This was one of those outside the box type of articles that we enjoy doing once in awhile. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed working on it. With any luck we were able to convey what we were trying to get at today. Does gaming performance truly rely on the processor, or can you get away with a low cost processor and a high end graphics card? How much of a difference can be seen with an entry level processor like the Intel Pentium G620 that retails for $67.85 versus a processor like the Intel Core i7 2600K that retails for $304.99 which is 4.5 times the Pentium G620?
On two out of three of the tests we saw a difference in system performance between the processors. In Battlefield 3 however, we didn’t see a difference in our framerates between the various processors. In all honesty we were shocked with the results. Each of the processors was able to keep the system around 60 frames per second. While it may look like Vsync was enabled, it was disabled (and double checked many times to be sure). Ultimately though, we seemed to be limited by the AMD Radeon HD 7950 rather than our LGA1155 processors on the Intel Z68 system. We may have seen better scaling across the processors if we had reduced the image quality settings in Battlefield 3, but that kind of defeats the purpose of what we are trying to do today. If you were to be purchasing a $460.00 graphics card like the AMD Radeon HD 7950, do you want to run your game on anything less than the ultra settings?
Mass Effect 3 did show of some great scaling in our testing. We were much less GPU and CPU limited in Mass Effect 3 than we were in Battlefield 3. The Pentium G620 dual core processor was still able to give us some very respectable frame rates with an average of 126.078. Just bumping up a notch to the Pentium G850 which is simply a speed bump to 2.9GHz from the G620 at 2.6GHz gave us an increase in our average fps of 12 frames per second. Each step up we took with our processor gave us higher performance until our top performing Intel Core i7 2600K was averaging 162.924 frames per second. That’s a jump of nearly 37 frames per second or a margin of 29.2%.
There are alot of people concerned about going green these days. Power consumption is a growing concern for system builders and PC component manufacturers. We were able to see a difference in the gaming performance in Mass Effect 3 with the various processors, but what about in the performance to power ratio? Are we able to increase our Performance per Watt by going with one of the lower end processors compared to the top of the line like the Intel Core i7 2600K?
In order to calculate this we took our power consumption in Mass Effect 3 and divided it by the performance numbers. What is represented above is how many Watts per a single frame per second. It turns out that the most economical processor for gaming in Mass Effect 3 is the Intel Core i3 2120 processor. The i3 2120 took 1.555 Watts for every frame that was rendered. Surprisingly the worst was the Intel Pentium G620 which took 1.697 Watts for every frame. The remaining processors weren’t far from ratio of the Intel Core i3 2120, the Intel Core i5 2500K and the Intel Core i7 2600K were the next furthest our with Watt/FPS ratios of 1.59 Watts per Frame and 1.596 Watts per frame.
The price of of the processors we benchmarked today ranged from $67.85 on the Intel Pentium G620 all the way up to $304.00 for the Intel Core i7-2600K. With the budget friendly Intel Pentium G620 you get 1.86 FPS per dollar spent on the processor versus just 0.53 FPS on the Intel Core i7 2600K. The more you pay for a processor doesn’t mean performance goes up linearly!
There is no clear winner here, but we hope that you are better informed about processor scaling!
Legit Bottom Line: Ultimately in the tests that we ran today you can easily get away with an entry level processor when using a high end graphics card like the AMD Radeon HD 7950. All of our tests had some very respectable numbers for gaming and we were able to play through the benchmarks with out an issue!