AMD vs. Intel Performance

At this point it's not too big of a surprise that AMD is the stronger performer when it comes to gaming performance.  It's actually at the point where even insiders at Intel will admit and recognize that Intel is no longer the king of gaming performance as they once were long ago.  But how bad is it under Half Life 2?  Let's take a look at our five custom demos to find out.

We used the current king of Half Life 2 performance for all of our CPU tests - the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition running at 1280 x 1024, to give a good balance between CPU and GPU limitations while providing realistic performance figures.  Note that all of the Intel CPUs tested here are LGA-775 and all of the AMD CPUs are Socket-939.

First we have at_canals_08, generally a good GPU test, meaning that its CPU dependency is minimized.  The benchmark includes a decent number of NPCs and firefights but is severely offset by things like water and flashlight usage, both of which are more GPU intensive elements of the benchmark. 

Half Life 2 Performance - at_canals_08

Things don't look so good for Intel here, the Pentium 4 570J is the only Intel CPU capable of outperforming the Athlon 64 3000+.  Unfortunately for Intel, AMD's Athlon 64 4000+ is about 14% faster at 1280 x 1024.

The Extreme Edition CPUs don't do much for Intel, as Prescott does appear to perform equal or better clock for clock than the older Northwood core. 

Next let's take a look at at_coast_05, another very GPU limited test that has a good deal of NPC interaction as well as GPU limiting elements:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_coast_05

The results here are very similar to what we saw under at_canals_08, with the Pentium 4 570J offering performance slightly higher than the Athlon 64 3000+ but that's about it for Intel.  The Athlon 64 4000+ is an impressive 24% faster than Intel here which honestly is nothing to scoff at. 

Our next demo, at_coast_12, doesn't change much either:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_coast_12

The performance under at_prison_05 is a little closer:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_prison_05

Finally we have an excellent CPU benchmark, at_c17_12.  The test is extremely CPU bound, and thus makes the perfect conclusion to this section:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_c17_12

While you can argue that AMD's performance advantages in the other tests aren't noticeable on a price-for-price basis, you can't argue with the results here.  At the $280 - $290 price point, AMD's Athlon 64 3500+ delivers about 15% more performance than Intel's Pentium 4 550. 

The margin is even greater at the low end, AMD's Athlon 64 3000+ is 23% faster than Intel's similarly priced Pentium 4 520. 

At the high end the advantage is equally in AMD's favor, with the Athlon 64 4000+ holding a 22% advantage over Intel's fastest Pentium 4. 

Conclusion?  Don't look any further than AMD for the best gaming CPU, and Half Life 2 further cements AMD's reputation as the gamer's CPU.

Index Closer Look at AMD Memory Performance


View All Comments

  • zhangping0233 - Thursday, January 5, 2012 - link

    Nice job, If you need any flashlight, pls contact feel free. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link

    by the way, you can't mod a 9500Pro to a 9700Pro, the 9500Pro circuit-board only has a 128-bit memory-bus and there's no way you can change it to 256-bit. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link

    #55- the cut-off point where you can't really tell the difference of a higher framerate, is when the framerate exceeds the monitor refresh rate.

    If your monitor is updating the display 85 times per second (a common setting for cheaper CRT displays), then a *minimum* framerate of higher than 85fps makes no difference. With flat-panels, refresh-rates of 60-75hz are more common so you don't even need to maintain 85fps. A faster graphics-card is still worthwhile though as it allows you to crank up AA and Aniso settings (8x anti-aliasing is lovely).
  • maestroH - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link

    Coming from the recent dark age of a P4 1.7/9500Pro(@9700Pro) combi, this is great article to decide on my new machine. Although HL2 is playing quite nicely, I am lucky to have a one-off opportunity to buy myself a FX-55/X800XT combi.
    Never having experienced even any fps close to what's on these charts, something in the back of my mind keeps saying that a 10-20 fps more when you are already over 100 fps, will make no difference to the experience except a bigger hole in my wallet. Can anyone tell me where the 'cut-off' point is where even the most discerning of gamers cannot see/feel the difference? Knowing that dual core is coming up (even though games for them still need to be made), would buying a 3500+ be smarter or should I go for the FX-55 simply because I can (only this once)? Thx Anand for the article.
  • essjae - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Those graphs look nice, but they don't really mean much. Based on similar graphs and results I just bought a a64-4000+ and MSI Neo2 Platinum to replace my P4-3.2GHz and Asus P4c-800E.

    With the same ATI X800XT Platinum, memory, and hard drives, I can't see any difference between then, in fact, the P4 seemed to play smoother.

    Do I have any proof, no, other than playing half-life 2 on my p4 was more enjoyable.
  • Spacecomber - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Can anyone offer some insight into why the extreme edition northwoods did as poorly as they did? The 3.2GHz EE could barely keep up with the 3.0GHz Prescott; so, it's more than the raw clock speed of the high end Prescotts.

    Could it be related to running the Northwood on a platform really intended for Prescotts?

  • mixpix - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Awesome article. It was exactly what I've been looking for. My 2600+ is not cutting it with my 6600GT AGP and I was thinking it was the CPU that was limiting preformance. Reply
  • TheCanuck - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Firing Squad did a review on the Athlon XP performance with HL2 a while ago:

    The 3200+ XP got about 95fps in the Canals_09 demo at 1280x1024 with an X800 XT PE. Not sure how well it compares to the Canals_08 that Anandtech uses, but I doubt the difference would be that great.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    I'm very dissapointed with this article. I have been eagerly awaiting it for ages, expecting to see how Half-Life 2 scales down to lower speed processors; I've long maintained that low end processors like an AthlonXP 1900+, run the game quite poorly.

    The big deal with HL2 is that it was supposed to run on much older computers. But nobody seems to have benchmarked it on anything but pretty new hardware. I expected that a CPU scaling article would cover that, in fact I thought that was the entire point.
  • Visual - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    i'd be curious to see normal 6600, as well as maybe some lower-end ati card in the comparison :)
    ok ok, i know this isn't a GPU shootout, but still...

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