We receive many requests for various test results in our articles along with questions as to why this was included but this was not. We love answering questions; it is the primary focus of our job. More often than not, we answer the right ones, sometimes out of sheer luck, but usually we try to cover all the bases within the time allotted. However, at times we are asked a question that causes us to stop and pause for a moment and wonder why that particular subject was not covered or even mentioned.

One such question arrived in droves after our Phenom II X4 launch articles a couple of weeks ago. We had to dig through many of the “You guys always favor Intel and NVIDIA...” comments (for the record we favor performance, quality, and value regardless of supplier) but after some sifting, we found a pattern in the messages. Many people wanted more information concerning gaming performance between a Phenom II X4 and similar Core 2 Quad system with specific setups. We covered these two platforms and more in our Phenom II launch article. A treasure trove of further information is available in our new Bench database, especially for those who do more than gaming on a computer.

However, the one item mentioned numerous times was the lack of CrossFireX or SLI results compared to a similar Intel based system. True enough, we have not shown any multi-GPU results on an AMD platform in a long time, especially if you discount the Hybrid results on the uATX chipsets. One reason has been the lack of compelling CPU performance on the AMD side to drive a dual or triple card setup. The Phenom tried to take on those duties but with low clock speeds, it failed for the most part. We think the Phenom II will correct those problems or go a long way in addressing them. The staff consensus is that the best option for gamers is to purchase the single highest performing graphics card you can afford for your performance requirements and skip the multi-GPU solutions. This is especially true if you update your system frequently to keep up with the latest games.

Running multi-GPU systems for gaming has other potential negatives ranging from additional cooling and power supply requirements to additional GPU costs, and of course game engine support or more importantly, driver support. Multi-GPU systems typically require faster processors and system memory to reduce bottlenecks in the rendering/data pipelines. In addition, running a high-end CrossFire or SLI solution at resolutions below 1920x1200 is pretty much a waste of resources in most cases, so monitor cost also comes into play.

That short summary sounds like a typical economic report right now; it’s all bad and gloomy. Do not get us wrong, there is a market for CrossFire/SLI based gaming systems. Just go to the NVIDIA or AMD websites if you do not believe us. All kidding aside, for those who have the money, benchmark competitively, or want the absolute best gaming experience with all the game details enabled at ultra-high resolutions, then a multi-GPU solution is probably the correct way to go with the right processor choice. One exception is Crysis; we are still waiting for a GPU solution to run that game properly at very high settings with all the eye candy turned on. Who knows, we might even have a solution for that problem in 2010.

In the meantime we will try to answer a few questions today about CrossFire performance with the Phenom II X4 940. Of course, we might raise more questions than we answer. If we do, well, those will have to be answered at some point. Let us discuss the system setup and get to the numbers.

Test Setup


View All Comments

  • Joe Schmoe - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    This was a very good article. I'm not quite ready to build a new system just yet. But it is tax return season. I'm glad the Phenom II is competitive. We all win when AMD puts out a nice chip. I was about to jump on the I7 band wagon but decided to just grab a q6600 and save my coins for now. Hopefully this will end some of the endless flame wars going on through the forums.
  • Aquineas - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    First of all, thanks for the hard work you put into testing. Many folks are getting hung up on 5-10 percent performance differences and making a big deal out of it . I think the most important part of the article is the part where it says, repeatedly (paraphrased):

    "We couldn't perceive a difference in gaming performance between platforms."

    That being said, I think 18 months from now we'll see more games where the CPU differential matters more, which is right around the time I'll be doing my next system build.
  • myterrybear - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    I agree with this as well, great job on the article & shows the point as I have ALWAYS said, when it comes down to it would ya even notice the diffrence between the 2 if you had just sat down on it & started to do stuff on it ??

    Yeah exactly 6 or 8 gig ram on Phenom II would be interesting, I know I've found 4 gigs on Phenom I to be very nice now that I am running a full 64bit os ( win 7 beta) on a oc to 3 ghz Phenom 9850 be. I'm just awaiting to see how things will be once I get my Phenom II 940 any second now. :)
  • myterrybear - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    My thing that I am noticing with all these tests of core i7 vs phenom II is the fact the systems are not even ramwise. I mean what would a core i7 run like with 4 gigs of ram or if the phenom II platform had 6 gigs of ram.

    it's a valid argument I think.
  • Aquineas - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    Honestly, it probably wouldn't matter much. If I were the author I'd re-run the test with 8GB on the PII, but it's probably less than a 2 percent differential. Reply
  • BlueBlazer - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    Love to see Intel and AMD in SLI numbers! Reply
  • ThePooBurner - Monday, February 2, 2009 - link

    Am i the only one that noticed that the results for the PhenomII were just about identical between resolutions? There should have been some form of difference unless the AMD platform is being artificially hard-capped for some reason. Otherwise that the frame rates would be identical when upping the resolution makes no sense at all. I suggest looking into it further. Reply
  • ThePooBurner - Monday, February 2, 2009 - link

    Err, Crysis Warhead is what i meant by FarCray2. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - link

    This is a perfect example of why the full data is so incredibly important in teasing out the details.

    Yes if you look at the graphs they show a very close clustering for the single card, CF, and overclocked CF, but if you look to the right of the names you will see the min and more importantly max will scale with upgraded components. Not to the same level as one would like but there appears to be some really REALLY rough sections as the min frame rate is almost identical across the board (look at single vs. CF you see the same frame rate). That is probably due to some driver issue where both cards are not being utilized and the single card is not optimized well either.
  • ThePooBurner - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 - link

    I think you are missing my point. When going to a higher resolution it is expect that the frame rates for a card will change. Both the min and the max as well as the average. In almost every single game tested the values for the ATi cards at all resolutions are nearly identical. This smells very fishy to me and makes me think there is some sort of artificial limit being placed on the ATi hardware. Reply

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