GPU vs. CPU Upgrade: Extensive Tests

Editor’s Note: Prices in this article are presented mostly in Euros. The purpose of this article is to show relative pricing and relative price/performance ratios, not highly accurate current pricing. Therefore, we feel that Euro based pricing is acceptable here.

This is an endless topic of conversation, with everybody you meet having their own pet opinion. What brings better results, purchasing a faster graphics card, or investing your cash in a more powerful processor? In an effort to find out, Tom’s Hardware has taken a good look at the most important chips. In this article, the Geforce 6800 GT, 7950 GT, 8800 GT, 8800 GTS 512, 9600 GT 1024 and 9800 GTX are up for cross-testing in terms of performance comparisons, and pitted against current CPUs like the E2160, E6750, Q6600 and X6800EE.

gpu vs cpu

The results should clarify how much performance is obtained by upgrading the various components, as well as which combinations work best or are cheapest. It will also show us how high the basic performance level of the processor needs to be in order for the new G92 graphics chips from Nvidia to develop their full 3D speed potential. The comprehensive tables and performance analyses show clear results detailing the effects of a CPU upgrade on Geforce 6 and 7, and whether it might just be better to go for the new graphics card generation with DirectX 10.

The test platform used is based on an X38 chipset with DDR3 memory and PCI Express 2.0 interface, and remains identical for all of the individual tests. Generally speaking, only the graphics and CPU performance is changed for each run. In order to ensure that the E2160 and Q6600 are able to keep up with the other processors, two additional test runs have been performed in which the Front Side Bus (FSB) was overclocked by 33-34%. The test results indicate whether simply overclocking the small cache budget CPU is able to compensate for its initial performance deficit, and how much performance the quad core is able to pull from its reserves as a result of the increased frequencies.