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matching GPU with CPU power, questions


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Hi everyone. I am considering upgrading my old desktop to play some more demanding emulators like PS2. My plan was to swap out the old i3 for a new i3, throw in more RAM and get a budget graphics card, and maybe some other stuff that may have to be done to make that all work.


I have read that the CPU and GPU can bottleneck each out and I am wondering if they have to be matched in clock speed. A 10th gen i3 is just a little over a hundred bucks, but a graphics card with similar specs is way more expensive. So, I suppose that my question is, what is a good clock speed balance between the two?



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2 hours ago, larrylaffer said:

Click speed is only one factor but it doesn't mean necessary that they need to match. Finding and fixing bottlenecks is a science on its own. I suggest you just find a configuration that works for someone else and copy it. Unfortunately I don't have a suggestion for such a configuration. 

Here is a little article with a build. Some of the prices have fallen since last summer. Also I wonder how many existing parts I can recycle, such as the board, power supply and certainly the tower.

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All of this is personal experience/opinion/observation. I am not a PC guru but I do this as a side business locally and successfully. Here's a grain of salt to take with this post. :)




You probably already know this so forgive me if I am being redundant:


* It's not as simple as swapping out a CPU for another one. The board has to be compatible. i3 -> i3 swaps over generation gaps won't work unless your motherboard can handle the CPU. Usually a board can go a generation up before being obsoleted.

* Personal observation - I usually try to keep the GPU - at minimum - on par with the CPU generation. I just paired an i5 7th gen processor/MSI B250M motherboard I had laying around in my office with a GTX 1650 Super for my wife's "new" graphic design workstation. (She doesn't do anything high-end since it's for embroidery and sewing so I am positive it won't chug. It also gets a constant 125+FPS in Fortnite on High settings. Score!) The 7th gen processor and 1650 Super are not going to bottleneck each other and were released pretty much the same time. An 8th Gen would have been ideal but I didn't have one hanging around. Now if I had thrown a 3080 in there the processor would definitely fall behind the GPU. Conversely a 10th gen processor would be like an Olympic runner standing at the corner waiting for the overweight smoker 1650 to catch up to it. ?

* 16GB RAM should be a minimum for any Windows 10 machine. RAM is cheap anyway so it's a good idea (I paid $42 shipped from Amazon. I'm sure you can find it cheaper if you hunt). Be sure you don't use 1x16GB though (as an example). Use 2x8GB as dual channel runs much more efficiently and faster than pushing everything through one chip. Same physical amount of RAM but it definitely does make a difference - think 2 lane side road vs 8 lane highway.

* Check your PSU. A stock 300W power supply in that old HP case is rarely going to have enough power to run a good graphics card. There are low power options that exist but they don't have a lot of horse power to them. Most video cards will tell you the minimum wattage they require. I usually recommend going for nothing less that 500W. PSU's aren't terribly expensive anyway and everything you add (multiple HDD, RAM, CPU, case fans) will draw from it. Why not make sure it's not going to brown out and damage anything?


Again - my opinion - With those observations in mind you will also want to be sure that if there's any part that will fall behind make it the graphics card. I assume you'll want it for gaming most of the time and to get the best performance out of any graphics card you want it to be able to process as fast as it can and not wait for instructions from the CPU and introduce lag. It's not necessarily a bad thing to have a CPU be overpowered vs a GPU since the GPU will be running at the maximum it can at that point. Just reading up on the current PCSX2 emulator it is still CPU heavy. The GPU helps of course but won't be as much of a factor. You could probably be comfortable with a GTX 1050 ti or a GTX 960 (just my $0.02) and would cost less ... once the market stabilizes again anyway.


I also just re-read this and I guess most of this would be taken as build advice vs upgrade but it still pretty much all applies. I'm sure there will be others ready to tear this post apart but this is my experience so don't forget to take that grain of salt! :)

Edited by ClassicGMR
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