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Want to upgrade my CPU & GPU for better gaming: need adv

Hey all,

I want to make two upgrades to my PC so I can run some of the games I play at higher graphics/FPS/more smoothly:

CPU: I currently have an Intel Celeron D 336 prescott 2.8GHz and I want to upgrade to a Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz.

GPU: I currently have a Geforce 8600 GT and I want to upgrade to a Geforce 9800 GT.

Both parts cost about the same (the graphics card is about $30-$40 less), but I can only choose one to upgrade soon and the other will have to wait until later in the year.

My question is, which upgrade will benefit my gaming needs the most? An extra benefit to upgrading my cpu is that I'll be able to bump up the ram to 667 instead of 533, but I'm sure that won't make a whole lot of difference.

I'm guessing the graphics card upgrade will make the most difference, but I just wanted to get some more informed opinions on it.
You're sure the new CPU is fully compatible with the motherboard you have now?

Ideally, you could run some performance monitoring software while you play your games, and get a more informed idea about what exactly the bottleneck is.

You can definitely check to see if your CPU is being utilized 100% while playing, but I'm not sure if you'll be able to find software that will let you know if you are using the full memory bandwidth or graphics card capabilities.

If you could find a way to view (or log) the utilization of these while you play the game, you'll be able to determine what would be the effective upgrade just by looking for what was at or near 100% usage.

Also, try a graphics card driver update first before ordering parts; sometimes updated drivers can give you a great performance boost for free.
Agreed with everything ocalhoun said. The motherboard you have may have a chance of supporting an E8400, but it may not. Definitely run some monitoring applications, although I can say the CPU is definitely the bottleneck here. I run a Pentium 4 HT with a 7600 GT, and there's a very small bottleneck on the CPU. A Celeron D is a stripped down CPU, not meant for anything other than basic tasks.

But yeah, follow what ocalhoun said. Once you determined the bottleneck, double check to see if your motherboard supports the new part.

(Oh, on a side note, congratulations on 5000 posts, ocalhoun Very Happy )
My motherboard is an ASRock 945GCM-S and it says in the manual under CPU specifications

-LGA 775 for Intel Dual Core Core 2 Extreme / Core 2 Duo / Pentium Dual Core / Celeron, supporting Dual Core Wolfdale processors

so it sounds to me like the Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale would be compatible.

Here's a link to the CPU:

and for reference, this is my motherboard:

One thing I don't really get is when it's talking about the FSB specifications in CPU, it has a caution which if you look it up says:

FSB1333-CPU will operate in overclocking mode. Under this situation, PCIE frequency will also be overclocked to 115MHz. Besides, if you want to overclock the CPU you adopt from FSB800 to FSB1066, you need to adjust the jumpers. Please refer to page 14 for proper jumper settings.

I assume that I don't need to worry about the second half of the caution, but does the first part mean I have to mess with some BIOS settings or what? Is this anything I need to worry about?

Back to my current CPU. I monitored usage while playing HL2 and it shows that my CPU is steadily at 100%.

I was looking around and saw some software that might help me monitor my GPU, so if everything works out I'll report back with that.

P.S. My graphics drivers are the most current version.
You might want to do a bit more research to see if your motherboard supports 45nm CPUs. They run at a lower voltage than 65 and 90nm ones and it might not be supported by your motherboard.

As for the bit about the FSB, your chipset was not designed for the 1333Mhz FSB that the CPU you chose has. However, it can support this speed. What it means with the PCIe speed is that the motherboard does not have the proper divider for the 1333FSB / X = 100Mhz (correct speed for PCIe). So PCIe will run at 115Mhz, which *may* not sit well with your videocard.

I would suggest upgrading your motherboard as well, unless you are absolutely sure that the CPU is supported by the board, and your video card can handle a 115Mhz PCIe clock.
miacps wrote:

Back to my current CPU. I monitored usage while playing HL2 and it shows that my CPU is steadily at 100%.

Yeah, the CPU is definitely slowing you down.
These days trying to figure out if a CPU is compatible with a given motherboard is so complicated that I give up. It used to be all you had to know was a) will it fit in the socket and b) will the motherboard support its speed. (And then, even if you got the wrong speed, the motherboard would still support it, but at a slower speed.) Not so now...

Usually, I buy motherboard/CPU combos now. Its a little cheaper that way, and you can be absolutely sure that they'll work well together. Motherboards are very cheap now, compared to CPU's, anyway.

Come to think of it, I've never seen a successful CPU upgrade done... Most of the time the CPU installed in it is almost at the limit the motherboard can handle anyway, so you can't upgrade much. Your case may be different in that respect though, but it sounds like your motherboard will struggle to support it, while a new one would support it easily. I suspect that if you replace the CPU, the motherboard will become the new bottleneck.
Darn.. I really don't want to have to upgrade my motherboard too.

I monitored my GPU and that was also at a steady 100% with a 300 frame limit (which is just a waste of fps in my opinion). With a frame limit of 70 I'm sure usage would be up and down anyways as I sometimes get drops to the high 20s in fps while in less intensive parts it's 50-70.

Thanks for the help guys. Smile


Ok, so my motherboard definitely supports the E8400 CPU. From the asrock website:

As for the 9800 GT that I wanted to upgrade to, it's PCIE 2.0 x16 while my motherboard only has an original PCIE x16 slot. I have read that this shouldn't be a problem and that cards that run 2.0 are also compatible with original x16, they just switch over to the lower transfer speed and the performance difference is very minimal. Since the PCIE 2.0 x16 is made to have faster transfer rates, it should be more than able to handle the PCIE slot overclocked to 115MHz, right?
Normal I would say the GPU is the first thing to upgrade. But like they said your CPU is the real bottleneck by far. The Celerons just suck so much for gaming. Get the new Wolfendale, it will give the best overall system performance upgrade.
Why don't you upgrade your GPU to GeForce GTX 260/280? For 260 I think the price is nearly the same as 9800GT (or maybe cheaper?).
funky_programmer wrote:
Why don't you upgrade your GPU to GeForce GTX 260/280? For 260 I think the price is nearly the same as 9800GT (or maybe cheaper?).

The GTX 260s I see on newegg are over $250 while the 9800GT is around $120-$140. I also only have a 400 watt PSU and would have to fork out another $80-$100 for something that could handle the GTX 260.

These two modest-ish upgrades I want to make will already run me around $300. Crying or Very sad

Why does good technology always have to be so expensive??
Forget the GPU and get the new cpu.
ForceRun wrote:
Forget the GPU and get the new cpu.

I intend to. Smile

At least for now.

Thanks for the advice guys.
I just placed the order for the e8400; really looking forward to getting this thing installed! Very Happy

I also picked up one of these to go with it: Arctic cooling freezer 7 pro.

I think when the time/funds come to upgrade the GPU, I'll pick up a 9800 GTX+ and a new PSU, since I don't really trust my generic 400 watt to run a decent card. Maybe even a GTX 260 if by some miracle they've dropped to the $150 price range by then. <-- wishful thinking Wink

Anyway, thanks again for your help guys. Smile
Holy s***!!! Shocked

I just finished installing the e8400. You guys couldn't have been more right about the Celeron D bottle necking!!

I just stress tested in CS:S and pulled 301 FPS with the e8400 while with the celeron D I was averaging 78 FPS.

OMG! Shocked

So happy with my purchase, you have no idea!!!! Mr. Green
Lol, I wish those old cpu didn't suck so much but they do. Thats good it worked out for you. You new CPU will easily overclock on even just air. Try getting it up to 3.6Ghz, and you will have 50% more speed just for free.
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