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CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
11-20-2014, 05:34 PM,
#1
CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
I've been on cruise control with my PC hardware for many years now and I've finally run into a game that may force me to upgrade. When I run Dragon Age: Inquisition at my monitor's native resolution (1920x1080) I am averaging around 20 FPS even with the "low" detail settings. While I can make it playable at lower resolutions, it pains me to do so.

I currently have an i7-950 running at stock 3.07 GHz, dual Radeon 5870s in Crossfire (1 gig each, Diamond branded), and 12 gigs of triple-channel ram. CPU-Z confirms Crossfire is functioning.

Before I start buying new parts, I'd really like to know if it is my CPU or GPUs that are the biggest bottleneck. DA:I seems to take advantage of multiple threads and I have read that it is extremely CPU intensive, but I am uncertain how to reliably measure if the CPU is maxing out. The horsepower of my GPUs has always been ample, but I do realize that the 5870 lacks many of the newer generation features that optimize performance (like tessellation).

Anyone else have a similar challenge with DA:I? How can I determine if my CPU or GPUs are the bottleneck? I would like to run 30+ FPS at 1920x1080 with medium detail and not break the bank upgrading hardware.

Love the articles on hardware-revolution and the accessible community that many other sites lack. I look forward to everyone's input and appreciate the advice.
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11-24-2014, 12:50 PM, (This post was last modified: 11-24-2014, 12:52 PM by Rapajez.)
#2
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
If I had to guess, I'd say it's the GPUs. Partially due to the "1 gig each", as with Crossfire, you don't get to add those 2 numbers together. Your total VRAM is still 1GB.

The good news is, there should be a driver release any day that, will include crossfire profiles that will give you some free performance in that game. At least, that's typically the pattern, with AAA new-releases.

If you did upgrade, I'd go with a single 4GB GTX 970, as it should crush 1080p for a few years to come. It's also crazy efficient, quiet, and has a lot of cool features in the 900-series.

If you want to stick with AMD card, go with a R9 290 (not the 290X). They should be on sale this weekend. Just make sure you go with a well reviewed, "blower" model if you're going to crossfire, as they put out a LOT of heat. (e.g., an enclosed shroud that exhausts air out the back of the case vs into the chassis.)

Also, I seriously doubt it's the CPU. You could probably wait out at least another year, around the time Intel drops "Skylake", which SHOULD bring a big leap in desktop performance. The next gen, Broadwell, seems to only bring a tiny performance boost and a lot of efficiency.
GPU: NVIDIA Titan X, CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge 3.4GHz OC'd @ 4.5GHz, Mobo: ASRock Z77 Extreme4, Mem: 2x Corsair Dominator 2133MHz 8GB, SSD: Samsung 850 EVO, Case: Corsair Carbide 500R, PSU: Corsair TX850M, CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-D14, Case Fans: 4x Cooler Master Excalibur 120mm PWM, Monitors: 3x ViewSonic VX2270SMH-LED in NVIDIA Surround
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11-24-2014, 05:27 PM,
#3
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
Thank you for the reply, Rapajez. I did not even consider the importance of the VRAM nor did I know that Crossfire would not employ the memory on both cards. Good call! Perhaps the Crossfire profile will come down the line soon, but I'm afraid I'll still be limited. So, it is time for an upgrade.

I went with the AMD R9 290. Newegg has a heck of a deal on the SAPPHIRE Radeon R9 290 Triple-Fan OC that Mathieu referenced in his video card article. With a rebate and a bonus copy of Civ: Beyond Earth, it was hard to pass up. The GTX 970s still seem to be supply-constrained and I've already got a big case and PSU to deal with those Crossfired 5870s. Running two cards has been fussy from time to time and I think I'll stick with a single card solution for the foreseeable future.

The i7-950 is still a pretty great workhorse CPU. Bloomfield may not be all that efficient, but it is still a beast. We'll see what Skylake offers.
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11-24-2014, 05:59 PM, (This post was last modified: 11-24-2014, 06:01 PM by PwnBroker.)
#4
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
(11-24-2014, 05:27 PM)illiterate monk Wrote: Thank you for the reply, Rapajez. I did not even consider the importance of the VRAM nor did I know that Crossfire would not employ the memory on both cards. Good call! Perhaps the Crossfire profile will come down the line soon, but I'm afraid I'll still be limited. So, it is time for an upgrade.

I went with the AMD R9 290. Newegg has a heck of a deal on the SAPPHIRE Radeon R9 290 Triple-Fan OC that Mathieu referenced in his video card article. With a rebate and a bonus copy of Civ: Beyond Earth, it was hard to pass up. The GTX 970s still seem to be supply-constrained and I've already got a big case and PSU to deal with those Crossfired 5870s. Running two cards has been fussy from time to time and I think I'll stick with a single card solution for the foreseeable future.

The i7-950 is still a pretty great workhorse CPU. Bloomfield may not be all that efficient, but it is still a beast. We'll see what Skylake offers.

yep def the gpu. the only cpu's that game wont run on are any dual cores and clock freq's doesnt seem to matter much. good choice you will get a wee more frames out of the 290 vs the 970 with DA. with that it should be in the 45-50 range at 1080p. let us know what kind of frame rates you get.
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11-28-2014, 01:01 PM, (This post was last modified: 11-29-2014, 09:50 AM by illiterate monk.)
#5
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
The Sapphire R9 290 came in today and I'm a happy camper. Dragon Age: Inquisition is running at 1920x1080 on Ultra presets in the 40-50 FPS range even in heavy action. The CPU is fine. Thank you for the advice, PwnBroker and Rapajez. You nailed it.
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11-29-2014, 12:46 PM,
#6
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
I just had the same problem and I bought some upgrades and I agree, GPU. I've been running 2X 5850's in x-fire with no difficulties for years until now with DA:inquisition. I used the in-game benchmark test and was running 19fps max to 10fps min and knew I was in trouble so I went out and bough t a new mobo, cpu and a radeon HD 280x. Glad to see that you're running it fine now :-) as more games coming out will require that kind of power down the road. It's like suddenly pc games have made a cosmic leap in game engines requiring much stronger computers with the next one(I mostly play RPG's so I can't speak to shooters or other genres) being Witcher:Wild Hunt which will also reportedly require that same kind of power components.
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11-29-2014, 12:59 PM, (This post was last modified: 11-29-2014, 01:01 PM by illiterate monk.)
#7
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
(11-29-2014, 12:46 PM)galahad1313 Wrote: I went out and bough t a new mobo, cpu and a radeon HD 280x. Glad to see that you're running it fine now :-) as more games coming out will require that kind of power down the road. It's like suddenly pc games have made a cosmic leap in game engines requiring much stronger computers with the next one(I mostly play RPG's so I can't speak to shooters or other genres) being Witcher:Wild Hunt which will also reportedly require that same kind of power components.

What kind of results are you getting with the 280x? Resolution, detail level, FPS? I'm getting ready to upgrade my wife's machine as well, but I'm not sure I want to plunk down the cash for another 290. She does want to play DA:I and the new Witcher as well, but she's less picky about detail level than me. I'm trying to get a feel for how the 280x, 280, and perhaps even the 270 handle it.
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11-29-2014, 03:24 PM,
#8
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
with a 280x you can expect between 40 and 45 fps average at 1080p on ultra x2msaa.
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11-29-2014, 03:36 PM,
#9
RE: CPU vs. GPU Limited: Running Dragon Age Inquisition on an older powerhouse
I haven't installed anything yet as I'm not confident I can but I'll let you know and/or confirm pawnbroker's numbers once it's all done. I finally found someone to do a house call on a Saturday and he'll give me a bit of a price break as I couldn't bring this heavy HD to him at his shop because of a torn muscle in my back shoveling snowfall after snowfall after snowfall lol Not as young and fit as I used to be, can't do this daily shoveling a foot and a 1/2 daily(slight exaggeration).
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