CPU or Video Card limited ? What to upgrade first?

Pro Member Trainee
Remy (Remyx) Trainee


my current setup is working OK with FS2004 but could be faster. I ran FSX demo with high quality graphics and the framerate fell to 10-12fps.

Now I am wondering wether an upgrading the video card will help get more decent performance, or if I am limited by the CPU at this point.

If a video card upgrade can be performed for a reasonable cost (less than $140) I may go that route and extend the life of my system by an other year.

If not, I may just have to wait and get a build a new system next spring.
I typically run the screen at 1024x768 resolution.

Anyway, here are the system specs, let me know what you think:

CPU AMD Athlon XP 2800+
Memory 1GB DDR400 PC3200
Video Card ATI 9600XT (128MB)

The video card upgrade I am loking at could include:
- ATI 9800 Pro or XT
- Nvidia 6600GT
- ATI Radeon X1600 / X1650
- Nvidia 7600GS

Thank you,

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Pro Member Chief Captain
Tailhook Chief Captain

Hi Remyx,

I would not upgrade to a more powerful GFX card whilst retaining the same CPU for fear I might be creating a bottleneck - meaning that possibly my old CPU will not be able to do a more powerful GFX justice.

Instead, seeing that you're prepared to indulge in a new system in spring anyway, I would pick up another GB of RAM to make it a total of 2GB.
It should improve your FPS as well.

Pro Member Trainee
Remy (Remyx) Trainee

Thanks, I thought about adding RAM too.

However on my current motherboard, I'd loose dual channel if I add one more memory module.

So I could add a 512MB for not too much money, loosing dual channel in the process.

Or I could replace my existing 2 x 512MB with 2 x 1GB. This would save dual channel, for about $300. I'd say it's too much for for this system (and for new memory that I couldn't reuse in a new system - DDR vs DDR2).

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Greekman72 Chief Captain

If you don't plan to get Vista(Cause of DX10 which needs New GFX's technology) then go for a new card.You will notice differences in your system's perfromance.
Adding more RAM would help more.Nvidia 6600GT is a fine and value for money solution 😉

Pro Member Trainee
Remy (Remyx) Trainee

Thanks for the input.

Since the last post, I actually got few things done.
- added 512MB, to reach 1.5GB total
- replaced 9600XT with 9800Pro
- overclocked CPU a bit more

I can't say adding RAM produce a noticeable difference. At least not in the FSX demo.
Then I put the new video card, with certainly improved FPS quite significantly.
I managed to squeeze an other 5% overclock, can't hurt either.

I think I'm done for now. This should help me for the next 6 to 10 months, then a new system will be in order, for Vista, DX10 and all the new stuff.

Thanks again for the info.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Tailhook Chief Captain

Glad to hear you've got it sorted out. Looking forward to hear about your new system when the time comes. 😀

Pro Member Trainee
Remy (Remyx) Trainee

Since the last post O got my hands on a new video card: Nvidia 7800GS.

Some I managed to review 3 video cards on my system.

CPU AMD Athlon XP 3000+
Memory 1.5GB DDR 400

Video Card 1: ATI Radeon 9600XT
Video Card 2: ATI Radeon 9800Pro
Video Card 3: Nvidia 7800GS

Running FSX in 1024x768x32, it became clear that CPU is the main limit in my system.
Going from the 9600XT to the 9800Pro, I saw a significant increase in fps (from 6-8 to 11-12). However the 7800GS, a much more powerful card, did not give me a better framerate. Still in the 11-14 range.

I was able to scale up the resolution, but the framerate remained under 15 no matter what.
This leads me to believe my system is CPU limited for FSX. I will be looking at a new system later in the year, waiting for Vista and Direct X 10 to materialize.


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