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Build It: Picking Parts For Your Kid's Entry-Level Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: With Discrete Graphics

CPU Scaling with Discrete Graphics Cards

We benchmarked 19 old and new graphics cards with the AMD A8-3850 and Intel Pentium G620, as well as the AMD A8-3850 with a similar discrete graphics card in CrossFire. We didn’t bother with the other two processors, since they're quite a bit slower and frankly don't save us much money anyway.

Even though Grand Theft Auto IV is an older game, it should scale reasonably well on multi-core processors. So, let’s see how well AMD’s four cores stand up to Intel’s two, and at which point the CPU starts to limit the discrete graphics card.

As long as graphics muscle is the limiting factor, AMD's A8-3850 and Intel's Pentium G620 perform nearly the same. This holds true with cards up to AMD's Radeon HD 6670, after which the Pentium starts pulling ahead. The difference between both platforms gets larger as the add-in card's performance increases. There's a greater than 10 percent difference by the time we're testing Nvidia's GeForce GTX 280 and GTX 550 Ti. The Intel Pentium clearly wins, in spite of its two cores, and especially in the higher-performance segment.

Direct Comparison of All Four Processors with One Graphics Card

Finally, we benchmark the Radeon HD 6670 using StarCraft II. We chose this card since it fits our budget well, and StarCraft II allows us to easily compare two different usage scenarios (CPU-heavy with many units on the map, and GPU-heavy with fewer units on the map).

Both Intel-based builds beat AMD's two offerings in the CPU-heavy map. The game is still playable on the A8-3850, but there is occasional, noticeable stuttering, which is reflected in the low minimum frame rates.

On the less-demanding map, AMD's A8-3850 does manage to beat Intel's Celeron G530 (but not the Pentium G620). Again, though, it loses to both Intel chips when we look at minimum frame rates.

Bottom Line

Generally, Intel's Pentium G620 is the better solution in combination with a discrete graphics card. AMD's A8-3850 manages playable frame rates, but the difference between it and the Pentium G620 is often substantial. The delta between them is particularly noticeable in an analysis of minimum frame rates. Consequently, Intel's Pentium G620 is the clear recommendation for our more advanced build.