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FX Vs. Core i7: Exploring CPU Bottlenecks And AMD CrossFire

Chasing Bottlenecks To Eyefinity (But Not Beyond)

We've seen processor performance double every three to four years. And yet, some of the most demanding game engines we've tested are as old as the Core 2 Duo that still resides in my office PC. Surely, CPU bottlenecks would be a thing of the past, right? Well, as it turns out, GPU performance speeds ahead at an even faster rate than that of host processors. And so, the debate over whether to buy a faster CPU or even more graphics muscle rages on.

There comes a point where it's pointless to continue the battle, though. For us, that happened when our games ran smoothly at our largest monitor's 2560x1600 native resolution. It simply didn't matter if a faster component took us from an average of 120 to 200 frames per second.

In response to the stagnation caused by increasingly faster components, but limited resolutions, AMD introduced its Eyefinity technology as Nvidia responded with Surround. Both expand beyond a single display, making 5760x1080 a very playable resolution on high-end GPUs. In fact, a trio of 1920x1080 displays is both less expensive and more engrossing than a single 2560x1600 screen, giving us the perfect excuse to splurge on some extra pixel-pushing power.

But does a display surface stretching 5760x1080 require any additional processing muscle in order to prevent bottlenecks? Ah, suddenly that becomes an interesting question again.

Up until now, when we've used AMD's GPUs, we've typically paired them with its competition's processors. Is such a move backed by hard data? Previously, based on plenty of benchmark results, we would have said so. However, the company has a new architecture available, so we bought a boxed FX-8350 to challenge prior convention. After all, there was a lot to like in AMD FX-8350 Review: Does Piledriver Fix Bulldozer's Flaws?

Entering this contest at a heavy economical disadvantage, Intel’s Core i7-3770K needs to prove that it's not only faster than the AMD chip in games, but fast enough to overcome its price premium in our value analysis.

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Although both of the motherboards we're using come from Asus' Sabertooth family, the company charges more for its LGA 1155-equipped model, further complicating the value story for Intel. We picked these platforms specifically to achieve the ultimate fairness from a performance standpoint, without pricing getting in the way.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.