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Game Testing Methodology

Is This Even Fair? Budget Ivy Bridge Takes On Core 2 Duo And Quad
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We used Fraps to measure the frame rates for each of today’s games, and will focus purely on 1920x1080, a popular resolution well within the Radeon HD 7970’s capabilities. We’re most concerned about the highest playable settings, but also ran less demanding graphics details to better flesh out CPU limitations and scaling.

We're plotting Average and Minimum Frames Per Second (FPS) in bar charts, and Frame Rate Over Time in line graphs. But for this CPU-related story, we are not logging Frame Times. Nvidia’s Frame Capture Analysis Tools (FCAT) are in heavy rotation across two Tom's Hardware labs, and are an integral part of multi-GPU stories like AMD Radeon HD 7990: Eight Games And A Beastly Card For $1,000. It's not as imperative for single-GPU coverage though, since the data recorded by Fraps and FCAT come much closer to being the same. Nevertheless, I chose not to log frame times with Fraps until a few other issues can be investigated. More than anything, I wanted to be sure that any frame time variance recorded in Fraps was a direct a result of the processor, and would occur during normal gaming, rather than just overhead from the software collecting data.

Subjectively, I’ll come out and say that there wasn't a single case where acceptable performance was hurt by noticeably inconsistent frame times simply by swapping CPUs. I can’t rule out the likelihood that frame latency might have impacted the fluidity of already sub-par frame rates, though.

This phenomenon did occur in Battlefield 3, but since it was equally evident with every processor, and carried over to both platforms, it was most likely attributable to the graphics card and drivers. At the Ultra detail preset, frame rates never dropped below 60 FPS, and both averages and minimums were within 3 FPS of each other for all tested processors. Even so, the game still didn’t appear fully smooth. I chose not to use Battlefield 3 data in today's story simply because there was almost no CPU scaling in our normal 90-second single-player benchmark routine. And for a story like this, you're going to worry more about the multiplayer experience anyway.

But don’t worry. On the following pages, we’ll explore data for eight other games, including many of the latest heavy-hitters. If anything, we could argue this test suite is overly brutal, but the idea is to push each processor to its limit, gauging current, and, if possible, future demands.

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Top Comments
  • 41 Hide
    ASHISH65 , May 5, 2013 9:29 PM
    Wow! this is the review i am waiting from long time.Really good one for budget gamers.
  • 33 Hide
    CaptainTom , May 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    Tom's, this is the kind of articles we want to see! Not some BS car article, but real comparisons no other website has made...
  • 28 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , May 5, 2013 10:20 PM
    Excellent article, I'm glad I have a more accurate idea on where I stand based on CPU performance, I'm still using my trusty Q6600, G0 @ 3.2ghz. Its good that Tom's still hasn't forgotten that a lot of enthusiast still are rocking Core 2 architecture lol. I think I can manage until Intel releases their next revolutionary CPU.
Other Comments
  • 41 Hide
    ASHISH65 , May 5, 2013 9:29 PM
    Wow! this is the review i am waiting from long time.Really good one for budget gamers.
  • 11 Hide
    amoralman , May 5, 2013 9:34 PM
    God dammit! Now I feel like I need to change my C2D E8400. >:( 
  • 24 Hide
    DarkSable , May 5, 2013 9:41 PM
    Now this is cool stuff.

    Also, amoralman, did you read this? It's basically assuring you that your C2D is still awesome as a budget processor.
  • 12 Hide
    Steelwing , May 5, 2013 10:11 PM
    Very nice review! I've got a C2D E6600 (2.4 GHz) and had been considering the Core i5-3570K (or possibly wait for a Haswell i5) and was wondering about the performance differences. My CPU is still good for a lot of apps, but I can definitely see a reason to upgrade.
  • 5 Hide
    AMD Radeon , May 5, 2013 10:13 PM
    pentium dual core G2020 is the minimum i can recommend to budget gamers. i often listed it in sub 450 gaming PC
  • 28 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , May 5, 2013 10:20 PM
    Excellent article, I'm glad I have a more accurate idea on where I stand based on CPU performance, I'm still using my trusty Q6600, G0 @ 3.2ghz. Its good that Tom's still hasn't forgotten that a lot of enthusiast still are rocking Core 2 architecture lol. I think I can manage until Intel releases their next revolutionary CPU.
  • 15 Hide
    assasin32 , May 5, 2013 10:29 PM
    I been wanting to see one of these for a long time but never thought I get to see it. I just wish they had the good ol e2160, and q6600 thrown into the mix. I have the e2180 OC to 3ghz. It's still chugging along surprisingly enough, I just realized how old the thing was last night after thinking about how long I've had this build and looking up when the main components were produced. Safe to say I got my use out of that $70 cpu, did a 50% OC to it :)  and it still had room to go but I wanted to keep the voltage very low.
  • 6 Hide
    jrharbort , May 5, 2013 10:32 PM
    I've always been curious about how well my own Core 2 Duo P8800 (45nm & 2.66GHz) would stand up against modern ivy bridge offerings. And even though I'm talking about he mobile space, I'm guessing the gains would be comparable to those seen by their desktop counterparts. Each day I'm reminded more and more that I seriously need to move on to a newer system, especially since I work with a lot of media production software. Thanks for the article, it provided some interesting and useful insight.
  • 8 Hide
    smeezekitty , May 5, 2013 10:46 PM
    Kind of interesting that the old Core 2s beat the I5 in tombrader with TressFX on.
    Also holy crap on 1.45 vcore on the C2D
  • 19 Hide
    Proximon , May 5, 2013 11:07 PM
    I would not have predicted this. Not to this extent. I hope we can make these broader comparisons across years more frequently after this. I predict this will be a very popular article.
  • 3 Hide
    Matsushima , May 5, 2013 11:23 PM
    Remember the Pentium Dual-Core E6500K... They should have included that and overclocked it.
  • 10 Hide
    timaishu , May 5, 2013 11:24 PM
    Wow. This article could have popped up at a better time. Was considering upgrading my ageing E6600 for a higher end supported processor. Was thinking of getting a core 2 extreme QX6800 off ebay for around 130ish. I looked on cpu benchmark and it really isn't that much faster than the Pentium in this article. That is insance considering that cpu cost aroun 1k on release. I am now reconsidering and just holding off on extending my lga775's lifespan and just replacing it with a new platform in the near future.

    I find it shocking that my E6600(which I still hold in high regard, is far far worse than a 50 dollar Celeron. My mind is blown.
  • 5 Hide
    killabanks , May 5, 2013 11:44 PM
    Great article thanks!
  • 10 Hide
    sarinaide , May 5, 2013 11:52 PM
    Old processors still have some kick in them. Q9000, Q6600, E8600, Athlon II X4, Phenom II's all still have enough grunt in them to game a little while yet, the quads should be fine for another year or two.
  • 33 Hide
    CaptainTom , May 6, 2013 12:00 AM
    Tom's, this is the kind of articles we want to see! Not some BS car article, but real comparisons no other website has made...
  • 5 Hide
    Matsushima , May 6, 2013 12:04 AM
    If you're happy with the performance level that your 5-year-old dualcore gives, there's no need to upgrade or build a new system. I'm happy with this 4-year-old dualcore right now and my Pentium 4 Northwood SINGLE CORE was more than enough for web browsing and some YouTube videos but all that's left now of it is the processor. I miss that boring beige case.

    That said, today's quads have a more efficient and better architecture than those of yesteryear, and the 3570K is a popular choice for enthusiasts.
  • 3 Hide
    Matsushima , May 6, 2013 12:05 AM
    The 3570K is the new E8400. Less headroom, but the usage and reception are similar.
  • -2 Hide
    loops , May 6, 2013 12:17 AM
    what no 2500K?

    :) 
  • 2 Hide
    ingtar33 , May 6, 2013 12:33 AM
    basically, this is saying that the P4m architecture which lead to the core2duo and by extension then the core i series was the pinnacle of cpu innovation.

    intel made all their leaps forward with this architecture, and killed AMD in the process. And has never really moved past it... 6 years on and it still stands toe to toe with the latest and greatest.

    I'm not that surprised really.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 6, 2013 12:36 AM
    SteelwingVery nice review! I've got a C2D E6600 (2.4 GHz) and had been considering the Core i5-3570K (or possibly wait for a Haswell i5) and was wondering about the performance differences. My CPU is still good for a lot of apps, but I can definitely see a reason to upgrade.

    i have both and the 3570k is significantly faster than an e6600, i always had problems with the e6600 not being fast enough for my taste, its a night and day difference between the 2
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