A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to CPU and GPU Bottlenecks

Facing a performance bottleneck is never a good experience. It’s frustrating and makes you want to punch a hole in the wall. It’s particularly annoying when you have spent hundreds of dollars on getting the best computer equipment. But you are unable to get the performance you want.

Performance bottlenecks mostly come to the fore when playing a particular game because of a particular CPU GPU combination. However, they are more common than you think. It’s just that they are less noticeable when you are using your computer for productivity tasks.

So, why do these CPU GPU bottlenecks occur?

Short answer – These performance bottlenecks happen because one computer component performs better than the other, making it slow down to maintain balance. Think of it as the weakest link in a chain that keeps all the other components from reaching their peak performance.

Long answer…

But, it isn’t always easy to answer questions like, “Whether component X will bottleneck component Y?”. There are multiple factors that may cause a performance bottleneck. For instance, what games you play and at what frame rate can affect which component will hold you back when it comes to gaming.

To understand the concepts better, let’s talk about CPU and GPU bottlenecks in a little detail.

What is a CPU Bottleneck?

Well, it’s exactly what it says: A CPU bottleneck occurs when the CPU in your setup is slow to perform in comparison with the other components (mostly the GPU). As a result, your CPU holds back the performance of the entire rig.

To get more specific, a CPU bottleneck occurs when the CPU is unable to process the data fast enough to balance the GPU’s rendering performance. Consequently, the computer caps out your GPU’s frame rates well below its full potential. This leads to noticeable stutters and slowdowns during gaming sessions.

A good example is the combination of AMD’s A6 (5th generation) CPU and Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti graphics card. Sure, on paper, GTX 1080Ti should be able to run any video game at coveted 4K resolution and 60 fps. However, because the A6 CPU will be unable to keep up with such high processing speeds, you will barely get [email protected] (depending on your video game). This is because the CPU is responsible for processing all the real-time game mechanics such as UI, video, audio, etc.

What is a GPU Bottleneck?

It’s the same concept as we discussed earlier. Only this time, the GPU is slow to perform compared to the other components (mostly the CPU). As a result, your GPU holds back the performance of your entire rig.

Final Thoughts

Essentially, both CPU and GPU have to work together to build a world. The CPU instructs the GPU to build a particular kind of world. In response, GPU renders and says, “Got it, next please!” and that’s how it goes for pretty much any function. Now, if the GPU takes a longer period of time to execute a command, GPU has to compensate by providing fewer instructions.


About the author

Syed Asad

Asad is passionate about all things tech. He brings you reviews of the latest gadgets, devices, and computers