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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