Oblivion CPU Performance

Here's one thing we really didn't expect, for our most GPU intensive test to be extremely CPU dependent as well. In its natural state with no out-of-game tweaks, Oblivion will give dual-core CPUs about a 10% increase in performance over their single core counterparts at the top of our charts. Moving down the graphs, the X2 3800+ has a 15% performance advantage over the 3200+, while the Pentium 930 has a 20% advantage over a higher clocked Pentium 4 641.

While 10% may not sound like a lot, especially given that our FRAPS benchmarks can vary by up to 5% between runs, keep in mind that this is an extremely GPU intensive benchmark. A 10% difference with the fastest clockspeeds available is pretty significant. Intel clearly has more need of help, and the larger 15-20% boost they get from dual-core processors is nice to see. Unfortunately, it's not nearly enough to catch up to AMD's competing offerings.

As we've seen in other games, AMD's Athlon 64 X2 and vanilla Athlon 64 are the way to go, taking up the overwhelming majority of the top spots in this graph. The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 is about the only Intel CPU that is significantly competitive here; the Pentium D 930 is the next time that Intel makes another appearance and it offers performance lower than the single core Athlon 64 3500+.

Later in this review we will look at another way of characterizing CPU performance in Oblivion, but rest assured that this graph is far more important than just stating for the millionth time that the Athlon 64 FX-60 is faster than the Athlon 64 3500+....

Once again, we see a 10-15% boost from dual core CPUs in our Town benchmark. The rest of the standings and performance echo what we saw in the Oblivion Gate test above. The usefulness of the Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire setup diminishes significantly as you begin to move down the list of contenders; you'll actually lose over 20% of your real world frame rate if you've got an Athlon 64 3500+ vs. if you had an Athlon 64 FX-60. These aren't low resolution tests designed to isolate the impact of your CPU, these are tests at reasonable display settings for the GPU setup and these are real world results.

Oblivion also clearly benefits from larger CPU caches. The abysmal performance of the Celeron D 351 exemplifies this statement, but you can also look at higher performing parts. The difference between the Athlon 64 3700+ and the 3500+ is around 5-7%, which is more than many other titles show.

Our final Oblivion benchmark delivers the same message we've seen in the first two: CPU performance matters. But the real question is, how fast of a CPU do you really need to make your GPU investment worthwhile? That's the question we're answering next...

The Test GPU Performance vs. CPU Clock Speed


View All Comments

  • 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. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Saturday, April 29, 2006 - link

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

    Oops, Havok Reply
  • 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 http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=2747">http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.aspx?i=2747 , 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. Reply
  • 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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