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The Test

As always we're only presenting a subset of our entire CPU test suite here. For all of the numbers as well as other comparison options check out Bench.

CPU: AMD A8-3850, AMD A6-3650, AMD Athlon II X4 635, AMD Athlon II X3 455, AMD Athlon II X2 265
Intel Core i3-2100, Intel Core i3 540, Intel Pentium G850, Intel Pentium G840, Intel Pentium G620, Intel Pentium G620T
Motherboard: Intel DH67BL (Intel H67)
ASRock A75 Extreme6 (AMD A75)
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.2.0.1025
AMD Catalyst 8.862 RC1
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M (80GB), Corsair P256 SSD (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR3-1866 2 x 4GB
Video Drivers: AMD Catalyst 8.862 RC1
Intel 2372
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance

To measure performance under Photoshop CS4 we turn to the Retouch Artists’ Speed Test. The test does basic photo editing; there are a couple of color space conversions, many layer creations, color curve adjustment, image and canvas size adjustment, unsharp mask, and finally a gaussian blur performed on the entire image.

The whole process is timed and thanks to the use of Intel's X25-M SSD as our test bed hard drive, performance is far more predictable than back when we used to test on mechanical disks.

Time is reported in seconds and the lower numbers mean better performance. The test is multithreaded and can hit all four cores in a quad-core machine.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 - Retouch Artists Speed Test

The Pentium G620 does a lot better than its Athlon II X2 counterpart, there's no contest here. The race is a lot closer between the G840/850 and the Athlon II X3 455, but in the end the Pentiums are faster. Both perform a bit better than the more expensive AMD A8-3850.

x264 HD Video Encoding Performance

Graysky's x264 HD test uses the publicly available x264 encoder to transcode a 4Mbps 720p MPEG-2 source. The focus here is on quality rather than speed, thus the benchmark uses a 2-pass encode and reports the average frame rate in each pass.

x264 HD Encode Test - 1st pass - x264 0.59.819

x264 HD Encode Test - 2nd pass - x264 0.59.819

Once again the G620 is faster than the Athlon II X2 265 despite the latter's clock speed advantage. The G840 and G850 are faster than the 620 but not fast enough to overcome the extra core advantage of the X3 455. If you're spending $80 on a CPU for video encoding go for the Athlon II X3 455.

3dsmax 9 - SPECapc 3dsmax CPU Rendering Test

Today's desktop processors are more than fast enough to do professional level 3D rendering at home. To look at performance under 3dsmax we ran the SPECapc 3dsmax 8 benchmark (only the CPU rendering tests) under 3dsmax 9 SP1. The results reported are the rendering composite scores:

3dsmax r9 - SPECapc 3dsmax 8 CPU Test

Not all heavily threaded tasks are going to favor more cores. In this case the IPC advantages of Sandy Bridge give the G850 equal performance to the X3 455.

Cinebench R10

Created by the Cinema 4D folks we have Cinebench, a popular 3D rendering benchmark that gives us both single and multi-threaded 3D rendering results.

Cinebench R10 - Single Threaded Benchmark

Single threaded performance is going to be a big advantage of the SNB Pentiums. Even the G620 is a good 14% faster than AMD's Athlon II X2 265 and the rest scale up with clock speed. What this translates to is great general use performance as well as solid performance in those apps that are still bound by the performance of a single thread.

Cinebench R10 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

Multithreaded apps however start to benefit from more cores. In this case the Athlon II X3 455 isn't much faster than a G850 and only 4.5% faster than a G840, despite its core count advantage.

PAR2 Multithreaded Archive Recovery Performance

Par2 is an application used for reconstructing downloaded archives. It can generate parity data from a given archive and later use it to recover the archive

Chuchusoft took the source code of par2cmdline 0.4 and parallelized it using Intel’s Threading Building Blocks 2.1. The result is a version of par2cmdline that can spawn multiple threads to repair par2 archives. For this test we took a 708MB archive, corrupted nearly 60MB of it, and used the multithreaded par2cmdline to recover it. The scores reported are the repair and recover time in seconds.

Par2 - Multi-Threaded par2cmdline 0.4

Our Par2 extraction test is another multithreaded scenario where two Sandy Bridge cores manage to slightly outperform three Athlon II cores. Whereas before it was a pretty simple "more cores, better multithreaded performance" argument, the SNB Pentiums do complicate things a bit.

WinRAR - Archive Creation

Our WinRAR test simply takes 300MB of files and compresses them into a single RAR archive using the application's default settings. We're not doing anything exotic here, just looking at the impact of CPU performance on creating an archive:

WinRAR 3.8 Compression - 300MB Archive

Once again we've got a multithreaded test with a murky outcome. The G850 is hot on the heels of the Athlon II X3 455, as is the G840.

Gaming Performance

Our first set of gaming performance results come using a discrete GPU. In the case of the Crysis Warhead results it's a GeForce GTX 280, while everything else uses a Radeon HD 5870. Across the board the Pentium manages to do better than its Athlon II competitors, of course with a discrete GPU that's not unexpected. Next we'll see how these stack up with processor graphics.

Crysis Warhead - 1680 x 1050 - Mainstream Quality (Physics on Enthusiast) - assault bench

Dragon Age Origins is another very well received game. The 3rd person RPG gives our CPUs a different sort of workload to enjoy:

Dragon Age Origins - 1680 x 1050 - Max Settings (no AA/Vsync)

World of Warcraft needs no introduction. An absurd number of people play it, so we're here to benchmark it. Our test favors repeatability over real world frame rates, so our results here will be higher than in the real world with lots of server load. But what our results will tell you is what the best CPU is to get for playing WoW:

World of Warcraft

Starcraft 2

Power Consumption

The new Pentiums draw very little power, not only compared to their AMD counterparts but also the rest of the Sandy Bridge lineup.Without Hyper Threading, overall execution resource utilization is lower and thus power consumption is lower. It doesn't look like any of these chips come close to hitting their max TDPs as the Pentium G620T only draws 4W less than the G620 despite being rated with a 30W lower TDP.

Load Power Consumption x264 HD 3.03 1st pass (Win7/Radeon HD 5870)

The Matchup Processor Graphics Performance
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  • dingetje - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    AMD Athlon II X3 455 = 80 bucks
    Intel G620 = 78 bucks

    nuff said
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    You can overclock the AMD processor, though. You can get an Athlon X2 560 black edition, plus a motherboard for $89 at Microcenter (and the last one I bought unlocked to 4 cores). The Phenom II processors can often be had for low prices - they should have included at least one Phenom II in the benchmarks. Reply
  • dingetje - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    lol, with nuff said i meant:
    they are priced the same and with 3 overclockable cores the AMD is way better deal
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    As you can see, it's apparently not obvious that's the better deal. I agree the AMD is better for enthusiasts. It's worse for people who care about power consumption, and it will be worse for gaming (though perhaps not significantly so if you use an inexpensive GPU). Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    ET, there's a "Best gaming CPU for the money" article on Tom's hardware: go and see that every CPU up to the Core i5 2400 is AMD.
    This translates into: if you are into gaming on a budget, there's only one choice.
    I agree on your comment on power efficiency: Intel is unrivaled and if your highest priority is power consumption, then the Pentiums are unbeatable.
    Of course, the differences measured, are completely irrelevant in a home environment: it may make a difference of $3, $4 in one year, if even. The only place this would really matter to the point that it could be a priority, is for large enterprises. Then again, this is not the entry-level PC for Mr Joe Average.

    It is absolutely normal for Intel to use its brand name to charge more, for inferior products. I'm sure AMD would do the same if could. This doesn't change the fact though that if you're after getting the most for your hard earned $$$, if you're after the best price/performance ratio, you cannot possibly choose Intel.
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    I think you had better re-read that chart, yankee, or look at toms today and see the new chart. Intel is well represented all the way to the lowest level:

    85.00: Athlon II x3 455
    100.00: Tie, Phenom II x4 840, Pentium G850
    125.00: i3 2100
    190.00: i5 2400
    220.00: i5 2500K
    325.00: i7 2600K

    I didnt include an "honorable mention" because the article is "best for the money" but at 120.00 AMD did have an honorable mention for one of the quad core phenoms.

    But if you only look at the clear winning categories 125.00 and under, AMD has 2 and intel has 2.

    above 125.00 it is all intel. So if you are gaming on a budget, you do have a choice. Intel is tied or ahead except at the very lowest price point.
    Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - link

    Hi Frozentundr,
    I have read the article very well and what you wrote confirms this exactly: like I said, if you're looking for gaming on a budget, you look at the cheapest CPUs that give you the best "bang" for the bucks.
    If you read the comment about the G850: "However, it only offers half of the execution cores as AMD's alternative, and it doesn't even have the Hyper-Threading technology needed to logically address four threads".
    Translated: you save on power, but the G850 can be set to choke much easier than a Phenom II X4. I hope you would agree.
    You're right about the Core i3: I skipped it when posting my note, but the conclusion totally stands: the lowest priced gaming CPU worth recommending, are AMD.
    The Core i3 is an option indeed if you're willing to spend some more on CPU, motherboard, and forsake overclocking as well, but we are already talking about a CPU more than 50% more costly than the Athlon II X3, so calling it "entry level" would be a bit of a stretch.
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - link

    All I was saying is that your original statement was not correct. Intel does have processers listed in the lower end. Now it seems you are changing the conditions of the argument to make your point. You are talking about only the "absolute lowest" price. And as every AMD fan eventually brings up, you can get more cores.

    Personally, I would even agree with you that I probably would prefer a quad core AMD to a Pentium for sure, maybe even to the i3 2100. But that is not the point. The point is that Intel does have competitive processors in the low end, based on what Tom's said, not on my evaluation.

    And I would consider the difference between an 80.00 and 125.00 processor not that significant. I mean, that is the price of one game, or one dinner out for a couple of people.

    Bottom line, I dont see how you can call intel processors "overpriced rubbish" based on Toms article. And I am not an intel fan. My first real gaming was done on a single core Athlon XP 2600, but I am just getting tired of AMD continuing to push out CPUs using an outdated architecture.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    Well I want to build super-duper cheap m-ATX/ITX PC. That slowest of them,G620T, running at 2.2 GHz looks like a good deal. 35W is great when you look at modern CPUs. Perfect for small box which will do trivial task like recording audio tracks or downloading torrents through the night. All of that with min. power drain. And most important thing all of those Pentiums are not as useless as Atoms. What is nice in Atoms [and likes] is only power drain, but performance is highly insufficient even for many trivial jobs. I don't need OC, well to be honest I would love to see VT-d, but heck you can always install XP (it still alive and kicking, and I couldn't care less about M$ propaganda) only or Linux!

    One thing which I'm not too sure about is the testing procedure. Those CPUs are not targeted at gaming or video editing.
    Reply
  • Captmorgan09 - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    I built up a WHS box running a G620T along with 4GB of RAM and 4 1.5TB WD black edition drives in RAID 5. It's not the speediest machine in the block but it runs cool and does the job. The only issue I had was the asus board I bought didn't support the G620T out of the box. Had to take the board to work and use an i5 so that I could boot and update the BIOS. Reply

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