CPU Bound Gaming Performance

While we always try to run our gaming benchmarks in CPU reviews as a balance between being CPU and GPU bound, there is some merit to using CPU bound gaming scenarios as a true measure of the gaming power of a CPU. 

The previous pages of gaming benchmarks were run at 1600 x 1200, which struck a good balance between being CPU and GPU bound on our CrossFire setup but here we’re looking at exactly how good of a gaming CPU the Core 2 Duo is.  By running these tests at 640 x 480 with the same CrossFire setup as before we’re ensuring that the performance bottlenecks in these titles shift as far as possible from the GPU and onto the CPU. 

These tests aren’t designed to tell you how fast these CPUs are at running these games, but rather how quickly they can run through the physics and AI code when not waiting on the graphics card at all. 

We chose to look at two CPUs: the Core 2 Extreme X6800 and the Athlon 64 FX-62, to get an idea of how strong each architecture was at pure physics/AI processing in games.  We also omitted any games whose performance didn’t change by dropping the resolution from 1600 x 1200 to 640 x 480 (meaning that those games were already predominantly CPU limited in our previous tests). 

 CPU Quake 4 HL2 Ep 1 F.E.A.R.  BF2
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 156.7 170.0 164.0 108.7
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 192.5 263.5 236.0 142.3
Advantage (Intel) 22.8% 55.0% 43.9% 30.9%


In terms of sheer ability to process physics and AI as well as feed a hungry graphics subsystem, Intel's Core 2 Extreme X6800 is anywhere between 22 and 55% faster than AMD's Athlon 64 FX-62. 

While this doesn't mean much for real world gaming, it does cement the fact that Intel's Core 2 processor is significantly faster at the type of code current 3D games will throw at it.  The very same benchmarks that Intel used to complain about favoring AMD, now favor Intel just as much; oh how times have changed.

Gaming Performance using Oblivion Overclocking


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  • MrKaz - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    So how do you calculate performance/watt?

    Based on Doom3? Quake4? Lame? PowerDVD? Divx encoding?

    My point is, this is "impossible" to do, unless you do it for all progs and games.

    Picking up just one of them is being biased...
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Including performance/watt on *ANY* game is a bit odd, given that the GPU will comsume more power than the CPU. That's why when we talk about performance per watt on GPUs, we use the same platform for all tested systems.

    If we're going to talk about performance per watt and we're worried about the CPU and platform, then we should look at benchmarks that stress that portion of the system more than anything else. In fact, you could argue that we should drop down to the lowest power GPU possible, or even go with an integrated graphics solution. Anyway, here are a few of the results using WME9:

    0.358 FPS/W X6800
    0.319 FPS/W E6600
    0.279 FPS/W 4600+ EE
    0.276 FPS/W 3800+ EE
    0.273 FPS/W 5000+
    0.244 FPS/W FX-62
    0.244 FPS/W E6300
    0.228 FPS/W PD XE 965

    Part of the reasons on the lower performance Core 2 Duo chips score so poorly is because we are measuring Watts of the entire system. It's reasonable to say that the motherboard, hard drives, graphics card, etc. probably use up on average 100 W of power, give or take. The AMD motherboard and peripherals might also use a bit less power than than the Intel board, or vice versa, so the 12 W difference in power draw at idle shouldn't be considered really significant.

    What is significant is that other than the two energy efficient AMD chips (which you can't yet purchase on the retail market), Core 2 offers better performance per watt at similar price points. We could go and measure performance per watt on a bunch of the other applications (even games, though the differences are going to be greatly diminished given the GPUs requirements), but the results really aren't likely to change much. Core 2 is faster than AMD, and at worst it matches AMD's power requirements; ergo Core 2 offers better performance for watt.
  • epsilonparadox - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Intel didn't start the focus on performance by watt. AMD started it and ruled the charts based on that measure. Every single X2 vs P4D review has a chart for that measurement. Intel w/ the C2D just turned the table back on them by harping on the same issue. If this measurement didn't become a big deal, you'd likely be running dual 1000W psus to run dual core/multi gpu setups. Reply
  • Furen - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    It's hard to do a performance/watt chart because processors perform differently under different applications. I'm sure you'll agree with the fact that the E6600 is much faster than an X2 3800+ yet draws only slightly more power. Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    : (

    Where's the pics?
    My browser doesn't show them on the first page.
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    What browser? Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Firefox Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I have tried three different versions of FireFox on varying machines without an issue so far. Still looking in to it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Options ->
    Web features ->
    Load Images ->
    UNCHECK "for the originating web site only"
  • ianwhthse - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Mine is already unchecked, however I cannot see the pictures either. [Firefox]

    Kicking and screaming, which is somewhat disruptive @4am, I opened Internet Explorer and I cannot see the images there, either.

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