We are back today with a quick update to an article we did a few weeks ago. That article addressed readership questions about how well the Phenom II X4 940 performed against a similar Intel Core 2 Quad (Q9550 in this case) with a multi-GPU setup. It was an interesting request and one that we enjoyed answering. Without repeating the entire article, we discovered the X4 940 was every bit a match for the Q9550 in the majority of our multi-GPU game tests. The one exception was Far Cry 2, but that title just favors Intel’s processors, especially the i7 series.

Our conclusion brought about additional questions. The majority of questions centered on how well the latest Phenom II AM3 processors perform in multi-GPU setups and if DDR3 really makes a difference in performance, application or gaming. We had other comments questioning our sanity and/or heritage after commenting on game play fluidity advantages for the Phenom II in a couple of major titles. We still stand by those comments and might even discuss them again today.

In the meantime, our article today seeks to answer if the Phenom II X3 720BE is a viable alternative to the more expensive Phenom II X4 940 and indirectly the Q9550 in gaming with a CrossFire X setup. We had numerous readers wanting to know how well a “budget” oriented processor would perform in a multi-GPU setup if they decided to divert possible cost savings to procuring an additional mid-range GPU like the HD 4870 1GB. A fair enough question for gaming centric users although we still believe in procuring the single fastest card possible (based on price/performance) for gaming. However, considering current release schedules, pricing, and performance ratios for the higher end GPUs, a more modest dual GPU setup might be a better value proposition over the long term if driver support is consistent.

We will be back shortly to answer the DDR2/DDR3 performance questions and more as we extend our coverage on budget and mid-range platforms. Until then, let’s discuss the system setup and get to the numbers.

The Setup...
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  • yyrkoon - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    You know I have been thinking it would be really cool if you guys did a story on *why* a specific game title performs better on various hardware. Does ID soft optimize for Intel ? AMD ? nVidia? AMD/ATI ? What about other game developers ? Could it be Microsofts "fault" ?

    You know, all that sort of "jazz" :)
  • MadMan007 - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    I would have liked to see idle and load power consumption numbers. I know that my PC does not run at loast at least half the time if not more so idle power consumption is important to me and matters for TCO.

    That's the only thing missing from this article, otherwise nice succinct writeup.
  • gnesterenko - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    Well, if I was buying a system today, I'd have to go for i7 920 by these numbers, BUT. THeres a few very interesting options coming soon. First is the new C2D from intel - the E8700 clocked at 3.5GHz. Although only a dual core, thats really really fast clocks per core and I'm sure it would OC to 4.5GHz on air like a champ considering how well the other C2Ds OC. THe other is the Phenom II 955 clocked at 3.2GHz. THis is the first quad AM3 CPU from AMD to break 3GHz barrier and should be an interesting option as well. In any case, I'd like to see another one of these articles including these two above once they come.

    Although either way, won't be picking a platform until I see performance numbers of the RD890 and SB800 platform from AMD. THis is going to be a merry X-mas!
  • TMike7 - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    The quality of your articles is really outstanding, i love reading them.
    Some time ago I read an article about memory and the conclusion was that more memory is better for improving the overall performance of a given computer system than more expensive memory.
    Could You please include in your testing on DDR2 versus DDR3 one or several tests with 8Gb of DDR2-memory (2 kits of 2x2Gb). It would really be nice to see how the PhenomX3 720BE can cope with all four memory slots populated and how far it still can overclock.

  • martenlarsson - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    He paid $400 for the entire setup excluding GPU, that's just a tad more than you pay for the cheapest i7, CPU only...

    Really nice article and shows you don't need a monster CPU to game. The X3 720 is looking more and more like the chip to buy.
  • erik006 - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    In the article index "opposing forces" in displayed. That should be "opposing fronts."
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    Gary's been playing the new cross-genre game that combined HL2 with RTS gameplay, I suppose. We could tell you more about it, but then we'd have to kill you.... ;-)
  • jaggerwild - Saturday, March 28, 2009 - link

    You spent four hundred on a MATX when for a few hundred more you could have bleeding edge I7 that will clock out higher? You must be a FAN BOY with yer very miture remarks!
    Oh yeah my momma says hello :)
  • abzillah - Sunday, March 29, 2009 - link

    This is why I bought my phenom 720. On January 18th I got laid off work from a biotech company. I haven't had any luck finding a job. Two weeks ago I sold my 2 year old PC for $350 to a friend who's kid needed a new PC but didn't want to spend much. So now I had $350, and I got $100 for painting some stuff around his house. So, please tell me how I could get myself a core i7 for $450, unless you will give me the rest of the money for free.
    Yesterday I got hired part time at a hardware store and after I pay some of my credit cards, I will buy myself a 4890. You can call me a fan boy all you want, but I see it as smart economics.
    I use mATX boards because I don't add anything on the board besides a video card, so the extra pci lots are not needed by me. I use my pc to surf the net, watch movies, play video games and use Microsoft Office.
  • iamezza - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    he was being sarcastic ;)

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