Part 1: Building A Balanced Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 contains a built-in benchmarking tool that enables CPU-intensive physics effects, does a decent job of delivering consistent results, and represents actual game-play. There certainly may still be some more graphically-demanding areas of the map, but 40 FPS in the small ranch demo is a fair target for playability. Here we crank details to Ultra quality and also enable 4x AA to smooth out the jaggies.

The Radeon HD 4850 once again fails to reach our target with these cranked-up quality settings across all four CPUs.

Unlike Crysis, the quartet of processors now manages to reach the minimum acceptable performance line, so we do not have a “too little CPU” quadrant in this title. The GeForce GTX 260 and Pentium E6300 represent our minimum recommended platform by averaging exactly 40.0 FPS.  But further observation shows the game is clearly optimized for more than two CPU cores, and the GeForce GTX 260 benefits from being paired with our two quad-core chips. The Radeon HD 4890 puts up impressive performance, and is fairly balanced with the Core 2 Duo E8400 or higher. You obviously don’t need a dual-GPU monster for this resolution, but given enough CPU power, the Radeon HD 4870 X2 and GeForce GTX 295 leave the single-GPU cards far behind.

When it's matched up to the Pentium E6300, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 260 and GeForce GTX 285 straddle the line at 39.6 FPS and 40.2 FPS, respectively. But both pick up significant performance boosts when paired with a more powerful CPU.

The Radeon HD 4890 manages about seven frames per second higher than the GeForce GTX 285 when it's coupled with the Pentium E6300, and the same performance advantage when paired with the Core 2 Duo E8400.

But once we install a quad-core CPU, the GeForce GTX 285 flexes its muscles and claims its spot as the top single-GPU solution. Radeon HD 4870 X2 and GeForce GTX 295 owners will see no benefits from their dual-GPU beasts at this particular setting unless the card is paired with a powerful-enough CPU. 

Performance with the Radeon HD 4890 levels off at 1920x1200, representing a good balance, even when it's paired with the two dual-core CPUs. If you want to see any significant frame rate increase, we need to step up to the Radeon HD 4870 X2 with an E8400 or above, or the GeForce GTX 285/295 paired with a quad-core processor.  

Only the top GPU solutions survive at our highest resolution, and to do so, each requires more CPU power than the Pentium E6300 can provide.  Reaching 39.9 FPS, it’s hard to not include the GeForce GTX 285 in the mix. Otherwise, it’s the Radeon HD 4870 X2/E8400 combination or the GeForce GTX 295 paired with a quad-core CPU that best represent the level of platform needed to max out Far Cry 2. 

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    Top Comments
  • winner4455
    I see a great series coming
  • osse
    This is good, this must be the first time in computer history things are beeing done right. And this is sure the best way i ever seen a review done, in my 18 yrs as an entusiastic computer builder. Looking forward to all the updates to come.
  • Other Comments
  • yoy0yo
    Wow, this is an amazingly in depth review! I kinda feel that its sponsered by Asus or Corsair, but I guess you kept with the same brand for the sake of controls etc.

  • winner4455
    I see a great series coming
  • inmytaxi
    Very helpful stuff.

    I'd like to see some discussion on the availability of sub $400 (at times as low as $280) 28" monitors. At this price range, does it make more sense to spend more on the LCD even if less is spent initially on graphics? I would think the benefit of 28" vs. 22" is so great that the extra money could be taken from, say, a 9550 + 4890 combo and getting a 8400/6300 + 4850 instead, with the right motherboard a second 4850 later will pass a 4890 anyway.
  • frozenlead
    I like the balance charts. It's a good way to characterize the data. This article is well constructed and well thought-out.

    That being said - is there a way we can compile this data and compute an "optimized" system for the given hardware available? Finding the true, calculated sweet spot for performance/$ would be so nice to have on hand every quarter or twice a year. I'll have to think about this one for a while. There may be some concessions to make, and it might not even work out. But it would be so cool.
  • ghost111
    Nice one.Now i want to see part two.
  • Neggers
    I feel like the person that did this review got it finished alittle bit late. I can only assume he did all the testing some months back and has only just finished writing up his results. But its sad to not see the new P55/i5 Systems, AMD Athlon II Quad Cores, or the Radeon 5000 series.

    Good review, but hopefully it can be updated soon with some of the newer equipment thats out, to turn it into a fantastic guide for people.
  • brockh
    Great job, this is the information people need to be seeing; the way people provide benchmarks these days hardly tells the story to most of the readers. It's definitely important to point out the disparities in ones CPU choice, rather than just assuming everyone uses the i7 all the sites choose. ;)

    Looking forward to part 2.
  • sinny1
    wow! Awesome works! Can't wait til you guys get to the ATI 5000 series. Keep it up! :)
  • Onyx2291
    This will take up some of my time. Even though I know how, it's nice to get a refresher every now and then.
  • mohsh86
    you are really kidding me by not considering the ATI 5000 series, although am a fan of nvidia , but this is not fair !
  • scook9
    amazing of the best I have seen in a long time (from any site)

    you all deserve a raise :)
  • anamaniac
    Very nice.

    The picture on the first page is better than any porno I've ever seen!
  • evolve60
    Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 (Yorkfield) 2.66 GHz, LGA 775, FSB-1333, 12MB L2 cache
    I'm pretty sure that its the Q9450/9400 is the one that runs at 2.66 GHz The Q9550 runs at 2.83 GHz.
  • liquidsnake718
    It took me roughly an hour and a half to read this article at work. Wow these are the types of tests and in depth articles that I’ve been waiting for. Its been about a month to two months since we’ve had such a deep study. The System Builder Marathon reviews and tests were great. The best GPU’s per price/performance are lacking and basic comparisons while this article shows us the true value and capabilities of certain GPU’s and CPU’s.

    Im however perplexed that the once good 4850 which is compared to my 9800GTX+ is deemed a weaker GPU now. I thought the Far Cry 2 tests shown in previous TOMs comparisons garnerd higher frame rates? I know that the systems were comparable.... Anyway keep up the good work and this is a Quality comparison/chart/review.
  • Saiyanz
    This is a great review that people who are building pc's actual need to see.

    I was quite surprised by the power of the HD4890. It thumped the GTX285 and more powerful cards when using a dual core CPU. Even in Crysis which always seemed like it favoured Nvidia cards in past reviews. It is probably that the previous reviews all used overclocked quad cores and/or the ATI drivers have really improved.

    It also seems as though the Nvidia cards need a more powerful CPU in order to get equivalent performance to the ATI cards.
  • Bloodblender
    It's just these kind of articles that make TH shine over the other sites. Well done!
  • astrodudepsu
    Looking forward to the rest of the series. Well done.
  • skora
    Thank you Paul and team for sacrificing many weeks on this project. Its great to have something to point at and say this is why you shouldn't do that. It will be great to be able do direct price/performance comparison for the same results of a less expensive OC'd system and stock system.

    Can't wait for the rest!!!!!

    Also, whats the chance of getting a how to run you're own benchmarks article so we can test our systems against yours using the same method?
  • osse
    This is good, this must be the first time in computer history things are beeing done right. And this is sure the best way i ever seen a review done, in my 18 yrs as an entusiastic computer builder. Looking forward to all the updates to come.
  • masterjaw
    My PC says 'bring in the part 2'. Is this would be a series also like the best GPU/CPU?