Yesterday, I was asked by a friend of mine to provide an opinion on which CPU would be best suited for his new gaming rig and of course the CPU also affected what motherboard you select and the RAM configuration (dual or triple channel). Then you get to things like the graphics solution for the computer.
Based upon price, specifications and performance I thought that the Intel Core i7 3770 was the best pick out of the three specified (the others were an i7 3820 and i5 680. Upon closer research I discovered that the i7 3770 also includes integrated graphics on the CPU. Normally, I am not a big fan of integrated graphics on a CPU as I believe that it is wasted space that could be used to pack in more CPU goodness but with the current crop of CPUs and chipsets I may have just changed my mind.
With the latest Z77 chipsets (and Z68 chipsets beforehand) you can do something pretty cool that might also save on power as well thanks to Lucid Virtu MVP switchable graphics. What this does is allow you to use the integrated graphics on the CPU for regular everyday usage (which should suffice for using Windows and applications) but switch to using the dedicated graphics card in the computer when you fire up a game. This is a great way to minimise energy consumption as the dedicated graphics card can be effectively switched off until it is required which would eliminate wasted power going to an idle video card. You also do not have to swap the connector to which your monitor is connected either – just plug the monitor into the onboard graphics connector and the system will take care of the rest for you.
At the moment, there is at least one drawback to this technology in which it is incompatible with nVidia SLI and ATI CrossFire setups as those require a monitor to be directly connected to one of the dedicated video cards in the array. That may or may not be an issue considering that cards such as the GTX 670 and 680 pack enough power to run most games admirably at 2560 x 1600 but for those wanting to go all out for multi-GPU rigs will be left begging.
Anyway, if I end up refreshing my desktop rig next year then this is something into which I will look.