And that's it for this CPU scaling overview. The article was a quickie in the sense that I simply was curious what the effect of processors anno 2012 with a single GPU high-end graphics card would be like.
The long story short is simple, any modern age quad-core processor will do just fine with the Radeon HD 7970. You will start seeing CPU limitation mostly in the lower resolutions up-to 1600x1200, but considering that everybody is playing at 1920x1080/1200 these days the reality remains that you really do not need a 1000 USD processor.
I want to make not of the fact that our results are all based on single player game test, in a massive online fragfest with many multiple players a faster processor or more threaded processor always comes in handy.
On AMD's side the Phenom II series still make a lot of sense for the money really. On Intel's side the Core i7 2600K remains my personal favorite. We didn't have one in the lab, but a Core i5 2500K would be a cheaper and only slightly lesser alternative.
If you stick to just one GPU really, the faster Phenom II processor and the AMD FX 8150 will be sufficient however you can expect slightly slower framerates until you hit the higher monitor resolutions. The latest Intel processor will give you a lot more underlying performance, and that's going to help you our in minimum frame rates as well. We do have to mention clearly that we measure in average framerates, so in the lower framerate spectrum a slower CPU can make a difference.
If in the future you decide to go Crossfire with two 7970 cards that's where processor dependency will kick in way more importantly, really the only logical choice then will be the Sandy Bridge and Sandy Bridge-E processors as we expect that's where CPU limitation will start becoming an issue. We will be working on a Crossfire review soon, so you better watch out for the results on that one.
If anything, this little article proofs once again that investing money in a faster graphics card will gain you better game performance compared to investing in a faster CPU. The performance difference in-between a 1000 USD Core i7 3960X compared to a 320 USD Core i7 2600K processor is extremely small, something you'd never notice unless measured. So we say, stick to a modern mainstream quad-core processor and the differences really aren't that big in the overall framerate, especially at 1920x1080/1200. Yes we know it's that weird penumbra, the higher you go in resolutions, the slower your processor may be. Remember, once you pass 1920x1080/1200 the GPU is almost always the bottleneck, not your processor.
But if you want a little extra CPU cycle reserve in that trunk, yeah .. Sandy Bridge processors are the shiznit really. Remember this article applies to a Single-GPU Radeon HD 7970 based PC, with multiple GPUs the dynamic and requriements change real fast.
But wait there's more content ... check out our Radeon HD 7970 reference review article right here as well as a new R7970 overclock guide right here.
Have a great weekend you guys and a great Christmas 2011 !
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