Cause of drop frames in gaming


I am posting this on gpu forum because I think this is likely the gpu's problem, but here it goes.

I'm sure we all have experience (hopefully i ain't the only one) drop frames during massive explosions, smoke, or combination of both.

I would like to know what exactly is the cause of this, technically. is it the cpu that's not handling all the smoke? or is it just that the gpu is not fast enough, or RAM?

So the question really is , which part of a system handle particle effects in gaming?
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  1. Ideally the GPU, with high end effects and lots of tiny particles. No reason the CPU can't, just much slower, and must more important things to do, relative to accyrately reproducing smoke and fog. And of course there's the Physx issue, if the same is optomized for Nvdia vs. AMD
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