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Bottlenecks Explained (Revised 10/26/2012)

post #1 of 23
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I've seen a few other threads on this, but none of them adequately explained the fact that a bottleneck isn't necessarily bad (eek.gif Read on, I WILL explain)

For starters, I've seen a ton of people lately asking "will this bottleneck my GPU?" or "Help! I've got a huge bottleneck!!".... facepalm.gif

Really? I don't think so, and I hope that after reading this you will better understand what a bottleneck is. And then maybe OCN members won't immediately refer to any unsatisfactory game/benchmark performance as a bottleneck. So we're gonna start with the basics:

A bottleneck is, simply put, the slowest part of your system. A bottleneck is the point in the system (computers, in this instance) where data is being held back. It is the component which is working at 100% and still cannot keep up with the maximum potential of the other components. Sometimes bottlenecks are not a bad thing.

STOP. Yes, I just said that. SOMETIMES bottlenecks are not a bad thing.

I know, its hard to understand, but listen to this. Let's say your running 4 780ti's (6GB of course.... smile.gif ) in SLI and you've overclocked them. You have easily the most powerful graphics setup available there (within reason. Sure, Nvidia Teslas may be more powerful, but we're sticking with consumer electronics for argument sake). So let's say you pair them with an i7-2600k. That's a very poweful CPU right there running eight threads and with a monster cache.

Well, that powerful CPU is going to bottleneck the graphics cards. And that's not a bad thing! When playing Crysis, you might "only" get 100FPS. Your 4 GPU's are going to be running at about 40-50% capacity, while your CPU is maxxed out. And yet we call this a bottleneck?

Well, surely with 100fps, that's ok, right? Of COURSE it is! If you are getting the performance you want and you have a bottleneck, then that is OK! It is literally impossible to build a computer where all components are perfectly matched with eachother. You simply cannot find RAM, Processor, Graphics Card, motherboard, etc. that are ALL of the EXACT same power. SOMETHING is going to be running at 100% to keep up with the other components.

So I say again, if you are getting the performance you want, you MAY still have a bottleneck, but it's not a harmful one! It's ok to max out a component, and have other only using 60% of their potential IF you're getting the performance you want.

So the next time you are tempted to ask, "Hey, is this bottlenecking my system?" Be prepared for people to say YES, and also know that it is not always a bad thing!

_____________________________________________________________

Right, so now that we've covered the non harmful bottlenecks, let's look at the ones that CAN be a problem.

If you're running a Pentium IV with 8gigs of RAM and an Nvidia GTX 680.....then you will have yourself a pretty ridiculous bottleneck. That Pentium IV is going to be running at 100% power to keep up with the RAM and Graphics card. And it won't even come close to reaching their potential. Now let's say you play Crysis and you're getting 5fps. NOW you have a bottleneck worth mentioning. This would be a situation where a post on the forums WOULD be in order (if you couldn't figure it out yourself). Because, we of the OCN community are gonna tell you right away that your Processor needs a SERIOUS upgrade.

So how do you detect a bottleneck? Well, unfortunately, it's not always so easy.

When they released Vista, Microsoft saw that people were buying the myth of "Oh! If I get 8 gigs of RAM vs 6 gigs, my computer will be 25% faster! facepalm.gif

The amount of RAM doesn't really...nevermind. offtopic.gif

So Microsoft shipped Vista (and Win7) with a feature called "Windows Experience Index". This is a 5-metric rating system that will give your Processor, RAM, Standard graphics, Gaming Graphics, and Hard Drive a score from 1.0 to 7.9. It will also highlight your slowest component for you.

Windows-Experience-Index.png

In this picture, Windows has identified the slowest component as the standard graphics, at a 5.0.

So it seemed to be great! Windows shipped with a built in bottlneck detection tool! Finally, people can actually see what is slowing down their system and they won't immediately assume they need more RAM.

Well it wasn't to be. In spite of their valiant efforts, Microsoft's tool is consistently inconsistent. Many stories are on these forums of people putting in a great new graphics card that is twice as powerful as their previous one, and then seeing their WEI DROP. So unfortunately, this tool which could have been great has instead become a joke on these forums (and in life) as a benchmarking tool.

So now that you know what DOESN'T work, here's how to find out what does work for detecting a bottleneck. The simple answer is to upgrade the slowest component. Ok, so what's the slowest component? How do you find it? There's no easy answer. I have yet to come accross a benchmarking tool that will test everything for you AND tell you what is slowing you down. So the short answer is, there is no way to figure it out.

You can just replace a component that you suspect to be bottlenecking you and see if the performance improves. But that is often costly and can be unproductive. The rule I use in giving Bottlenecking advice is the following: If you have a question about whether it will bottleneck or not, then the answer is no. If its so close to being a bottleneck that you really can't tell, then an upgrade isn't going to help you much anyway. If you are still unsure, then post your bottlenecking question and we'll get to it.

I would like to also clear up the fact that bottlenecks are not consistent. By this, I mean that sometimes one component will bottleneck a different component, and sometimes it will be bottlenecked BY that component. confused.gif

Let me say it differently. When I'm rendering video in Sony Vegas, my GPU is running about 20-30% while my CPU is pegged at 100%. So my CPU is bottlenecking my GPU right? Well, technically, yes in this particular set of circumstances. However, if I go play Battlefield Bad Company 2, then the tables are turned. On BFBC2, with the settings on supermax-high-ultra-uber, my GPU is running at 100% while my CPU is sitting at a comfortable 40-50%. See what's going on here?

The moral of the story is that sometimes certain programs will max one of your components and not even touch another one. So when you ask a bottlenecking question, please give the context of WHAT you will be DOING with the hardware. Video Editing and Crysis are two VERY different things, and bottlenecks are not consistent accross the board. Different programs pull on different components...differently. So again, please detail exactly WHERE you think a bottleneck is occuring. Indeed, even within the realm of video games, some are CPU heavy, whereas some are GPU heavy. So please, let us know what you're doing.


I hope this has cleared up a few inconsistencies with bottlenecks and I hope that it will not be an always dreaded word on these forums. Thanks for reading. thumbsupsmiley.png
Edited by coachmark2 - 3/9/14 at 7:25am
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post #2 of 23
Nice write up:thumb: - there are some things I don't necessarily agree on - a bottleneck is never really a good thing, components should be matched together - i.e. If you're spending all that $$ on Quad SLI 580's there is no reason that you should have a CPU that isn't fast enough to keep up with it, or to at least use the proper resolutions that would take advantage of Quad SLI.

Now that isn't to say that you need an SR2 board with two 12 thread monsters, but at least say run a 2600k @ 4.8ghz+ which will take care of most of your bottleneck, OR grab some 30" monitors and go crazy with Nvidia Surround, etc. otherwise you're just wasting money on something that would have performed just as well (i.e. 3X 580's will perform just as well as 4X 580's on 1920 x 1080/1200).

Just my 2 cents, take it as you will, what ever hardware you have in particular, I hope that everyone enjoys it to its fullest and is proud of the beast that they have built!
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post #3 of 23
Yeah, bottlenecks is more about wasted $$$$$$.
post #4 of 23
I think it was a good right up. The 100fps is a good example of u may not be maxing out GPU but ur system is still very operational at the 60%. 4 way SLI was a extreme example but it does work.
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post #5 of 23
Nice. Put allot of effort into this.

+1
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post #6 of 23
Nice writeup.
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post #7 of 23
Every bottle has a neck! Every system has a weakest component.
    
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post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by pnoozi;14611080 
Every bottle has a neck! Every system has a weakest component.

Also depends on how "thick" your wallet is. biggrin.gif
post #9 of 23
Lots of effort. Kudos.
I disagree on several points. Like your opinion that any bottleneck is ok, but thats a personal choice.

I will say this, Ive seen some non load based bottlenecks before though.
For instance, I have seen a 50% increase in fps(in game, not benches) when running SLI470s with a 1090T @4GHz over a 955 @4GHz.
Bottlenecks aren't just usage based, often they are instruction or efficiency based as well.

And for the record, the biggest bottleneck in a computer is the Mechanical HDD.
I know the GHz comparison with Memory was made for emphasis, but it is a clumsy metaphor.
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post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilWrir;14632267 
And for the record, the biggest bottleneck in a computer is the Mechanical HDD.
I know the GHz comparison with Memory was made for emphasis, but it is a clumsy metaphor.

Maybe when booting up and opening/loading programs. Correct me if I am wrong but a decent HDD won't affect FPS in games.
    
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