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CPU Performance In VR: 11 Games Benchmarked

Arizona Sunshine

Arizona Sunshine is a great place to start—not only does it allow us to pick up where we left off in our VR performance primer, but it also comes first alphabetically in today’s 11-game suite.

Our 150-second test starts on the bridge towards the game’s beginning, right as you pick up a second handgun. We run through abandoned cars on the highway, blasting zombies along the way, stopping just before the roadblock leading to the mine.

The FCAT VR output makes two observations obvious on its own. Most clear is the FX-8350’s struggle. It actually hamstrings our GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, keeping the card from rendering 90 real frames per second on its own. Instead, Oculus’ runtime is forced to step in and synthesize frames to prevent stuttering. As a result, 41% of our test sequence’s 13661 frames are the product of asynchronous spacewarp.

Our look at CPU performance in Arizona Sunshine six months ago showed the FX-8320 suffering similarly, though the more taxing test we use today goes a step further to illustrate FX’s shortcomings in games.

Second, the Core i7-7700K’s frame time over time plot (in red) looks better than the rest of the field. Although the Core i9-7900X, Core i7-7700K, Core i3-6320, and Ryzen 7 1800X suitably support our GeForce GTX 1080 Ti in its quest to maintain 90 real frames per second, render times lower than 11.1ms per frame reduce the chance of an errant drop. So, you want as much headroom under there as possible.

Indeed, if we take the frame time results measured by FCAT VR and convert them into a theoretical “unconstrained frame rate”—the performance you’d see if v-sync didn’t force the Rift's output to 90 Hz—Core i7-7700K does emerge a winner.

Vertigo Games didn’t respond to our request for comment, so we can’t tell you just how extensively the developer optimized for threading. But we do know that Arizona Sunshine employs the Unity engine, does not support GPU-accelerated PhysX, but does offer more sophisticated physics effects through the “Advanced CPU Extras” checkbox, which we enable.

Beyond four Hyper-Threaded cores, it looks like the highest clock rate and IPC throughput yields the best unconstrained frame rate. The Core i9’s extra cores don’t help, and we can assume its previous-gen architecture isn’t an asset against Kaby Lake, either.

Ryzen 7 1800X roughly matches the Core i3-6320. And if you’re dabbling with VR on an FX-based platform, you’re doing the experience a serious disservice by limiting your graphics card’s performance.

Core i7 and Core i9 achieve the lowest 99th percentile frame times, though it’s notable that four of these five platforms land under 11.1ms in that comparison.

Every CPU registers at least some frame time spikes. That’s why you see the “Worst” column jump up quite a bit. Core i9 encounters the fewest dropped frames, while Ryzen 7 fares the worst. Still, 21 dropped frames in a 150-second sequence isn’t subjectively perceptible.

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Arizona Sunshine
Arizona Sunshine
Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.