Bottlenecks (V2)- How Bad Could It Be?


I’m sure many of you still remember the article I did late last year on bottleneck. Today, we have an updated version of this article, featuring the GTX280 and a host of other advancement.

What Is A Bottleneck?

No, it’s not part of a bottle. It’s a term to describe something being unable to cope with another, thus holding back performance. A choke-point if you would like another word for it.

The users who are concerned over this bottleneck matter are gamers. The thought of what a waste it would be to own a good graphic card yet having it under-perform due to lack of processing power.

Test Setup

Here’s the test setup used.

Processor Intel Coreâ„¢2 Duo E7200
Graphic Card ASUS ENGTX280 TOP 1GB
RAM 2x 2GB OCZ DDR2 PC2-8500 Reaper HPC Edition
Motherboard Albatron PXP35
Cooler Sunbeamtech Core-Contact Freezer Heatsink
Monitor 20″ Dell Ultra-sharp Wide-screen LCD
Operating System Windows Vista Home Basic 32bit
Driver Version GeForce 177.41

The Intel Core2Duo E7200 is a great processor to use for this setup, simply because of it can be easily overclocked and downclocked.

Configurations for Intel Coreâ„¢2 Duo E7200
  Downclocked Stock Overclocked
Speed 1.6 Ghz 2.53 Ghz 3.62 Ghz
Bus 200 Mhz 266 Mhz 426 Mhz
Rated FSB 800 FSB 1066 FSB 1704 FSB
Multiplier 8 9.5 8.5
FSB : RAM 1:1 1:1 1:1
RAM Speed 266Mhz
(DDR2 533)
(DDR2 533)
426 Mhz
(DDR2 852)

The stock speed of the E7200 is 2.53 Ghz. To understand how processor affects gaming experience, I’ve overclocked it to 3.62Ghz and downclocked it to 1.6 Ghz as well.

At 3.62 Ghz overclocked speed, I would estimate the E7200 to be performing better than the Coreâ„¢2 Duo E8600 processor while the downclocked speed is similar to that of an Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2140 – E2180 range processor. So basically the processing power used in this article covers from anything that’s a notch or 2 faster than the E2140 and up to even more than the E8600 range (FYI – the E8600 is the most powerful dual-core processor available), which is more than enough to find out how processors work with the graphic card and how bad could the bottleneck be.

Test Results


Graphic Detail : Maximum, 4x AA used.

Processor Mode Resolution Average
Overclocked 1680 x 1050 144
Stock 1680 x 1050 120
Downclocked 1680 x 1050 76

Thoughts : Looks like the game is playable with any processor used BUT notice how the framerates vary according to processor speed.

World In Conflict

Graphic Detail : Maximum, 4x AA used.

Processor Mode Resolution Average
Overclocked 1680 x 1050 43
Stock 1680 x 1050 29
Downclocked 1680 x 1050 20

Thoughts : Clearly a GTX280 paired with a low-end processor isn’t the way to go for this game. The E7200 even if paired with lesser graphic cards like GTX260 would probably outrun any GTX280 paired with low-end processor.

Company Of Heroes : Opposing Fronts

Graphic Detail : Maximum, 4x AA used.

Processor Mode Resolution Average
Overclocked 1680 x 1050 56.7
Stock 1680 x 1050 55.6
Downclocked 1680 x 1050 48.9

Thoughts : The processor boost only gained about additional 8 frames extra on average.

Lost Planet : Extreme Condition

Graphic Detail : Maximum, 4x AA used.

Processor Mode Resolution Average (Snow) Average (Cave)
Overclocked 1680 x 946 83.6 71.9
Stock 1680 x 946 82.5 45.4
Downclocked 1680 x 946 53.2 31.5

Thoughts : The game seems to be playable on all range of available processing power as long as you have a good card but look at the degree of separation between the results.

The graphic card seems to be heavily under-powered. So does it make sense to spend RM 2,000 or so to acquire the cheapest processor and pair it with the highest range graphic card? I don’t think so, striking a balance would produce the same or better result. Plus a better processor would be great when it comes to processing data.

Just look at the test for Cave, notice how much framerates gained from the boost in processing power?


Demo Version – Graphic Detail : Maximum, 4x AA used.

Processor Mode Resolution Average
Overclocked 1680 x 1050 23.91
Stock 1680 x 1050 21.25
Downclocked 1680 x 1050 19.47

Thoughts : Very minimal difference, looks like Crysis has greater dependency on the graphic card.


While using the best graphic card in the market with the lowest end processor seem to be fine when it comes to gaming, there’s no denying that by going this path means you’re really under-utilizing your gear. It’s like driving a Ferrari on KL’s Federal Highway during peak hour, so much fire-power and fuel guzzling but going no better than cars that cost less and drain less fuel.

Pair your graphic card and processor wisely, framerates are great with a high-end card but pair it with a low-end processor and their potential will not be harnessed.

Consider this – E2180 and GTX280 combo @ RM 1800 vs E7200 and GTX260 combo @ RM 1450, it’s not surprising that the RM 1450 combo would perform similar or better than the RM 1800 combo.

Now if only I have a GTX260. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Bottlenecks (V2)- How Bad Could It Be?

  1. hi bro~~~may i know with my proc e2160…
    my problem is i don’t which graphic card should i go for…
    i scared tat if i choose 4850…it will bottleneck by my proc
    and as a result..the performance for 4850 will limit by the proc…mayb the performance for 4850 will same as 9800gt speed?
    if like this…i would rather go for 9800gt ? and 1 more thing…my mobo cant oc…n i only got budget to get a gc…can help me to solve this problem?thx

  2. how to check the bottlenck?
    im using core 2 duo e8400, kingston high performance ram 2g 1033, 9800GT 1gb and odin 550w psu.

  3. Great article here. It’s surprising to know that a lot of people do not understand the meaning of bottlenecks. I’ve seen people pair up powerful graphic cards in SLI/crossfire but then have moderate CPU. What a waste! 😛

  4. @xian – your spec looks fine. if you refer to the article, you can see that we can test our bottleneck by overclocking some parts. I should write an article on that. 🙂

    @dzimmo – yes, waste huh? I know some people who bought Quad-core (over RM 1k) and really expensive X48 board and run a single HD4850. damn!

  5. hi.
    i’m thinking of building a desktop. What will it be if i pair E7500 with normal stock with GW 4850 HD 512Mb GS? i would prefer performance + low temp card. Is the card I mentioned good enuf?

  6. Hi goldfries,
    Need advice, intend to pair my core 2 duo E4400(cant be OC coz mobo) with HD 5770, i dont mind got slightly bottleneck issue, but if huge i need to reconsider, based on your calculation, how worst it will be? I might be upgrading to core i 7 next year, but for now , wanted to play some nice game with better GPU. OR maybe i should get HD 4890 or GTX 260 instead? which will be wiser?

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