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Game-Off: Seven Sub-$150 Processors Compared

Test System And Benchmarks

We're using two test systems that share the same type of hard drive, CPU cooler, memory, and graphics card in order to minimize the variables.

For the AMD system, we're using the Asus M4A785TD-V EVO motherboard. This board features a 785G chipset that showed great memory support and overclocking prowess in our AMD 785G motherboard roundup. At $100 online, it is a fantastic low-cost AMD overclocking board.

The Intel system uses Gigabyte's H55M-UD2H, a board that performed excellently in our Phenom II X2 555 vs. Pentium G6950 article. This motherboard costs just under $90 online.

We're choosing a single GeForce GTX 480 as the graphics card. Just to be clear, we're opting for this card not because it's something we recommend pairing with a low-end CPU, but because it's quite powerful, and should help remove any graphics subsystem bottlenecks from our CPU results.

We don't have a Phenom II X4 945 on hand, so we are simulating this processor by lowering the multiplier of a Phenom II X4 955 to bring the clock speed down to 3 GHz. This is also a good indicator of stock Phenom II X4 940 performance, as it uses the same multiplier and clock speed.

We're using the same multiplier-lowering technique to simulate Core i3-530 performance by lowering the multiplier of a Core i3-540 sample we have. Core i3 processors do not have a Turbo Boost mode, so this should work like a charm, as the Core i3-530 and Core i3-540 models are only differentiated with a single multiplier and a 133 MHz difference.

Intel Test SystemAMD Test System
CPUIntel Pentium G6950 2.8 GHz (Clarkdale)Intel Core i3-530 2.93 GHz (Clarkdale)*Intel Core i3-540 3.06 GHz (Clarkdale)*simulated by lowering the multiplier of a Core i3-540AMD Athlon II X2 260 3.2 GHz (Regor)AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1 GHz (Rana)AMD Athlon II X4 640 3 GHz (Propus)AMD Phenom II X4 940/945 3 GHz (Deneb)****simulated by lowering the multiplier of a Phenom II X4 955
MotherboardGigabyte H55M-UD2H LGA 1156 Chipset: Intel H55, BIOSF8Asus M4A785TD-V EVO Socket AM3 Chipset: AMD 785G, BIOS 0410
NetworkingOnboard Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryMushkin PC3-10700  2 x 2,048MB, 1,070 MHz, CL 7-7-7-16-1T
GraphicsGeForce GTX 480 Reference700 MHz GPU, 1GB GDDR5 at 924 MHz
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7,200 RPM, 32MB Cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/s
PowerePOWER EP-1200E10-T2 1,200W ATX12V, EPS12V
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 x64
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics DriversGeForce 197.75
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool High Quality, No AA
Aliens vs PredatorVersion, Aliens vs Predator DirectX 11 benchmark Default Settings, No AA, 16x AF
Far Cry 2Patch 1.03, DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Ultra Setting, 4x AA
DiRT 2Version, DirectX 11, in-game benchmark Ultra Settings, 8x AA
World in ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo High Details, 2x AA, 2x AF
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.01, GPU and CPU scores