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

Benchmark Results: Far Cry 2

Using Ultra Quality settings, Far Cry 2 crosses the threshold from CPU- to GPU-bound. With one Radeon HD 4870 X2 installed, you get very similar performance across all five of our test platforms at 1680x1050. But adding a second in CrossFire shows where the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II get choked up, and where the Core i7 and Core i5 stretch their legs. The same as true at 2560x1600—you get amazing performance from a $199 Core i5 and two $400 Radon HD 4870 X2. Sounds disgustingly imbalanced, right? Nevertheless, Intel’s entry-level i5 delivers the goods.

A single GeForce GTX 285 actually favors AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, ironically enough, at 1680x1050, but the results even out at 2560x1600. SLI does help Nvidia here, but not nearly as much as ATI’s CrossFire. And because we didn’t test on the 790i or 980a chipsets--less common platforms than 790GX or P45, we say--there’s no way to tell how an Nvidia-based solution would fare against the three Nehalem-based builds.

We see a similar story with the introduction of anti-aliasing. The numbers aren’t as high, of course, but a single Radeon HD 4870 X2 is still constrained by our benchmarked platforms. Meanwhile, a pair of the flagship cards takes off when backed by either of the Core i7s or Intel’s new Core i5. AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 edges out the Core 2 Quad, but both platforms trail still.

In contrast, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 285 favors the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II with only a single board installed. The SLI-capable X58 and P55 configurations demonstrate significant gains with a second card available, but again we’re left to wonder if SLI-equipped Core 2 Quad and Phenom II platforms would outperform the newer Core i7 and Core i5 chips if more prevalent motherboards were available for them.

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