I've been meaning to upgrade my computer for quite a long time but money's a bit short and I can't do it all at once, I want to upgrade my GPU first because it's not up to par with most newer games but I'm afraid my CPU will bottleneck it too much and I won't get any advantage from upgrading it.

Is there a way to check if a CPU X will bottleneck a GPU Y (or vice versa)?

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    Aug 12, 2013 at 13:57
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    A little too tired to post a proper answer right now, but Someone tried this before and its worth a read.
    – Journeyman Geek
    Aug 12, 2013 at 14:33
  • That was a really interesting read, it pretty much answered my question. If you took the time to post an answer I would most certainly pick it. Aug 12, 2013 at 15:07

2 Answers 2


Quite a few websites have actually tried this. There's actually two elements I'd consider here - whether the task you are doing is processor bound, and whether the PCIe bus has enough bandwidth for what you are trying to do.

Both hot hardware and toms hardware did tests on older CPUs and newer GPUs - specifically core 2s. Tom's hardware covered more CPUs... and when they tried borderlands 2

Each processor delivers a nice playable experience at Medium settings. However, a couple of those downward spikes near the beginning of the run corresponded to a brief, yet still noticeable stutter.

Hot hardware also found that you could push graphics settings higher with a new GPU and an older CPU. If you can run a game, the new GPU will definately improve your experience. These tests indicate that unless you're throwing in a seriously high end video card, you shouldn't be getting bitten in the rear by either CPU usage or PCIe Bandwidth, and you should be seeing better performance. In the context of a longer term build, it makes sense to do this.


It heavily depends on WHAT you are going to run.

Most recent games are a lot GPU-bound, but some still heavily depend on the CPU(Arma series are good examples of CPU-bound games). Some others don't really need a lot of APU computing and depends on how much computing power your GPU has.

Basically here if you have a Dual-core 2.0GHz+, less than 5 years old CPU, it should be OK while you save for a later upgrade. [Personnal estimation here]

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    I would add that instead of thinking about "Will X CPU will bottleneck Y GPU?", think about it in terms of "Will X game/application be CPU-bound or GPU-bound?" Simulation games, or games which have complex AI are often CPU bound (I'm looking at you, Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft, CivV, and Sim City) while graphically complex games that are relatively simple in gameplay (Most shooters) tend to max out the GPU before they max out the CPU. Aug 12, 2013 at 14:48
  • @DarthAndroid - Even those games you might think are CPU intensive ( World of Warcraft ) are actually very dependent on the CPU and only use the GPU to handle the interface itself. Of course World of Warcraft was produced in a different era of Graphic Cards so its unfair to blame the client itself.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 12, 2013 at 15:29
  • @Ramhound I think you typoed GPU as CPU in the first line of your comment... and yes, you are very much correct that WoW is largely CPU-bound. The latest iterations of it (Cataclysm (4.X) and Mists of Pandaria (5.X)) are actually very graphically intensive as well on max settings and will bottleneck on high-end GPUs. Aug 12, 2013 at 17:25
  • Thank you very much for your answer. It was very informative. Journeyman Geek's answer however was exactly what I was looking for. Aug 15, 2013 at 22:13

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