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Nvidia Says Core i7 Isn't Worth It

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 105 comments

Nvidia would prefer that you spend your money on GPUs rather than CPUs

The Intel Core i7 chip is an awesome CPU – this we know. If we were to build a gaming rig, we’d want to have one of these inside it. But Nvidia is telling everyone that the CPU isn’t everything.

Intel claims that gaming performance goes up by 80 percent when you use a Core i7 chip. This impressed Nvidia’s technical marketing director Tom Petersen, who decided to take a closer look at Intel’s claim.

“I was impressed by that claim, and I was trying to figure out how they could possibly say such a thing, and it turns out that Intel is basing that claim on only 3DMark Vantage’s CPU test.”

Of course, a CPU test is just that – to test the CPU. Peterson goes on to explain his view: “…it doesn’t actually measure gameplay, it doesn’t actually measure anything about game performance. Sure enough, if you do that test you will see Core i7 running faster, but I think it’s a little disingenuous to call that game performance.”

Peterson then transitioned to an example that would further his case that Core i7 isn’t the clear superior choice for the gaming PC. He compared two systems, calling the Core i7 965-based one a “Hummer,” and likening the one with a Core 2 Duo E8400 to a BMW.

Nvidia showed benchmark graphs of various systems running Crysis Warhead, Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War and Far Cry 2 at 1920 x 1200 (no AA or AF). According to bit-tech.net, the Core 2 Duo E8400 and a GeForce GTS 250 scored an average of 41.6 fps. The frame rate moved slightly up to 42.4 fps after upgrading to a Core i7 965, but jumped all the way up to 59.4 fps after upgrading to a GeForce GTX 260 (216 stream processors) SLI setup.

Here we have a case where the games running at 1920 x 1200 are fillrate-bound rather than CPU. A faster CPU did little to make things better for the GPU, but upgrading to a significantly stronger 3D acceleration setup opened up the headroom for more frames.

Peterson acknowledges that at high-resolutions, it’s smarter to spend on buying more fillrate: “…it is a fact, that when you’re gaming and you’re running at resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or better, the Core 2 Duo is perfect for running all of today’s games. In real gaming, there’s no difference between a Core i7 and a Core 2 Duo.”

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  • 28 Hide
    JTP709 , April 24, 2009 11:50 PM
    It sounds to me like Nvidia did in fact answer Intel's BS stats with a real world scenario: running Far Cry, Crysis, and other games on their processors along with different Nvidia cards, delivering actual frame rates in what we would actually see if we bought that system. Once again reaffirming my belief that the i7 is overkill for gaming.
  • 22 Hide
    Hatecrime69 , April 24, 2009 11:53 PM
    EggrenadeWow, answering B.S. stats with more B.S. stats. Of course you can "prove" your point if you run a very limited scenario. This is why we come here, for a lot less B.S. and some real scenarios.


    Well intel's stats were bs, and nvidia could have probably done a less weighted benchmark in their favor, but they are telling the truth, in many game situations a core 2 duo/quad is just a few frames slower than the much more expensive i7..of course rts and flight sim games may show more cpu difference but at least nvidia is showing an example of what is true for the most part in many popular titles
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , April 25, 2009 12:28 AM
    GPU performance is much more important for gaming than CPU performance.\

    I see no point in buying the fastest / most expensive hardware of any kind since performance/price ratio goes to hell once you're past the mainstream segment.
Other Comments
  • 19 Hide
    1971Rhino , April 24, 2009 11:37 PM
    I had no idea I had a "BMW" in my case.......awesome!
  • 28 Hide
    JTP709 , April 24, 2009 11:50 PM
    It sounds to me like Nvidia did in fact answer Intel's BS stats with a real world scenario: running Far Cry, Crysis, and other games on their processors along with different Nvidia cards, delivering actual frame rates in what we would actually see if we bought that system. Once again reaffirming my belief that the i7 is overkill for gaming.
  • 22 Hide
    Hatecrime69 , April 24, 2009 11:53 PM
    EggrenadeWow, answering B.S. stats with more B.S. stats. Of course you can "prove" your point if you run a very limited scenario. This is why we come here, for a lot less B.S. and some real scenarios.


    Well intel's stats were bs, and nvidia could have probably done a less weighted benchmark in their favor, but they are telling the truth, in many game situations a core 2 duo/quad is just a few frames slower than the much more expensive i7..of course rts and flight sim games may show more cpu difference but at least nvidia is showing an example of what is true for the most part in many popular titles
  • 3 Hide
    thepinkpanther , April 24, 2009 11:57 PM
    why didnt Nvidia just use AMD chips? and see if performance went up by 80%? it should have been Phenom II + gts 250, then gtx285. Then the same test with i7. I guess intel has to say BS until their larabee (i dont know how to spell) comes out, then they will say GPU is just as/if not more important.
  • 3 Hide
    burnley14 , April 25, 2009 12:01 AM
    What a shock: a GPU manufacturing company tells you to spend more on GPUs and less on CPUs. That sounds completely unbiased . . .
  • 7 Hide
    afrobacon , April 25, 2009 12:02 AM
    So the i7 is a Hummer?
    I disagree with this statement, the hummer of today is slow, wastes gas, any is pretty much a glorified minivan. The i7 on the other hand is fast, lightweight, outperforms it's competition, etc. Though still pricey and not quite worth getting one yet. My opinion at least.
  • 15 Hide
    touchdowntexas13 , April 25, 2009 12:25 AM
    In order to compare those two processors properly, shouldn't they have used a multi-gpu setup so that the processor was the bottleneck? I thought that there isn't supposed to be much of a difference between the speed of those two processors if the gpu/game is limiting both processors from being pushed to their max.

    I do agree that the gpu is more important in gaming, but Nvidia really seemed to be belittling the core i7.
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , April 25, 2009 12:28 AM
    GPU performance is much more important for gaming than CPU performance.\

    I see no point in buying the fastest / most expensive hardware of any kind since performance/price ratio goes to hell once you're past the mainstream segment.
  • 12 Hide
    mindless728 , April 25, 2009 1:06 AM
    GPU performance is more important than CPU performance, they went from mainstream CPU to Enthusiast CPU and got little gain, then they went from mainstream GPU to high end GPU (SLI) and received much higher fps
  • 0 Hide
    zehpavora , April 25, 2009 1:09 AM
    I think they're kinda right. We all know that, most of the time, the GPU bottlenecks the CPU, meaning that you may buy a i7, but if you want to see significant performance, change your GPU first. I think they're right, but I disagree in the fact that a i7 is worse than a Core Duo. Multitasking is everything for me, since I use PS, Firefox in about 5 tabs, WinRAR, games, and so on. Balance, my friends, is what we should go for in a computer.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , April 25, 2009 1:22 AM
    We do use our systems for a whole lot more than just gaming.

    So while the GPU may be important for gaming, the CPU is still important for other applications which may be resource intensive.

    With my Core i7 system, I find that I am able to do a whole lot more with it than I could with previous systems.

    Maybe Nvidia would prefer that software authors create programs that would rely entirely on the GPU such as that Russian De-Cryption program that uses the GPU to crack encryptions faster than previously thought possible?
  • 14 Hide
    airborne11b , April 25, 2009 1:24 AM
    ghfhdg@babacomGPU performance is much more important for gaming than CPU performance.\I see no point in buying the fastest / most expensive hardware of any kind since performance/price ratio goes to hell once you're past the mainstream segment.


    Unless you're using a quad SLI setup, running crysis at 2560 x 1600, the CPU will not be the "bottle" neck.

    Regardless of what you fanboys think, this is no surprise to PC enthusiast. A GPU makes up 70-80% of gaming performance. the other 20-30% comes from your CPU and ram combine.

    Core i7 920 *$280* + x58 mobo *$250* +DDR 3 triple channel ram set = $100
    Core2Duo E8400 *$170* + 780i mobo *$150* + DDR2 duel channel set = $50

    You save around 250 bucks going with core2duo. Now consider that if you're on a budget and were going to just buy a cheap ol GTS 500 or 8800 GT for around $100 to go with your i7 set up. If you took that extra 250 bucks and went with a core2duo set up with a GTX 285, or SLI GTX 260 core 216 GPU's, you'll have spent the exact same amount of cash, but you'll have a rig that will get MUCH MUCH higher FPS in just about every single game out there.

    CPU / RAM are always really small improvements as opposed to a GPU upgrade. GPU > CPU + RAM. Very simple equation when considering how to build a gaming rig.

    Personally I want the best, so I'm running a 920 i7 + EVGA Classified + 2 GTX 275's with 6GB of DDR3 1600 ram. But thats because I have cash to burn. lol. But the point of the article was clear and true. GPU's are far more important than CPUs when it comes to gaming.
  • 9 Hide
    cadder , April 25, 2009 1:25 AM
    I've studied all of the recent Toms builds and it seems that GPU power is more important for gaming than CPU power. CPU power is required, but it's easy enough to satisfy that requirement with available CPU's, so then you need to focus on GPU power.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , April 25, 2009 1:28 AM
    LMAO at the people defending Intel's dishonest marketing, a sure sign of a fanboy. A Core i7 will give a neglible if any performance boost in gaming, Intel is making a fraudulent claim for the sake of selling a product to people who don't know any better. So what if games are GPU bound, that's because GPUs can do the job better than CPUs. ATI and Nvidia having been pushing the envelope in every way possible, with cards reaching teraflop speed and beyond, what the f*ck do you want them to do better?
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