i5 / P55 Lab Update - Now with more numbersby Gary Key on September 15, 2009 12:05 AM EST
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After a lot of speculation, it is obvious that the Core i7/860 and i7/920 platforms perform equally for the most part when compared on an equal clock basis, otherwise the 860 in Turbo mode is a better solution in most cases at stock speeds. The X58/920 combination will offer a very slight improvement in performance when the data pipeline is full; however it is very small, even under heavy multitasking conditions. The X58/920 does offer improved graphics performance in SLI or CF configurations.
While the 965 BE is a very competent processor, it is overshadowed at times by the performance of the turbo enabled i5/750. In the 3D rendering applications, the sheer clock speed advantage of the 965 BE certainly comes into play when comparing it directly to the i5/750. When comparing clock for clock speeds at 3.8GHz, the Intel processors offer a clear performance advantage over the 965 BE, especially in the well threaded applications that take advantage of Hyper-Threading. If you overclock your system and want the absolute best performance, the Intel processors used in our article today are your best choice.
Even though our initial benchmark selection is fairly limited, the overall pattern continues in the balance of our benchmark test suite, even in those applications specifically suggested by AMD. However, it is different story in several of our game benchmarks when the AMD system is paired with an Nvidia GTX275 (other GTX2xx variants as well). Why this is, we do not know yet given the results of the AMD HD 4890 on either platform.
And now for the Hot Computer Opinion (HCO). The X58/920 and 790FX/965BE platforms seemed slow in daily usage compared to the P55/860 setup or even the P55/750 at times. I am talking non-overclocked standard issue setups running a variety of applications, especially when multitasking. Of course, the difference is due to the Turbo modes employed on the Lynnfield processors.
While the perceived difference in performance is not as drastic as when moving from a hard drive to a decent SSD, it certainly is there. The performance benchmarks might tell another story at times, but if you just sit down and use a P55/860 platform and then move to an X58/920, 790FX/965BE, or P45/C2Q setup, the performance differences are noticeable in day to day usage. Even the P55/750 has its benefits and generally felt very “snappish” when under heavy loads.
Honestly, I really never thought I would say that after using a 790FX/965BE setup for several weeks and thinking afterwards I would have a very hard time recommending an X58/920 platform for typical home and gaming usage. When overclocked, the Intel Bloomfield/Lynnfield platforms basically performed equally on a clock for clock basis. The only differences were with the i5/750 in well-threaded applications. With HT enabled, the 860 and 920 are in a dead heat, except the Lynnfield platform will use about 70W less power for equal performance.
Unless you are a benchmark jockey, the dual x8 PCIe setup on the P55 is not going to be a performance hindrance with today’s video cards if you must run CrossFireX or SLI. Neither will the slightly better data throughput capabilities of the X58/920 when under heavy load conditions. I guess that really is the crux of the matter, unless you are a benchmark jockey then justifying a Bloomfield platform over a Lynnfield or even AMD’s Dragon platform is very difficult.
However, there are those that demand every last ounce of performance and the Bloomfield platform is the best choice for these particular users. I still really like the 790FX/965BE platform; in fact I would certainly purchase it over a P45/C2Q setup without question. When comparing it to the i5/750, the decision becomes more difficult, especially based on price.
However, considering my multitasking habits and the fact I do not overclock my work systems, the 965BE becomes the clear choice for me, until I compare it to the i7/860. Therein lies the problem, you can play the “what if” game all day and it will get you absolutely nowhere. In the end, you have to choose a platform that best suits your needs and budget. I just happen to think the clear choice for my particular needs is the i7/860 processor on a mid-range or even budget P55 motherboard. We will soon see why.