Can Legacy Dual-Core CPUs Drive Modern GPUs?

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A few weeks back, we examined whether a new GPU like the GeForce GTX 660 could breathe new life into an older quad-core gaming system built in mid 2008.  The answer, we concluded, was definitely yes -- but many of you of you asked us to reconsider the question, this time using a dual-core Core 2 Duo.

We've done so. And just for fun, we've added overclocked CPU results into the mix as well.

The Q6600 we originally tested was one of the best-selling enthusiast processors of its day, but dual-core chips were very much the norm. At the time, there were only a handful of games that could even take advantage of four cores and both Intel and AMD priced by core count. That's changed now, with multiple games using up to four cores.

So, can older Core 2 Duo's still keep up? Let's find out.

The System:

Our test bed, the ASUS Rampage Formula X48 Motherboard, from days of yesteryear.


EVGA's GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked backing-up the Core 2 Duo with muscle.

The only Core 2 Duo CPU I still had on hand is an Intel E6850. It's a first-generation C2D part based on Intel's 65nm Conroe core. It's clocked at 3GHz with 4MB of L2 cache and has a 1333MHz FSB. If you were to pull Intel's full suite of Core 2 Duo consumer SKUs, the E6850 would have ranked at the upper end of the heap. Performance should be somewhere between the 45nm E7600 and E8400.

We tested the E6850 and Q6600 in the same Asus X48 Rampage Formula motherboard with 3GB of DDR2-1066. An EVGA GTX 260 and GTX 660 were used to compare graphics performance. Our overclocked figures were measured using the Q6600 (SLACR core) with its FSB bumped to 1333MHz, up from 1066MHz.

As before, we present performance figures for the GTX 260 and GTX 660. Overclocked performance with the Q6600 at 3GHz and the GTX 660 is also given. The primary question we want to answer is how much a new GPU can help the performance of an older dual-core CPU. In our default configuration, the Q6600 has twice the cores, but the E6850 enjoys a 25% clock speed advantage.
 

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I was just thinking about putting in an old q6600 in to my nephews pc to replace his E8750, now i can confirm it will be a nice upgrade :)

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Definitely. And if you're up for overclocking, the results are even better.

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That's a very good article there, Joel - very enlightening. Thanks for that!

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Good article Joel. I guess that this puts some of the comments on the original piece to rest.

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Nice... Thought the first article was interesting but just less practical for most, this piece answers questions that pertain to more of us and results are still good! I figured the quad core would have faired much better than a dual core of that era but here are the results! My current PC (yes I call it a PC because I run win7) is a 2.66ghz dualcore iMac so I can't even upgrade the videocard lol but hey it was free!

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PC sounds like the right terminology to me. And a free iMac is a damn good thing too. I miss the one I had.

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Good friend of mine recently upgraded to he new one and this one has been dropped the corner dented with the glass broken but other than that perfect but he saw it as a damaged hand-me-down. 24" so it's great for YouTube viewing with friends in th garage. Runs dota2 just fine but that's all I e thrown at its gforcce 9400m =\

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The era of dual cores ended at the beginning of 2010 with the release of BFBC2, which was extremely core-heavy. It ate dual cores for breakfast, launch and dinner... and have only showed that a dual core, no matter how fast it is, just didn't cut it anymore.

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Inquisius,

Given that Intel's cheapest quad-core is $179, I'm not sure I'd agree with this sentiment.

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What does the price of a chip has to do with it's performance? If you kept with the times, you maybe wouldn't even have bothered to write this article off because it was known that dual cores DIED once 2010 came in:

http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Intel/Core_i5_661/15.html

More so, the fact that you're suggesting people second hand Q6600's is pure absurd. Yeah, surely the Q6600 does better than dual cores in the majority of games nowadays, but what's the point in investing money on such old, inefficient, and dead platform when you can get a Sandy or Ivy combo from Microcenter for not so much more?

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