This brings us to the fun part of the review: the FX’s gaming performance. Typically, when we review a CPU, we use a high-end GPU to avoid bottlenecking host processor performance. That makes sense from a theoretical approach, but it's naturally not going to be practical. At what point does graphics hold back a CPU, anyway?
For this reason, when there are large differences between CPUs, we test each game twice: once with a high-end graphics card (in this case, AMD’s Radeon R9 295X2) and once with a more mainstream graphics card better balanced to match the FX. AMD's Radeon R9 270X or 285 are good matches.
When Does The Graphics Card Become The Limiting Factor?
DiRT 3's ability to scale makes it a good example. If you pair a fast CPU with a high-end graphics card, this title really flies. But if you handicap your platform with a lower-end GPU, the bottleneck becomes obvious.
Now, this isn't to say that matching a Radeon R9 270X to a Core i7-4790K is a good idea. However, if you allow graphics to become your limiting factor, the impact of CPU performance becomes less obvious. If anything, let our exploration serve to better inform you how component choice can dramatically alter the outcome of benchmark results.
We perform the same exercise in Battlefield 4, even though we measured a performance difference of only 30 percent with the high-end graphics card. First, let’s take a look at the original test:
In single-player mode, a Radeon R9 285 is enough to essentially level the playing field. It's our limiting component at Ultra detail settings and a 1920x1080 resolution. Of course, most folks still looking at Battlefield 4 are involved in the more CPU-taxing multi-player component. Unfortunately, that's difficult to benchmark reliably.
BioShock Infinite doesn’t have the reputation of being hard on hardware, but that doesn’t mean that the combination of a high-end graphics card and AMD's FX-8370E makes sense.
Once again, capping performance with a more mainstream GPU masks the potential of our various host processors. In the real-world, pairing a Radeon R9 285 and FX CPU makes sense. Substituting in a Core i7 won't yield dramatically better frame rates until you also step up to a much faster graphics configuration.
Gaming at 3840x2160 Resolution
It’s common knowledge that massive resolutions almost always lead to GPU bottlenecks. Consider it an exaggeration of what we just saw. Even at maxed-out settings, there’s almost no difference between the CPUs in spite of the relatively high frame rates. It basically doesn’t matter what CPU you pick because the graphics card creates the performance ceiling.
To put it nicely, the FX-8370E is a true middle-of-the-road CPU. Using it only makes sense as long as the graphics card you choose comes from a similar performance segment.
Depending on the game in question, AMD’s new processor has the potential to keep you happy around the AMD Radeon R9 270X/285 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 or 660 Ti level.
A higher- or even high-end graphics card doesn’t make sense, as pairing it with AMD's FX-8370E simply limits the card's potential.