Sim PC components and priorities - 2020

We’ve had a few different PC build sanity check threads this year, which have been useful references.

I’ve slowly started to do my homework about PC components, with end-of-year sales in mind…and a few questions have come to mind. Mostly my questions are around components other than graphics cards, since the nVidia RTX 3080/3090 thread is actively discussing those (and I’m planning to keep my 1080Ti going for a little while, yet).

CPUs

  • I appreciate you get what you pay for and the top-end i9-10900 will do great, if you’re happy to drop that kind of money…but would I be right in having the impression that for most of our purposes (flight sims such as DCS, X-plane etc.), single-core performance is still the most important thing? For the specific purpose of current flight sims - how much of a case of diminishing returns is it to buy i7 or i9 CPUs, when you could OC an i5-10600K to almost the same clock speeds for less than 50% of the cost? Are you just throwing money at features you will never benefit from?

  • My second question is - if you have an old spare GPU hanging around for emergencies, is there any benefit in buying a K-series rather than KF? I understand KF stand for no integrated graphics, which would only be useful if you had a GPU failure - is that correct?

I’m just working through Tom’s hardware, Gamers Nexus etc. to get up to speed on what’s out there these days so I’ll be posting a few more dumb questions here about other components…thanks for your patience! :smiley:

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Maybe this is outdated, but when I was looking at CPUs and single core performance a little while back, the Ryzen 3000 series actually beat Intel. So you might want to consider those.

I think your suspicions are valid, but am not 100% sure.
About overclockomg: the results tend to vary by chip, and the I7 chips are usually higher quality: they used to be selected from a common assembly line by measuring overclocking potential (binned).

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I chose an i5 of the previous (9x00) series last summer. The gains from going latest and greatest were not sufficient to cover the price differentials of chip and board. Of course I wasted those gains on a stupidly fast ram purchase.

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@Freak I shouldn’t overlook AMD, should I - it sounds like they have caught up or even surpasses Intel in some ways. I need to check whether my single core performance assumptions are even correct.

@schurem yes - that RAM speed is another area of concern: I’d love to know how much of a difference it makes in our specific context. I need to read up on that stuff…I think the mobo has some requirements in making use of the speeds too.

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Well my experience is: there is such a thing as too fast. My ram has an XMP profile at 4ghz. This renders the machine unstable, the mainboard and/or CPU just can’t keep up.

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My experiences:

  1. Intel is still king in gaming performance by 10%. So it‘s mostly about comparing cost.
  2. Yes, single thread performance is important. More expensive CPUs are not always faster in clock rate!
  3. But, more and more games make use of multiple cores, like msfs 2020. Go for 8 cores.
  4. Buy mid range spec RAM, nothing cheap and not overly „enthusiastic“ either (see post above)
  5. NVMe. Trust me.
  6. Manual overclocking is a thing of the past. All CPU/GPU have this built in now, fully automated. It is called Boosting. The chip will boost until it hits the thresholds for temperature or power consumption. So what you do nowadays is massive cooling, and maybe open up power thresholds by configuration. But cooling alone will do a lot.
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There is also PCIe 4.0 and DDR5 looming on the horizon (PCIe is already available on some of the top tier offerings, it’ll probably be another year or so before we get consumer-grade DDR5). That may mean that what you’re aiming to get on black friday may not be as future-proof as hoped unless you have no intentions of doing a mid-life upgrade.

The one thing that high-end CPU’s had that could improve performance in sims was hyperthreading. There is some hefty discussion if it actually helped or not, with some people claiming it did and others that it did not. When I have it on on my 7700k I do notice a slight improvement but it may not be worth the bang for your buck. Ever since the 2019 hyperthreading hacks, this technology seems to be going the way of the dodo.

I think you’ll be fine with a CPU without on-board graphics. I never used it either.

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My opinion on K vs. KF:

KF originated so Intel could sell more units during production not meeting demand. They took CPU’s that would normally fail Q/C due to a bad GPU and then disabled it and sell it as a KF. It’s not an evil thing to do - most six core chips for example were octa core chips with one or two bad cores disabled. Same idea, applied differently.

With the onboard GPU disabled you may have a marginal increase in available thermal headroom for overclocking but I doubt it’s enough to really care about.

The fact about having onboard as a backup during GPU failure? I’d keep it just for that! If you have a second PC for general purpose use, then it doesn’t matter. If you are an one machine kinda guy, have that onboard there, especially if the budget for a replacement GPU won’t be easy to come by for a while (don’t bet on warranty).

A K can also be used without a GPU intentionally, if you hand down old hardware to spouse/kids. If they don’t need a dedicated GPU, removing it saves on power usage. I built my dad’s new tower with a 9th gen I5 and no GPU - his office is no longer a boiler room! (Came from an i7-920 gen1 / my old 560TI).

Yup, this is the single best bang for buck on new boards.

AMD has boards with PCIe 4.0 - does anyone know how close we get to maxing out PCIe3 x16 with current (30xx) GPUs? Last I heard was around the 10xx cards and they weren’t close, I recall debates if x8 mode was really a penalty or not (for cases where you have other PCIe cards attached).

For the Intel 10th gen everything got hyperthreading and therefore jumped up the scale a bit. 9900k is 8C/16T and the 9700K is 8C/8T. Go to tenth gen and the 10900 is 10C/20T while the 10700 is 8C/16T. So the new I7 is the old I9 essentially. The I5 doesn’t change up to the I7 but it is now 6C/12T instead of 6/6 so that’s still a big jump.

Schurem is right, there is a too fast. We’ll still benefit from quantity before quality so start at 32GB. Most “on the box” speeds are actually XMP profiles. The CPU and Motherboard dictate base speed. 9th gen was 2133 to 2666. 10th gen Intel is around 2933. Someone else can quote AMD haha! :grin:

You also can lose with XMP - you may get faster clocks but the latencies also go up which may be worse. That’s an application-specific research project. Last I read, added latency was bad for DCS but these newer 3000mhz plus profiles may get different results.

If you don’t overclock, you can still buy OC capable RAM and just let it run at the base speed, just buy whatever is more economical.

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I honestly don’t think we’ll cap out on bandwidth soon but the higher bandwidths result in faster transit times which may help a bit with minimum fps. the video makes clear that it doesn’t really matter for most titles.only titles producing insane FPS see a marginal benefit on current hardware.

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FWIW, PCIE 4.0 seems to be measurably faster in benchmarks but not in real world apps. So if you test you’ll see the 4.0 beats the 3.0, but in every day usage the rest of the system can’t keep up with the 3.0 and the 4’s extra performance is single-digit % faster.

If you get a new AMD system, go for it, but otherwise don’t worry about it. It is a bonus if you go with AMD anyway, it is not itself a reason to go AMD.

I had slow RAM years ago when running Win7 and I remember I saw a big jump in the built-in PC score when I upgraded to fast RAM, but the actual performance was about 10-15% jump. That was my i7-2600k. Get good RAM, but don’t splurge, that only gets you benchmark bragging rights.

As for cores, you get diminishing returns. Four plus hypertheading used to be the best, but there were indications that HT could slow you down in some apps. It now seems like 8 is the sweet spot, 8 REAL cores. If you have HT as well, that might help, but not noticeably. Same with going for 10 or more real cores, even if the program uses them it will likely just be underloading the others and spreading it out.

With my 8 core 9700k I only ever see 100% on the initial loading for a game or two. Once you’re in the game the thing stays below 75% the entire time and spends most of it below 30%. AMD is a bit different because they have more cores by default, but again once you’re in the mid range you’re set.

I see no reason to spend over $400 on a CPU, and haven’t in over a decade, because the performance at that price is sufficient for all games. Better to spend the savings on the GPU because they matter more. Throw $200 more on the CPU and it will give a single digit % improvement, throw that at the GPU and you will probably see double digit. YMMV.

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MS DirectStorage / NVIDIA RTX IO might be a reason to have PCIe 4 in the future. It‘s unclear when and if it will be relevant/significant.

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I’ve been watching the Gamers Nexus reviews and tests - their take seems to be that i5-10600K is pretty good value for money, whereas the i7-10700K is a bit harder to justify.

The price difference in NZ is decent - NZ$419 for i5-10600KF vs NZ$599 for i7-10700KF.

So, initially I thought - i5 is probably best value for money. However…looking at the two side by side, for our specific simming purposes, I am starting to wonder. The key differences are:

  • Core count (6 vs 8) - not a factor with DCS or XP, could be a factor with FS2020 (I don’t have it yet)

  • Higher clock speed - max turbo frequency 4.80GHz vs 5.10GHz

  • the i7 uses Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, which supposedly helps up to 15% with single core performance by pushing the workloads of single-threaded applications over the 2 best cores

  • Memory types: i5 - DDR4-2666 vs i7 DDR4-2933 - so the i5 base speed is of the “previous generation”.

It is diminishing returns, for sure…especially since I don’t have FS2020 yet: 42% more cost for probably less than 42% increase in performance…but having said that, the higher clock speed, later version of the boost and more cores might be worth the extra NZ$180 for a simmer right now.

The other consideration is that GPUs age faster than CPUs despite their (generally) higher price.
That i7 will last you 3 years easy and possibly more than that, so if you take how many years you plan on using it and divide, well then you could say “under $200/year for CPU” vs a possibly $1000 GPU that will last 3 years tops being “$300/year for GPU”.
The i5 will cost you less, but it also won’t be as long before you need to upgrade. It depends on your cycle.

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Ordered new CPU cooler just yesterday. Noticed that my Intel F CPU hits the default critical temperature quite often.

So as you mentioned, it is auto boosted CPU and the fan is the bottleneck it seems - it reaches the max temp before max clock. I would never believe that (in the past I had either obsolete drivers or the boost was not dynamic as nowadays) :slight_smile:

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