I'd alt-tab to see my GPU usage piddling along.

So it's up to you - with a Phenom II X4 @ 3.6 you'll generally be alright, with a few hiccups here and there depending on the scene. But I for one will be very glad to upgrade to an Intel CPU (I know Haswell's not supposed to be that big of an improvement over IvyBridge, but either one is a giant improvement over a P-II X4).
 
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Torr Samaho

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From personal experience: generally it's not *too* big of a deal, but it can be annoying at times. I'm not always CPU limited, but it's very obvious when you are. For example, playing through Tomb Raider, I usually get about 70 FPS (FXAA, everything maxed except TressFX off). However, whenever I'm overlooking a vista or large area/town, my framerate drops into the 40s or even upper 30s.

For example, all throughout "Shantytown" (lots of buildings, lots of stuff on screen) I was pretty badly CPU limited and hovered around 40:

In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/qwlPHfQ.jpg (was night in-game so I fiddled with the colors a bit so it's easier to see)
GPU-Z screenshot while this was going on: http://i.imgur.com/Oyeej1r.png (Pretty much maxed out CPU, only 70% GPU usage.)

And this seems to be a recurring theme - in Borderlands 2 I'll usually have like 120+ FPS, but when I got to the first city I was suddenly in the 50's - alt-tabbed and lo and behold, my CPU was pegged to the max and my GPU usage was like 40%. Same in Far Cry 3 - whenever there's a scene where there's a long draw distance or lots of objects on screen at once (like in a town) my framerate would drop precipitously and I'd alt-tab to see my GPU usage piddling along.


So it's up to you - with a Phenom II X4 @ 3.6 you'll generally be alright, with a few hiccups here and there depending on the scene. But I for one will be very glad to upgrade to an Intel CPU (I know Haswell's not supposed to be that big of an improvement over IvyBridge, but either one is a giant improvement over a P-II X4).


thanks a lot for this post, was very helpful for me too. i have a 1090t @ 3.8 and recently upgraded from an amd 5870 to a gigabyte gtx 670, and haven't even oc'd that one yet. i guess it won't matter anyway with the phenom, i'll upgrade to haswell.
 

Myrandex

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Lots of good information. I read an article lately (I think over at www.anandtech.com) that talks about gaming with older CPUs to see where the limiting factor would be. I cannot remember if there were any Phenom II's on the list, but it seemed back then that it was better to spend the $ on the vid card rather than the CPU.

Here is my experience regarding Counter Strike Global Offensive though and if anyone had any advice for it particularly I would appreciate it.

The performance on this game really seems to be low... I even recently upgraded my video card hoping that it would help. When I'm sitting there idle looking at a wall or something like that, the frame rate is high and smooth, but as soon as some action kicked up (gun fire, grenades, etc.) it will drop real low, down into the mid 40's or so which really makes it tough to play. The system that I have should be able to play it on high settings to the max too which is concerning...sure I can reduce settings (lowering the resolutions to 1600x900 fixes the performance problems but it isn't really desired given the amount of hardware inside of the PC).

Any ideas?

System specs:
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T (not OCed) on Gigabyte GB-880GMA-UDSH motherboard
8GB DDR3 running at 2133 settings Dual Channel
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
2TB Raid 0 7200RPM 64MB Cache hard drive array
Creative Sound Blaster XFi
Wired mouse & Keyboard
1Gb Ethernet Connection to router (no ping / latency issues)
Viewsonic VX2770 running at 1920x1080
Windows 8 x64

I do want to run it with all of the settings cranked to the max quality wise on the correct resolution. I have tried turning all of the settings down to medium on 1080P resolution and it didn't significantly help, but like I said before lowering the resolution down lets me play on HQ settings. I do have multicore rendering enabled and FSAA should be disabled.
 

MacLeod

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It won't be a problem until you get into multiple GPU configurations and multi monitor resolutions. Yeah you could pick up a few extra frames with a faster chip like a 8350 or i5 but that Phenom will not choke off performance and it's doubtful you'd even see the difference in actual gameplay. CPU "bottlenecks" are way overstated these days. I'd overclock it a little more. Get it up to 3.8 Ghz and the CPU/NB up to 2600 and you'll be fine.
 

Sodapopjones

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On my 1055T, I've done the 7850, 7950 and went to the 660Ti, I probably would have kept the 7850 but I had gone through multiple cards and was tired of the stupid crashing, black screens and more importantly the fan failures on the Visiontek cards. Fast forward to now, not only do I get better frames with the 660Ti then I did with the 7950 and obviously 7850 its also more stable.

I would wait for the 760Ti to come out and knock prices down, and if you have to, go with the 7950 but really imo this generation of AMD is worth skipping....
 

Joga

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Messages
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thanks a lot for this post, was very helpful for me too. i have a 1090t @ 3.8 and recently upgraded from an amd 5870 to a gigabyte gtx 670, and haven't even oc'd that one yet. i guess it won't matter anyway with the phenom, i'll upgrade to haswell.

Glad to help. Just to further illustrate my point, here are a few more examples of particularly CPU-limited scenes. Note that these are cherry-picked bad examples, most of the time my framerate and GPU utilization are much higher.

Borderlands 2 (48 FPS, 46% GPU utilization):
In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/d3RAfcX.jpg
CPU/GPU graphs: http://i.imgur.com/dOGx0fj.png

Crysis 3 (38 FPS, 68% GPU utilization, "High" preset with 2xSMAA)
In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/KIskPJB.jpg
CPU/GPU graphs: http://i.imgur.com/nXIrYLv.png

Starcraft 2 (38 FPS, 65% GPU utilization - note that SC2 only uses 2 cores max :( )
In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/SJfKeEO.jpg
CPU/GPU graphs: http://i.imgur.com/8ssx3W9.png

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom for the Phenom II. A more typical example would be something like this:

Bioshock Infinite (70 FPS, Max GPU utilization, "Ultra" settings with Alternative DOF On)
In-game screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/MPJbwVT.jpg
CPU/GPU graphs: http://i.imgur.com/b6ZW0QV.png

----------------------------------
So to answer the OP's original question: Yes, getting something like a 7870 would definitely improve your gaming experience, even with your CPU. Even if I weren't upgrading to Haswell in a week, I'd still be happy with just my 7950 purchase. I went from ~45 FPS on Medium settings in Battlefield 3 on my 6770, to ~70 on Ultra now with my 7950. I can run all of my games on higher/maxed out settings now, and it's wonderful.

Now, with your CPU there will be occasional CPU-limited framerate drops, depending on the scene (highlighted in the screenshots above). Having something like Ivy Bridge or Haswell would smooth over those bumps, so you'd have a constantly smooth framerate no matter what's happening on screen. So a CPU upgrade would certainly be noticeable, but it's not necessary. The majority of the time you'll still be GPU limited.

Hope that helped. :)
 
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Gman1979

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On my 1055T, I've done the 7850, 7950 and went to the 660Ti, I probably would have kept the 7850 but I had gone through multiple cards and was tired of the stupid crashing, black screens and more importantly the fan failures on the Visiontek cards. Fast forward to now, not only do I get better frames with the 660Ti then I did with the 7950 and obviously 7850 its also more stable.

I would wait for the 760Ti to come out and knock prices down, and if you have to, go with the 7950 but really imo this generation of AMD is worth skipping....

That was originally my plan actually. But I changed my mind when I realized how much slower the 660Ti would run OpenCL code. Since it's something I work with regularly, it ended up pushing me towards a 7870 xt I got for $199 after rebate. It gets here Tuesday along with some cooling gear to see if I can burn a few more Mhz out of the cpu. I grabbed a 600 watt psu too so if it doesn't want to go any higher I will know it's the 4 phase power section on the motherboard holding me back. Same cpu has hit 3.8 before on another board with same cooling I have now.
 
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