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Core i5, Core i7, CrossFire, And SLI: Gaming Paradise, Redux?

Benchmark Results: Resident Evil 5

You’ll need to take our Resident Evil 5 numbers with a grain of salt if you can’t help comparing ATI to Nvidia. After all, the game doesn’t launch in North America until mid-September, and was only released as a benchmarkable demo by Nvidia to showcase its 3D Vision technology.

With that said, it’s a pretty game, and our talks with Capcom have indicated that the demo is indicative of the title’s performance. More than likely, ATI simply needs more time in order to make its own driver optimizations.

Update: After a bit of waiting, we were plugged in to the game's developers in Japan, who let us know that there is zero difference between the DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 code paths available in the demo. Thus, if you run the demo on ATI hardware, be sure to use the DirectX 9 path. For the purpose of these tests, again, don't bother comparing performance, as the Radeon HD 4870 X2s should be significantly quicker. If you're running Nvidia hardware, it's also safe to go with DirectX 9. The DirectX 10 option is the way to go for playing through GeForce 3D Vision shades.

Update 2: There's a hotfix that ATI says adds CrossFireX support to Resident Evil 5, available here. This was not the problem we were experiencing here, it turns out, though. With the hotfix applied, our results in the DirectX 10 version of the demo were still at or under 40 frames per second. The real issue is, in fact, the DirectX 10 mode of the game. Re-running 2560x1600 with 4xAA results in a score of 104.6 frames per second (higher than a pair of GeForce GTX 285s on the Core i5 platform). If you're testing your ATI-based GPU in this one, make sure you use DX9!

Until then, we see the lowest-res test favoring the Core i5 and Core i7 LGA 1156-based platforms, suggesting that this title isn’t well-optimized for threading and is instead seeing processor-specific gains due to Turbo Boost kicking in. Transitioning to 2560x1600 negates that benefit though, as graphics performance is more acutely emphasized—a claim substantiated by SLI positively affecting performance where it didn’t before. In both resolutions, CrossFire actually hurts the performance of ATI’s cards, suggesting that there is simply no profile yet available for Resident Evil 5.

We see the same favoritism toward the new LGA 1156 CPUs paired with Nvidia’s fastest single-GPU card, and the gain grows with a pair installed. Though this contradicts the results of our academic look at integrated PCI Express, which showed that, at comparable clocks, X58’s dedicated x16 links enabled better performance, the addition of Turbo Boost accelerating CPU performance in a poorly-threaded game would in fact give these graphics processors more room to breathe and result in a less CPU-limited environment.

The same advantage persists at 2560x1600, though it isn’t as pronounced, since the graphics cards are decidedly more taxed here. The scaling with SLI is truly impressive, even if it’s the result of significant optimization prior to the game’s launch. At the end of the day, this is still good news for gamers with Nvidia cards.

ATI owners will need to wait until the company’s driver team gets its hands on the game, optimizes the Catalyst suite, and adds a CrossFire profile. With the demo now available, we can only hope it’ll wrap this into its next driver release around the time Resident Evil 5 ships to retail.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • lashton
    so we can assume for gaming the 965BE (or 955 oc) and ATi cards are just as fast as Core i7 and i5 but at a fraction of the price
    Reply
  • cangelini
    The 955 does cost less. The 965 is more expensive than Core i5.
    Reply
  • Dekasav
    Only thing I don't like is how you knock Crossfire with 2 HD 4870X2's, since when is it even feasible that 4-way CF would scale as well as 2-way SLI?

    But excellent review, overall, I'm actually surprised at how the 965BE did, I thought it'd be behind, where it was actually right in the pack.
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    I would have liked to see a 780a or a 980a SLI motherboard used to check the SLI numbers on the P2 965BE. I'm also surprised there's no overclocking numbers in the comparison, is that article still to come out?
    Reply
  • cangelini
    It's upcoming dirt; Patrick is the one working on it (and our Italian team sent word of its i5 and i7s in excess of 4.2 GHz)
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    Nice game collection you got there.......:)

    Great review.
    Reply
  • anonymous x
    Let us know what you think about this in the comments section, but it was pretty clear that Vista was never a favorite, so we're hoping Windows 7 is a more popular environment in which to test
    I like vista, rock solid and stable since I got it years ago. Don't listen to the bashers who never have tried the product.
    Reply
  • lashton
    You giotta remember vista is design for spoecific hardware and powerfull hardware that can run it, so people with P4 3GHz and vista complain about its speed, vista is OK, i dont like it cause my computer doesm't like it thats fine i get over it and chnage my OS
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Thanks for weighing in, guys!
    Reply
  • crash27
    So there's no benafit from adding a second 285 to a q9550s or an x4 965 be ??

    I get a good performance boost from my second gtx280 with my q9650 @ 4 gz
    Reply