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

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Power Consumption, Conclusion

Just for fun, we also decided to compare idle and load power consumption between the two cards. Power consumption was measured in Shogun 2, using High Detail settings.

The 30W difference between the two cards is impressive considering that we've only swapped out a single component. What's really striking, however, is the power efficiency difference as measured in frames per watt. The GTX 260-equipped system draws 250W to output a 30 FPS frame rate; the EVGA GTX 660 system nearly doubles the FPS rate to 63, while drawing 12% less power. It also packs more than 2x the RAM and a roughly twice the number of transistors.

The Bottom Line:
The GeForce GTX 260 held up surprisingly well in every game but Civilization V. Borderlands 2 and Battlefield 3 were at least playable, if not exactly smooth. Upgrading the graphics card alone vastly improved the performance of every single title. The smallest gains were in Borderlands 2 and Battlefield 3, where the GTX 660 was  ~1.5x faster than the GTX 260. In Shogun 2, the GeForce GTX 660 upgrade doubled the GTX 260's frame rate at the same quality level, but also allowed for higher image quality settings. Civilization V wasn't playable on the GTX 260 with the settings we used; performance improved by nearly 3x when we switched to a modern GPU.

If you've got an older system that loosely fits our specifications, is it worth upgrading? I think so. A new CPU, motherboard, and RAM will run substantially more than the $220 starting price of a GeForce GTX 660 like the EVGA card we've featured here. Moving from the GTX 260 to GTX 660 didn't just improve frame rates -- it gave us sufficient headroom to increase graphics fidelity without losing much in the way of performance.  

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