3DMark Fire Strike appears to rank our trio of machines by cost, which of course directly relates to the level of graphics hardware we could afford. The Physics test is heavily-threaded, so Intel’s Hyper-Threading Technology puts distance between the two Core i3–based machines and last quarter’s conventional dual-core Pentium.
However, PCMark 8 paints a different picture. The cheap machine falls behind in stock form, but eventually rises to the top once its Pentium processor and Radeon R9 270X graphics card are overclocked. In the end, there is nothing profound to report; the scores pretty much fall within the benchmark’s 3% margin of error.
Sandra highlights the differences between the Core i3 and Pentium processors. Higher frequency helps the overclocked Pentium earn a victory in Dhrystone Arithmetic, but it trails Core i3 in the Whetstone tests.
We also see features enabled in Intel’s Core i3 (and up) processors like AES-NI and DDR3-1600 support translate to greater cryptographic and memory performance.
These gaming boxes start off CPU-limited at Arma 3’s Standard quality preset. But rendering to three panels or tackling the Ultra setting shifts the bottleneck to graphics hardware.
Unlike Arma 3, our other titles favor the resources made available through Hyper-Threaded cores. What’s perhaps even more interesting is how well our oldest machine’s GeForce graphics card provides additional breathing room in benchmarks that otherwise appear CPU-bound.
Demanding ultra-quality settings invariably hammer graphics hardware, though. The machines all survive Battlefield 4 in Full HD, and GRID 2 through 4800x900. However, in Far Cry 3, this quarter's overclocked Radeon R9 280 is as low as you'll want to go before turning on 2x MSAA.
Relying on a pair of physical execution cores, none of these gaming boxes are built to be productivity workhorses. Because each one employs the Haswell architecture, completion times in single-threaded workloads like iTunes, LAME and Acrobat, rank according to clock rate. Meanwhile, the more parallel tasks highlight the effectiveness of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, as well as overall platform performance.