Far Cry 3 - Village

FC3

We've previously found that Far Cry 3 can bring dual-core processors to their knees, but presented with true quad-cores, it's all about the video card in this game. This is one of the closet contests of the match, with both CPUs dead even at 34fps on average, with the i5-4670K doing just a bit better in minimums, 28fps versus 26.6fps. For all intents and purposes, this test is a draw - and a good sign that the i5-760 can play a modern, demanding game.

The overclocked 760 doesn't have a very good showing here, but it's pretty close - 33fps versus 34fps on average, and the same 26.5fps as a minimum, almost identical to what the stock 760 hit. 

Hitman: Absolution - Chinatown

Hitman

Wow, another draw. In fact, here the i5-760 hits an average of 63.6fps versus 63.2fps for the i5-4670K. Is is actually performing better? We tend to think this is just experimental error, although we are surprised that the 4670K doesn't at least demonstrate the advantage of greater PCIe throughput. Perhaps Hitman: Absolution simply doesn't stress the PCIe lanes as much as other games. In the minimums department, the 4670K gets ahead just slightly, 47.6fps to 47.3fps. This as close to a statistical tie as we could possibly imagine, considering that we're testing on two separate systems. You simply cannot tell these two processors apart based on the data presented.

Here's another game where overclocking the 760 did nothing at all, in fact dropping the minimum ever so slightly. But this game is completely GPU-bottlenecked at this level of video card, so it's essentially a draw between the three CPU tests.

Tomb Raider - Village

TR

Our last game, Tomb Raider, is also our newest, released in March of 2013. Despite our use of the Ultimate preset here, which enables the GPU-punishing TressFX hair rendering effect, more CPU power actually still makes a difference, with the 4670K establishing a 44.5fps to 42.7fps lead on average, demonstrating the 4 percent delta we've seen several times before. The minimums are 5 percent higher - 35fps versus 33.3fps. Overclocking the 760 does very little, slightly improving the minimums, while keeping the average about 2fps below the 4670K. Our guess is that in this game, which uses a very demanding graphics engine, the advantage of the 4670K is probably due to the PCIe bandwidth of the newer platform, rather than the CPU speed itself.

Conclusion

Well, that was surprising! Despite a 60 percent theoretical advantage, and a 40 percent advantage in the 3DMark Fire Storm Physics test, the best result for the 4670K versus the 760 was 14 percent in Deus Ex (with 45 percent higher minimums), with three tests showing a 4-5 percent advantage, and two tests showing no advantage at all! Overclocking the 760 at worst did nothing at all, where the video card appears to be a complete bottleneck, to practically catching the 4670K in a few tests. What do we make of this? Well, it's simple - if you're sporting a three-year-old Intel quad-core processor, you're still in good standing, and should rest assured that picking up a new $200-300 video card will work wonders for you. On the other hand, you really will see at least a 100 percent jump going from something like the GTX 460 (or HD 6850) to the HD 7870. What's more, most older i5 processors have enough overclocking headroom to at least catch the stock 4670K if not surpass it, so is you covet a few extra percent of performance, you can get it with a little work. And keep in mind - a new CPU requires a new motherboard, while that sweet $200 HD 7870 (or $250 GTX 760, for that matter) will slot right in without any additional expense.

But there's another conclusion to be drawn here - the CPU battlefield has come to a virtual standstill. With AMD essentially out of the game except on the budget end, Intel has only itself to compete against. And as a result, we've seen very incremental upgrades year-over-year, with the new i5-4670K just barely faster than last year's i5-3570K, which was just barely faster than the i5-2500K before that. Luckily, we had way more CPU power than we needed three or four years ago, so these slight gains are enough to keep us gaming comfortably, but with the new AMD-based octa-core game consoles on the horizon, only time will tell if Intel's strategy was a sound one in the PC gaming market.

Now, we're going to end with something that will really set your hair on fire - two vastly different CPU/GPU combinations - the i5-4670K/HD7870 and the i3-3220/GTX670. Either combo will set you back $450 as of this writing, but they couldn't be more different in approach. And who in their right mind would pair a lowly dual-core with a high-end gaming card? The savvy budget-conscious gamer would!

$450 Shootout

Well, take a look at that! Except in our two outlier cases, the CPU-bound Deux Ex and the CPU-intensive BF3 multi-player, the combination of an i3-3220 dual-core and a GTX 670 gets the best of the ultra-modern i5-4670K paired with the midrange HD 7870. Sure, the ideal scenario would be a 4670K paired with a GTX 670 (or heck, how about an i7-3960K and a Titan as long as we're dreaming!), but for real people spending real hard-earned cash, this is a vivid illustration of why CPU power really takes a back seat to video card prowess when it comes to games.

OK, that's the latest on our end. As always, we have more articles up our sleeves, so check back often. And if you need help putting together a balanced gaming build, check out our PC Build Guides.

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