Core i5, Core i7, CrossFire, And SLI: Gaming Paradise, Redux?

Benchmark Results: Left 4 Dead

At 1680x1050, Left 4 Dead is entirely CPU-bound. Adding CrossFire or SLI only results in lower frame rates. We do get a great sense for how clock speed affects this game, though—at least between the three Core i5/i7 CPUs. The trio is favored, to be sure. And although the Core i5-750 features a more aggressive Turbo Boost implementation than the Core i7-920, it isn’t able to usurp the X58-based platform. Interesting also is that the ATI and Nvidia cards score identically. The bottleneck couldn’t get any more pronounced.

The competition opens up a little bit at 2560x1600. With a single Radeon HD 4870 X2 installed, AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 actually takes a first place finish, followed by the three Nehalem-based chips. With a GeForce GTX 285, all five platforms perform almost the same, notably slower than ATI’s flagship.

Drop in a second GeForce GTX 285, though, and Nvidia overtakes ATI, if only by a sliver. The Core i7-870, with its 2.93 GHz base clock, proves to be the fastest. Of course, even the lowest result in this chart is ridiculously quick. There’s no reason leave anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering disabled in Left 4 Dead.

There’s a slight benefit to adding CrossFire or SLI at 1680x1050 with more visual detail applied, but certainly not enough to warrant buying a second graphics card. Again, the Core i7-870 takes a first place finish in this one.

At 2560x1600, with 4xAA and 8xAF enabled, all five platforms turn back the same results with a single Radeon HD 4870 X2 installed. The same happens when you sub-in a GeForce GTX 285, though the Nvidia card is quite a bit slower. Nvidia takes off with the addition of SLI though, sailing past a pair of Radeon HD 4870 X2s. ATI’s cards pick up performance too, but they don’t scale nearly as well.

Even though the cards on our P55-based platforms only get eight lanes of PCI Express connectivity each, the Core i5 and Core i7 systems still manage to out-perform the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II machines under the influences of CrossFire.

Create a new thread in the US Reviews comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
78 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • Anonymous
    Pei-Chen: This article shobuld make it painfully obvious that AMD can and DOES compete on performance in games. AMD has brought plenty of innovation, even if they don't always finish first, but only for the CPU-based video rendering enthusiast does it make no sense to purchase AMD, the other 99.9% of us couldn't tell the difference in a taste test.

    PS: If you want a 3rd and 4th player, you should go discuss x86 licensing with your beloved Intel...
    13
  • Anonymous
    Let's be glad AMD is still around to provide competition to Intel. Gaming is obviously fine on either CPU, but some people say: "OMG, I must have the Core i7 because it can do the Monte Carlo simulation faster!!!". The performance difference between Core i7/Phenom II is marginal right now, but if AMD were to exit stage left, then these round ups would be VIA vs. Intel, and I don't know about you, but VIA's offerings really AREN'T fast enough for me... Consider a Phenom II, I love mine...
    12
  • cangelini
    The 955 does cost less. The 965 is more expensive than Core i5.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • lashton
    so we can assume for gaming the 965BE (or 955 oc) and ATi cards are just as fast as Core i7 and i5 but at a fraction of the price
    1
  • cangelini
    The 955 does cost less. The 965 is more expensive than Core i5.
    11
  • Dekasav
    Only thing I don't like is how you knock Crossfire with 2 HD 4870X2's, since when is it even feasible that 4-way CF would scale as well as 2-way SLI?

    But excellent review, overall, I'm actually surprised at how the 965BE did, I thought it'd be behind, where it was actually right in the pack.
    8
  • dirtmountain
    I would have liked to see a 780a or a 980a SLI motherboard used to check the SLI numbers on the P2 965BE. I'm also surprised there's no overclocking numbers in the comparison, is that article still to come out?
    -1
  • cangelini
    It's upcoming dirt; Patrick is the one working on it (and our Italian team sent word of its i5 and i7s in excess of 4.2 GHz)
    9
  • sudeshc
    Nice game collection you got there.......:)

    Great review.
    5
  • anonymous x
    Quote:
    Let us know what you think about this in the comments section, but it was pretty clear that Vista was never a favorite, so we're hoping Windows 7 is a more popular environment in which to test

    I like vista, rock solid and stable since I got it years ago. Don't listen to the bashers who never have tried the product.
    6
  • lashton
    You giotta remember vista is design for spoecific hardware and powerfull hardware that can run it, so people with P4 3GHz and vista complain about its speed, vista is OK, i dont like it cause my computer doesm't like it thats fine i get over it and chnage my OS
    2
  • cangelini
    Thanks for weighing in, guys!
    0
  • crash27
    So there's no benafit from adding a second 285 to a q9550s or an x4 965 be ??

    I get a good performance boost from my second gtx280 with my q9650 @ 4 gz
    -8
  • cangelini
    crash--
    As mentioned in the story, these were tested on 790GX and X48 platforms, which don't do SLI. While there are Nvidia-based SLI platforms available for both configurations, I felt that they were quite a bit more rare and applicable to a much smaller contingent of readers than the CrossFire-capable platforms. The beauty of X58 and P55 is that they'll do both!
    Regards,
    Chris
    4
  • jj463rd
    Kudos for adding the Flight Simulator X as a benchmark.
    5
  • San Pedro
    Why so many tests today with 2 4870x2s?

    I'd rather have seen 4890 and then 4890CF. That way you see single card performance compared to crossfire instead of dual corssfire compared to quad crossfire.

    I do understand why the card is compared to the GTX 285 based on price though.
    11
  • Anonymous
    Let's be glad AMD is still around to provide competition to Intel. Gaming is obviously fine on either CPU, but some people say: "OMG, I must have the Core i7 because it can do the Monte Carlo simulation faster!!!". The performance difference between Core i7/Phenom II is marginal right now, but if AMD were to exit stage left, then these round ups would be VIA vs. Intel, and I don't know about you, but VIA's offerings really AREN'T fast enough for me... Consider a Phenom II, I love mine...
    12
  • Pei-chen
    competition_fanblokeLet's be glad AMD is still around to provide competition to Intel. Gaming is obviously fine on either CPU, but some people say: "OMG, I must have the Core i7 because it can do the Monte Carlo simulation faster!!!". The performance difference between Core i7/Phenom II is marginal right now, but if AMD were to exit stage left, then these round ups would be VIA vs. Intel, and I don't know about you, but VIA's offerings really AREN'T fast enough for me... Consider a Phenom II, I love mine...

    I wish there is a third and fourth player in the market so AMD won't sit on its butt and do nothing. AMD has this idea that “we don’t have to compete on performance, just make our product cheap enough and people will buy it”. That’s what doomed GM and Chrysler.

    I wish Nvidia and NEC join/rejoin the CPU market.
    7
  • Scotteq
    Thank you, Toms, for the detailed Graphics comparison. Yet regarding the comments section, I have to shake my head that we're again continuing the AMD versus Intel wars.

    I thought people should have learned by now that GPU~intensive tests say little about CPUs, except whether they're 'Good Enough', or not.
    2
  • Sardaukarz
    I wonder if u will ever include WOW in ur benchmark suite. Its just a MMORPG but it happens to be the most played game on the planet, thus making it interesting for a lot of us out there who are looking on information when deciding to buy one video card vs another or one processor vs another. Thnkz.
    -8
  • Anonymous
    Pei-Chen: This article shobuld make it painfully obvious that AMD can and DOES compete on performance in games. AMD has brought plenty of innovation, even if they don't always finish first, but only for the CPU-based video rendering enthusiast does it make no sense to purchase AMD, the other 99.9% of us couldn't tell the difference in a taste test.

    PS: If you want a 3rd and 4th player, you should go discuss x86 licensing with your beloved Intel...
    13
  • Acclaim
    The only question that remains for me is how things will turn once the DirectX 11 cards are announced.

    Then, I can see x8 PCIe2.0 links hurting the P55 chipset and the X58 showing its true potential.

    This will definitely affect SLI/Crossfire setups but I am not sure how it will affect single card solutions.
    3
  • Shadow703793
    anonymous xI like vista, rock solid and stable since I got it years ago. Don't listen to the bashers who never have tried the product.

    Agreed. Vista was pretty good after all the manufactures released the drivers. I still think Win 7 is better than XP and Vista.
    4