AMD vs. Intel Performance

At this point it's not too big of a surprise that AMD is the stronger performer when it comes to gaming performance.  It's actually at the point where even insiders at Intel will admit and recognize that Intel is no longer the king of gaming performance as they once were long ago.  But how bad is it under Half Life 2?  Let's take a look at our five custom demos to find out.

We used the current king of Half Life 2 performance for all of our CPU tests - the ATI Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition running at 1280 x 1024, to give a good balance between CPU and GPU limitations while providing realistic performance figures.  Note that all of the Intel CPUs tested here are LGA-775 and all of the AMD CPUs are Socket-939.

First we have at_canals_08, generally a good GPU test, meaning that its CPU dependency is minimized.  The benchmark includes a decent number of NPCs and firefights but is severely offset by things like water and flashlight usage, both of which are more GPU intensive elements of the benchmark. 

Half Life 2 Performance - at_canals_08

Things don't look so good for Intel here, the Pentium 4 570J is the only Intel CPU capable of outperforming the Athlon 64 3000+.  Unfortunately for Intel, AMD's Athlon 64 4000+ is about 14% faster at 1280 x 1024.

The Extreme Edition CPUs don't do much for Intel, as Prescott does appear to perform equal or better clock for clock than the older Northwood core. 

Next let's take a look at at_coast_05, another very GPU limited test that has a good deal of NPC interaction as well as GPU limiting elements:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_coast_05

The results here are very similar to what we saw under at_canals_08, with the Pentium 4 570J offering performance slightly higher than the Athlon 64 3000+ but that's about it for Intel.  The Athlon 64 4000+ is an impressive 24% faster than Intel here which honestly is nothing to scoff at. 

Our next demo, at_coast_12, doesn't change much either:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_coast_12

The performance under at_prison_05 is a little closer:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_prison_05

Finally we have an excellent CPU benchmark, at_c17_12.  The test is extremely CPU bound, and thus makes the perfect conclusion to this section:

Half Life 2 Performance - at_c17_12

While you can argue that AMD's performance advantages in the other tests aren't noticeable on a price-for-price basis, you can't argue with the results here.  At the $280 - $290 price point, AMD's Athlon 64 3500+ delivers about 15% more performance than Intel's Pentium 4 550. 

The margin is even greater at the low end, AMD's Athlon 64 3000+ is 23% faster than Intel's similarly priced Pentium 4 520. 

At the high end the advantage is equally in AMD's favor, with the Athlon 64 4000+ holding a 22% advantage over Intel's fastest Pentium 4. 

Conclusion?  Don't look any further than AMD for the best gaming CPU, and Half Life 2 further cements AMD's reputation as the gamer's CPU.

Index Closer Look at AMD Memory Performance
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  • dderidex - Wednesday, February 2, 2005 - link

    Quick question...

    On the 'cache comparison' on page 5, where they compare an A64 with 1mb cache to an A64 with 512k cache...

    What CPUs are they comparing?

    512k Socket 754 (single channel)
    1mb Socket 754 (single channel


    512k Socket 939 (dual channel)
    1mb Socket 939 (dual channel)


    512k Socket 754 (single channel)
    1mb Socket 939 (dual channel)


    No info is provided, so it's hard to really say what the numbers are showing.
  • doughtree - Tuesday, September 6, 2005 - link

    great article, next game you should do is battlefield 2!
  • dsorrent - Monday, January 31, 2005 - link

    How come in all of the CPU comparisons, the AMD FX-53 is left out of the comparisons?
  • PsharkJF - Monday, January 31, 2005 - link

    That has no bearing to half-life. Nice job, fanboy.
  • levicki - Saturday, January 29, 2005 - link

    Btw, I have Pentium 4 520 and 6600 GT card and I prefer that combo over AMD+ATI anytime. I had a chance to work on AMD and I didn't like it -- no hyperthreading = bad feeling when working with few things at once. With my P4 I can compress DVD to DivX and play Need For Speed Underground 2 without a hitch. I had ATI (Sapphire 9600 Pro) and didn't like that crap too especially when OpenGL and drivers are concerned = too much crashing.
    Intel .vs. AMD -- people can argue for ages about that but my 2 cents are that musicians using Pentium 4 with HT get 0.67 ms latency with latest beta kX drivers for Creative cards and AMD owners get close to 5.8 ms. From a developer point of view Intel is much better choice too due to great support, compiler and documentation. So my next CPU will be LGA775 with EM64T (I already have a compatible mainboard) and not AMD which by the way has troubles with Winchester cores failing Prime 95 at stock speed.
  • Carfax - Saturday, January 29, 2005 - link

    Yeah, developers are so lazy that they will still use x87 for FP rather than SSE2, knowing that the latter will give better performance.

    Thats why the new 64-bit OS from MSoft will be a good thing. It will force developers to use SSE2/SSE3, because they have access to twice as many registers and the OS itself won't recognize x87 for 64-bit operations.
  • Barneyk - Saturday, January 29, 2005 - link

    I would've liked to se some benchmarks on older CPUs to, kinda dissapointed...
  • levicki - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link

    I just wonder how would this test look like if it was made with 6800 Ultra instead with ATI X850 XT.

    Disabling SSE/SSE2 on Athlon and getting the same results as if they were enabled means that game is NOT OPTIMIZED. Using FPU math instead of SSE/SSE2 today is a sin. It could have been 3-4 times faster if they cared about optimizing the code.
  • Phantronius - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link


    Its because the Prescotts wern't better then the Northwoods to begin with, hence why don't see squat performance differences between them.
  • maestroH - Friday, January 28, 2005 - link

    Thx for your reply #56. Apologies for false '@9700pro' statement. Meant to say 'soft-modded with Omega driver to 9700pro'. Cheers.

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