Core i7: 4-Way CrossFire, 3-way SLI, Paradise?

Benchmark Results: Crysis 64-bit

We just had to try the 64-bit version of Crysis—and we’re yet again presented with mind-blowing results.

Let’s start this round off by talking about resolutions. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 280 demonstrates beautiful scaling at 1900x1200 on both the Core 2 Extreme and Core i7 systems, with Core i7 showing off some impressive performance gains in what we thought would be a test dominated by the fastest graphics processor. Nevertheless, ratcheting up to two and three GTX 280s buys significant gains. But 2560x1600 is a different story entirely. In fact, we’d call the discrepancy between the two resolutions a full-blown disaster. One, two, three cards—it doesn’t matter. You’re looking at unplayable frame rates across the board.

Once again, Phenom X4 runs out of breath with a single Radeon HD 4870 at 1920x1200. Beyond that, you can’t expect much extra, even with a jump to four GPUs.

Core i7 965 Extreme and Core 2 Extreme QX9770 perform very similarly with Radeons under the hood. They actually both peter out and yield fairly poor scaling from two RV770s to four. And even at 1900x1200, we’d hesitate to call the performance of four GPUs playable. This doesn’t bode particularly well for the addition of anti-aliasing.

For the first time in our testing so far, we’re seeing ultra high-end platforms kicked to the floor.

We’ll take the resolution route again here. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 280 again yields picture-perfect scaling at 1920x1200, even giving us the chance to enjoy quasi-playable frame rates with 3-way SLI cranking away. We also see a reason to get excited about Core i7. As Fedy pointed out in our Nehalem preview, Core i7 supports macro-ops fusion in 64-bit mode, so there’s a fair chance that we’re getting a performance boost from this enhancement given the sizable frame rate increase.

But then we shift to 2560x1600 and performance not only tanks—it actually gets worse as you add graphics cards. On the Core 2 Extreme, the benchmark fails entirely.

AMD’s Radeon HD 4870s fare better across the board. Unfortunately, they’re never quite fast enough to serve up playable frame rates in this fast-paced first-person shooter. Perhaps the most interesting performance inflection is the single Radeon HD 4870—a 512 MB board. Given its memory handicap, frame rates linger in the single-digit range. The Radeon HD 4870 X2 adds a second GPU, but more important here is the shift to 1 GB of GDDR5 per processor, which multiplies performance by four.

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  • SLI scales so nicely on X58.
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  • Yep, i hafta say being able to switch brands of graphics cards on a whim and selling off the old is great. Knowing im going to be getting the preformance these cards are capable of (better price to preformance ratio) is nice also.
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  • randomizerSLI scales so nicely on X58.


    Hey you even got a "First" in there Randomizer!
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  • cangeliniHey you even got a "First" in there Randomizer!

    And modest old me didn't even mention it. :lol:
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  • Still waiting for the 4870 X2s to be used in these bechmarks. I thought THG got a couple for the $4500 exteme system. But still happy to see articles like this so early!
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  • enewmenStill waiting for the 4870 X2s to be used in these bechmarks. I thought THG got a couple for the $4500 exteme system. But still happy to see articles like this so early!


    Go check out the benchmark pages man! Every one with 1, 2, 4 4870s. The 2x and 4x configs are achieved with X2s, too.

    Oh, and latest drivers all around, too. Crazy, I know! =)
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  • cangelini

    I found it, just read the article too quickly. - My bad.
    "A single Radeon HD 4870 X2—representing our 2 x Radeon HD 4870 scores—is similarly capable of scaling fan speed on its own. "
    Hope to see driver updates like you said.
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  • Hi there, my question regarding these benchmarks with the HD card is, "was a 2G card use or a 1G". I am about to buy a new system and was looking to buy 2 x HD4870X2 2G cards, but with these results its looking a bit ify. I hope you can answer my question.
    Cheers.
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  • That's a nice article. I especially like the way the graphs are done. everything is scaled right, and you get an accurate representation.
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  • These are 2GB cards =)
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  • Thanks.
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  • How sure can we be that the difference between a nVidia and an AMD setup isn't related to the motherboard design? From the figures I would make the conclusion that the AMD + AMD setup is able to overcome some of the disadvantages of a weaker CPU, and in several cases there's no obvious - at least to me - reason why a Core i7 with the same single or dual set of AMD graphic cards would perform worse. It's easy to blame it on driver issues, but what proof is there to make that a more plausible conclusion? I'm not into some kind of weird conspiracy theory, I'm just technically curious to know why we should assume the X58 platform to be flawless when figures suggest differently.

    The conclusion I draw from this and other tests made is that Core i7 is great, but you need to spend big money on graphic cards to make it a gamers choice, or put it into a game performance per money perspective. As it is now, before future releases of mid range CPUs, or if AMD unexpectedly release some scary monster, I foremost see Core i7 as a solid solution for serious work. In rendering and other CPU dependent tasks it might be a blessing to cut some 40 % of the time to process.

    Another observation is that if the current scenario doesn't change in the near future we could well be back to old school over-clocking culture, when money and availability set the limits. I'm not against but in the last years we've seen more of a yuppie's over-clocker culture, where money and availability haven't been an issue. To be frank, what we have here is two ways of making priorities: one option is an AMD system which gives you a 790FX motherboard + CPU + RAM for the same price as a single Intel Core i7, and if you're not planning to play at resolutions higher than 1600x1200 and probably not buy anything above a possible single X2 Graphic Card it could well be the best offer for the money.

    Options are good and even with AMD well behind it opens up for many different choices. Some never really use but enjoy knowing they got a monster system, others only buy exactly what gives best value for money, some specialize systems for tasks with a cost conscious approach, and some don't have a clue. Every choice is good as long as the user is happy (and spendings doesn't hurt the family economy).

    Oh, a lot of text there. In conclusion I'm more interested in whether the X58 platform is ill suited (or less good) for AMD graphic cards at the moment, and for proof either way.
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  • hi guys,

    nice @ first : )

    but now i got one big question about this review

    on page 12 you got a nice overview about the 3d mark benchmark

    what i don't understand is the CPU score of the i7 and c2q ex based on nvidia and ati graphic boards

    there is such a huge difference of the cpu score just because of changing graphic boards ???

    how can that be?

    i mean the cpu score is based on the cpu right? or does futuremark test
    something else with this cpu score than just the cpu itself?

    i don't get to see the reason, why just changing from nvidia to ati or otherwise could have such huge effect on that cpu score

    but maybe one of you could explain it to me, otherwise i could think there is something wrong with this or maybe all of these benchmarks in this review

    thx in advance : )
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  • well finally we getting more and more info about the i7, i guess it will take us few weeks 2 get it all right.I just love it when new staff comes out :)
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  • "there is such a huge difference of the cpu score just because of changing graphic boards ???"

    it was stated in the article on that page, at the top. the default run with PhysX artificially inflates the scores.
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  • lolz, there are some crazy problems w/ the ATI cards... like turning on AA and gaining 50FPS...
    You should do this benchmark again in a couple of months when the drivers give more accurate results, and in that one..... lose the phenom :P.
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  • Nice job well done! Thanks for the article.

    However, I didn't see specified CPU clocks, so I presume that all three CPUs tested were run at stock speed. Although I have little doubt that Phenom X4 will still lose to both Ci7 965EE and QX9770, it's just my curiocity to see how Phenom X4 at 3.2GHz would perform.
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  • I thought there will be little difference between core 2 and i7 in games, so it was just the graphics card that is holding i7 back in games. in my mind, i thought a single gtx 280 was held back by the fastest core2, wasting graphics power which was not the case here.

    i7 is really a cool system, much like the intel SSD. intel is on fire. :)
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  • I've been an avid Toms Hardware reader for over 8 years now. This is my first post. It is an issue that has been nagging me the last few updates for Tomshardware. The "page scrolling function" on each page is terribly designed. I find it slow, disappears before I select the page and sometimes does not register at all. I have multiple computers and I draw the same conclusion on all of them. It gets rather annoying when I just want to read some implications or conclusions of some reviews and I can't get there easily without going through 27 pages.

    Why not just revert to the system everyone else uses with a simpler scroll-down bar?
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  • What a surprise, no Flight Simulator X Benchmarks
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