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Geforce 6 and 7 cards are hardly suitable for current games and modern LCD resolutions—the higher graphics settings in the test show that the older graphics chips really have reached their limits. This is obvious, at the very latest, when you try to combine a Geforce 6800 GT with a more powerful CPU, which does not achieve any palpable increase in 3D performance.
However, games are not 100% dependent on the graphics card; the Geforce 8 and 9 require a basic level of power, otherwise they are unable to exploit their 3D potential. The speed of the CPU should lie somewhere between 2600 and 3000 MHz; any lower, and the new graphics chips lose considerable performance.
There is no obvious advantage to quad cores over dual cores, at least according to the graphics-based benchmarks. In order for the Q6600 to compete with the dual core E6750, the same clocking rate is recommended. If you wish to combine an E2160 with a Geforce 8800 or Geforce 9, you will need to overclock. Without a clock rate of at least 2400 MHz, you will lose a considerable amount of graphics performance, because the card is not fully loaded.
The difference in performance among CPUs costing $77, $268 or even $1,237 (50, 170, 800 Euros) is actually relatively low. If you compare an E2160 at 1800 MHz to an E6750 or Q6600, you will find a 30% difference in the overall results. If the E2160 is overclocked to 2400 MHz, though, the difference in overall results is just 15%. The smaller cache of the E2160 budget CPU can be overcome by a higher clocking rate of up to 3 GHz.
The change to a new generation of graphics card achieves more, but the CPU should still have sufficient brawn to provide the basic level the card requires. Changing from a Geforce 6800 GT to a current Geforce 8800 or 9800 can quintuple the overall results for 3D games. Changing from a Geforce 7950 GT to one of the new G92 graphic chips will at least double the overall results.
If you convert the frame rate to percentages in order to filter out the weighting caused by high fps figures, it is possible to obtain an increase of over 1100% by changing from a Geforce 6800 GT to a current Geforce 8800 or 9800. If you change from a Geforce 7950 GT to one of the new G92 graphics chips, you can obtain a performance increase of up to 180%, with improved DirectX 10 effects. The maximum possible values will depend on the CPU’s performance level.