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Wrapping Things Up: AMD Vs. Intel In Gaming

AMD's Piledriver And K10 CPU Architectures Face Off
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Today's story focused on AMD's processors, but we used the same tests, graphics hardware, and drivers that previously went into our exploration of Intel's architectures. The only difference was a forced update to StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm that couldn't be avoided. Thus, it seems pertinent to create a summary of the data we generated.

In an effort to be as fair as possible, I’m switching up the overall game performance calculations a bit on this page and the preceding one. Rather than adding up the average FPS result for each game, I'm weighing the relative performance in each title equally, as I did with the applications. I’m also tossing out the two GPU-limited Tomb Raider tests and only using that title's outdoor sequence. Consequently, you should notice a larger spread between processors.

AMD’s chips shuffle into the hierarchy, just as we’d expect. Each one outpaces Intel's Core 2 Duo E8400, but none of them can challenge the Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 for its top spot. And keep in mind that many retail -3570Ks hit 4.4 GHz or more with air cooling, which would extend its lead.

The FX-6350's competitiveness at stock clock rates is impressive. It scales well with overclocking, too. And considering that we could probably squeeze close to the same performance from a less expensive FX-6300, we have to call out the competence of Vishera in its six-core configuration. Based on averages, the FX-6350 is a step above Intel’s Core i3-3225 and an overclocked FX-4350. In newer, well-threaded games, it's unlikely that a tweaked Phenom II X4 or Core 2 Quad could touch the FX-6350 at its stock settings.

If you're working with limited funds, AMD's Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition and Athlon X4 750K are both capable processors that sell for $100 or less. Unlocked multipliers mean that both CPUs are overclockable. The money you save buying one of these cheaper chips can be put toward graphics, aftermarket cooling, or even a new game.

Unfortunately, not all of AMD's processors deliver the performance we are looking for. In a threaded gaming suite favoring quad-core CPUs, a lack of L3 cache prevents the Propus architecture from matching the cheaper Pentium G2020's value. The Athlon II led in three out of eight games, and even then was limited to low-quality settings in a couple of them. The one benefit this quad-core chip offered was playable frame rates in Crysis 3 at the game's lowest detail settings. We had to overclock our Core 2 Duo E8400 all the way to 4.5 GHz to get similar performance, and even then its average frame rate was 10% lower.

But we can't praise the Athlon II for its behavior in Crysis without criticizing the slide show we saw in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. In that tile, along with Skyrim, AMD's Propus design overclocked to 3.6 GHz couldn't catch the cheap 2.6 GHz Celeron G1610, much less a faster Pentium. Based on these eight games, I'd recommend skipping the Athlon II X4 640 for gaming builds. If cost keeps you from snagging an Athlon X4 750K or better, then a cheaper and generally quicker Pentium G2120 gets you more value.

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