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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  • thatsright - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Great article, but just one quibble. Is it just me, or does it sound like AMD paid AnandTech for the last sentence of the article: "In the end, the winner of the final battle is clear: the AMD Athlon 64 is the processor for Doom 3"

    It sounds like a perfect quote from the AMD marketing dept! LOL
    Reply
  • DAPUNISHER - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Good stuff! That was the most entertaining set of benchies I've seen in awhile. D3 is evidently turning out to be a better benching tool than game =) Reply
  • kherman - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Dear anandtech,

    Please do a similar benchmarking wtih system memmorry.

    Sincerely,
    me
    Reply
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    #9, Carmack has stated that Doom 3 does not have SMP support. Reply
  • CrimsonDeath - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    How about pumped up XP-M's? I got one running at 2700Mhz, that would make it better than most cpu's out there.
    Overclock till it burns, then overclock more!
    Reply
  • punko - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Guess my XP 1800+ ain't gonna cut it . . .

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

    Well, my 2800+ is staying in my box! Reply
  • kherman - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    In the days of GPU shootouts, this article is an EXCELENT idea! Good work! Still have to read it though.

    It's funny to, because I'm contemplating a move to 1 gig of memmory.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Just to clarify before the comments start, there are TWO 3400+ Athlon 64 as you will see in checking at New Egg for instance. The NEW 3400+ is Socket 754, runs at 2.4GHz and has 512k cache. The original 3400+ is still available and is Socket 754, runs at 2.2GHz, and has 1MB cache. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - link

    Please keep in mind that the small Athlon 64 increases in Dual-Channel and Cache-size are cumulative. While it's true that Dual-Channel only adds about 3% to A64 performance and 1MB cache only adds about 5%, the combination adds 8 to 10% improved performance. The FX53 is the ONLY chip that combines BOTH 1MB cache and Dual-Channel memory and is 8 to 10% faster than a comparable chip using Single-Channel (Socket 754) and 512MB cache.

    The Dual-Channel 1MB FX53 should be about 8% to 10% faster than the latest Newcastle SC 512K 3400+ even though both run run at 2.4Ghz. Another interesting point is that since Cache mattered more in Doom3 than Dual-Channel, a 3700+ (SC, 1MB cache) might actually be faster in Doom3 than a 3800+ (DC, 512MB). This was certainly true in Anand's tests of the 3400+ (SC, 1MB0, which was faster than the 3500+ (DC, 512MB).

    Whether the top-performing FX53 is worth the $811 price is up to you, but it is still a bargain in Doom3 compared to the 3.4EE that is 18% slower and still sells for $1000.
    Reply

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