has anyone come across a graph or similar device that has a reasonable approximation of maximum gpu to cpu combo? basically the point where a cpu X will generally bottleneck vid card Y.
i imagine there are too many variables to really create such a device.
Because of the variables, it's easier to just come up with a general rule. I recommend anyone building an all-around gaming machine meant for today's games, yesterday's games, and tomorrow's games at whatever settings, just get a quad-core CPU with average or high single threaded performance compared to other quad-cores. This obviously covers all GPU-heavy games in that it doesn't bottleneck anything at all on your motherboard, but it also covers CPU-dependent games that aren't optimized for multiple cores, as well as future games that will actually do a better job of using all 4 cores to their optimal potential. It's the reason I recommend Intel. It has a significant advantage in single-thread applications, and will be an equivalent (or at least sufficient for the rest of the hardware) performer when/if we get more games that actually give a shite about what the rest of the CPU can offer.
But really, even an i3 paired with a 7970 is a perfectly capable gaming machine. People tend too put too much emphasis on the CPU, thinking that a CPU "bottleneck" means that you need 8350 instead of the 8320 or else your 7970 will perform like a 7950 or even worse (just a random example).
In most games which are GPU-dependent, the difference between, say, an i7-4770k (my CPU) and a $75 Pentium G850, is marginal (assuming both CPUs are paired with the same card).
But, it is a different story with CPU-hungry bitches like Skyrim. Recall a Tom's Hardware test from early 2012. Image: http://media.bestofmicro.com/X/N/323915/original/Skyrim.png
As you can see, even cheap i3s were raping those AMDs. Look how terrible even the 8120 was performing compared to an i3. It's gonna be a similar story with games like Civ 5, starcraft, FSX, etc.
That's why the 2500k was THE CPU to get for gaming systems. But now AMD has the 8320 and 8350, with the latter performing at a similar level to Intel's i5 IB and Haswell, so the choice between AMD and Intel at that price point is really just a matter of preference in strictly a gaming environment. Image: http://media.bestofmicro.com/X/J/323911/original/Metro2033.png
GPU-hungry Metro 2033 test, showing the chips performing at pretty similar levels with the same GPU.
The bottom line is if you're building a budget machine, it's incredibly easy to keep it simple. If the game wants GPU power, a $100 AMD FX-6300 or i3 equivalent won't hold it back enough to matter. And if you just want good gaming performance across the board, you'll be happy with pretty much any $200 flavor of the month CPU.
This post was edited on 8/6 at 4:17 pm