The Intel Core i7 chip is an awesome CPU – this we know. If we were to build a gaming rig, we’d want to have one of these inside it. But Nvidia is telling everyone that the CPU isn’t everything.
Intel claims that gaming performance goes up by 80 percent when you use a Core i7 chip. This impressed Nvidia’s technical marketing director Tom Petersen, who decided to take a closer look at Intel’s claim.
“I was impressed by that claim, and I was trying to figure out how they could possibly say such a thing, and it turns out that Intel is basing that claim on only 3DMark Vantage’s CPU test.”
Of course, a CPU test is just that – to test the CPU. Peterson goes on to explain his view: “…it doesn’t actually measure gameplay, it doesn’t actually measure anything about game performance. Sure enough, if you do that test you will see Core i7 running faster, but I think it’s a little disingenuous to call that game performance.”
Peterson then transitioned to an example that would further his case that Core i7 isn’t the clear superior choice for the gaming PC. He compared two systems, calling the Core i7 965-based one a “Hummer,” and likening the one with a Core 2 Duo E8400 to a BMW.
Nvidia showed benchmark graphs of various systems running Crysis Warhead, Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War and Far Cry 2 at 1920 x 1200 (no AA or AF). According to bit-tech.net, the Core 2 Duo E8400 and a GeForce GTS 250 scored an average of 41.6 fps. The frame rate moved slightly up to 42.4 fps after upgrading to a Core i7 965, but jumped all the way up to 59.4 fps after upgrading to a GeForce GTX 260 (216 stream processors) SLI setup.
Here we have a case where the games running at 1920 x 1200 are fillrate-bound rather than CPU. A faster CPU did little to make things better for the GPU, but upgrading to a significantly stronger 3D acceleration setup opened up the headroom for more frames.
Peterson acknowledges that at high-resolutions, it’s smarter to spend on buying more fillrate: “…it is a fact, that when you’re gaming and you’re running at resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or better, the Core 2 Duo is perfect for running all of today’s games. In real gaming, there’s no difference between a Core i7 and a Core 2 Duo.”