AMD's Piledriver And K10 CPU Architectures Face Off

Wrapping Things Up: AMD Vs. Intel In Gaming

Today's story focused on AMD's processors, but we used the same tests, graphics hardware, and drivers that previously went into our exploration of Intel's architectures. The only difference was a forced update to StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm that couldn't be avoided. Thus, it seems pertinent to create a summary of the data we generated.

In an effort to be as fair as possible, I’m switching up the overall game performance calculations a bit on this page and the preceding one. Rather than adding up the average FPS result for each game, I'm weighing the relative performance in each title equally, as I did with the applications. I’m also tossing out the two GPU-limited Tomb Raider tests and only using that title's outdoor sequence. Consequently, you should notice a larger spread between processors.

AMD’s chips shuffle into the hierarchy, just as we’d expect. Each one outpaces Intel's Core 2 Duo E8400, but none of them can challenge the Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 for its top spot. And keep in mind that many retail -3570Ks hit 4.4 GHz or more with air cooling, which would extend its lead.

The FX-6350's competitiveness at stock clock rates is impressive. It scales well with overclocking, too. And considering that we could probably squeeze close to the same performance from a less expensive FX-6300, we have to call out the competence of Vishera in its six-core configuration. Based on averages, the FX-6350 is a step above Intel’s Core i3-3225 and an overclocked FX-4350. In newer, well-threaded games, it's unlikely that a tweaked Phenom II X4 or Core 2 Quad could touch the FX-6350 at its stock settings.

If you're working with limited funds, AMD's Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition and Athlon X4 750K are both capable processors that sell for $100 or less. Unlocked multipliers mean that both CPUs are overclockable. The money you save buying one of these cheaper chips can be put toward graphics, aftermarket cooling, or even a new game.

Unfortunately, not all of AMD's processors deliver the performance we are looking for. In a threaded gaming suite favoring quad-core CPUs, a lack of L3 cache prevents the Propus architecture from matching the cheaper Pentium G2020's value. The Athlon II led in three out of eight games, and even then was limited to low-quality settings in a couple of them. The one benefit this quad-core chip offered was playable frame rates in Crysis 3 at the game's lowest detail settings. We had to overclock our Core 2 Duo E8400 all the way to 4.5 GHz to get similar performance, and even then its average frame rate was 10% lower.

But we can't praise the Athlon II for its behavior in Crysis without criticizing the slide show we saw in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. In that tile, along with Skyrim, AMD's Propus design overclocked to 3.6 GHz couldn't catch the cheap 2.6 GHz Celeron G1610, much less a faster Pentium. Based on these eight games, I'd recommend skipping the Athlon II X4 640 for gaming builds. If cost keeps you from snagging an Athlon X4 750K or better, then a cheaper and generally quicker Pentium G2120 gets you more value.

  • 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