With the low cost of CPUs these days and with many affordable GPUs on the market, building a system capable of playing Half Life 2: Episode Two just isn't that difficult.
On the CPU side we were caught off guard by exactly how much cache size impacted performance in Episode Two, rendering the Core 2 Duo E4000 and Pentium E2000 series processors much slower than their competition.
AMD was also far more competitive than expected, most likely as a result of the Source engine's dependence on low latency memory accesses. While Intel continues to hold the performance crown, in the $133 and lower price points AMD actually ends up being the better processor to have. If and when Phenom can get to those price points, AMD could actually end up being significantly more competitive than it has been since the launch of Core 2.
Given the performance impact we've seen from faster FSBs and larger caches however, Intel's Penryn core should do a good job of fixing lower end performance once Intel's 45nm core makes its way down to lower price points as well. It also remains to be seen how much of the cache sensitivity we saw here today will translate into other up and coming games, such as today's Unreal Engine 3 based UT3 demo.
While NVIDIA is the only solutions for those who wish to run Episode 2 with all the features enabled at 2560x1600 with 4xAA enabled, the 2900 XT does outperform the 8800 GTS at the $400 price point. The 8800 GTS 320MB is once again a huge value for the money as it performs almost identically to the 8800 GTS 640MB part (with the exception of anything above 1920x1200 with 4xAA which handicaps the lower memory card).
As we mentioned, almost anything can play Episode 2, but if you want high quality at 1280x1024, you'll at least need the equivalent performance of a modern $100+ graphics card. Serious (and even casual) PC gamers will very likely already have something that meets this requirement. Clearly this is no Crysis, but at the same time we applaud Valve's efforts to keep its engine up to date.
I read that article this morning. Not a bad intro to episode 2 performance, and it was nice to see. But I would like to have seen more info. Few people are going to build a machine fjust or HL2, so would it have killed them to plunk just one single core A64 in there for comparison since so many people still game on single core. Shoot, an AM2 4000+ is $50 now if they don't have one laying around. Second, I would like to have seen the CPU's compared during actual playable settings. Sure we see how they space themselves apart at 10x7, but why not run through the cpu tests with an 8800U or GTX and show us actual gameplay settings being run.
Again, nice to see, but as usual leaves me wanting more.
I agree with pauldh 100% be it software or hardware i havent see a site (and i do look at severel)that covers the possable upgrade from options in a test /benchmark.
Its like they are missing a trick,i know that a good site is not about advertising but a lot of them make most of there revenue from it,so not pointing out how good a 2600 is compared to a 7600gt or a 7600gt to a 1950 pro is a bit annoying.
Also with the currrent (thankfully reversing )trend for new cards to need more power,Xbit labs for example do cover this for most new cards but wouldnt it be nice to see the cards you may be upgrading from included to give you an idea if you can run them or not. Take the 2600xt for example i havent seen it tested against a 7600GT/1650XT which given the driver increases may be a worthwhile upgrade given the added benefits of the HTPC capabilities of the card? Im using graphics as an example but im sure that if people realised the diff things like a different CPU or even RAM made to these newer games/apps they would be more willing to upgrade.