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AMD's Piledriver And K10 CPU Architectures Face Off

Results: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is one of 2013's biggest hits, in my opinion. It takes powerful graphics hardware to handle the Ultimate quality settings, which enable realistic TressFX hair.

We already know the Radeon HD 7970 has what it takes to deliver playable frame rates at that Ultimate preset, and we'll include the graphics-heavy “Chasm Monastery” level you typically see on Tom’s Hardware. But we're putting far more weight on the CPU-intensive outdoor “Mountain Village” level. Used together, these two benchmarks provide a worst-case look at the game’s CPU and GPU requirements.

Normal hair effects are used with the High quality preset. That flat area in the middle of our line graphs, where all the processors appear at the same level, is the cinematic sequence. The Athlon II X4 640 trails early on, but breezes through this part of the game, delivering 100+ frames per second.

As expected, frame rates plummet once we step outdoors and overlook “Mountain Village”. A lack of L3 cache appears to be the Athlon II X4 640’s weakness yet again, though it remains playable, briefly dipping below 30 FPS.

Overclocking yields small, insignificant gains, mainly because this test is almost exclusively GPU-bound. TressFX hair enabled by the Ultimate quality preset completely changes the flat cinematic portion of our run, and the mighty Radeon HD 7970 drops to 30 FPS, no matter which host processor backs it. Once the camera zooms off of Lara, we see a huge frame rate spike before control is shifted back to the user. Similar cinematic sequences are unavoidable, and a big part of the game.

Without a doubt, it takes powerful graphics hardware to drive the Ultimate detail preset smoothly. But parts of this game smack the processor around, also. In this test, the Athlon II X4 640 fails, making it difficult to control Lara’s maneuvers. In fact, the lack of consistency caused me to scrap a couple of benchmark runs after misjudging my zip-line approach and blindly leaping straight off the cliff. Of our test samples, only the two FX-series chips remain above 30 frames per second through our 45-second run.

  • KelvinTy
    So much BS, the old Phenom II X4 and X6 BE are still really competitive after all these years. Yet, if they bother to update the instruction set, and just shrink the thing, then change it to AM3+ socket, that would be great...
    K10 has so much more potential...
  • Personally, I was surprised to see the FX-4350 do so well. The bump up, compared to the FX-4300, has really done it some good.
  • MU_Engineer
    Kelvin, the tests showed that the Piledriver FXes are not that far off the Phenom IIs clock for clock and core for core. The Phenom II X4 965BE at 4.0 GHz was generally about as fast as the stock FX-4350 running 200-400 MHz faster so you figure about a 5% per-clock, per-core advantage for the Phenom II. However, each Piledriver core is quite a bit smaller than a K10 core and they also have a longer pipeline so they can clock quite a bit faster (K10 was pretty well tapped out.) So you get more cores and more clocks out of Piledriver with essentially the same performance per core and per clock. I'd say that the modular architecture used in the FXes finally got the vindication it deserved with this test. Way to go Tom's.
  • Onus
    As I was going through this, at first I was worried about the absence of comparison to Intel, but was relieved to see it at the end. Especially if I don't want to push my 970BE really hard (I'd rather play on my PC than with it), the FX-63x0 looks like a viable upgrade.
  • cmartin011
    I want some juice GPU news. I am aware they are not going anywhere fast with CPUs. My wallet will be open for 8 core in 2 years when performance Increases 20%
  • rmpumper
    I just want some solid numbers on Steamroller already.
  • magnesiumk
    Thank you so much for writing this article. Thank you also for including the Phenom II 965 processor to this test. I use it, and it is somewhat dated, and hard to find compared to newer cores. However it still kicks a lot of butt in gaming. I bought my Phenom II 955BE C3 last year with overclocking in mind

    I always wanted to see how it would compare to newer models, and even intel counterparts. Thank you for this. I loved reading the article. Keep comparisons like this coming.
  • magnesiumk
    I also wanted to add, thank you for listing the 965BE with overclock at 4Ghz. It's easy to clock this processor up to those speeds. That's about what I run at, and it also runs much greater than stock speeds. This is important in future comparison tests. Thanks again.
  • envy14tpe
    Wanted to see i3 and i5 CPUs on the charts. Not just in the "Wrapping things up" section. Also, why not compare to a i5-3470? It's locked, cheaper, and still fast.
  • crisan_tiberiu
    if the 6350 is so close to the 3570k the 8350 eats it alive..and everybody recommends the i5 ^-. AMD has still good value