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Old 2012-12-02, 04:09 PM   [Ignore Me] #1
Ailos
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Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience. (Updated 1/17/13)


Hi everyone!

So a lot of folks have issues with PlanetSide 2 underperforming compared to other modern games (BF3, Skyrim, NFSU, whatever).

I've been playing PS2 from early Beta and through that time frame, I've experienced the numerous patches and optimizations applied to the game by the developers as well as some tweaks posted around the interwebs. In that time, I've also gone from:

Phenom II X4 955 BE @3.8GHz, 8GB of DDR3-1333 RAM and 2x Radeon HD 5770 1GB in Crossfire
to
Intel Core i5-3570K @4.2GHz, 16GB of DDR3-2133 and a single GTX 680 4GB.

I've also played this game on a Llano-based AMD A6-3650 with Radeon HD 6530D graphics and just 4 GB of RAM.

The moral of all that is: this game can run on a very large swathe of hardware, but you obviously won't get the same experience everywhere. So if you're having issues with your set-up, be it a low-, mid-, or high-end keep reading and you might find something useful here.

How to use this guide
This guide is structured somewhere between a doctor's handbook and an engineering troubleshooting guide. We will first try to diagnose which part of your system is causing you grief, and then attempt to remedy that in steps of increasing severity, where the first steps are simple, require only a few clicks, but may not yield much improvement, through driver-based settings overrides, and all the way to overclocking levels. Along the way, I will also suggest low-hanging fruit upgrades that may change your experience significantly.
Use this guide at your own risk. Whenever possible, I shall attempt to warn you of potential issues in good faith and personal experience, but I cannot predict everything. Taking certain steps (e.g. overclocking) may cause you to void your hardware warranties, and such steps will be written in this orange color. I assume no liability for broken or faulty hardware as a result of steps taken. If you don't know what the settings mean, don't change them! At a minimum, if you don't know something, read up before you change anything. Links to outside guides and other helpful articles and software will also be provided where appropriate.

If you have an overclocked system or a multi-card setup, you may skip to step 4 (but browse through steps 1 and 2 for any low-hanging fruit).

Step 1: What seems to be the problem?
So first, we have to get an idea for what's causing you to have poor performance.
So first things first, let's restate the official minimum requirements:
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 or AMD Phenom II X2 or higher
GPU: GeForce 8600 or Radeon HD 4850 with 256+ MB of VRAM or better
RAM: Min 4 GB of accessible space

Those are relatively liberal requirements. However, I can personally vouch that you could actually get away with using a less powerful graphics card (e.g. a 6530D) and still have a playable experience. With this in mind, here are my empirical minimum requirements (this will give you min 30 FPS in all but the most intense fights on low settings):
CPU: A dual-core processor running at 3 GHz or faster* (Core2Duo or PhenomII X2)
GPU: NVidia 8600 or Radeon HD 3650, Intel HD Graphics 4000 or AMD 6530D (A6-Llano).
RAM: 4 GB of DDR3-1066**
Empirical recommended requirements (this will give you minimum 30 FPS in any situation with all settings on high, provided your resolution is 1080p or lower):
CPU: A quad-core running at 3.5 GHz or faster* (Core i5 2500K or FX4300)
GPU: NVidia 660Ti or Radeon HD 7870, Laptop cards: 680M or 7970M
RAM: 8 GB of DDR3-1600

This game is, admittedly, a very good subject for the "but will it run Crysis?" gag. So in that spirit, and because we also frequently get asked "what is the system that can run the game absolutely flawlessly?", I'm also going to include a best-available configuration that can run the game flawlessly at "Ultra" settings which require messing with useroptions.ini.
Empirical "ultra" setup:
CPU: Latest gen quad-core clocked at 4+ GHz (i5/i7 Ivy Bridge or FX Vishera, the higher clocks, the better).
GPU: GTX 670 or AMD 7950 for single-monitor, GTX 680 or AMD 7970 for multi-monitor below 1080p/screen, or GTX 690 or SLI for surround view (AMD Crossfire is not recommended until stability improves).
RAM: 8 GB of DDR3-2133
Other extras: wired Ethernet connection and dedicated sound card (especially if you're also using a full 5.1/7.1 speaker system).

If your hardware does not meet the above empirical minimum requirements, stop here and start saving money for a new system.

Next, we will begin some troubleshooting. This part draws heavily from a post by SOE developer CyclesMcHurtz during beta, that is now listed on the official SOE help page for PS2.
  1. Start up your PS2 client and go to the warpgate on a mildly-populated continent (you want ~30 people in your vicinity). Step outside the spawn building, walk 10-20 meters off to the side (look both ways, don't get run over!) until you can see the spawn building in your field of view in its entirety.
  2. Press Alt+F to show the in-game FPS counter (bottom-left corner of screen, below the minimap). It will tell you whether you're currently CPU or GPU-bound, note this.
  3. Go to your graphics settings and turn the "Render Quality" slider all the way to 0.5 (yes, the game looks horrible, but this is just a test).
  4. Take note of your new FPS figure and CPU- or GPU-bound status.
  5. Look around and see what happens to your FPS counter when you're looking out into the sky, when you're looking at the ground/mountains around, and when you're looking back at the clusterfuck that is the immediate area around the WG spawn building.
  6. Log out.

At this point, we can start applying tweaks based on what happened in the above test. This is organized in order of severity. Find your scenario, then attempt everything listed below it until the desired result is achieved.
  1. You went from GPU-bound to CPU-bound, and your FPS improved significantly (15+ FPS).
    This simply means your GPU is the culprit. Solutions (use some or all):
    • Turn down your resolution
    • Set Graphics quality, textures, model detail and lighting to low
    • Set shadows to low and uncheck 'Fog shadows'
    • Set Render quality to 0.85-0.9
    • Set PlanetSide2.exe to run with desktop composition disabled. (If you don't know how to do this, reply asking for additional instructions.)
  2. You were and still are GPU bound, but your FPS increased significantly.
    Your GPU is still the culprit; see above. Alternatively, you may overclock your GPU.
  3. You were and still are CPU-bound, and your FPS improved marginally (5-10 FPS).
    This is where we start getting into grey areas.
    Simple things to change (may not yield any results):
    • Turn down terrain quality.
    • Turn down the audio quality.
    More tricky things to change (credit: t.Rek from official forums):
    • In your useroptions.ini file (if you don't know what this is or where to find it, ask), in the [Rendering] section, set:
    • RenderDistance=1005.000000
    • ParticleDistanceScale=0.650000
    • MaxVoices=30 (Credit: HiroshiChugi)
    • RenderFlora=Off (Credit: HiroshiChugi)
    • If you have an NVidia card, set GPUPhysix=1
    • See the note below about system memory.
  4. You went from GPU-bound to CPU-bound, but your FPS did not improve much.
    This means your CPU is a big limiting factor. Try the tweaks above, and run the test again.
    • If you're running on a laptop or a desktop with a wireless connection, try running through a wired network - latency is a BIG thing in PS2.
    • Credit: Nalvasa PS2 shows a dependency of having access to plenty of fast memory, with measurable gains all the way to DDR3-2133. If you have the ability, set your memory speed to be higher - e.g. from DDR3 1333 to 1866, enable the higher speed (even if it causes your timings to slip from CAS9 to CAS10 or 11).
    • Alternatively, you may also go straight to overclocking your CPU.



    Step 2: None of it helped
    At this point, our diagnosis probe needs to be widened. See if your system displays any of the following additional symptoms:
  5. PlanetSide 2 freezes or crashes frequently (once an hour or more) during gameplay, including BSOD.
    There are any number of causes for this, including things that we can't do anything about. I should point out that this does not include crashes that happen after you click 'Exit', as this happens to me personally every time, but I do not see this as much of an issue. Steps to mitigate:
    • If you're running under Vista or XP, make sure to run as administrator and disable desktop composition.
    • If you're running the Steam version of the PS2 client, install the Sony Station version of the client (this is also required for you to be actually able to access your useroptions.ini file).
    • If you are running in SurroundView/Eyefinity, disable and run on a single screen.
    • If you have an NVidia card, make sure your drivers are up to date.
    • If you have an AMD/ATI card, roll the drivers back to Catalyst 12.8.
    • In either case, if you are re-installing the drivers make sure to do a complete and clean driver install - that means wipe all current drivers first before installing the new ones.
    • Download CoreTemp and GPU-Z and monitor your CPU and GPU temperatures to make sure they're not overheating (>70C for Intel and AMD FX, Llano or Trinity and; >55 C for AMD Phenom or Athlon; >70 C for any Radeon card, >75C for any NVidia card).
  6. Screen flickers, freezes, shows extra/missing textures, strange colors.
    This is indicative of overheating. See the last bullet above. This is particularly common on laptops or all-in-one platforms.

    Step 3: Easy, cheap upgrades.
    This is easier on desktops simply because, well, they're desktops. These are listed in order of cheapest to most expensive.
  7. If running with 4 GB of RAM, upgrade to 8GB
    If possible, also upgrade to faster RAM, check to see what is the maximum speed your processor and MB can support. If you aren't sure how to do this, make a post asking for help.
  8. If running slow ram (DDR3-1066 and below) upgrade/overclock to faster RAM (DDR3-1600 or higher).
    Section credits: Impaler and Nalvasa
    PlanetSide 2 shows a significant dependency on memory bandwidth. PlanetSide 2 in particular can be constrained by your memory bandwidth in really heavy fights, as certain aspects of Forgelight flat out require CPU processing and cannot be paralleled out or delegated to a CUDA/GCN core. Upgrading to faster RAM may help feed your CPU with data quicker and gain you 10+ FPS in the heaviest of combat if you move from 1066 to 2133. With RAM prices sustaining their historic lows, this upgrade can really make the game come together, but make sure that your motherboard can support the new RAM (check your manual!).
  9. If running with less than 1 GB of GPU VRAM, swap the card.
    Current recommendation is to go with at least a Radeon HD 7750 or NVidia GTX 650.
  10. *Upgrade CPU to higher clock/core count.
    Do this only if you own a socket AM3+ (Phenom II X2 to an FX-6300) or LGA 1155 (a Pentium to an i5-3470) otherboard. Upgrading a CPU outside of these sockets is simply not worth the expense. The question of "Which are more important: cores or gigahertz?" is common. When considering core count versus clock speed, the primary concern is the processor's instruction/cycle throughput for all cores combined. The current situation in the CPU marketplace makes this a difficult decision, since AMD is slower on the throughput but makes up for it somewhat by having more cores, and the fact that both chip makers still sell multiple generations. What we do know is that the game taxes only 4 threads (it does span out to others if they are available, but they add little to performance). This means having slightly slower quad core is better than a faster dual core, but this holds only for chips based on the same architecture. To compare between architectures, refer to the CPU hierarchy chart at the bottom of this post.


    Step 4: Unique situations.
  11. You've got a multi-GPU configuration.
    NVidia's SLI profile for PlanetSide 2 is actually quite good. I wish the same could be said for AMD/ATI.
    • Make sure the game is selected to run as "Full screen" under the graphics settings - multi-GPU is not enabled otherwise.
    • If you have only recently added a second (or third or fourth) GPU, make sure to cleanly re-install the drivers.
    • Using your video card's driver control panel, create an application-specific profile for PlanetSide2.exe that forces Triple Buffering and all filtering presets are on 'Performance' setting.
    • If running NVidia, make sure to set the default PS2 SLI profile. Be sure to have adaptive v-sync enabled (if it's available).
    • If running ATI with a non-7000 series GPU, roll back drivers to Catalyst 12.8; with a 7000 series GPU, install the latest Catalyst Beta drivers.
    • On Crossfire setups, go to CCC>3D Application Profiles>"New Application" and create a custom profile with the following settings for PlanetSide2.exe: V-Sync:Force On, Triple Buffer: Force On, Crossfire Mode: AFR-Friendly.
    • On ATI/AMD setups, download and install Radeon Pro. Then go to Tweaks, and select: VSync Control: Always On, check Triple Buffering, check Dynamic Framerate Control and set it to 45 or 50 FPS. Here you can also try and see which anti-aliasing profile works best for you.
  12. You're running PS2 through a wireless connection.
    PS2 relies heavily on server-client communication, and any unnecessary latency between you and the server will create issues.
    • If you're playing on a server outside your locale (e.g. you're playing on Australia but you're in Germany), try playing on a local server.
    • Try using a wired ethernet cable.
  13. You've got an asymmetric RAM setup (i.e. your RAM is running in single-channel mode).
    You might ask, what is an asymmetric RAM setup? Your setup is asymmetric if there are different sticks installed in each slot/channel. This is commonly done with careless upgrading in the interest of pursuing the highest amount of system RAM, for example: an old machine had 4 GB of RAM, and the owner bought a pair of 4 GB sticks to bring that number up to 12 GB of system memory. While this upgrade sounds good on paper, in most cases, this actually does more harm than good. Most modern CPUs have built-in memory controllers so that they can have more direct communication with the system memory, and most of these controllers are dual-channel (i7-930 are triple channel and SandyBridge-E are quad-channel). Most motherboards thus require that identical modules be installed in all populate slots to actually run in these faster modes, and when different memory modules are detected, the controllers will usually turn to single-channel mode, halving your memory bandwidth. This happens even if the capacities are the same, but one pair is capable of faster speeds than the other, or if they have differing voltage requirements. So, long story short: mixing sticks to get more capacity =/= better performance. Unless there is an uncommon, specific need for you to have a higher capacity, either remove the smaller or slower pair, and your performance - at least in PS2 - should improve.
  14. **You're running using integrated graphics.
    Though this game can technically run, you can't expect to be able to play on maximum eye candy settings. With integrated graphics, RAM is tricky. When using integrated graphics, (Intel or Llano/Trinity), your system RAM also serves as your VRAM. In this case, you can have 4 GB of fast RAM (DDR3-2133+) or 8 GB of slower RAM (DDR3 -1333 or -1600). The two will give you roughly similar performance, but the exact increase you may get from faster RAM or more RAM depends on your integrated graphics. Intel HD 4000 is pretty asthmatic and will be the worst performer, while Trinity is powerful enough to demand both more RAM and higher-speed RAM.
  15. You overclocked your system prior to playing PS2.
    PlanetSide 2 is a very temperamental client, and tends to be less tolerant to various overclocking faults than other games, or even Windows itself. If you pushed your system to the limit at the expense of some instability, I recommend dialing down until you achieve as close to perfect stability as Windows allows. PlanetSide 2 also has a pretty weird response to overclocking, and performance improves in steps: going from 3.4 to 4.0 GHz yields little, but bumping it slightly higher to 4.2 can give an extra 10 FPS in the heaviest of fights. More interestingly, based on numerous reports on the official forums and my own experience with 2 difference CPUs, that behavior is independent of which exact CPU model you're running.



Well, that's it for now. I hope this guide help you get some extra frames in those tough fights and in the end, made you a better soldier on the battlefield! Please make comments and suggestions for any improvements to this guide, and post about your experience!

Useful links:
Graphics card performance hierarchy
Gaming CPU performance hierarchy
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Last edited by Ailos; 2013-01-21 at 11:56 AM.
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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2012-12-02, 04:20 PM   [Ignore Me] #2
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I am very impressed at the thorough guide. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into this!

[Sent from the outskirts of the Oort cloud]
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Old 2012-12-02, 04:22 PM   [Ignore Me] #3
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Originally Posted by CyclesMcHurtz View Post
I am very impressed at the thorough guide. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into this!

[Sent from the outskirts of the Oort cloud]
Glad you like it
I'm not completely selfless here, I'm hoping this encourages more cannon-fodder to log in daily.
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Old 2012-12-02, 04:24 PM   [Ignore Me] #4
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Good stuff man nice work!
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Old 2012-12-02, 05:30 PM   [Ignore Me] #5
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


GPUPhysix=1


That can actually help in case of CPU bound? :o
Cycles, can you give some intel here? Does PhysX just add some new fancy effects, or does it move some work from the CPU to the GPU?
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Old 2012-12-02, 06:05 PM   [Ignore Me] #6
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Originally Posted by basti View Post
GPUPhysix=1


That can actually help in case of CPU bound? :o
Cycles, can you give some intel here? Does PhysX just add some new fancy effects, or does it move some work from the CPU to the GPU?
I don't know what it does, but I can personally vouch that it helps get an extra 5 FPS or so in really tight battles.
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Old 2012-12-02, 06:34 PM   [Ignore Me] #7
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


I run an i5 2500k and a GTX 570, and I switch between CPU and GPU limited at the warpgate, so that combo is pretty even. In any battle, it becomes CPU limited. My brother has an i7 2700k and a GTX 670 and he's majority CPU limited all the time.

What I infer from the way the game performs is that it is not CPU or GPU limited, but memory bandwidth limited. This will still show up as CPU limited, so it's kinda hard to diagnose. One key symptom of this is the game being CPU bottlenecked while not fully stressing the cores - the cores are able to get the data out quicker than the memory bus can process it to the other components. A couple MMO engines I've played on previously (most notably Gamebryo: Warhammer Online & Rift) were notorious for being limited this way.

AMD's memory bandwidth is behind Intel's for the current generation by 20-30%, so an Intel processor will almost always run the game better than an AMD. A basic tree for performance (processor wise) would be:

Core 2 Duo/Quad = Phenom II = Llano
Trinity = Bulldozer FX = Nehalem (original i7s)
Piledriver FX
Sandy Bridge = Ivy Bridge

I think that better performance of the engine may be gained by using the fastest RAM clock speed & latency possible. I use 9-9-9 DDR3 @ 1600; at least in my case, I could go much higher.
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Old 2012-12-02, 07:29 PM   [Ignore Me] #8
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Originally Posted by Impaler View Post
I run an i5 2500k and a GTX 570, and I switch between CPU and GPU limited at the warpgate, so that combo is pretty even. In any battle, it becomes CPU limited. My brother has an i7 2700k and a GTX 670 and he's majority CPU limited all the time.

What I infer from the way the game performs is that it is not CPU or GPU limited, but memory bandwidth limited. This will still show up as CPU limited, so it's kinda hard to diagnose. One key symptom of this is the game being CPU bottlenecked while not fully stressing the cores - the cores are able to get the data out quicker than the memory bus can process it to the other components. A couple MMO engines I've played on previously (most notably Gamebryo: Warhammer Online & Rift) were notorious for being limited this way.

AMD's memory bandwidth is behind Intel's for the current generation by 20-30%, so an Intel processor will almost always run the game better than an AMD. A basic tree for performance (processor wise) would be:

Core 2 Duo/Quad = Phenom II = Llano
Trinity = Bulldozer FX = Nehalem (original i7s)
Piledriver FX
Sandy Bridge = Ivy Bridge

I think that better performance of the engine may be gained by using the fastest RAM clock speed & latency possible. I use 9-9-9 DDR3 @ 1600; at least in my case, I could go much higher.
That is a very good point. I'll update the OP with that information in a little bit.
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Click here to go to the next VIP post in this thread.   Old 2012-12-02, 07:38 PM   [Ignore Me] #9
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Originally Posted by Ailos View Post
That is a very good point. I'll update the OP with that information in a little bit.
It's an EXTREMELY important point. As a coder, it's come to the point where you have to treat some kinds of memory access the same way we treat hard disk or network access - the slowest of the slow.

When I first started in this industry (and this will show my age) I was working on a 65c02 processor, where memory was the only option. There was no cache. The SNES and Genesis both had faster processors, but still no cache. The first machine I worked on with a real cache system was PC's with the intel 386, but since the PC market didn't have them everywhere you couldn't rely on it.

Since I cut my teeth on systems where you (quite literally) counted every machine cycle I still cringe at even some of the basic C++ constructs (cough-cough-virtual-functions-cough-cough) that other coders take for granted.
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Old 2012-12-02, 07:45 PM   [Ignore Me] #10
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Oh, interresting.

How could I improve that for myself? Overclock my FSB?
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Old 2012-12-02, 10:51 PM   [Ignore Me] #11
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


It's an EXTREMELY important point. As a coder, it's come to the point where you have to treat some kinds of memory access the same way we treat hard disk or network access - the slowest of the slow.
One of the reasons to make sure you have more than enough RAM. Going from the CPU cache to the RAM is one thing, but if you have to access data on a mechanical drive, it slows it down even more. I wouldn't think of running PS2 without 8 gigs for that reason alone.

How could I improve that for myself? Overclock my FSB?
Working with FSB overclocks is probably the simplest way to boost the whole system, in tandem with dropping the CPU multiplier if you don't want to scale that too. I've only done FSB overclocking on older AMD systems (pre-Phenom), but the more recent ones shouldn't be too hard.

Intel machines, from what I understand, are less happy with this tweak because the FSB runs the PCI express bus and some other things that the AMD chips have an independent clock for.

I haven't done any RAM overclocking since it can be a long process. You have to adjust voltage, the FSB, the multiplier, and then fiddle with the individual timings. I use my gaming computer as my main system, so I'm more concerned about data corruption than cranking my RAM speed up.

As per a component switch, RAM isn't too expensive currently, so you could look for a high end set and just drop it in your machine. For example, I see an 8G 2133 9-11-10-28 set for $60, while an 8G 1600 9-9-9-24 is $40-45. So, that's an extra $20 for a 15-30% performance boost. You do have to have a motherboard that can support the higher speeds though.
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Old 2012-12-03, 12:08 AM   [Ignore Me] #12
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


FSB doesn't really even exist any more. If you have Intel but don't have an unlocked multiplier (Intel k-series) you adjust Bclock. That fiddles with basically everything and you're not going to get much out of it.

On memory.
You're not going to see 15% more real world performance going for 2133 over 1600.
That $20 is a full %50 increase in cost. And that kind of memory is prone to incompatibility and instability.
Going out and replacing your 8gb of DDR1333 with 8gb of 2133 is probably one of the least cost effective things you could do, IMO.
If you're in the midst of a comprehensive upgrade that $20 is probably better spend on CPU or GPU.
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Old 2012-12-03, 02:03 PM   [Ignore Me] #13
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Originally Posted by Rbstr View Post
FSB doesn't really even exist any more. If you have Intel but don't have an unlocked multiplier (Intel k-series) you adjust Bclock. That fiddles with basically everything and you're not going to get much out of it.

On memory.
You're not going to see 15% more real world performance going for 2133 over 1600.
That $20 is a full %50 increase in cost. And that kind of memory is prone to incompatibility and instability.
Going out and replacing your 8gb of DDR1333 with 8gb of 2133 is probably one of the least cost effective things you could do, IMO.
If you're in the midst of a comprehensive upgrade that $20 is probably better spend on CPU or GPU.
I want to echo this somewhat. Going from DDR2-800 to DDR3-1600 will give you a noticeable performance improvement. Going beyond 1600 currently shows little additional gain. I am not of the sort of person that recommends swapping your DDR3-1333 for a -1866 (that's a consideration that I had personally as well) simply because that won't justify spending the $60+ on the premium kit that can support higher speeds but also no doubt comes with some pretty heat sinks. But if you're building a system, most modern mobos (Intel and AMD alike) support DDR3-1600 at the default configuration, and there's really no reason to go below that.
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Old 2012-12-03, 06:00 PM   [Ignore Me] #14
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


I own a Laptop (Toshiba Satellite L750-1MF) and I would like to know if it's possible to upgrade the hardware.
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Old 2012-12-03, 06:13 PM   [Ignore Me] #15
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Re: Low FPS? Ailos' guide to having a better experience.


Short answer: No

Long answer: You can probably add more ram
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