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GPU vs. CPU Upgrade: Extensive Tests

Overall Performance and Price Comparison

The overall results serve as a means of orientation and there is no weighting between benchmarks. The frame rates are simply added together; as a result, games with high fps results may balance out weaker resolutions.

Overall performance GPU-CPUfps
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.22830.7
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@3.22823.3
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942772.3
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942746.1
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E6750@2.672731.2
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E6750@2.672723.8
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.22685.1
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942640.8
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.42632.8
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@2.42623.6
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E6750@2.672620.6
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.42526.9
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@3.22393.7
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@2.412371.8
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) X6800EE@2.942363.4
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@2.412346.4
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E6750@2.672336.9
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@2.42262.6
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@2.412225.6
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@2.412039.0
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@1.81975.0
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@1.81944.0
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@1.81910.2
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@1.81753.0
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) X6800EE@2.941112.7
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E6750@2.671110.2
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@3.21106.3
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@2.41098.4
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@2.411073.0
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@1.81000.3
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E6750@2.67463.2
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) X6800EE@2.94462.2
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@2.41456.6
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@1.8453.7
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@3.2445.1
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@2.4439.0

The upgrade table shows the performance increase when changing from one combination to another. The individual benchmark results have been converted to percentages, but there is no weighting for extremely high fps rates.

Here is how to read the table: the vertical combinations in the column on the left are the starting points "from", while the upper combinations of graphics cards and CPUs are the upgrade "to". Where the two lines meet, you will find the value that represents the performance gained or lost, in percent.

The loss of performance can be at most -99.9%; otherwise the frame rate would be 0. The performance gain can be well over 100%, if for example, a frame rate rises from 1 to 10 or from 40 to 100 fps.

For between $464 and $541 (300 and 350 Euros), you can purchase a very fast combination of CPU and graphics card. Since the Q6600 at 3200 MHz is less than suitable for the boxed cooler, the price comparison has been calculated using a G0 stepping and Xigmatek HDT-S1283 costing $46 (30 Euros).

Price comparison of GPU and CPUGPU EuroCPU EuroGPU+CPU Euro
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942538021055
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942298021031
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.942108021012
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) X6800EE@2.94189802991
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) X6800EE@2.94183802985
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.94156802958
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@3.2253198451
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@2.4253174427
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@3.2229198427
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.2210198408
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@2.4229174403
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@3.2189198387
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E6750@2.67253132385
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.4210174384
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@3.2183198381
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@2.4189174363
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E6750@2.67229132361
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@2.4183174357
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.2156198354
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E6750@2.67210132342
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.4156174330
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E6750@2.67189132321
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E6750@2.67183132315
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@1.825352305
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@2.4125352305
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E6750@2.67156132288
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@1.822952281
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@2.4122952281
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@1.821052262
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@2.4121052262
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@1.818952241
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@2.4118952241
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@1.818352235
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@2.4118352235
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@1.815652208
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@2.4115652208

The E2160 and E6750 with the Geforce 8800 GT or 8800 GTS 512 is the best option, purely from a price point of view.

Price comparison GPU and CPUEuros per frame
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) X6800EE@2.942.144
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) X6800EE@2.940.948
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@3.20.869
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) Q6600@2.40.827
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E6750@2.670.693
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@1.80.531
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB) E2160@2.410.528
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) X6800EE@2.940.417
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@3.20.408
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) Q6600@2.40.389
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) X6800EE@2.940.375
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.940.365
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) X6800EE@2.940.363
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E6750@2.670.347
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@1.80.305
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB) E2160@2.410.284
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@3.20.159
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) Q6600@2.40.158
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@2.40.154
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) Q6600@3.20.151
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.40.146
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.20.144
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@1.80.142
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E6750@2.670.135
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@1.80.135
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@1.80.134
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E6750@2.670.133
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@3.20.132
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) Q6600@2.40.131
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E6750@2.670.125
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB) E2160@2.410.118
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB) E2160@2.410.115
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB) E2160@2.410.112
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E6750@2.670.110
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@1.80.109
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB) E2160@2.410.093

The extra cost for the Geforce 8800 GTS 512 is often acceptable, due to its better two-slot cooler. The Geforce 9600 GT with 512 MB is a better value for money, and very popular for those working with a budget of up to $186 (120 Euros).

Price comparison for graphics cardsEuros per frame
Geforce 6800 GT (256 MB)0.0695
Geforce 7950 GT (512 MB)0.0389
Geforce 9800 GTX (512 MB)0.0150
Geforce 9600 GT OC (1024 MB)0.0139
Geforce 8800 GTS OC (512 MB)0.0138
Geforce 8800 GT OC (512 MB)0.0107
  • DjEaZy
    will there be a AMD/ATI roundup???
    Reply
  • randomizer
    That would simply consume more time without really proving much. I think sticking with a single manufacturer is fine, because you see the generation differences of cards and the performance gains compared to geting a new processor. You will see the same thing with ATI cards. Pop in an X800 and watch it crumble in the wake of a HD3870. There is no need to inlude ATI cards for the sake of this article.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    This has been a long needed article IMO. Now we can post links instead of coming up with simple explanations :D
    Reply
  • yadge
    I didn't realize the new gpus were actually that powerful. According to Toms charts, there is no gpu that can give me double the performance over my x1950 pro. But here, the 9600gt was getting 3 times the frames as the 7950gt(which is better than mine) on Call of Duty 4.

    Maybe there's something wrong with the charts. I don't know. But this makes me even more excited for when I upgrade in the near future.
    Reply
  • This article is biased from the beginning by using a reference graphics card from 2004 (6800GT) to a reference CPU from 2007 (E2140).

    Go back and use a Pentium 4 Prescott (2004) and then the basis of these percentage values on page 3 will actually mean something.
    Reply
  • randomizer
    yadgeI didn't realize the new gpus were actually that powerful. According to Toms charts, there is no gpu that can give me double the performance over my x1950 pro. But here, the 9600gt was getting 3 times the frames as the 7950gt(which is better than mine) on Call of Duty 4. Maybe there's something wrong with the charts. I don't know. But this makes me even more excited for when I upgrade in the near future.I upgraded my X1950 pro to a 9600GT. It was a fantastic upgrade.
    Reply
  • wh3resmycar
    scyThis article is biased from the beginning by using a reference graphics card from 2004 (6800GT) to a reference CPU from 2007 (E2140).
    maybe it is. but its relevant especially with those people who are stuck with those prescotts/6800gt. this article reveals an upgrade path nonetheless
    Reply
  • randomizer
    If they had used P4s there would be o many variables in this article that there would be no direction and that would make it pointless.
    Reply
  • JAYDEEJOHN
    Great article!!! It clears up many things. It finally shows proof that the best upgrade a gamer can make is a newer card. About the P4's, just take the clock rate and cut it in half, then compare (ok add 10%) heheh
    Reply
  • justjc
    I know randomizer thinks we would get the same results, but would it be possible to see just a small article showing if the same result is true for AMD processors and ATi graphics.
    Firstly we know that ATi and nVidia graphics doesn't calculate graphics in the same way, who knows perhaps an ATi card requiers more or less processorpower to work at full load, and if you look at Can you run it? for Crysis(only one I recall using) you will see the minimum needed AMD processor is slover than the minimum needed Core2, even in processor speed.
    So any chance of a small, or full scale, article throwing some ATi and AMD power into the mix?
    Reply