New video card launches from AMD and NVIDIA are almost always reviewed on hardware that’s less than 12 months old. That’s not an arbitrary decision — it helps reviewers make certain that GPU performance isn’t held back by older CPUs and can be particularly important when evaluating the impact of new interfaces or bus designs. The downside of this policy is that it leaves a gap in product coverage. Gamers with older systems often miss out on whether or not a new graphics card will be a meaningful upgrade for aging systems. That’s particularly important as the speed of the desktop replacement cycle has slowed.
Here, we’re going to compare the performance impact of upgrading the graphics card on an older system that doesn’t have access to any of the substantial performance gains Intel introduced with Nehalem in late 2008. Our upgrade card of choice is an EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SuperClocked with 2GB of RAM: