Under $200: Do You Buy A Dual- Or Quad-Core CPU?
At least on the desktop, dual-core processors rarely helped bolster performance when they were first introduced. Most mainstream apps simply hadn't been optimized for multiple cores; that sort of technology was principally enabled in the server and workstation space. You had multi-socket motherboards with single-core chips cranking on complex problems in parallel. But games were almost exclusively written to run on a one core.
Programming with threading in mind isn't easy, and it took developers years to adapt to a world where CPUs seemed destined to improve performance through parallelism rather than then 10 GHz clock rates Intel had foreshadowed back in 2000. Slowly, though, the applications most able to benefit from multiple cores working in concert have been rewritten to utilize modern hardware.
Want proof? Just have a look at our benchmark suite. We test something like two pieces of software that are still single-threaded: Lame and iTunes. Everything else, to one degree or another, is threaded. Content creation, compression, and even productivity apps tax the highest-end four- and six-core CPUs.
Games, on the other hand, have taken longer to "get there." With a primary emphasis on graphics performance, it's not surprising that single-threaded engines still exist. However, spawning additional threads and utilizing a greater number of cores allows ISVs to implement better artificial intelligence or add more rigid bodies that can be affected by physics.
Increasingly, then, we're seeing more examples of games exhibiting better performance when we use quad-core processor. They're still the exception though, rather than the rule. And that's why the great single-threaded performance of Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture (and later Ivy Bridge) dominated most of our processor-bound game testing. Back in the day, dual-core Pentiums went heads-up against quad-core CPUs from AMD, and came out in the lead.
It's now clear that gunning for higher and higher clock rates is not the direction AMD and Intel are going. They're both building desktop-oriented CPUs with as many as four modules (in AMD's case) or six cores (in Intel's). In turn, game developers continue getting better about utilizing available on-die resources. We're clearly at a point where you need at least a dual-core CPU to enjoy today's hottest titles, if for no other reason than sticking with a single-core chip would put you about eight years back in processor technology. But is there a reason to skip over the dual-core models and jump right into the world of gaming on a quad-core CPU?
That's what we're hoping to answer today, and we have a new tool to help us.
what is the point of running the latency tests if you're not going to use it in your conclusion?
Nice observation. I was wondering the same thing. It's time you provide conclusion based upon what you intended to test and not otherwise. You could state the FPS part after the fact.
We absolutely did take latency into account in our conclusion.
I think the problem is that you totally misunderstand the point of measuring latency, and the impact of the results. Please read page 2, and the commentary next to the charts.
To summarize, latency is only relevant if it's significant enough to notice. If it's not significant (and really, it wasn't in any of the tests we took except maybe in some dual-core examples), then, obviously, the frame rate is the relevant measurement.
*IF* the latency *WAS* horrible, say, with a high-FPS CPU, then in that case latency would be taken into account in the recommendations. But the latencies were very small, and so they don't really factor in much. Any CPUs that could handle at least four threads did great, the latencies are so imperceptible that they don't matter.
Not really. We just report them a little differently in an attempt to distill the result. Read page 2.
I'm not sure what you're referring to. When we test games, we use a number of different settings and resolutions.