Gaming Performance

There's simply no better gaming CPU on the market today than Sandy Bridge. The Core i5 2500K and 2600K top the charts regardless of game. If you're building a new gaming box, you'll want a SNB in it.

Our Fallout 3 test is a quick FRAPS runthrough near the beginning of the game. We're running with a GeForce GTX 280 at 1680 x 1050 and medium quality defaults. There's no AA/AF enabled.

Fallout 3

In testing Left 4 Dead we use a custom recorded timedemo. We run on a GeForce GTX 280 at 1680 x 1050 with all quality options set to high. No AA/AF enabled.

Left 4 Dead

Far Cry 2 ships with several built in benchmarks. For this test we use the Playback (Action) demo at 1680 x 1050 in DX9 mode on a GTX 280. The game is set to medium defaults with performance options set to high.

Far Cry 2

Crysis Warhead also ships with a number of built in benchmarks. Running on a GTX 280 at 1680 x 1050 we run the ambush timedemo with mainstream quality settings. Physics is set to enthusiast however to further stress the CPU.

Crysis Warhead

Our Dragon Age: Origins benchmark begins with a shift to the Radeon HD 5870. From this point on these games are run under our Bench refresh testbed under Windows 7 x64. Our benchmark here is the same thing we ran in our integrated graphics tests - a quick FRAPS walkthrough inside a castle. The game is run at 1680 x 1050 at high quality and texture options.

Dragon Age: Origins

We're running Dawn of War II's internal benchmark at high quality defaults. Our GPU of choice is a Radeon HD 5870 running at 1680 x 1050.

Dawn of War II

Our World of Warcraft benchmark is a manual FRAPS runthrough of a lightly populated server with no other player controlled characters around. The frame rates here are higher than you'd see in a real world scenario, but the relative comparison between CPUs is accurate.

We run on a Radeon HD 5870 at 1680 x 1050. We're using WoW's high quality defaults but with weather intensity turned down all the way.

World of Warcraft

For Starcraft II we're using our heavy CPU test. This is a playback of a 3v3 match where all players gather in the middle of the map for one large, unit-heavy battle. While GPU plays a role here, we're mostly CPU bound. The Radeon HD 5870 is running at 1024 x 768 at medium quality settings to make this an even more pure CPU benchmark.

Starcraft II

This is Civ V's built in Late GameView benchmark, the newest addition to our gaming test suite. The benchmark outputs three scores: a full render score, a no-shadow render score and a no-render score. We present the first and the last, acting as a GPU and CPU benchmark respectively. 

We're running at 1680 x 1050 with all quality settings set to high. For this test we're using a brand new testbed with 8GB of memory and a GeForce GTX 580.

Civilization V: Late GameView Benchmark

Civilization V: Late GameView Benchmark

Visual Studio 2008, Flash Video Creation, & Excel Performance Power Consumption
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  • dacipher - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    The Core i5-2500K was just what i was looking for. Performance/ Price is where it needs to be and overclocking should be a breeze. Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I agree.

    "As an added bonus, both K-series SKUs get Intel’s HD Graphics 3000, while the non-K series SKUs are left with the lower HD Graphics 2000 GPU."

    Doesn't it seem like Intel has this backwards? For me, I'd think to put the 3000 on the lesser performing CPUs. Users will probably have their own graphics to use with the unlocked procs, whereas the limit-locked ones will more likely be used in HTPC-like machines.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    This seems odd to me unless they're having yield problems with the GPU portion of their desktop chips. That doesn't seem too likely though because you'd expect the mobile version to have the same problem but they're all 12 EU parts. Perhaps they're binning more aggressively on TDP, and only had enough chips that met target with all 12 EUs to offer them at the top of the chart. Reply
  • dananski - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    I agree with both of you. This should be the ultimate upgrade for my E8400, but I can't help thinking they could've made it even better if they'd used the die space for more CPU and less graphics and video decode. The Quick Sync feature would be awesome if it could work while you're using a discrete card, but for most people who have discrete graphics, this and the HD Graphics 3000 are a complete waste of transistors. I suppose they're power gated off so the thermal headroom could maybe be used for overclocking. Reply
  • JE_Delta - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    WOW........

    Great review guys!
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    Great review, but does anyone know how often 1 active core is used. I know this is a matter of subjection, but if you're running an anti-virus and have a bunch of standard services running in the background, are you likely to use only one core when idling?

    What should I advise people, as consumers, to really pay attention to? I know when playing games such as Counter-Strike or Battlefield: Bad Company 2, my C2D maxes out at 100%, I assume both cores are being used to achieve the 100% utilization. I'd imagine that in this age, hardly ever will there be a time to use just one core; probably 2 cores at idle.

    I would think that the 3-core figures are where the real noticeable impact is, especially in turbo, when gaming/browsing. Does anyone have any more perceived input on this?
    Reply
  • dualsmp - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    What resolution is tested under Gaming Performance on pg. 20? Reply
  • johnlewis - Monday, January 03, 2011 - link

    According to Bench, it looks like he used 1680×1050 for L4D, Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Dragon Age Origins, and Dawn of War 2, and 1024×768 for StarCraft 2. I couldn't find the tested resolution for World of Warcraft or Civilization V. I don't know why he didn't list the resolutions anywhere in the article or the graphs themselves, however. Reply
  • karlostomy - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    what the hell is the point of posting gaming scores at resolutions that no one will be playing at?

    If i am not mistaken, the grahics cards in the test are:
    eVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Vista 64)
    ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
    MSI GeForce GTX 580 (Windows 7)

    So then, with a sandybridge processor, these resolutions are irrelevant.
    1080p or above should be standard resolution for modern setup reviews.

    Why, Anand, have you posted irrelevant resolutions for the hardware tested?
    Reply
  • dananski - Thursday, January 06, 2011 - link

    Games are usually limited in fps by the level of graphics, so processor speed doesn't make much of a difference unless you turn the graphics detail right down and use an overkill graphics card. As the point of this page was to review the CPU power, it's more representative to use low resolutions so that the CPU is the limiting factor.

    If you did this set of charts for gaming at 2560x1600 with full AA & max quality, all the processors would be stuck at about the same rate because the graphics card is the limiting factor.

    I expect Civ 5 would be an exception to this because it has really counter-intuitive performance.
    Reply

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