Skip to main content

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

Benchmark Results: Crysis

Though we still haven't seen the sort of hardware that makes Crysis playable with Ultra Quality settings, it’s high time we upped the ante a bit and used Very High options. Also, in the past, we’ve noticed very I/O-limited scores, which did a fairly poor job reflecting performance due to a constant hammering our reference system's VelociRaptor. This time we’ve switched to Intel’s second-gen SSD.

Right off the bat, we see a single Radeon HD 4870 X2 outperforming the GeForce GTX 285. But perhaps more interesting is that, with one ATI card, the Phenom II scores first place at 1680x1050, followed by the Core 2 Quad. The Core i7s and Core i5 follow after. One Nvidia single-GPU flagship yields fairly similar results across the board.

Adding SLI to the equation again shoots Nvidia to the top of the pile, as ATI simply can’t get as much scaling from a pair of Radeon HD 4870 X2s. Even more bizarre is that the ATI gets zero benefit from CrossFire on the two fastest systems with only one card installed.

Shifting over to 2560x1600 sees a single GeForce GTX 285 dip under 20 fps across all five systems, and one Radeon HD 4870 X2 sits just above that 20 fps mark. Fortunately, CrossFire and SLI both boost performance substantially, getting all of our dual-card setups up around 30 fps.

The most interesting result here is the Core i7-920, which establishes an advantage most likely attributable to its twin 16-lane PCI Express 2.0 links. If you reference back to our analysis of PCI Express connectivity, you’ll see that the results map over almost perfectly, despite the fact we were running High Quality settings there. Notice also that the AMD platform isn’t getting hammered as hard here, almost certainly a result of our switch to an SSD, which doesn’t penalize AMD as severely for the performance of its storage controller.

Let’s get the easy one out of the way first: at 1680x1050, a single GeForce GTX 285 delivers comparable performance across all five platforms. The same holds true at 2560x1600, with the exception of Intel’s Core 2 Quad-based platform, where the Nvidia card falters.

Adding SLI helps Nvidia catapult into the lead from a fairly sizable deficit at both tested resolutions and on all three compatible platforms. But while 1680x1050 becomes playable, 2560x1600 almost certainly remains out of reach, even with almost $800 worth of GPU muscle under the hood.

Our single-card tests all favor ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2, though again the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II machines out-score the trio of Nehalem-based configurations.

CrossFire does help the Core i7-920, but it does less for the Core i5-750 or Core i7-870 at either resolution. Beyond that, though, ATI's technology scales very poorly compared to SLI here. This wouldn’t be as disconcerting in an older title if it wasn’t a trend we’ve observed in every game thus far, save S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Fortunately, even at 1680x1050 with 4xAA, you’re still looking at fairly-playable performance.

  • 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