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Test System And Benchmarks

Game-Off: Seven Sub-$150 Processors Compared
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We're using two test systems that share the same type of hard drive, CPU cooler, memory, and graphics card in order to minimize the variables.

For the AMD system, we're using the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO motherboard. This board features a 785G chipset that showed great memory support and overclocking prowess in our AMD 785G motherboard roundup. At $100 online, it is a fantastic low-cost AMD overclocking board.

The Intel system uses Gigabyte's H55M-UD2H, a board that performed excellently in our Phenom II X2 555 vs. Pentium G6950 article. This motherboard costs just under $90 online.

We're choosing a single GeForce GTX 480 as the graphics card. Just to be clear, we're opting for this card not because it's something we recommend pairing with a low-end CPU, but because it's quite powerful, and should help remove any graphics subsystem bottlenecks from our CPU results.

We don't have a Phenom II X4 945 on hand, so we are simulating this processor by lowering the multiplier of a Phenom II X4 955 to bring the clock speed down to 3 GHz. This is also a good indicator of stock Phenom II X4 940 performance, as it uses the same multiplier and clock speed.

We're using the same multiplier-lowering technique to simulate Core i3-530 performance by lowering the multiplier of a Core i3-540 sample we have. Core i3 processors do not have a Turbo Boost mode, so this should work like a charm, as the Core i3-530 and Core i3-540 models are only differentiated with a single multiplier and a 133 MHz difference.


Intel Test System
AMD Test System
CPU

Intel Pentium G6950 2.8 GHz (Clarkdale)
Intel Core i3-530 2.93 GHz (Clarkdale)*
Intel Core i3-540 3.06 GHz (Clarkdale)
*simulated by lowering the multiplier of a Core i3-540

AMD Athlon II X2 260 3.2 GHz (Regor)
AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1 GHz (Rana)
AMD Athlon II X4 640 3 GHz (Propus)
AMD Phenom II X4 940/945 3 GHz (Deneb)**
**simulated by lowering the multiplier of a Phenom II X4 955

Motherboard

Gigabyte H55M-UD2H LGA 1156
Chipset: Intel H55, BIOSF8

Asus M4A785TD-V EVO Socket AM3
Chipset: AMD 785G, BIOS 0410

Networking
Onboard Gigabit LAN controller
Memory

Mushkin PC3-10700
  2 x 2,048MB, 1,070 MHz, CL 7-7-7-16-1T

Graphics

GeForce GTX 480 Reference
700 MHz GPU, 1GB GDDR5 at 924 MHz

Hard Drive

Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s

Power

ePOWER EP-1200E10-T2 1,200W
ATX12V, EPS12V

Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics Drivers

GeForce 197.75

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool
High Quality, No AA
Aliens vs Predator
Version 1.0.0.0, Aliens vs Predator DirectX 11 benchmark
Default Settings, No AA, 16x AF
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark
Ultra Setting, 4x AA
DiRT 2
Version 1.1.0.0, DirectX 11, in-game benchmark
Ultra Settings, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo
High Details, 2x AA, 2x AF
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, GPU and CPU scores
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Top Comments
  • 29 Hide
    wintermint , June 28, 2010 6:12 AM
    AMD is really improving. I'm waiting for them to manufacture 32nm CPUs like Intel :) 
  • 24 Hide
    falchard , June 28, 2010 6:18 AM
    I am glad an RTS was used in this benchmark. More CPU heavy games should be included in the benchmark for Processor benchmarking.

    With that said, there was a mention that the 6MB L3 cache may have helped the Phenom II X4 945, I wonder what would happen with a Phenom II X2 or X3 by comparison if this actually makes a significant impact. It could prove there is a significant advantage to cheaper AMD CPUs then the Athlon IIs in this benchmark.
  • 23 Hide
    qvasi_modo , June 28, 2010 6:30 AM
    AMD - bang for the buck, Intel - bling for the buck.
Other Comments
  • 29 Hide
    wintermint , June 28, 2010 6:12 AM
    AMD is really improving. I'm waiting for them to manufacture 32nm CPUs like Intel :) 
  • 23 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 28, 2010 6:14 AM
    Interesting article-it clearly shows the advantage of having four physical cores of the Athlon II and the Phenom II X4s over the hyper-threaded Core i3s in real-world situations.No doubt that this article will benefit people who want the perfect processor for their money at this price range
  • 24 Hide
    falchard , June 28, 2010 6:18 AM
    I am glad an RTS was used in this benchmark. More CPU heavy games should be included in the benchmark for Processor benchmarking.

    With that said, there was a mention that the 6MB L3 cache may have helped the Phenom II X4 945, I wonder what would happen with a Phenom II X2 or X3 by comparison if this actually makes a significant impact. It could prove there is a significant advantage to cheaper AMD CPUs then the Athlon IIs in this benchmark.
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , June 28, 2010 6:23 AM
    Found a typo on the chart, I don't see why you would compare the Intel i3-530 against itself. :p 
  • 23 Hide
    qvasi_modo , June 28, 2010 6:30 AM
    AMD - bang for the buck, Intel - bling for the buck.
  • 13 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 28, 2010 6:50 AM
    qvasi_modoAMD - bang for the buck, Intel - bling for the buck.

    Uptil a certain price range.
  • 8 Hide
    war2k9 , June 28, 2010 6:51 AM
    It is time for me to dust of my old am2+ computer and put a new amd proc in it and give it a new life.
  • 7 Hide
    cleeve , June 28, 2010 6:51 AM
    DemonslayFound a typo on the chart, I don't see why you would compare the Intel i3-530 against itself.


    Thx, fixed!
  • 6 Hide
    dirtmountain , June 28, 2010 7:42 AM
    Another very good article comparing lower cost CPUs for gaming. I especially liked the chart showing multi-tasking. I'm curious about the PhenomII x4 820 for $100 that showed up at newegg for a day or so and is now out of stock, i can't find any reviews of this stealth release.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103824
  • 6 Hide
    kiren , June 28, 2010 7:44 AM
    AMD has it in this price range as usual... Still nice to see the x4 940 and x4 640 compared, I've been wondering how big a difference to expect from the additional cache. At least with the i3 530 intel has something to show here if you just game, but I'll take a true quad any day thanks :) 
  • 10 Hide
    Tamz_msc , June 28, 2010 7:53 AM
    Quote:
    sorry but i must disagree...

    the core i3 530 was 8% faster than the athlon X4 and costs $5 less
    its a great processor it seems, a nice change from intel. but i admit, my heart sunk after seeing amd's athlon X4 get beat. its like sports, i root for AMD

    please dont quote the multitasking benchmark as no sane person compresses stuff while gaming...
    yes the athlon would probably be better overall for most people, but not for gaming

    That is why I said real world situations.People use their PCs for stuff other than gaming in most of the part they are turned on.The AMD quad cores clearly have the edge with respect to overall performance.
  • -6 Hide
    agawtrip , June 28, 2010 7:53 AM
    why is there no phenom II X2???

    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103680

    LoL currently unavailable.......
  • 4 Hide
    liquidsnake718 , June 28, 2010 8:29 AM
    I guess this is a symbolic article where-in Toms is also telling us that we have to all eventually let go of those dusting core2 chips...

    Interesting that Aliens Vs Predator can be used as a true benchmark between GPUs and in DX11 games since the CPU differences wont really matter. One question, what if these chips were compared to a Phenom X6 or even a core i7 1366 socket chip? If not, then one can truly compare the 5870 vs the gtx480 head to head.
  • -5 Hide
    CPfreak , June 28, 2010 9:03 AM
    luke904sorry but i must disagree...the core i3 530 was 8% faster than the athlon X4 and costs $5 lessits a great processor it seems, a nice change from intel. but i admit, my heart sunk after seeing amd's athlon X4 get beat. its like sports, i root for AMDplease dont quote the multitasking benchmark as no sane person compresses stuff while gaming...yes the athlon would probably be better overall for most people, but not for gaming


    still, AMD's Phenom II X4 beats the cr*p out of the i3 and that for about 20 dollars more, so i do think AMD's quad cores are the best performers here.
  • -4 Hide
    doron , June 28, 2010 9:35 AM
    Also in the Athlon II x3 article all the games weren't set on highest graphics settings - Only set on "high" (not highest / ultra etc.) and with AA / AF disabled, which, despite the high resolution, gave the 5870 lots of room to breathe and demonstrated the cpu bottleneck. Why would anyone want to get the 5870 and not crank all the eye candy up is beyond me. I understand that the article was trying to get the point (and point taken) but I'm sure lots of people were fooled to think that they'll actually see that much more performance if they get the i7-920 while they didn't realize that it was only for educational reasons (because it wasn't said in the article). Too bad :) 
  • -8 Hide
    masterjaw , June 28, 2010 9:41 AM
    This shows how AMD rules the budget segment with their offerings. But if you analyze the Intel chips included, clearly Intel has the advantage of per core performance since only their dual cores are present in this event (because the other chips with more cores are quite expensive).

    Indeed, gaming on lower resolutions tend to depend not only on GPU but also to the CPU. This is where CPU has the most noticeable effects on gaming performance.
  • 19 Hide
    Mante , June 28, 2010 10:02 AM
    Why not x2 555???
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