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World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm--Tom's Performance Guide

CPU Scaling: AMD

The plot thickens as we swap from Intel-based X58 and P55 platforms to an AMD-based 890FX-equipped machine. We're again starting with a fast hexa-core processor and turning off one core at a time in order to figure out how well-threaded Cataclysm might be.

Notice that the CPU's model number is obscured. We used the fastest chip we could get our hands on; unfortunately, it isn't available yet (though it will be soon).

Whereas the overclocked six-core Intel chip hits its stride with just two cores enabled, AMD's Phenom II flagship doesn't realize its upper bound until three cores are turned on. The line chart fills in our blanks. With all six cores enabled, the Phenom II X6 hits much higher maximum frame rates, pulling the average up substantially.

If you run the game in Windowed mode and open up Windows Task Manager next to it, the cause becomes clear. WoW pegs a single Phenom II core at 100% utilization. It also pegs two cores at 100% utilization, hence the step up in performance. It's only when you have three cores available that the game has a little headroom to spare. That wasn't the case with Intel's Core i7-980X, which handles the game deftly using fewer resources.

So what happens when you drop some of AMD's less expensive processors into the Socket AM3 interface?

Because we're already working with significantly lower average frame rates (compared to the Intel processors), we don't need to test as many CPUs here. Overclocked to 3.7 GHz, our mystery Phenom II X6 isn't able to add any additional performance, suggesting that clock rate isn't our bottleneck here. In fact, it's the lack of cores and cache that seems to hurt the two Athlon II chips most.

Although every single benchmark result on this page is generated with the help of a GeForce GTX 480, frame rates drop under 40 FPS on the Athlon II X2 system. There's simply not enough processing horsepower in the Athlon II or Phenom II lineups to let our graphics card stretch its legs.

Could it be a problem with Nvidia's GPU? We dropped a Radeon HD 5870 in with our Phenom II flagship to check and came up with 59.19 FPS in the same test (a mere 1.31 FPS difference). Clearly, AMD's CPUs are holding back performance in Cataclysm compared to Intel's processors.

  • Odem
    Kind of unfortunate to see if I had gone with an i5 750 instead of a 955 I'd be seeing more fps. Although the money I saved for the same frames in most other games leaves me happy.
    Reply
  • WOW only uses 2 cores by default. However youc an configure it to "quasi" use more cores. you have to manually edit your config.wtf and change the variable: SET processAffinityMask "3" (3 is the default meaning 2 cores) to the following values for respective processors:

    i7 Qudcore with Ht- 85
    Any Quadcore chips with no HT - 15
    i5 Quadcore which does not have HT as far as I know - 15
    i5 Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore with HT- 5
    Dualcore without HT - 5
    AMD tricore - 7

    There used to be a blue post explaining the settings and how to calculate it for different cores. But the old forums got wiped.
    Reply
  • sudeshc
    not a that big fan of wow, but still happy to see that they do keep in mind that people also have low end hardware too.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    I'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:
    1. Chris is a closet WoW-player
    2. Really bored
    With that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo.

    PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor :P
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    Damn fine job Mr. Angelini, the most comprehensive hardware guide i've ever seen for WoW. This will save me hours, if not days of time when talking to players about their systems. Much appreciated.
    Reply
  • Bluescreendeath
    The Intel CPU scaling part was lacking...i7 980X at 3.7GHz? For WoW? Really?

    And why only Corei CPUs? Where are all the Core2s? 75% of Intel users still use Core2s and 775s!
    Reply
  • voicu83
    i hate you so much tom's hardware ... now i have to go buy an intel proc instead of my phenom ii x4 :D ... and add a dx11 board on top of it ... oh well, there goes my santa's gift :P
    Reply
  • Moneyloo
    Simply astounded by the time and effort that must have went into this piece. It also makes me greatly look forward to my new Maingear desktop arriving on the 23rd just in time for Christmas. Dual OC gtx580s in sli with a corei7 FTW. Ultra everything here I come!
    Reply
  • cangelini
    SpadeMI'm impressed, if Chris went to all that trouble to benchmark the new expansion for a mmorpg in such great detail it can me only 2 things:1. Chris is a closet WoW-player2. Really boredWith that said, i really do hope to see more of these articles, albeit with a more demanding title on the bench, even if it's from a "lesser" developer/publisher combo. PS: I do hope ppl appreciate my sense of humor
    It's a little easier to talk about WoW since I've been playing it for way too long, but I definitely want to see us doing more comprehensive coverage of demanding titles on launch day. It's all a matter of trying to convince the software guys to give a hardware site early access to the game. That's the hard part :)
    Reply
  • mitch074
    With hardware-accelerated cursor now enabled, OpenGL has finally become usable in WoW; was there any testing done on that? Not only does it sometimes give a boost to Nvidia cards, it's also the 'default' setting for Linux players - incidentally, the ones who were asking for the feature for a while.
    Reply