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Benchmark Results: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky

Core i5, Core i7, CrossFire, And SLI: Gaming Paradise, Redux?
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We’re kicking things off with S.T.A.L.K.E.R., one of the most graphically-challenging benchmarks in our suite (though at 1680x1050, you wouldn’t really know it, since all of our tested platforms achieve playable frame rates, and the addition of a second card doesn’t really do much for our five contenders).

Cranking the resolution up to 2560x1600 does demonstrate a more palpable reason to go for CrossFire or SLI, though.

The real kicker is that, from Core i7 to Core i5 to Phenom II, there’s literally zero difference between these configurations if you’re using a single GeForce GTX 285. One Radeon HD 4870 X2 favors the Nehalem architecture ever so slightly, but the two frames separating the Core 2 Quad from the Core i7-870 are hardly worth making a buying decision on.

What should be popping out at you, however, is how much of a difference CrossFire and SLI support make as we shift into our anti-aliased numbers. To all intents, constructions, and purposes, one ultra-powerful GeForce GTX 285 will turn back the same results in all five of these configurations. The same goes for the Radeon HD 4870 X2 compared down the line. Go for the cheapest motherboard and processor if gaming is your only concern, we say. Put the money saved toward another graphics card.

If that is, in fact, the route you take, note that at 1680x1050, two Radeon HD 4870 X2s and GeForce GTX 285s perform similarly. Only when you step up to 2650x1600 is there a bit of distance put between competing graphics architectures—in this case favoring ATI by a few frames.

As of this writing, a week before the P55 launch, the least-expensive Radeon HD 4870 X2 costs $369 on Newegg. The GeForce GTX 285 OCFU is a $389 board. Given ATI’s advantage in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the Radeon is looking like a better buy at the high-end. Too bad it seems to be suffering limited availability (actually, that’s a good sign—next-gen, we’re looking forward to you!).

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