Final Words

It can be argued that as much of a GPU hog Doom 3 is, it is just as demanding on your CPU. The recipe to success is much simpler on the CPU side however: Doom 3 needs cache and lots of it.

On the Pentium 4 side of things, if you've got anything with less than 512KB of cache it's time for you to upgrade. Prescott owners will be happy that their chips are finally faster than Northwood in something thanks to larger caches.

AMD owners have much more of a reason to rejoice: the Athlon 64 runs Doom perfectly. It's almost as if the game was built to run best on an Athlon 64; maybe AMD should invest some marketing dollars in their own "The way it's meant to be played" campaign. And to make things even better, you don't even have to have the fastest Athlon 64 to get great performance, even the meager 3000+ manages to offer performance equal to that of Intel's Extreme Edition Pentium 4 at a much lower cost. The key to AMD's success is the on-die memory controller; with lower latency memory accesses than the competing Intel solutions, Doom 3 sees system memory as one big cache and drives performance up considerably. It is also the on-die memory controller that makes cache size less of an issue on the Athlon 64, while too small of a cache seems to make or break performance with the Pentium 4.

The Athlon XP is much less impressive under Doom 3 thanks to its lack of an on-die memory controller; unless you have a Barton based Athlon XP, it may be time to bite the bullet and upgrade to an Athlon 64. That being said, the entry level Sempron 3100+ offers very competitive performance at a price point that's low enough to make the transition to a Socket-754 platform relatively painless.

If you are lucky enough to own any of the GeForce 6 series cards and play at resolutions lower than 1280x1024 rest assured that money spent on a faster CPU is money well spent. If you happen to have a slower card, something along the lines of a Radeon 9800 Pro or even a regular X800, your system is far less CPU bound and you may want to go with a more middle-of-the-road CPU in order to maximize performance without spending needlessly.

In the end, the winner of the final battle is clear: the AMD Athlon 64 is the processor for Doom 3.

AMD vs. Intel
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  • Anemone - Thursday, August 5, 2004 - link

    I suggest you look at the low and average framerates for the EE @ 1600x1200. From memory I recall on HardOCP was that the AMD chips had a higher top end and a lower low end, making the average, whereas the P4's had high and low ends not so far away from their average.

    AMD64's fly, but at higher res's 1280 up to 1600, the difference is a few fps, and P4's seem to not fly as fast, but also not bottom out as bad in the super heavy scenes.

    While I'm torn on the issue of which platform to go to, that is something I noticed.
    Reply
  • DigitalDivine - Thursday, August 5, 2004 - link

    Shinei, hardocp did not use apples to apples comparisons. Reply
  • dmxlite - Thursday, August 5, 2004 - link

    "When tested at 1600 and real gameplay, Athlon 64 falls like a brick, as shown in the "Official Doom 3 hardware guide" at HardOCP."

    Yes, that must be the reason why in the conclusion they say "AMD came out ahead in DOOM 3 performance with the strongest CPU in our tests, the Athlon 64 FX-53 processor," and why they chose the stock FX to be in their [H]ard|OCP Ultimate DOOM 3 System and an overclocked A64 3000+ to be in their [H]ard|OCP Ultimate Enthusiast DOOM 3 System.
    Reply
  • nlr_2000 - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    It's called an on die memory controller ;) Reply
  • Staples - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Interesting how P4s were always top dog in Q3 but now with D3, it is the opposite. Reply
  • Shinei - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    I don't know about you, T8000, but I can't complain about my (underclocked) 64MB Ti4200 and 3200+ XP combination. It drags in some areas (9fps as a low, 60 as a high, average gameplay flow is around 20; settings are 10x7 medium quality), but it's definitely playable in singleplayer, with very little mouse lag.
    So, for my Athlon XP to be performing fairly well with 2-year-old, underclocked hardware, I'm willing to say that HOCP is probably making things retarded for AMD by changing settings or something. I find it very hard to believe that the vastly superior Athlon 64s (compared to my Athlon XP) would falter so heavily in gameplay when my own processor does not.
    Reply
  • T8000 - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    I think you cannot say a CPU is better because it produces more frames in situations where it is hardly stressed, like lower resolutions and timedemos. Furthermore, I think most people want to play at an acceptable framerate with as much detail as possible, so testing a GF6800U only at 1280 and without playing the game, is not realistic.

    When tested at 1600 and real gameplay, Athlon 64 falls like a brick, as shown in the "Official Doom 3 hardware guide" at HardOCP. Only the overclocked Athlon FX could do slightly more then the P4EE at stock settings.
    Reply
  • flexy - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    >>>
    Whether the top-performing FX53 is worth the $811 price is up to you,
    >>>

    The answer is of course: NO

    Neither is the PIV EE worth its price :)
    Reply
  • flexy - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    the most important info for me is that it's actually nonsense to wait for socket 939...or useless to spend more money for 1mb cache.

    So...socket 754 is even better/faster and cheaper. And the 512kb cache are plenty too for the A64.

    This is very helpful info in regards to upgrading my system soon :)
    Reply
  • Pumpkinierre - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Nice article Anand- strange set of results. I'd like to see the benchmark for a 2.4c at 3200MHz with same memory latency settings. If it is memory latency as the a64 results suggest then the Prescott should be lower or even beaten by N'wood. If it is L1 cache size then the EE result should be lower.
    Reply

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