CPU Bound Gaming Performance

While we always try to run our gaming benchmarks in CPU reviews as a balance between being CPU and GPU bound, there is some merit to using CPU bound gaming scenarios as a true measure of the gaming power of a CPU. 

The previous pages of gaming benchmarks were run at 1600 x 1200, which struck a good balance between being CPU and GPU bound on our CrossFire setup but here we’re looking at exactly how good of a gaming CPU the Core 2 Duo is.  By running these tests at 640 x 480 with the same CrossFire setup as before we’re ensuring that the performance bottlenecks in these titles shift as far as possible from the GPU and onto the CPU. 

These tests aren’t designed to tell you how fast these CPUs are at running these games, but rather how quickly they can run through the physics and AI code when not waiting on the graphics card at all. 

We chose to look at two CPUs: the Core 2 Extreme X6800 and the Athlon 64 FX-62, to get an idea of how strong each architecture was at pure physics/AI processing in games.  We also omitted any games whose performance didn’t change by dropping the resolution from 1600 x 1200 to 640 x 480 (meaning that those games were already predominantly CPU limited in our previous tests). 

 CPU Quake 4 HL2 Ep 1 F.E.A.R.  BF2
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 156.7 170.0 164.0 108.7
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 192.5 263.5 236.0 142.3
Advantage (Intel) 22.8% 55.0% 43.9% 30.9%

 

In terms of sheer ability to process physics and AI as well as feed a hungry graphics subsystem, Intel's Core 2 Extreme X6800 is anywhere between 22 and 55% faster than AMD's Athlon 64 FX-62. 

While this doesn't mean much for real world gaming, it does cement the fact that Intel's Core 2 processor is significantly faster at the type of code current 3D games will throw at it.  The very same benchmarks that Intel used to complain about favoring AMD, now favor Intel just as much; oh how times have changed.

Gaming Performance using Oblivion Overclocking
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  • Calin - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    A very good part of what Intel makes (processor wise) goes to mainstream and lower-than-mainstream performance (Celeron-like chips). There might be, in the end (of the year), enough production of Core2 to fill the enthusiast/retail market.
    Indeed, the Netburst are obsolete over night...
    Reply
  • xFlankerx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Not just Netburst, even the Athlon 64s are obsolete now.

    With the Pentium 4 vs. Athlon 64 debate, atleast there were moments when going with the Pentium 4 could be justified. However, because of the huge difference in performance and prices of the Core 2 Duo and Athlon 64 processors, I think it would be foolish to go for a new Athlon 64 system right now (unless ofcourse you're on a tight budget).
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yes, Pentium4 was better in so-called media benchmarks, and there were some uber-optimized application that were flying on Pentium4.
    Right now, there are (as stated in article) three competitors: Core2Duo at high price, performance and low power, Athlon64 X2 at lower price, performance and a bit higher power, and PentiumD at dumping prices, even lower performance and quite a bit higher power. It all depends on how much money you would invest.
    I am thinking at a single core Core2, and integrated video mainboard with ATI or NVidia chipset - or a Sempron AM2 3000+. I wonder how cheap a Core2 Solo would be
    Reply
  • Squidward - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Agreed, an excellent review, I loved Anand's anologies about the dinner table. I get the feeling he may have been thinking Arby's (tm) when he wrote this review. :)

    My goodness does Intel's new lineup impress. I've been using AMD ever since the K6/2 days and was planning on getting an X2 soon, but this review has made me decide to wait it out just a little bit longer.

    Great article guys, keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Not just Netburst, even the Athlon 64s are obsolete now

    I'd say that the A64 X2s are still quite competitive, depending on your budget and availability of the C2Ds.
    That said, Intel has done a magnificent job with these chips!
    It looks like Conroe will own the high end market until AMD can release K8L...but judging by the review, AMD will own the low end. I can't see anyone buying a PD once AMD drops the prices, nor can I see anyone buying an AMD if they can afford a medium or higher priced system.
    Reply
  • jkostans - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    With the 1.83GHz conroe at $183 and on par with a X2 4600, I don't see the low end going for AMD either.Ultra low end will be a toss up however. Reply
  • Viditor - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    quote:

    With the 1.83GHz conroe at $183 and on par with a X2 4600, I don't see the low end going for AMD either

    If you look at the situation in total, it will probably make more sense...
    1. The X2 has far more inexpensive but fully functional motherboards to choose from.
    2. Supply will be far more constrained on the Conroe than on the X2

    Combos are king in the low end...for example, if you combine an Asus M2NPV-VM with an AM2 X2 3800 (after the price drop), you get a good dual core system with Raid 5, HDTV, nVidia 6150 graphics, Firewire, dual screen (VGA and DVI), and just about every whistle and bell you could want for (est) ~$250. You'd be hard pressed to find just a Conroe-ready motherboard with that kind of functionality for that kind of money (let alone a combo).
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    correct the real performance king will be for now the conroe starting from 6600 and above. maybe 6400 this will be clear later. but for the budget platform it will be better to buy an x2 3800 or 4200 seeing the price combo it will have. mobo + proc is way cheaper then any intel combo (100$ and more) thats a lot for a budget system.

    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    oh and one big item which is left out of sighht... the performance gain is less on a conroe then on a k8.. its a difference of 15% in identical apps... that's an interesting point for the future... just my opinion Reply
  • Xenoid - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yes it was a very, very well done review and I will definitely be purchasing one of these bad boys. Reply

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