iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Graphics Card + CPU in Professional Software and Games

A mini-review of optimal configurations.

March 24, 2010

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Naturally, games are the main reason we all pay so much attention to graphics cards. They can demonstrate better performance boosts. Besides, this is simply needed to test processors and see a difference instead of the same fps dictated by graphics card.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. clearly voted for a better graphics card.

Devil May Cry 4 also liked graphics cards more. But that wasn't very important, considering the sky-high fps.

Far Cry 2 was the first to prefer a better CPU.

Formally, GTA IV liked NVIDIA graphics card more. But in real life a few fps looks like measurement error, one thing that was kinda high in this game's benchmark. Besides, we had to install ATI graphics card into the testbed littered by the remains of NVIDIA drivers. If we used a clean machine, the result would probably be the same for all three configuration. What does that mean anyway? Most likely, it proves our suspicion that 64-65 fps is a kind of an upper range forced by the game's engine for the selected quality settings. Even high-end Core i7 CPUs couldn't penetrate this limit.

Lost Planet irritated us much by showing the same results with the absolute majority of CPUs for a whole year. We almost decided to go without it, because the only thing this title obviously wanted was a faster graphics card. So it wasn't a surprise, when the game demonstrated such a performance boost with Radeon HD 5870.

UT3 was the second example of a game that preferred CPUs to graphics cards. Though, similarly to GTA IV, this wasn't as important. Performance of ver 150 fps has no practical meaning.

It would be a great surprise, if Crysis preferred a CPU to a graphics card, wouldn't it?

This game is known to be rather CPU-dependent, so the results were hard to predict. However, a powerful CPU always indicated the need for a correspondingly powerful graphics card.


First of all, we must say that graphics cards still have a considerable effect on professional OpenGL applications. Even though this kind of software is, on average, more CPU-dependent than games. So most of the 3D suites voted for better graphics cards.

As for games, we expected no surprises. Though the results obtained in Far Cry 2 showed that you shouldn't underestimate processors as well. If we used Radeon HD 5870 with a CPU like AMD Athlon II X3 or Intel Core i3, we would get less than 40 fps. The latter number isn't what you buy powerful graphics cards for. Obviously, you have to balance out the graphics card and the CPU, and we can recommend this empiric rule for graphics-oriented PCs: the CPU should cost at least half the graphics card's price.

GeForce GTX 275 provided by Palit, Radeon HD 5870 provided by HIS.

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