Can A New GPU Rejuvenate A 5 Year Old Gaming PC?

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New video card launches from AMD and NVIDIA are almost always reviewed on hardware less than 12 months old. That's not an arbitrary decision -- it helps reviewers make certain that GPU performance isn't held back by older CPUs and can be particularly important when evaluating the impact of new interfaces or bus designs.

The downside of this policy is that it leaves a gap in product coverage. Gamers with older systems often miss out on whether or not a new graphics card will be a meaningful upgrade for aging systems. That's particularly important as the speed of the desktop replacement cycle has slowed.

Here, we're going to compare the performance impact of upgrading the graphics card on an older system that doesn't have access to any of the substantial performance gains Intel introduced with Nehalem in late 2008. No integrated memory controller, 1600MHz DDR3, Hyper-Threading, or QPI.

Our upgrade card of choice is an EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked card with 2GB of RAM, a 192-bit memory bus, and a core clock of 1046MHz / 1111MHz boost.


EVGA's GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked - Our test vehicle


This card currently retails for $229 at NewEgg ($219 with rebate), which is in the so-called "sweet spot" of the GPU market. We figured the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked was exactly the type of mid-level graphics card someone trying to breathe new life into an aging desktop PC would consider.

So how much of an improvement could a buyer expect? Let's find out...
 

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Kudos to Joel for a great story angle. I've been wondering this myself as GPUs have become more and more efficient at offloading the rendering pipeline. Good stuff.

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The only thing i dislike about this test is why you would use an quad-core and not a dual-core which most people sat with 5 years ago. So the test would have been best to try by using a dual-core.

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yep, they should have used Dual Core CPU and an PCI-E 1.0 or 1.1 not 2.0 :/

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I don't think he could have used a PCI 1.0 or 1.1 motherboard. A 2.0 card won't work in those slots.

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"By CDeeter on Jan 24, 2013

I don't think he could have used a PCI 1.0 or 1.1 motherboard. A 2.0 card won't work in those slots.

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actually you would be quite wrong. 2.0 cards work in 1.0 and 1.1 slots because of backwards compatibility. The main changes between 1.0 1.1 2.0 and 3.0 are throughput based changes. meaning higher transfer rates between card and motherboard.

I for instance had an 8800gtx which is a 2.0 card on a system with a 1.1 PCIe port which worked just fine.

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Hmm I wonder what the issue is then for me that I couldn't go from a 7200gs to a HD 5570.

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Hmm I wonder what the issue is then for me that I couldn't go from a 7200gs to a HD 5570.

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Dude... my PC from five years ago which is still in service had PCIe 2.0. Built at the end of 2007 using the QX6850. That said, most cards struggle to even max out PCIe 1.1 bandwidth. There are many, many posts on this topic. Linus from TechTips and AnandTech, HardOCP and many more!

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I resemble that remark ...

E8500 (Core 2 Duo, 3.16), HD4850, 4gb ram, g41 motherboard (@Eshirou: PCI-E 1.0a), 7200 RPM storage. Windows XP 32 bit. Pretty much a second class machine compared to the one used in the article (depending on whether an app utilizes more than one core).

Borderlands 2 was completely playable at 1080p with the eye candy turned way down. The only problem was a bug that would hang the application at selected spots unless I restricted the CPU to 1 core.

I upgraded from the 4850 to a 7850 last month (which runs fine in the 1.0a socket, didn't even have to upgrade the BIOS) mainly because it came free with Far Cry 3 and the 4850 is now restricted to legacy drivers/DX 10. Much faster now, but then I don't really play many titles that are CPU intensive.

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Is the primes of this article accurate considering this is a old pc but it was like top of the line for when it came out? The only reason I say this is because anyone with a gaming pc using parts that old might not be on the same boat motherboard and cpu or even ram wise.

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