iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Graphics Card + Processor

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We have touched upon the problem of choosing a balanced configuration many times (for certain tasks, proceeding from a fixed budget and other criteria). But to all appearances, this issue still interests many readers. These tests are time-consuming - in order to find an optimal processor for a given graphics card, we have to try all combinations of CPUs and cards, so each processor increases the number of configurations many times. To say nothing of motherboards, which are also logical candidates for such tests. Their prices and functionality differ much, and an integrated graphics core also makes its contribution into general PC performance, it sometimes has even more influence than other components (in an inexpensive computer without a graphics card). At the same time, it's this platform research that has maximum practical value for users, who are not just interested in technologies (perhaps even not interested in them at all, to say nothing of holy wars raged on products from various companies), but who want to know how much money they should pay and for what components to get a computer to meet their requirements.

Today our objective is to increase game resolutions to 1680x1050 and add the most resource-consuming modern games. This time we'll use graphics cards with GPUs from AMD (to keep in balance with the previous article focused on solutions from NVIDIA). The role of processors with various performance levels is also given to AMD Athlon 64 X2 products (they performed quite well versus Core 2 Duo in our tests, even regardless of the price difference between motherboards. Just don't tell the fans :).

The purpose of platform tests is to determine balanced combos (CPU and memory in the first place) to reach maximum performance for the money. In particular, having decided to find an optimal combination of components for a budget home gaming computer, we confirmed the intuitive opinion of experienced users that one can save on a CPU, but never on a graphics card. As hardware requirements grow (higher resolutions, demanding settings, resource-intensive games) - when a user can afford to spend more money and be choosy - the tendency remains (proved in the first part of this article). Relatively simple games increase GPU load, as graphics quality and resolutions grow. But while complex games can load CPUs sometimes, GPU load grows to a greater degree. As a result, CPU-dependent modes are of no practical interest, because frame rates drop below the comfortable level regardless of your PC configuration.

That's why it's very interesting to find out whether such powerful cards as Radeon HD 4850 and 4870 can break this tendency in high-tech games and "pass the baton" to CPUs.

Configuration and Software

Graphics cards kindly provided by Sapphire:

  • Radeon HD3650 512MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD3850 256MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD3850 512MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD3870 512MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD3870 512MB GDDR4
  • Radeon HD3870 512MB GDDR4 Toxic, factory-overclocked to 800 MHz/1152 MHz for GPU/video memory
  • Radeon HD3870 X2 2x512MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD4850 512MB GDDR3
  • Radeon HD4870 512MB GDDR5


  • Athlon X2 4800+ (2.5 GHz, 2 x 512 KB L2 Cache, HT2000)
  • Athlon X2 6000+ (3.0 GHz, 2 x 1 MB L2 Cache, HT2000).

Other parts:

  • Motherboards: ASUS M3A on the AMD 770 chipset and MSI K9A2-CF on the AMD 790X chipset
  • RAM: 2 x 1 GB DDR2-800 SDRAM Hynix CL5
  • HDD: 250 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA, 7200 rpm
  • PSU: Chieftec 450 W


  • Windows Vista Ultimate (32 bit), ATI Catalyst 8.5
  • 3DMark06 (Normal settings, 1280x1024 4xAA, 8xAF)
  • 3DMark Vantage (Default settings, Performance)
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 1.003 (GSC Game World/THQ) - DirectX 9.0, No AA, 16x AF, maximum quality settings (dynamic lighting enabled); demo, copy files to the savegames folder, run the game, load level 'ixbt3', and type "demo_play ixbt3" in the console.
  • Company Of Heroes Opposing Fronts (Relic Entertainment/THQ) - DirectX 10.0, Shaders 2.0, 4x AA, 16x AF, maximum quality settings; batch file, run the game, invoke graphics settings and click the test button.
  • Call Of Juarez (Techland/Ubisoft) - DirectX 9.0, Shaders 3.0 (HDR), maximum quality settings; the benchmark is available here.
  • CRYSIS (Crytek/EA), DirectX 10.0, 'High' settings, built-in benchmark (available here).
  • World In Conflict (Massive Entertainment/Sierra) - DirectX 10.0, 'High', built-in benchmark.
  • Knights of the Sea (Akella) - DirectX 10, High, the benchmark is available here.
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (Epic Games) - DirectX 10, 5 Details Level, 5 Textures Level, CTF-coret, the benchmark is available here.

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Article navigation:

Page 1: Introduction, testbeds

Page 2: Tests, calculator

Page 3: Analysis, conclusions

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