Intel E6850 Bottleneck Investigation
Some of you have commented on my use of an E6850 processor in my reviews, and have questioned whether it could be limiting my results in some way.
Also historically many tech forums contain a proliferation of people extolling the virtues of quad-core over dual-core for gaming. Others go even further and imply that unless you have a quad-core i7 overclocked to 4 GHz, you’ll be CPU limited.
I believe this is simply untrue, and I also believe CPU requirements given in such forums are vastly overblown for real world situations. I’ve long argued that any decent mainstream dual-core platform is capable of taxing a graphics system just as good as the fastest quad-core CPU, providing you always run your games at the highest playable settings.
So today I’ll test 16 games to see if my theories are correct. The settings I’ll use are quite varied but rest assured, they haven’t been cherry-picked just to prove an agenda. They’re the actual settings that I use when playing these games, so you can’t get more real-world than that. They’re infinitely more realistic than some 1024×768 benchmarks done without AA to artificially isolate the CPU.
My methodology is quite simple: since my E6850 is multiplier unlocked down to three speed grades, it means I can drop down to 2 GHz without affecting anything else in the system. Since this is a 33% underclock, I’ll also underclock my GTX285 by 33% too, which is core 433 MHz, shader 986 MHz, and memory 832 MHz.
I’ll show results with both the CPU and GPU at stock, then I’ll underclock the CPU and GPU individually by 33% (leaving the other at stock) to see which has the bigger performance impact. Note that any negative percentages in the 2 GHz column are benchmarking noise (given 2 GHz cannot be faster than 3 GHz), and hence have been truncated to 0% on the graphs.
In the results, MS denotes transparency multi-sampling, while SS denotes transparency super-sampling.