The Test

Thankfully ATI's CrossFire runs on both ATI chipsets as well as Intel's 975X, so we were able to use our ultra high end GPU of choice to compare CPU performance under Oblivion. Remember that, just like in our first Oblivion article, we're manually walking through portions of the game and using FRAPS to generate our results, and thus the margin for error in our tests is much higher than normal; differences in performance of 5% or less aren't significant and shouldn't be treated as such.

While we tested with a number of AMD CPUs, we had issues with our Intel test bed where we couldn't adjust clock multipliers to give us the full spread of Intel CPU options, and thus we were only able to highlight the performance of a handful of Intel CPUs. However, with what we had we were able to adequately characterize the performance offered by Intel solutions under Oblivion. We also didn't have an Extreme Edition 965 on hand, so the EE 955 is the fastest offering from Intel in the test. The EE 965 should offer another 5% or so above what the EE 955 offers based on the tests we've done, just in case you're curious.

CPU: AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 X2s
Intel Pentium Extreme Edition, Pentium D and Pentium 4
Motherboard: ASUS A8R32-MVP
Intel X975XBX
Chipset: ATI CrossFire 3200
Intel 975X
Chipset Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.4
Hard Disk: Seagate 7200.9 300GB SATA
Memory: 2 x 1GB OCZ PC3500 DDR 2-3-2-7 1T
2 x 1GB OCZ PC8000 DDR2 4-4-4-12
Video Card(s): ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 6.4 w/ Chuck Patch
Desktop Resolution: 1280 x 1024 - 32-bit @ 60Hz
OS: Windows XP Professional SP2

Armed with a pair of X1900 XTs running in CrossFire mode - the clear GPU performance leader in our first Oblivion article - we set out to run some additional tests. Pay attention to the rest of the system as well: we've installed 2GB of high quality (i.e. low latency) RAM, which also helps performance. 1GB is sufficient, but Oblivion appears to do a good job of making use of additional memory; load times and area transitions are noticeably quicker with 2GB of RAM. We used the same "High Quality" settings we introduced in the last review:

Oblivion Performance Settings High Quality
Resolution 1280x1024
Texture Size Large
Tree Fade 50%
Actor Fade 65%
Item Fade 65%
Object Fade 65%
Grass Distance 50%
View Distance 100%
Distant Land On
Distant Buildings On
Distant Trees On
Interior Shadows 50%
Exterior Shadows 50%
Self Shadows On
Shadows on Grass On
Tree Canopy Shadows On
Shadow Filtering High
Specular Distance 50%
HDR Lighting On
Bloom Lighting Off
Water Detail High
Water Reflections On
Water Ripples On
Window Reflections On
Blood Decals High
Anti-aliasing Off
Index Oblivion CPU Performance
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  • goku - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    It' really ticks me off that oblivion couldn't incorporate support for the new ageia physics processor. It would have been nice to see all those calculations being offloaded onto the PPU instead so that the CPU wouldn't have such an effect on performance.
  • DigitalFreak - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    Since they are using the Havock physics engine, it was never going to happen.
  • DigitalFreak - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    Oops, Havok
  • Madellga - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    I don't think that was supposed to happen, but when I clicked on the link under the tittle:

    SMP - enhacing performance , it goes to"> , which is the same Oblivion CPU article we are reading.

    I think the idea is to take us to the guide you are using, isn't it?

  • kristof007 - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    Same here. Please fix it Anand when you get a chance.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    Done. That page was my doing - Anand ran the tests, I wrote page 5. I forgot to paste in the link. (Actually, I ran into some issues with undo/redo and apparently lost the link in the process. I had to rewrite two paragraphs at the time.)

    Jarred Walton
    Hardware Editor
  • shortylickens - Friday, April 28, 2006 - link

    This makes me feel pretty good. I went out of my way to get the cheapest Socket 939 CPU I could find.
    Now that I've had the system for a while, I feel OK about doing one big CPU upgrade and I can actually see a performance boost.
  • bloc - Friday, April 28, 2006 - link

    The sempron line is amd's answer to intels celeron line.

    Might it be possible to see the benches for the Sempron S754 as they're budget cpu's with huge overclocks?
  • kmmatney - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    A Sempron 2800+ overclocked to 2.4 GHz performs about the same as an Athlon 64 3700+ clocked at 2.2 GHz. So for a rough estimate, lower the Athlon64 speed by 10% to get the speed of a Sempron.

    My Sempron overclock at 2.45 Ghz was 100% stable for all games and applications I'd ever used until Oblivion. With Oblivion, the game was crashing until a lowered the spu speed to 2.35 GHz.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

    Part of the problem is that there's only one SLI motherboard for socket 754, and honestly I think that's more of a novelty product than something truly useful. Anyone spending the money on multiple GPUs is better off buying a faster processor as well.

    Anyway, looking at how cache seems to affect performance of the other chips, I would guess that a Sempron 128K/256K would be equivalent to an Athlon 64 512K running 200 to 400 MHz slower. (i.e., Athlon 64 2.0 GHz -- 3200+ -- would probably be about equal to a Sempron 2.3-2.4 GHz.) Single channel memory plus a reduction in cache size should cause a moderate performance hit, clock for clock.

    Of course, none of that means that Sempron chips aren't worth considering, especially with overclocking. Assuming you're not running super high end graphics configurations, though, you can probably reached the point where you're GPU limited to the same performance, whether you have an Athlon X2 or a Sempron.

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