Question Upgrade - CPU vs GPU

olip74

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Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H F11
Intel Core i3 530 @ 2.93GHz
4GB RAM (3.74GB Usable)
Dell U2212HM

Hi. I used to keep up with PC HW developments but not for a long time now so I'm in need of some advice. I'm looking for the best/cheapest way to give my PC a little processing boost. I mainly use it for browsing and as a media server but sometimes it can struggle while multi-tasking and/or when viewing HD video on the monitor. CPU ends up near 100% even with other apps closed. The following options occured to me:

Buy a CPU upgrade. An i5/i7 would simply increase the processing power, job done. Presumably I would need to change the cooler too though and mess about with thermal paste, etc?

Buy a GPU. Buying a GPU and thereby deactivating the use of the CPU for graphics would decrease the load on the CPU obviously. However it would also free up a quarter gig of memory, right? GPUs are also easier to swap out than CPUs.

Any opinions on the relative merits welcome. Also any suggestions on what kind of CPU/GPU would be most cost effective, considering it's all pretty ancient kit.
 

sdedu77

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Dec 9, 2018
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For web browsing and media you should be fine with a CPU upgrade. Your motherboard supports up to an I7-880. 1st of Intel Core series is actually quite cheap compared with newer generations. It's not worth to spend a lot of money for a graphics card unless you play intensive games at high settings and high resolution. GT 1030 might be a good choice, since it's a relatively recent card with a tdp of only 30w; for >$90 thoygh it's a bad value. There are fanless variants, but you need good airflow for adequate cooling. (Some brands may even let you extend the warranty, that can turn out to be a good deal).
Although browers are memory hogs, so you need enough ram. 4 gb is low for today's standards; you need at least 8 gb or more. If you have only one 4gb ram stick, get another 4gb one with matching speed, latency and voltage (preferrably the exact same model) in order to achieve dual channel capabilites. If you have 2x2gb then add another 2x2gb kit or even 2x4gb.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
For general everyday use, I'd go with a Ryzen 2400G, B450 motherboard and 2x4GB of DDR4 memory, ~$250 total. (Though if the budget allows, I'd strongly recommend 2x8GB of RAM - nothing ruins system responsiveness worse than running out of RAM.)
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
Something like a i7 870 would be decent, runs @ $40.

Ram depending on your OS. If you are running older OS like any Windows 7 32bit (x86) then 4Gb is all it'll recognise. With x64 (64bit) if it's Home Basic, that's 8Gb, Home Premium is 16Gb and Pro/enterprise is 192Gb. Even with Win10CE, x86 is still 4Gb for any, but x64 is 128Gb for Home, 2Tb for Pro.

So you may or may not see any advantage to additional ram. But 16Gb of DDR3 1333/1600 will run @ $50.
 

olip74

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Thanks all for your replies. Fairly unanimous that CPU is the way to go and the i7 870 can be had for as little as £25 from eBay. It looks as if they're mainly sold on their own, would I need to upgrade the cooler over the stock one that came with my i3?

RAM doesn't seem to be much of an issue, usually doesn't exceed 3GB. The OS/apps run off a fairly new SSD so startup times are decent. I'm running Win 7 Pro x64 but obviously that will be out of support soon, I'll have to upgrade anyway as my work Citrix connection will drop Win 7 in January.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
RAM doesn't seem to be much of an issue, usually doesn't exceed 3GB.
Having low memory becomes an issue long before you reach 100% utilization, though having a decently fast SSD can hide this to some degree which you will be paying for in the form of additional wear on the SSD as Windows uses the swapfile to make up the difference between the amount of memory it would like to have for your typical usage and what is actually available.

You may want to have a look at how much SSD IO is happening during typical work and other stuff you are considering an upgrade for. A high level of SSD activity would strongly suggest a low RAM bottleneck and upgrading the CPU won't yield anywhere near as much of a performance increase as you may be expecting.
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
Once you get to a little over 3Gb total usage, Windows will start looking at pagefile.sys to start using storage as an alternate ram source to make up the difference. Speed-wise, that's not so bad with an SSD, it's terrible with a HDD. Seriously slows things down. What's bad is the sheer amount of reads/writes this adds to the SSD, which can shorten usable lifespans from barely any difference to significant loss, depending on how much it's used for how long a period.

With a x64 base OS, I'd be looking at a minimum of 8Gb, even if you do only use about 3Gb mostly. Ram is one of those things that you'll never see any performance gains for having too much, but also one of those things that'll kill performance by having too little.
 

olip74

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Thanks for all the advice, in the end I got a i7 870 (£35) and an extra 8GB (2x4GB) RAM (£18). I figured if the new RAM has any issues running alongside the old, I can remove the old and still have 8GB. I'm just waiting for some thermal paste to arrive and I'll see how it goes.

I suspect I may need to upgrade the cooler too so I'll keep an eye on temps. It seems a Cooler Master Hyper 212 can be got for little over £10 if needs be.
 

olip74

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I installed the 870 yesterday. The cooler was really difficult to clip into the board, which was just flexing too much, in the end I had to pull all the cables and remove the board to fit it. However when I booted the box the monitor didn't come to life (can hear Windows booting though). A quick Google reveals that the 870 doesn't support onboard graphics! Oh the irony! :mouais:

I've lucked out though as my neighbour has a spare PCIe GPU. The PSU doesn't have a 6 pin power connector though so I'm now waiting for a molex converter to come out! Will the PSU now have enough grunt for all these extra gubbins (450W)? We'll see!

To top it all off the RAM arrived but isn't working. PC won't post with one stick alone and boots into BIOS with both inserted but then freezes Memtest86+/Windows. I even set the latencies and tried upping the multiplier so FSB is running at 1600MHz (which they're rated at) but no dice. Seller has agreed to a return. [sigh]
 

olip74

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Success in the end. Replacement 4GB RAM works nicely. I had to obtain a Cooler Master 212 Evo as the i7 870 was overheating with the stock fan from the i3. Temps are now under 70C during stress testing and rig is flying. Thanks for all the advice.

4GB Kingston DDR3 RAM (+4GB existing)
Intel Core i7-870
CoolerMaster HYPER 212 evo
Nvidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti (free)
SATA to 6pin PCI-E Adapter

Total spend £60!
 

Karadjgne

Titan
Herald
Be extremely careful with that Sata to pcie adapter. Sata is only rated for 4.5A maximum current draw at 12vDC. That's a measly 54w. The 550ti can pull 130-140w under load, depending on the card, so with even a full 75w from the pcie x16, you are still left with a balance of around 55-65w. Which is beyond the limits of the Sata connection, and something will have to give, which will be the weakest point, the pins. Push that card too hard and you'll be melting plastic very shortly.
 

Third-Eye

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Be extremely careful with that Sata to pcie adapter. Sata is only rated for 4.5A maximum current draw at 12vDC. That's a measly 54w. The 550ti can pull 130-140w under load, depending on the card, so with even a full 75w from the pcie x16, you are still left with a balance of around 55-65w. Which is beyond the limits of the Sata connection, and something will have to give, which will be the weakest point, the pins. Push that card too hard and you'll be melting plastic very shortly.
The OP could always use MSI Afterburner to lower the power limit to around 70-75% so it's using under 115watts under load.
 

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