1. CPU Limitation Issue
CPU Limitation Issue
You have just purchased the latest Nvidia 6800 video card and you eagerly install it in your PC. The first thing you do is to run a few benchmarks and catch some fps to it's awesome performance. But by your disappointment you find out that the fps are the same you had with your previous card. What is wrong? You missed something during the installation or you got a faulty product? Not at all, instead something you haven't thought of is an other issue that holds back your high-tech VGA card from showing off it's true capabilities. The CPU limitation issue.
In CDRinfo's latest review with Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra I experienced low for it's kind fps. It's absolutely wrong to have a 1200 Mhz (6800U's core clock) beast performing alike with a Radeon Pro. To speak the truth I was quite puzzled and I never expected that a P4 2.4GHz CPU would limit a latest generation VGA card.
So after having tried everything, I decided to do some tests with a much faster
CPU. And what else other than a 64-bit AMD processor. Without losing any
more time I ordered an AMD 64 3800+ (2.42 GHz) processor and I run the same
games and benchmarks to compare the results with those of the Intel P4 at
I picked the latest games to perform such a task, since this would mostly interest
the majority of CDRinfo's readers. So the following charts that depict the fps
caught with Doom 3, Farcry and Unreal Tournament 2004 will help you out to see
by yourselves the CPU limitation issue.
2. Test System's Specifications
Test System's Specifications
- Test System 1
- Processor Retail Intel Pentium 4 2.4
- CPU Cooler Zalman 7000Cu
- Case Antec 1080AMG
- Motherboard: ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe (firmware 1014)
- Memory: 2x256MB OCZ PC-4200EL Memory
- Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
- CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
- PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
- Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
- DirectX v9.0c
- Test System 2
Processor AMD Athlon 64 3800+
CPU Cooler Zalman 7000Cu
Case Antec 1080AMG
Motherboard: ASUS A8V
Hard Disk Drive: WD800JD 80GB 7200RPM
CD-RW: LiteOn LTR-52246S
PowerSupply: Levicom 500Watt
Microsoft WindowsXP Pro Service Pack1
- Benchmarking Software
- 3DMark03 Build 340
- Codecreatures Benchmark Pro v1.0
- AquaMark3 v3.0
- Farcry v1.2 Built 1325
- Unreal Tournament 2004 v3186
- Hitman: Contracts v1.74
- Drivers used
- Detonator 61.77
- DirectX 9.0c
All tests executed in 32-bit color 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions with several performance/quality settings.
3. Doom 3 Tests
Till now Doom 3 has the best 3D engine. The animations and textures really put you in the game's environment with the spectacular effects and nightmarish creatures. Truly the Doom 3 offers the spookiest atmosphere ever conceived in a first person shooter.
But let's see the CPU limitation issue with this game. Executing the timedemo demo1 console command I grabbed some fps with both test systems. The first chart shows the game's performance in the following resolutions 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with the high quality settings enabled. The VGA card used was Gainward's Ultra 6800 Ultra.
The Athlon 64 3800+ installed in the Test System 2 really makes a big difference boosting 6800U's performance from 8 to 16 fps. The P4 2.4 CPU installed in Test System 2 held back the VGA card at the 54 fps not letting it perform as good as it could. Now let's if the situation remains the same if the Anisotropic and Anti-Aliasing quality settings are enabled.
Again the Athlon 64 3800+ gave a 5 to 10 fps boost. Here the boost is lower because the Anisotropic and Anti-Aliasing quality settings require more power from VGA card rather than the GPU. But again the 10 fps difference between the 2 systems is worth noting.
4. Unreal Tournament 2004 Tests
Unreal is one of the most famous and most favorite game all times. It's awesome gameplay makes absolutely suitable for multiplayer battles. Unreal T. 2004 is very CPU dependant, so it is a good reference to see Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra VGA card performing on both CPUs.
Again I grabbed fps from both systems and in the 1024x768, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 resolutions with the highest display settings selected. Now let's see the true capabilities of the 6800 Ultra.
In the above graph you can see the naked truth. Those 130 fps at the 1024x768 resolution show the real performance of the 6800 Ultra. The above results also prove Unreal's CPU dependency.
Even with the AA and AF enabled Nvidia's
6800 Ultra is clearly CPU limited on the 2.4 GHz system. If you are an
unreal fan then better think again your next upgrade. A faster CPU may
be a smarter choice than a faster VGA card regarding Unreal 2004.
5. FarCry Tests
Now let's see the performance difference between the 2 systems running Farcry in maximum quality settings.
The minor 5 fps difference shows that Farcry utilizes less CPU power. Here again the similar fps returned with the Test System 1 show the cpu limitation. But when the Athlon 64 3800+ clears things out, is doesn't show any great boost in performance.
Again with the quality settings enabled the performance difference between the 2 systems is not very important. On the other hand these results justify Gainward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra. These are the true capabilities of the card.
In this updated review we witnessed the true capabilities of Gaiward's CoolFX 6800 Ultra. In the previous review, this card won CDRinfo's Best Performance Award and here again justifies even more it's perfect performance.
An other conclusion the tests showed is that if you intend to upgrade your PC think twice for the CPU. The resulting fps of both systems showed an overall 15% boost with the Athlon 64 3800+ of the Test System 2.
Now if you already are the owner of a latest generation VGA card and you have a CPU lower than 3.0GHz then better think about getting a faster CPU for your next upgrade. As I have already mentioned in previous reviews it's like driving a Hayabusa motorbike in a traffic jam. You can't achieve the speed you desire. But if you are satisfied with the overall performance of your system then you don't need to proceed on an expensive CPU purchase that will take you to the limits.
If you already have a 3 GHz (3000+) system and you think about getting the best VGA card then the Nvidia 6800 Ultra is a good purchase. Keep in mind though that there are cheaper solutions offering good performance even with the latest games.
On future reviews you will have the opportunity to see the performance of other powerful VGA cards currently available in the market, in order to have a more general aspect.