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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  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    The amount of System memory (above 512MB) is unlikely to have any impact on framerate in the timedemo as I doubt it would need to swap anything out after the first run (which is discarded anyway).

    I found my 128MB graphics-card (a Ti4200) gave an almost identical framerate at Low, Medium, and High quality settings in the timedemo even when gfx-card limited, provided Aniso was disabled in the driver for High quality mode (which would otherwise use 8x Aniso and impact on performance in other ways). So increasing the videocard memory from 128MB to 256MB will have no effect whatsoever on the timedemo, except maybe at Ultra quality which I didn't bother testing.
    Reply
  • Steve Guilliot - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    #27
    That's the OS load balancing between the two procs. Two D3 threads aren't running at once. That's why sum utilization of both procs won't go over 100%.
    Reply
  • Succorso - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Is this review using XP or XP64 beta with the amd64 ? Are the benefits the same using a 32bitXP as opposed to the 64 bit XP ?

    Succorso
    Reply
  • SignalPST - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    its interesting how DOOM3 runs best in the Nvidia/AMD combo along with the amazing price/performance that they offer over their competitors

    the Athlon64 3000+ is on par with Intel's 3.4GHz EE, while the price difference is $840

    the GeForce 6800 GT is faster than ATI's X800XT PE, the price difference being $160

    so in this scenario, the Nvidia+AMD combo can save you $1000 and still outperform the ATI+Intel combo

    bottom line, for DOOM3 and future DOOM3 engine games, ATI+Intel=losers
    Reply
  • cKGunslinger - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Yes, I would also like to see some numbers benchmarking 256/364/512/768/1024/etc MB memory configurations. When does the average system have *enough* ram to run WinXP and play a game? Reply
  • xtf - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Would it be possible to add the cache (and other) specs of the K7s to certain charts?
    Because sometimes the 2700 and 2800 are slower than then the 2500 and it'd be interesting to know why.
    Reply
  • tdent1138 - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Great article AT! I'm happy to know my 2.53Ghz @ 2.717Ghz P4 and 9800pro will happily run D3 at 8x6 in medium quality. I can now wait until HL2 at least to upgrade to whatever makes sense at the time (A64 something I imagine). Thanks again! Reply
  • tdent1138 - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • Philbill - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Great article, Do you plan to give an update with the high end ATI cards?
    Phil
    Reply
  • dangereuxjeux - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Somehow, I feel ashamed that the Sempron 3100+ crushes my ol' P4 2.4C.... please please please stop publishing articles like this that encourage me to spend any more of my money upgrading to a new AMD platform to go along with my 6800. Reply

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