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After years of always having the model of "last year" and thus suffering small but annoying lag in 3D games, I want to ensure that I get a top notch model that can play this year's games with -no- lag.

What are the critical factors?

  1. 3D graphics card. Looking at GeForce GTX cards (780 in particular).
  2. The RAM.
  3. The HD (SSD)

But I understand after reading online (and playing games for years) that it's not only the 3D graphics card, but the bottleneck that has to be identified.

So, how do I find this bottleneck when evaluating new computers?

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  • Benchmarking tools will go a long way. Looking at specs of other people's gaming rigs should also do the trick if you don't want to invest too much time into research. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 9:28
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    Don't forget the CPU. Also, I wouldn't typically associate the Hard Drive with in-game lag. Generally speaking I'd expect a SSD would mostly reduce loading times. Although this might depend heavily on the games being played. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 10:10
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    And welcome to Arqade! While I believe we might be able to help you with your overall question (How to find the performance bottleneck), it might be wise to ensure your question is not asking for recommendations or opinions on a specific part, as Shopping reccomendations are considered off-topic. Just a friendly heads up in case any of our higher reputation users has an itchy close button finger and doesn't get beyond the second paragraph. Commented Aug 16, 2014 at 10:27
  • Thanks! I will ensure to post questions that do not ask for specific purchase recommendations. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 15:12

3 Answers 3

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Different games have different requirements and therefore reveal different bottlenecks.

Graphics: If you have low framerates and lowering the graphics settings returns you to high framerates, you may have a graphics bottleneck. If you do opt for a beefier graphics card, be sure your powersupply can handle it.

CPU: If you can play the game in small conditions, but performance degrades into larger conditions (where more is happening, but not more showing on the screen), you may have a CPU bottleneck. Test this with different map sizes (Civ5 - old), different player and unit counts (Starcraft2 - old).

Memory: If you are using virtual memory at all, you should probably get more memory.

Network: This resource doesn't depend on the computer. There are many out of game tools to use. speedtest.net can show you at the moment what your network is like. Can you stream down to your computer, how many streams (find the limit)? Can you stream up from your computer, what quality? Also consider if your home network is shared and that part of the bandwidth may be diverted to other computers.

Most bottlenecks are between these 4 resources.

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4 : the CPU, which is #1.

When you buy a computer, that's what you're looking for. Everything else is easy to upgrade or, if labeled correctly as a gamer, it already comes with the best other stuff possible.

Now 2022, in 2014 GPUs were about to go nuts and have since trapped any CPU that isn't absolutely top notch as the bottleneck. That you're going to have an SSD and the best ram that fits is a given or it isn't a game box. Also, you're spending over $1k just to get 30fps or less at 4k on ultra. If you want 4k at 60hz, then you're spending $3k or more. If you're not into 4k on ultra, then these days anything will work.

Spend all your money on the CPU. Don't put a $600 GPU in a $300 computer and expect it to do stuff. I always saw marginal performance increases when upgrading video cards. But then I went from an ancient i7 quad core to a hyper-threaded Ryzen sexta-core with 14nm technology. It's more than twice as good, with only half again as many cores, at 4k Hz instead of 3.5k Hz.

Hyper threaded (always, because why teh eff not?) As many cores as you can afford. Get the smallest chip spacing available (e.g., "14nm") with the highest Hz you can afford (both base speed and OC'ed). Everything else follows.

If you spend enough money on a prebuilt box, if it comes with a monster of a processor, it's probably got sufficient other stuff. But saving money by being cheap on the CPU, to later have some for upgrading anything else, is silly.

I spent ~$1k on mine. There's nothing that needs to be done to it. And my only buyer's remorse is that there's nothing that can be done to it. Oh well, I guess I'll just go play Fallout 4 (modded, on super-duper) ultra, at 4k, at my measly +/-30fps.... My only true regret is that it caps out with 2666MHz DDR4 RAM.

A modern i7 is better than a Ryzen 7 by 15~20%. But it's also twice as expensive (~$300 vs $600). And when it comes in a prebuilt, more like triple.

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  • #2 is the motherboard, for it's upper limit on RAM speed. DDR4 probably isn't a bottleneck for me, but with no room for improvement (it doesn't even have any PCI slots ffs...), when I need to upgrade and therefore buy the next one, there's nothing to salvage from this one except the SSDs, because the MB is already maxed out inside my $1k computer, so we can be pretty sure it was all last year's stuff. - The only question is how many FPS is acceptable, at what resolution, and for what price. 85% as fast and one third the price sounds good to me.
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 4:22
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Personal experience tells me that, in PCs used for gaming, the graphics card is usually the bottleneck. This is because games are not very CPU/HDD/Memory intensive as much as graphically intensive.

For gaming (as a rule of thumb) you should spend as much as you can in the GPU (GTX 780 and similar are very good), then if you have 8 GBs of RAM, a good Intel i5 processor and an SSD with high read speeds you are good to go (even though you could go for a quad core i7 if you plan to stream while playing).

If one of your components doesn't match these rough guidelines, than that component is likely the bottleneck of your system.

I would put the components in this order:

  1. GPU
  2. CPU
  3. RAM
  4. HDD/SSD

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