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Part 1: DirectX 11 Gaming And Multi-Core CPU Scaling

Grand Theft Auto V & Hitman (2016)

Grand Theft Auto V

Rockstar requires a quad-core CPU, at minimum, to power GTA V. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about the company’s RAGE engine or what it does with host processing resources. However, we do know this title utilizes DirectX 11 and needs a 64-bit operating system.

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The 10- and eight-core Intel processors score highest at 1920x1080, and a look at frame rate over time shows the passage where those two CPUs establish their advantage. Meanwhile, the Skylake-based quad-core config nudges past the Core i7-6850K set at 3.9 GHz, despite the latter part’s two-core advantage.

Grand Theft Auto will run on a dual-core CPU, but you can see how severely it hampers performance. Lower average frame rates aren’t the only issue. Frame times over the benchmark run illustrate the severe stuttering that occurs.

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The stuttering remains problematic for the dual-core simulated processor at 2560x1440. However, as more time is spent waiting on the GeForce GTX 1080, our hobbled Core i3’s performance actually improves. Still, the other charts show why you shouldn’t mess with a Pentium (which is basically what we’re looking at here).

The other four CPUs average close to the same frame rate, though our 10- and eight-core configs place first and second, suggesting that GTA is doing enough with those cores to outweigh Skylake’s IPC advantage with four cores. Again, you can see the passage where the -6950X and -6900K establish their minuscule lead.

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By the time we hit 3840x2160, our GeForce GTX 1080 bottlenecks performance to such an extent that the dual-core CPU with Hyper-Threading disabled no longer stands out in our average frame rate chart.

A notably lower minimum is indicative of issues found in our frame time breakdown, though. Indeed, several sharp spikes during the last third of our benchmark run remind us that even a wholly GPU-bound situation isn’t impervious to interruption from an overwhelmed host processor.

While the other four CPUs average just under 40 FPS, Intel’s quad-core Skylake CPU at 3.9 GHz shows up at the top of our chart. Its lead isn’t meaningful, but the fact that it’s there tells us throwing more than a Core i7-6700K at 4K with a GTX 1080 under the hood is a misappropriation in GTA.

Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V


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Hitman (2016)

Prior to looking at benchmark results, we thought it prudent to do a little digging on each game and its underlying engine, hoping for a deeper understanding of the technology inside. Unfortunately, there’s little information on what IO Interactive’s Glacier 2 engine is optimized to do. We do know that Hitman supports DirectX 12, and that our next installment in this series will look at how CPU utilization/performance changes from the move to DX 11 to 12. But for now, we only have our data to guide us.

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At 1920x1080, there’s a clear jump from the four-core Skylake-based platform to six Broadwell cores at the same 3.9 GHz. There’s a smaller step up to eight cores, but it’s there. Finally, our 10-core config enjoys a slight advantage in its first-place position.

Hitman’s system requirements do specify that you need a quad-core CPU (at least a Core i5-2500K or Phenom II X4 940), and our dual-core i3 with Hyper-Threading disabled suggests why with its 52 FPS average. That figure barely crests the minimum frame rates achieved by the other four processors. Flip through the rest of the charts and you'll see inconsistent frame delivery surface as a much more prevalent issue for two cores.

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The same finishing order persists at 2560x1440, though the delta between contenders shrinks as we’d expect. Most interesting, perhaps, is that the three Broadwell-based CPUs continue to enjoy a definite lead over four Skylake cores.

Our dual-core config was distinctly processor-bound at 1920x1080, and it remains so at 2560x1440; very little performance is lost at the higher resolution.

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The demands of 4K weigh heavy on our GeForce GTX 1080, pushing the average frame rate of four systems close to 60. They all track closely in our frame rate over time line graph, making it difficult to determine why one might be faster than another. 

The two-core setup continues limiting performance. But because Nvidia’s GTX 1080 is doing a lot more work, the consistency issues seen previously aren’t as severe in our frame time and smoothness charts.

Hitman (2016)
Hitman (2016)
Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.