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Phenom II 955 Versus Core i7 920: Gaming Value Compared

Test Systems And Benchmark Setup

First off, we'd like to thank Long and the crew at MemoryExpress and Wayne at Computer Boulevard in Winnipeg, Canada, who helped us with some last-minute test-equipment requirements; we couldn't have finished this review without their assistance.

Phenom II SystemCore i7 System
CPUAMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2 GHz, 1.35v, FSB-200, 2000 MHz HT linkOverclock: 3.706 GHz, FSB-218, 2,180 MHz HT linkIntel Core i7-920 2.66 GHz, 133 MHz Bclk, 1.36 V (load)Overclock: 3.44 GHz at 1.296 V (load), 172 MHz Bclk
MotherboardASUS M4A79T Deluxe, BIOS 1503, AMD790FXDFI LANParty Jr X58-T3H6 Micro-ATX Intel X58/ICH10R, LGA1366
NetworkingOnboard Gigabit LAN controllerOnboard Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryG.Skill 10666CL7T 4.0 GB DDR3-1064  2x 2.0 GB, CAS 8-8-8-19, 1.56 VOverclock: DDR3-1454 at 1.675 V, CAS 8-8-8-19 G.Skill 10666CL7T 6.0 GB DDR3-1064 3 x 2.0 GB, CAS 8-8-8-19, 1.56 VOverclock: DDR3-1378 at 1.56 V, CAS 8-8-8-19
Graphics2 x HIS Radeon HD 4890 in CrossFire850 MHz GPU, 2,150 MHz RAM, 1 GB Per Card2 x HIS Radeon HD 4870 in CrossFire750 MHz GPU, 1,800 MHz RAM, 1 GB Per Card
Hard DriveSeagate Barracuda ST31500341AS1.5 TB, 7,200 RPM, 16 MB Cache, SATA 3.0 Gb/sWestern Digital Caviar Black 640GB 7,200 RPM, 32 MB Cache SATA 3.0 Gb/s
PowerPC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad S75QB750 W, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus CertifiedPC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Quad S75QB750 W, ATX12V 2.2, 80-Plus Certified
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista 64-bit 6.0.6001, SP1
DirectX versionDirectX 10
Graphics DriversNvidia GeForce 185.85, ATI Catalyst 9.6

Notice that we had to use different hard drives in our test systems. This was unavoidable, as we were running concurrent benchmarks and we didn't have two of the same model drives on hand. However, SiSoft Sandra demonstrated that the drives performed very similarly to each other and we're confident that that the disparity did not cause any performance variations.

Our Phenom II overclock went very smoothly and, using identical timings as the Intel Core i7 overclock, we managed to get the Phenom II 955 to 3.7 GHz with little trouble. With a slight CPU core voltage increase to 1.42 V, the memory voltage increased to 1.675 V, and the northbridge voltage increased to 1.2 V. We set the CPU multiplier to 17x and the front side bus (FSB) to 218 MHz, resulting in an overclocked CPU speed of 3,706 MHz. This is about 100 MHz faster than the overclocked Cyberpower Gamer Dragon system we tested. From what we've seen, Phenom II 955s can get to 3.6-3.7 GHz with little trouble and minor voltage and heat increases, but they hit a wall soon after.

We have also benchmarked many more games this time around to satisfy folks who didn't think we had enough of a cross-section in the Cyberpower article. Here are the games and their settings:

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
Stalker: Clear SkyAverage of 4 segments "A-Tested Object" Test Set 1: High Preset, DirectX 10, EFDL, no MSAA Test Set 2: High Preset, DirectX 10, EFDL, 4x MSAA
World In ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: Very High Details, No AA/No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA/16x AF
Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.DirectX 10.1, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 8x AA
Fallout 3Custom THG Benchmark Test Set 1: Ultra High Quality, No MSAA, No AF Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x MSAA, 15x AF
Left 4 DeadCustom THG Benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, no MSAA Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 8x MSAA, 16x AF
PrototypeCustom THG Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality, No MSAA, No AF Test Set 2: High Quality, 4x MSAA
  • cruiseoveride
    As expected.
    Reply
  • chaohsiangchen
    Very good article. Too bad that it wan't done with nvidia cards. We need to see how GTX260-216 SLI with Core i7 920 can beat Phenom II 955 with two GTX 275.
    Reply
  • ahslan
    good article...happy to see the phenom hangs in there
    Reply
  • frozenlead
    Why weren't the graphics cards included in the price breakdowns for both systems? Especially considering the cards were different...they should be in there, no?

    Adding in nvidia cards would be interesting to see, yes, but then we're moving more into engine optimizations and such, and things get less exact. Maybe the effect of software preferences on hardware architecture can be a future writeup? Nice article, here, though.
    Reply
  • twisted politiks
    how about all the AMD Fanboys stop complaining about Intel. so what if people say they are better. who FREAKIN cares. you should expect them to perform better, they are pricier. you buy AMD BECAUSE of the price, so therefor, you should expect less performance. AMD is awesome, and so is Intel, its like complaining about a Honda Vs. a BMW or something along those lines, they are different, and because of price, you should expect one to out perform the other. so if you want to save money, by the damned AMD, but dont complain when other people favor Intel whether they are right or not, you end up looking like imature Fanboy's who are jealous they cant afford the Intel (which is just a generalization). BTW, without Intel, AMD wouldnt be cheaper, nor would it be as powerful as it is without competition to keep the company improving it.
    Reply
  • Proximon
    Currently there is a huge newegg discount on a 955/790FX combo making it quite attractive, but of course that kind of thing has to be left out of an article like this.
    As I expected on the numbers, but I now want to see if the 790X chipset is to blame, or the Gigabyte board itself, or perhaps the memory controller onboard the CPU is to blame?
    Reply
  • lashton
    its annoying to see that toms hardware seems to be very pro intel
    Reply
  • frozenlead
    lashtonits annoying to see that toms hardware seems to be very pro intel
    Did you read the conclusion at all? AMD lost by the numbers. That's not pro-intel, it's pro-logic. It's pro-science. That's the way the world works.
    Reply
  • wisdom_learner
    twisted politikshow about all the AMD Fanboys stop complaining about Intel. so what if people say they are better. who FREAKIN cares. you should expect them to perform better, they are pricier. you buy AMD BECAUSE of the price, so therefor, you should expect less performance. AMD is awesome, and so is Intel, its like complaining about a Honda Vs. a BMW or something along those lines, they are different, and because of price, you should expect one to out perform the other. so if you want to save money, by the damned AMD, but dont complain when other people favor Intel whether they are right or not, you end up looking like imature Fanboy's who are jealous they cant afford the Intel (which is just a generalization). BTW, without Intel, AMD wouldnt be cheaper, nor would it be as powerful as it is without competition to keep the company improving it.

    Wow. You take things way too seriously.
    Reply
  • sohei
    only at toms site are such performances
    Ahslan .... buy your own pc ...not your daddy
    Reply