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Results: Tomb Raider

AMD's Piledriver And K10 CPU Architectures Face Off

Tomb Raider is one of 2013's biggest hits, in my opinion. It takes powerful graphics hardware to handle the Ultimate quality settings, which enable realistic TressFX hair.

We already know the Radeon HD 7970 has what it takes to deliver playable frame rates at that Ultimate preset, and we'll include the graphics-heavy “Chasm Monastery” level you typically see on Tom’s Hardware. But we're putting far more weight on the CPU-intensive outdoor “Mountain Village” level. Used together, these two benchmarks provide a worst-case look at the game’s CPU and GPU requirements.

Normal hair effects are used with the High quality preset. That flat area in the middle of our line graphs, where all the processors appear at the same level, is the cinematic sequence. The Athlon II X4 640 trails early on, but breezes through this part of the game, delivering 100+ frames per second.

As expected, frame rates plummet once we step outdoors and overlook “Mountain Village”. A lack of L3 cache appears to be the Athlon II X4 640’s weakness yet again, though it remains playable, briefly dipping below 30 FPS.

Overclocking yields small, insignificant gains, mainly because this test is almost exclusively GPU-bound. TressFX hair enabled by the Ultimate quality preset completely changes the flat cinematic portion of our run, and the mighty Radeon HD 7970 drops to 30 FPS, no matter which host processor backs it. Once the camera zooms off of Lara, we see a huge frame rate spike before control is shifted back to the user. Similar cinematic sequences are unavoidable, and a big part of the game.

Without a doubt, it takes powerful graphics hardware to drive the Ultimate detail preset smoothly. But parts of this game smack the processor around, also. In this test, the Athlon II X4 640 fails, making it difficult to control Lara’s maneuvers. In fact, the lack of consistency caused me to scrap a couple of benchmark runs after misjudging my zip-line approach and blindly leaping straight off the cliff. Of our test samples, only the two FX-series chips remain above 30 frames per second through our 45-second run.

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