2017 CPU Benchmarking

For our review, we are implementing our fresh CPU testing benchmark suite, using new scripts developed specifically for this testing. This means that with a fresh OS install, we can configure the OS to be more consistent, install the new benchmarks, maintain version consistency without random updates and start running the tests in under 5 minutes. After that it's a one button press to start an 8-10hr test (with a high-performance core) with nearly 100 relevant data points in the benchmarks given below. The tests cover a wide range of segments, some of which will be familiar but some of the tests are new to benchmarking in general, but still highly relevant for the markets they come from.

Our new CPU tests go through six main areas. We cover the Web (we've got an un-updateable version of Chrome 56), general system tests (opening tricky PDFs, emulation, brain simulation, AI, 2D image to 3D model conversion), rendering (ray tracing, modeling), encoding (compression, AES, h264 and HEVC), office based tests (PCMark and others), and our legacy tests, throwbacks from another generation of bad code but interesting to compare.

Our graphs typically list CPUs with microarchitecture, SKU name, cost and power. The cost will be one of two numbers, either the 1k unit price 'tray price' for when a business customer purchases 1000 CPUs, or the MSRP likely to be found at retail. The problem here is that neither Intel nor AMD are consistent: Intel has a tray price for every CPU, but an MSRP only for parts sold at retail. AMD typically quotes MSRP for CPUs at retail, tray prices for enterprise CPUs, and doesn't say much about OEM only parts. We try to find a balance here, so prices may be $10-$20 from what you might expect.

A side note on OS preparation. As we're using Windows 10, there's a large opportunity for something to come in and disrupt our testing. So our default strategy is multiple: disable the ability to update as much as possible, disable Windows Defender, uninstall OneDrive, disable Cortana as much as possible, implement the high performance mode in the power options, and disable the internal platform clock which can drift away from being accurate if the base frequency drifts (and thus the timing ends up inaccurate).

Additional Note for 7/28: As this review is being written, due to limited time, testing on the CPUs is still ongoing and some benchmark graphs will be added in time when the results come in and can be verified.

Web Tests on Chrome 56

Sunspider 1.0.2
Mozilla Kraken 1.1
Google Octane 2.0
WebXPRT15

System Tests

PDF Opening
FCAT
3DPM v2.1
Dolphin v5.0
DigiCortex v1.20
Agisoft PhotoScan v1.0

Rendering Tests

Corona 1.3
Blender 2.78
LuxMark CPU C++
LuxMark CPU OpenCL
POV-Ray 3.7.1b4
Cinebench R15 ST
Cinebench R15 MT

Encoding Tests

7-Zip 9.2
WinRAR 5.40
AES Encoding (TrueCrypt 7.2)
HandBrake v1.0.2 x264 LQ
HandBrake v1.0.2 x264-HQ
HandBrake v1.0.2 HEVC-4K

Office / Professional

PCMark8
Chromium Compile (v56)
SYSmark 2014 SE

Legacy Tests

3DPM v1 ST / MT
x264 HD 3 Pass 1, Pass 2
Cinebench R11.5 ST / MT
Cinebench R10 ST / MT

A side note - a couple of benchmarks (LuxMark) weren't fully 100% giving good data during testing. Need to go back and re-work this part of our testing.

2017 CPU Gaming Tests

For our new set of GPU tests, we wanted to think big. There are a lot of users in the ecosystem that prioritize gaming above all else, especially when it comes to choosing the correct CPU. If there's a chance to save $50 and get a better graphics card for no loss in performance, then this is the route that gamers would prefer to tread. The angle here though is tough - lots of games have different requirements and cause different stresses on a system, with various graphics cards having different reactions to the code flow of a game. Then users also have different resolutions and different perceptions of what feels 'normal'. This all amounts to more degrees of freedom than we could hope to test in a lifetime, only for the data to become irrelevant in a few months when a new game or new GPU comes into the mix. Just for good measure, let us add in DirectX 12 titles that make it easier to use more CPU cores in a game to enhance fidelity.

Our original list of nine games planned in February quickly became six, due to the lack of professional-grade controls on Ubisoft titles. If you want to see For Honor, Steep or Ghost Recon: Wildlands benchmarked on AnandTech, point Ubisoft Annecy or Ubisoft Montreal in my direction. While these games have in-game benchmarks worth using, unfortunately they do not provide enough frame-by-frame detail to the end user, despite using it internally to produce the data the user eventually sees (and it typically ends up obfuscated by another layer as well). I would instead perhaps choose to automate these benchmarks via inputs, however the extremely variable loading time is a strong barrier to this.

So we have the following benchmarks as part of our 4/2 script, automated to the point of a one-button run and out pops the results four hours later, per GPU. Also listed are the resolutions and settings used.

  • Civilization 6 (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation* (1080p Extreme, 4K Extreme)
  • Shadow of Mordor (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #1 - GeoValley (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #2 - Prophets (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #3 - Mountain (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rocket League (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (1080p Very High, 4K High)

For each of the GPUs in our testing, these games (at each resolution/setting combination) are run four times each, with outliers discarded. Average frame rates, 99th percentiles and 'Time Under x FPS' data is sorted, and the raw data is archived.

The four GPUs we've managed to obtain for these tests are:

  • MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G
  • ASUS GTX 1060 Strix 6G
  • Sapphire Nitro R9 Fury 4GB
  • Sapphire Nitro RX 480 8GB

In our testing script, we save a couple of special things for the GTX 1080 here. The following tests are also added:

  • Civilization 6 (8K Ultra, 16K Lowest)

This benchmark, with a little coercion, are able to be run beyond the specifications of the monitor being used, allowing for 'future' testing of GPUs at 8K and 16K with some amusing results. We are only running these tests on the GTX 1080, because there's no point watching a slideshow more than once.

Test Bed and Setup Benchmarking Performance: CPU System Tests
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  • Ian Cutress - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    AMD doesn't use the R3 / R5 / R7 nomenclature - that's for graphics. Reply
  • Gothmoth - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    i don´t care about gaming or heating my house with a cpu..... so ryzen makes more sense for me. :)

    x299 was such a disappointment.
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Ian, first off, thanks for the benchmark numbers! I look forward to seeing the rest once they are completed.

    As far as data is concerned, is there a chance that the DigiCortex results have the wrong numbers next to a couple CPUs?

    I'm specifically looking at the i3 7100 being the fastest Intel CPU at 0.63, compared to the rest of the offerings clustering together at 0.37-0.38. To me it looks like the 0.63 should be the i5 7400 and the 7100 should be with the other dual cores.

    On another note, it looks like the RoTR Geothermal Valley scene really HATES AMD's HyperThreading - at least on Nvidia hardware/drivers. At first I thought there might be another set of numbers transposed somewhere since the Ryzen 3 CPUs perform SO MUCH better than the 1500X. But I looked back at the 1600X review and the numbers seem consistent -- bad performance on HyperThreaded AMD on a GTX 1080. Prophet's Tomb seems to behave better. Just shows how much architecture and software optimizations for said architecture can either oppose or compliment each other.

    As for small typos, there's also a couple spots where the 1200 is referred to as "1200X". There was another one I found during my initial read that I can't find now that I'm commenting.
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Not the typo I was looking for, but I just noticed that the intro/description for Civ6 looks like it has a typo I've missed in previous articles:
    "...but every edition from the second to the sixth, including the fifth as voiced by the late Leonard Nimoy, it a game that is easy to pick up, but hard to master."

    "it a game" should probably be "is a game"

    Not a criticism, just trying to help out where I can. :)
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Gah... brain fart this morning. Please read my references to AMD "HyperThreading" as "SMT"... smh Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    i3 7100 should be 0.363x on DigiCortex. I've corrected three 7100 results today in our database from my personal master copy. I think I'll have to go through them all and double check.

    RoTR Geothermal on 1080p with a GTX 1080 really loves quad cores without hyperthreading, AMD or Intel. I'm not sure what it is with that test on that benchmark - in our KBL-X review, all the i5s got top results by a good margin. I think it's been optimized specifically for quad-core, or there's something iffy in the game code/drivers.

    Appreciate the typo point outs for sure. These things are always last minute and you can never have too many eyes on it. :)
    Reply
  • DanGer1 - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    The review is lacking, especially the value charts. Ryzens come with a cooler, their motherboards cost less and they are overclock-able. Adjusting the cost for the motherboard and the cooler changes the value charts significantly in R3's favor. Overclocking on stock air makes makes performance and value a no contest in favor of the R3s. Reply
  • MajGenRelativity - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Intel's processors also come with a cooler. Reply
  • wallysb01 - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    Basic 1511 boards that would go into i3/Pentium builds are really not much more, if at all, than the lower end AM4 boards. Plus, the Intel stuff has an iGPU and if you're buying a low end desktop, you probably don't care a lot about heavily multithreaded workloads. So, I'd actually argue the i3/Pentiums are getting under sold in the value charts.

    Its kinda funny how the landscape has switched, in that Intel might actually be the better low-end, value winner, while AMD is the best mid/mid-high end value winner.
    Reply
  • Gothmoth - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    +1 for overclocking.
    the tested intel cpus are sure not k models.

    as for intel having internal GPU.. i never used them not even on my cheapest system builds.
    Reply

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