Gaming Benchmarks: Mid-Range

Shifting gears, let's take the iGPU out of the equation and look at gaming from a CPU perspective, By moving up to higher-end video cards, we can being to see how Broadwell stacks up in CPU-bound gaming scenarios.

Alien: Isolation

If first person survival mixed with horror is your sort of thing, then Alien: Isolation, based off of the Alien franchise, should be an interesting title. Developed by The Creative Assembly and released in October 2014, Alien: Isolation has won numerous awards from Game Of The Year to several top 10s/25s and Best Horror titles, ratcheting up over a million sales by February 2015. Alien: Isolation uses a custom built engine which includes dynamic sound effects and should be fully multi-core enabled.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with Ultra settings, whereas for mid and high range graphics we bump this up to 1080p, taking the average frame rate as our marker with a scripted version of the built-in benchmark.

Alien Isolation on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240)

Alien Isolation on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245)

Total War: Attila

The Total War franchise moves on to Attila, another The Creative Assembly development, and is a stand-alone strategy title set in 395AD where the main story line lets the gamer take control of the leader of the Huns in order to conquer parts of the world. Graphically the game can render hundreds/thousands of units on screen at once, all with their individual actions and can put some of the big cards to task.

For low end graphics, we test at 720p with performance settings, recording the average frame rate. With mid and high range graphics, we test at 1080p with the quality setting. In both circumstances, unlimited video memory is enabled and the in-game scripted benchmark is used.

Total War: Attila on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240)

Total War: Attila on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245)

Grand Theft Auto V

The highly anticipated iteration of the Grand Theft Auto franchise finally hit the shelves on April 14th 2015, with both AMD and NVIDIA in tow to help optimize the title. GTA doesn’t provide graphical presets, but opens up the options to users and extends the boundaries by pushing even the hardest systems to the limit using Rockstar’s Advanced Game Engine. Whether the user is flying high in the mountains with long draw distances or dealing with assorted trash in the city, when cranked up to maximum it creates stunning visuals but hard work for both the CPU and the GPU.

For our test we have scripted a version of the in-game benchmark, relying only on the final part which combines a flight scene along with an in-city drive-by followed by a tanker explosion. For low end systems we test at 720p on the lowest settings, whereas mid and high end graphics play at 1080p with very high settings across the board. We record both the average frame rate and the percentage of frames under 60 FPS (16.6ms).

Grand Theft Auto V on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) Grand Theft Auto V on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) [Under 60 FPS] Grand Theft Auto V on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) Grand Theft Auto V on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) [Under 60 FPS] 

GRID: Autosport

No graphics tests are complete without some input from Codemasters and the EGO engine, which means for this round of testing we point towards GRID: Autosport, the next iteration in the GRID and racing genre. As with our previous racing testing, each update to the engine aims to add in effects, reflections, detail and realism, with Codemasters making ‘authenticity’ a main focal point for this version.

GRID’s benchmark mode is very flexible, and as a result we created a test race using a shortened version of the Red Bull Ring with twelve cars doing two laps. The car is focus starts last and is quite fast, but usually finishes second or third. For low end graphics we test at 1080p medium settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get the full 1080p maximum. Both the average and minimum frame rates are recorded.

GRID: Autosport on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240)GRID: Autosport on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) [Minimum FPS]

Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor

The final title in our testing is another battle of system performance with the open world action-adventure title, Shadows of Mordor. Produced by Monolith using the LithTech Jupiter EX engine and numerous detail add-ons, SoM goes for detail and complexity to a large extent, despite having to be cut down from the original plans. The main story itself was written by the same writer as Red Dead Redemption, and it received Zero Punctuation’s Game of The Year in 2014.

For testing purposes, SoM gives a dynamic screen resolution setting, allowing us to render at high resolutions that are then scaled down to the monitor. As a result, we get several tests using the in-game benchmark. For low end graphics we examine at 720p with low settings, whereas mid and high end graphics get 1080p Ultra. The top graphics test is also redone at 3840x2160, also with Ultra settings, and we also test two cards at 4K where possible.

Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) [Minimum FPS] Shadows of Mordor on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) Shadows of Mordor on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) [Minimum FPS] 

Shadows of Mordor at 4K, Single GPU

Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) Shadows of Mordor on MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240) [Minimum FPS] Shadows of Mordor on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) Shadows of Mordor on MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245) [Minimum FPS]

Conclusions on Mid-Range Graphics

With the Intel iGPU removed from the picture, what we're seeing here is the combination of Broadwell's architecture improvements, and the Crystal Well eDRAM functioning as an L4 cache for the CPU cores. The biggest benefit here Broadwell-DT was with the R9 285 for GRID on minimum frame rates, showing 75.6 for the 4790K vs 80.06 for the 5775C. Otherwise performance overall is not all that different from what we already see with the best Haswell CPUs, however it's a bit surprising that the Broadwell CPUs don't fall behind, given their rather sizable frequency deficit versus the i7-4790K.

Gaming Benchmarks: Integrated and R7 240 DDR3 Gaming Benchmarks: GTX 980 and R9 290X
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  • Gothmoth - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    well we can dream.

    i could use more cores.
    i use heavy multithreaded applications and do heavy multitasking.

    yet i have to live with 10% better performance per cpu generation. :(

    haswell-e is the only choice when i want to upgrade.
    but it runs hot and i have no use at all for internal graphics.

    so why not making another CPU tailored for people like us?
    i mean intel makes enough different CPUs anyway.
  • Gothmoth - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    ah that reads wrong... i know that haswell-e has no internal graphics.
    what i meant was... haswell-e runs hot and for the other cpus like broadwell i have no use of the internall GPU.
  • DCide - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    All this wishful thinking on your part tells me you probably don't have a very strong, actual NEED. Because if you did, you'd be ecstatic about the 5820K or 5960X. They run at 4GHz all day long with standard air cooling and no knowledge of overclocking (I just use ASRock's SLOWEST default overclock settings in the BIOS setup).

    It's almost humorous when I read these benchmarks, because they so understate the true, completely stable performance of the 5960X without doing any extra work setting it up. It's nearly twice as fast as the 4790K in practice (in fact it *is* about twice as fast when you consider how easily and quickly the 4790K throttles in a typical configuration).

    I realize there are situations where generating more heat in the room matters. But if your multitasking were genuinely heavy enough to warrant the upgrade to 6 or 8 cores, you'd be foolish not to take advantage of the great solution that's available right now.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Double the cores means double the power consuption. There's no way around this, except making each core run slower.. which diminishes the benefit of having them. If Haswell-E runs too hot for you, no other chip Intel would reasonably want to produce right now would satisfy you.
  • nikaldro - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    But haswell-E is still on 22nm, not 14nm.
  • nevcairiel - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Then wait for Broadwell-E.
  • Azurael - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Why would you want to invest in 3 sticks of DDR4 RAM which will bring nearly no performance benefit and a massively overpriced motherboard for an extra couple of cores? It's not the cost of the Haswell-Es, or even their power consumption that bugs me - I suspect dual channel DDR3 is perfectly adequate for 6 cores alone given that it is apparently adequate for 4+GPU.

    Still, it makes my investment in a 2500K which has been running at 4.5GHz on stock voltage for the last 3 and a half years on the cheapest Z68 board I could buy sound rather good. I think I'd struggle to gain more than 20% in performance for the outlay of buying a new motherboard and CPU. I built a 4770K-based rig for a friend last year, it won't scrape past 4.2GHz. I'm sure IPC + HT + Faster RAM makes it faster than my rig, but certainly not in any noticeable fashion.
  • DCide - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    Obviously it wouldn't matter to you. You didn't even bother to go with an i7.

    But for those to whom it does matter it's the biggest step up we've seen in a desktop CPU in a long time. The additional RAM and motherboard cost is trivial to those for whom the extra performance provides more than amusement.
  • Azurael - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    You're correct - to me, it seems adequate for video editing and running Android builds... I'm sure in your 'elite' i7 world, things are far quicker. My issue is not with the fact that Intel offers higher spec or more expensive parts. Obviously, there would be no need for 18-core Xeons in this hypothetical world. My issue the fact that they artificially constrain the 'mid' range dual channel architecture to 4 cores and lump us with an IGP that's never going to get used taking up more die space than the extra couple of cores would just because they don't have any competition.
  • Azurael - Tuesday, June 2, 2015 - link

    And by the way, a ~84W TDP CPU is going to throttle when overclocked - especially when running AVX loads. If you haven't found the current limits in the BIOS, you probably deserve to believe your expensive 6-core running at only 4GHz is twice as fast as a properly set up 4790K :P

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