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.

This thread is closed for comments
78 comments
    Your comment
  • 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
  • cangelini
    The 955 does cost less. The 965 is more expensive than Core i5.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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)
  • sudeshc
    Nice game collection you got there.......:)

    Great review.
  • anonymous x
    Quote:
    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.
  • 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
  • cangelini
    Thanks for weighing in, guys!
  • 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
  • cangelini
    crash--
    As mentioned in the story, these were tested on 790GX and X48 platforms, which don't do SLI. While there are Nvidia-based SLI platforms available for both configurations, I felt that they were quite a bit more rare and applicable to a much smaller contingent of readers than the CrossFire-capable platforms. The beauty of X58 and P55 is that they'll do both!
    Regards,
    Chris
  • jj463rd
    Kudos for adding the Flight Simulator X as a benchmark.
  • San Pedro
    Why so many tests today with 2 4870x2s?

    I'd rather have seen 4890 and then 4890CF. That way you see single card performance compared to crossfire instead of dual corssfire compared to quad crossfire.

    I do understand why the card is compared to the GTX 285 based on price though.
  • Let's be glad AMD is still around to provide competition to Intel. Gaming is obviously fine on either CPU, but some people say: "OMG, I must have the Core i7 because it can do the Monte Carlo simulation faster!!!". The performance difference between Core i7/Phenom II is marginal right now, but if AMD were to exit stage left, then these round ups would be VIA vs. Intel, and I don't know about you, but VIA's offerings really AREN'T fast enough for me... Consider a Phenom II, I love mine...
  • Pei-chen
    competition_fanblokeLet's be glad AMD is still around to provide competition to Intel. Gaming is obviously fine on either CPU, but some people say: "OMG, I must have the Core i7 because it can do the Monte Carlo simulation faster!!!". The performance difference between Core i7/Phenom II is marginal right now, but if AMD were to exit stage left, then these round ups would be VIA vs. Intel, and I don't know about you, but VIA's offerings really AREN'T fast enough for me... Consider a Phenom II, I love mine...

    I wish there is a third and fourth player in the market so AMD won't sit on its butt and do nothing. AMD has this idea that “we don’t have to compete on performance, just make our product cheap enough and people will buy it”. That’s what doomed GM and Chrysler.

    I wish Nvidia and NEC join/rejoin the CPU market.
  • Scotteq
    Thank you, Toms, for the detailed Graphics comparison. Yet regarding the comments section, I have to shake my head that we're again continuing the AMD versus Intel wars.

    I thought people should have learned by now that GPU~intensive tests say little about CPUs, except whether they're 'Good Enough', or not.
  • Sardaukarz
    I wonder if u will ever include WOW in ur benchmark suite. Its just a MMORPG but it happens to be the most played game on the planet, thus making it interesting for a lot of us out there who are looking on information when deciding to buy one video card vs another or one processor vs another. Thnkz.
  • Pei-Chen: This article shobuld make it painfully obvious that AMD can and DOES compete on performance in games. AMD has brought plenty of innovation, even if they don't always finish first, but only for the CPU-based video rendering enthusiast does it make no sense to purchase AMD, the other 99.9% of us couldn't tell the difference in a taste test.

    PS: If you want a 3rd and 4th player, you should go discuss x86 licensing with your beloved Intel...
  • Acclaim
    The only question that remains for me is how things will turn once the DirectX 11 cards are announced.

    Then, I can see x8 PCIe2.0 links hurting the P55 chipset and the X58 showing its true potential.

    This will definitely affect SLI/Crossfire setups but I am not sure how it will affect single card solutions.
  • Shadow703793
    anonymous xI like vista, rock solid and stable since I got it years ago. Don't listen to the bashers who never have tried the product.

    Agreed. Vista was pretty good after all the manufactures released the drivers. I still think Win 7 is better than XP and Vista.
  • Shadow703793
    Few things people should know:

    1. LGA775 is dead now, so don't build PCs on that unless really in a budget.

    2. The LGA 1156 will NOT have hexcore CPUs.

    3. The current LGA1366 is meant as the higher end option and was more or less designed for the HPC/server crowd along with the ethuist.

    4. If you live near a Microcenter, you can grab a i7 920 for $200 which I believe is a very good idea.
  • AMDnoob
    Why does AMD suck sooo much?!?! I (thought) I loved AMD but the 965 is a complete JOKE! 140W at 3.4Ghz and it just stays w/ the Intel i7-920@2.66????? O.o tht's not right. And trust me, I'm not hating on AMD, just constructive criticism :D and these i5's and new i7's are just going to bowl them over. They need to pull somethin out... like NOW!
  • aj28
    AMDnoobWhy does AMD suck sooo much?!?! I (thought) I loved AMD but the 965 is a complete JOKE! 140W at 3.4Ghz and it just stays w/ the Intel i7-920@2.66????? O.o tht's not right. And trust me, I'm not hating on AMD, just constructive criticism and these i5's and new i7's are just going to bowl them over. They need to pull somethin out... like NOW!


    It's only constructive criticism if you drive down to Austin, TX and slap plans for a new industry-leading CPU down on the table in front of them... Three years ago... Unless you can manage that, I suggest you not call your baseless whining "constructive criticism" and keep it to yourself. AMD is a pretty damn small company compared to Intel, with not nearly as many engineers. They don't just put together a table of specs, draw up some line art in Photoshop and run it through a freakin' copy machine!!

    Btw, clock frequency doesn't mean any more today than it did when the P4 was big. If it scales, it scales. Also, TDP isn't measured the same by both companies. I'm not saying which is over/underestimated, just that your complaint is complete bull because you're spitting our numbers you don't know the real meaning of.

    Finally, nobody is going to bowl anybody over. Intel wants to compete with AMD. Why? Because they make huge margins competing against AMD's hardware. It's quite clear that they're not paying nearly as much to fabricate these chips based on relative performance to any given AMD SKU, and they like it that way.
  • tester24
    The whole reason why intel is ahead now is because at first Sun went to them and talked about sharing their multicore knowledge Intel said FU and they went to AMD who gladly took their knowledge. Hence why dual core AMDs were faster than Intels first. After AMD was beating the crap out of Intel they asked Sun to help them out. Now that's why they're better. Nice to have a huge R & D budget.

    Personally I'll stick with AMD because all I do is play games for the most part and the FPS difference is marginal.