It's now been two months since Half Life 2's release and much to everyone's surprise, the game was far from a GPU hog. The more powerful your graphics card, the better everything looked and the smoother everything ran, but even people with GeForce4 MXs are able to enjoy Valve's long awaited masterpiece.

Immediately upon its release we looked closely at the impacts of GPUs on Half Life 2 performance in Parts I and II of our Half Life 2 coverage. Part I focused on the performance of High End DirectX 9 class GPUs, while Part II focused on mid-range GPUs as well as the previous generation of DirectX 8 class GPUs.

The one area we had not covered up to this point was the impact of CPUs on Half Life 2 performance. In a 3D game, the CPU is responsible mainly for the physics of the environment as well as the artificial intelligence of the NPC elements of the game. There is also a good deal of graphics driver overhead that taxes the CPU, and thus with more complicated games we get higher dependencies on fast CPUs.

Half Life 2 was an intriguing case in itself simply because the game boasted the most sophisticated physics engines that had been seen in a game to date. Elements of the game such as the gravity gun would prove to be extremely taxing on your CPU. In fact, we found that even the fastest $500+ video cards can still be CPU bound in Half Life 2 at normally GPU limited resolutions.

Although much delayed, today we are able to bring you the third and final part of our Half Life 2 coverage focusing entirely on CPU performance as it relates to graphics performance in Half Life 2. After all, a $500 graphics card is worthless if it is bound by a slow CPU.

All of the tests in this article use the same test beds and testing methodology as our first two Half Life 2 articles. You can download all of the demos used in this article here.

We apologize for the delay in the publication of this article, but as often the case, we get busy and things such as this article get postponed and postponed. Rather than shelve it, we decided to publish it - better late than never. Now on to the benchmarks...

AMD vs. Intel Performance


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  • Roooooooooooooooooot - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    Ommmmm ... yes, a very nice article :)

    More than any article I've seen, this one made the point about the power of AMD processors for 3D gaming.

    "Megahertz Shmegahertz" could have been the title. The 3.8 Pentium running neck and neck with a 2 GHz AMD CPU. Now I understand !!

    One place I worked had hundreds of Dell Workstations. They gave us dual xeon ultra-SCSI jobbies. It may not sound like much, but 2 1 GHz Xeon's with an 18 Gig U160 or was it 320 SCSI HDD and an ATI FireGL graphics card was what I had.

    I would love to see an article about corporate CAD machines, AMD vs. Intel with various scales of video cards.
  • bamacre - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    1,000,001 demands for A XP benchies, how about one for high-end Northwood P4's ?? Please? Reply
  • AkumaX - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    I one MEELIONTH the motion, i wish there were a XP barton benchmark somewhere in there, not just w/ the XP3200 (2.2ghz) but also w/ 2.3ghz and 2.4ghz (since most of us appear to also be running o/ced mobiles :P) Reply
  • michael2k - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    What did you expect? People were demanding the HL2 CPU article in the Mac threads... and lo and behold, the next day, Anand has posted the HL2 CPU article.

    You can either get something now, or you can get something finished... very rarely can you get both :)
  • Crassus - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    I was also quite surprised that the article still appeared. I'm glad it did, but I think it falls short of Anandtechs high standard:

    1. For comparison, at least two AXP (two to see how it scales) should be in the test field
    2. As previously mentioned, Processor/speed/cache/socket. There is more that just one Athlon 64 3000+
    3. Including CAS 2,5 would have been nice as this seems to be the default for people using mainstream DDR3200 RAM
    4. What's the deal with the Athlon 3500+ in diagramm 3 on page 2?

    Something else bothered me:
    Quote: "If you are stuck with one of those older but still well-performing GPUs, don't bother upgrading your CPU unless it's something slower than a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 - you'd be much better served by waiting and upgrading to dual core later on."
    Common wisdom seemed to be that especially games don't take advantage of multi-threading. Do you have any new information that upcoming games are geared more towards multiple CPUs/cores/HT?
  • quanta - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    The test didn't show the impact of using partial precision vs full precision on NVIDIA cards. As some people have mentioned[1], Half-Life 2 doesn't need full 32-bit precision to run smoothly. In effect, NVIDIA card is running in speed crippled by the game's designers.

  • DavidHull - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    I second the need for SLI configurations to be included, as many reviewers have found them to be extremely limited by the CPU. Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    Interactive 3D charts in flash. Khm,... can it be done? Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    I was starting to think this article has been bined, but fortunately it wasn't.

    First of all I agree with the need for an AXP 3200+ in the charts. It's still a very, very common PCU!

    Secondly this is only an OK article by Anand's standards. The first thing that really bothered me was how the CPU's are marked by some very long but also very useless names, like

    AMD Athlon 64 3400+ (2.4 GHz)
    Intel Pentium 4 570 (3.8 GHz)

    This takes a lot of room on the carts but still tells me nothing about Cache size or Socket type. I suggest names like:

    A64 3400+/S754/512kB/2.4GHz (its shorter and says a lot more)
    Same thing for Intel: P4 570/Socket/Cache...

    And how in the hell did you come up with CAS3? Most DDR 400 RAM (excluding OEMs) is CAS 2,5 and not 3 or 2. I appreciate the memory tests very much though, I just regret the very basic mistake in the underlaying assumptions.

    I understand it was a low priority, seriously delayed article, but I just can't shake the feeling it could have been so much more.

    One of these days I'm gonna have to take some time and put together a demo of how data is properly presented.
  • Questar - Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - link

    "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:

    How the hell could this be GPU limited if the difference from top to bottom of the graph is > 50%?

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