Part 4: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Crysis

Crysis:

First up…Crysis. Although this first-person shooter was released in November of 2007, it still arguably represents one of the most graphically-demanding games out there. We needed to settle for less-than-maximum eye candy just to achieve any level of playability, so our compromise was to test at Very High detail levels and no AA, rather than drop to High details and enable AA.

Utilizing our normal benchmark tool provides a good combination of graphical eye candy and physics effects. Our typical target has been 40 FPS, but we put that foregone conclusion to the test in preparation for this series, playing and FRAPS benchmarking numerous configurations in three of the most demanding levels of the game.

The 40 FPS target remains our recommendation. Although Crysis is still quite playable at less than 40 FPS, there will be areas in levels like “Paradise Lost” and “Assault” where framerates will drop into the mid 20s. We feel the 40 FPS recommendation is a safe bet for acceptable performance, although the possibility still exists that stuttering during the game’s closing battle in “Reckoning” could require settings to be tuned down just a bit.

This resolution has belonged to the Radeon HD 4890 and any of the nine overclocked processors visited thus far prove to be a good match. Paired with enough processor muscle, the Radeon HD 5870 is able to provide an additional 14 FPS on average. At this low resolution, it’s only with the Core i7 that the two dual-GPU cards are able to pull away from the Radeon HD 5870.

We see mixed results comparing the cheapest two AMD processors. The GeForce GTX 295 continues to be a poor solution for dual-core processors, while most of the other cards benefit from the Phenom II X2’s L3 cache more than from the Athlon II X4’s extra cores.

If you are looking to dig out Crysis and see it in all of its glory, prepare to drop a good chunk of change on graphics. The Radeon HD 5870 is the only one of our single-GPU cards to remain playable at even a modest 1680x1050 resolution. Luckily, if you are willing to overclock, adequate performance can still be squeezed from an inexpensive CPU. Reaching our target with the GeForce GTX 295 requires a platform boasting four or more processing cores, while the Radeon HD 5970 again looks to suffer from the Athlon II’s lack of L3 cache.

Our overclocked Radeon HD 5870 would likely still handle 1080p quite well, but 1920x1200 tempts us to bump up voltages and seek higher graphics core speeds. The reality of the situation is that, at this resolution, we have now entered dual-GPU territory. While the GeForce GTX 295 and Athlon II X4 640 are the cheapest combo to crest our target line, we see a dual-core Phenom II and Radeon HD 5970 pairing offer more performance.

At 1920x1200, we have sufficient GPU demands to no longer see any gain from stepping up to the overclocked Core i7. So basically, the overclocked Phenom II X4 955 BE is all the CPU needed to squeeze maximum performance from the top two graphics cards.

All of today’s platforms fall far short of offering playable performance at 2560x1600. Once again, framerates occasionally slowed to a crawl, causing the sporadic variations on the GeForce cards.

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43 comments
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  • wildeast
    "such as NVidia’s GeForce GTX 400-series and revamp the benchmark suite with some new DirectX 11 titles."
    i'll be waiting for that, and maybe some i5 cpu to see what fit sli best
    3
  • jsowoc
    "We set forth to measure the perfect balance in seven different games and four resolutions in this third of many parts." (?)

    I think you copied this paragraph from part 3 and forgot to change it to 4... ;-)
    8
  • theshonen8899
    With the amount of love you guys have for the Athlon x3 I was really hoping to see it on here :\
    I guess I can kind of predict where it'd fall though.
    4
  • Darkerson
    I love the in-depth articles like these. Keep 'em coming!
    2
  • L0tus
    Brilliant piece.

    I wish I had read this before building my system as I can see that I clearly spent too much on my CPU instead of GPU (i5-750 + HD5770) . Would have done much better with (X2 550 BE + HD5850) !

    ...ain't hind sight a b***h!

    Also interesting to see how GPUs really start to distinguish themselves at higher resolutions. Again, brilliant work.
    7
  • TheStealthyOne
    I built a computer for my brother using a Phenom ii 550 paired with a 5770, and it screams! Fantastic gaming chip! It just goes to show you can achieve fantastic performance by planning and balance.
    2
  • garlik_bread
    Personally, i'd be interested to see results from a card with less han 1GB RAM on the GPU.

    On the lower end of the spectrum, with the lower resolutions, is the 1GB really necessary?

    Basically, i have a 512MB Asus 5770 and want to validate my purchase :D
    -1
  • plasmastorm
    Still running a Maximus formula 775 board with a Q6600, 8gb ram and a Radeon 5850 but this is certainly handy for future reference.
    Probably skipping the i5/i7 generation as I can still play anything at max settings on my 22" monitor while running a 2nd for a film tho :)
    -1
  • Tamz_msc
    Please test some newer games, which is essential for an article like this.
    4
  • descendency
    plasmastormStill running a Maximus formula 775 board with a Q6600, 8gb ram and a Radeon 5850 but this is certainly handy for future reference.Probably skipping the i5/i7 generation as I can still play anything at max settings on my 22" monitor while running a 2nd for a film tho


    i5/i7 isn't a generation. it's like 5 or so.

    It's the same thing as C2D and C2Q
    1
  • jonpaul37
    plasmastormStill running a Maximus formula 775 board with a Q6600, 8gb ram and a Radeon 5850 but this is certainly handy for future reference.Probably skipping the i5/i7 generation as I can still play anything at max settings on my 22" monitor while running a 2nd for a film tho


    I hear ya man, i have a Q6600 @ 3.6 and a GTX 285 and i can rock anything i play with really nice settings at 1920 x 1080 so it looks like i will be holding out for another year or two...
    -1
  • Onus
    Very nice. I really like this series.
    Suggestions: there's no need to draw curves; they should be point-to-point lines, as the data is discrete rather than continuous.
    For the RPG, I would suggest Dragon Age: Origins as being more demanding at higher settings, and/or Sacred 2 because of its use of PhysX. The latter runs the risk of becoming an ATi vs. nVidia comparison, but still may be useful.
    It would also be useful to have commentary on what bare minimum lowering of a setting or two is most likely to restore playability without sacrificing appearance too much.
    1
  • lunyone
    This totally makes my point, when I say a ~$100 CPU and a $200-$300 GPU are a the best budget gaming machines you can get. I usually make ~$100 CPU choices and ~$100-150 GPU choices when I'm building a budget gaming rig!! :)
    1
  • lemieuxxx
    what about the i3 540. Is it horrable i see its not on here.
    -4
  • wolfram23
    Great article. Good to see how a faster CPU can really pull out better FPS, and it seems to make much more difference when having dual GPUs - I can only assume the trend would hold true on dual card (sli/cf) set ups, which makes me even happier to have an i5 750 @ 4ghz with my two 5850s.

    I hope Part 5 has i3, i5, i7, X955, X965, 1055T, 1090T and concentrates on DX11 performance (4xx vs 5xxx). I'd also LOVE to see a more in depth look at CF/SLI configs. There's not a lot of in depth looks at CF5770, CF5850, SLI470... there's some, but not a lot and none comparing these set ups to different CPUs.
    -2
  • felang
    Catalyst 9.12 and only outdated games... is this January 2010 or what? you should at least test BFBC2, it uses as many cpu cores as you can throw at it...
    2
  • Onus
    Felang: they wanted it possible for readers to compare the results with previous articles in the series.
    1
  • DXRick
    Very nice article! I noticed that HD5970 and GTX295 benefited the most from the i7-920 CPU. This implies that Crossfire and SLI (multi-GPU setups) scale better with faster quads (and duals?). Thus, it would be nice to see how various CF and SLI setups depend on the CPUs in this test.

    Why did you use the older generation of Nvidia GPUs in this test? We are looking at the GTX460/470/480 now, with numerous test showing how well two 460's in SLI do.
    -1
  • nforce4max
    Nice article, as for the L3 assessment I do agree that the lack of L3 cache does negatively impact performance but at least its not catastrophic as seen with the early days of the Celeron. Personally I use a meager 8250e that I nuked to 2.57ghz and it gets the job done plus it was dirt cheap. $16 after selling off some junked parts.
    0
  • tognetta
    I would like to see the great GTX460 here too ...

    Great job, i am thankful that i read it before building my next gaming machine !
    1