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Our testing methods
As usual, we ran each test at least three times and have reported the median result. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor AMD FX-8350
AMD FX-8370
AMD A6-7400K Pentium G3258
AMD A10-7800 Core i3-4360
Core i5-4590
Core i7-4790K
Motherboard Asus Crosshair V Formula Asus A88X-PRO Asus Z97-A
North bridge 990FX A88X FCH Z97 Express
South bridge SB950
Memory size 16 GB (2 DIMMs) 16 GB (4 DIMMs) 16 GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type AMD Performance
Series
DDR3 SDRAM
AMD Radeon Memory
Gamer Series
DDR3 SDRAM
Corsair
Vengeance Pro
DDR3 SDRAM
Memory speed 1866 MT/s 1866 MT/s 1333 MT/s
2133 MT/s 1600 MT/s
Memory timings 9-10-9-27 1T 10-11-11-30 1T 8-8-8-20 1T
10-11-11-30 1T 9-9-9-24 1T
Chipset
drivers
AMD chipset 13.12 AMD chipset 13.12 INF update 10.0.14
iRST 13.0.3.1001
Audio Integrated
SB950/ALC889 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
Integrated
A85/ALC892 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
Integrated
Z97/ALC892 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
OpenCL ICD AMD APP 1526.3 AMD APP 1526.3 AMD APP 1526.3
IGP drivers - Catalyst 14.6 beta 10.18.10.3652

 

Processor Core i5-2500K Core i7-4960X Core i7-5960X
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-V Pro Asus P9X79 Deluxe Asus X99 Deluxe
North bridge Z77 Express X79 Express X99
South bridge
Memory size 16 GB (2 DIMMs) 16 GB (4 DIMMs) 16 GB (4 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair
Vengeance Pro
DDR3 SDRAM
Corsair
Vengeance
DDR3 SDRAM
Corsair
Vengeance LPX
DDR4 SDRAM
Memory speed 1333 MT/s 1866 MT/s 2133 MT/s
Memory timings 8-8-8-20 1T 9-10-9-27 1T 15-15-15-36 1T
Chipset
drivers
INF update 10.0.14
iRST 13.0.3.1001
INF update 10.0.14
iRST 13.0.3.1001
INF update 10.0.17
iRST 13.1.0.1058
Audio Integrated
Z77/ALC892 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
Integrated
X79/ALC898 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
Integrated
X99/ALC1150 with
Realtek 6.0.1.7233 drivers
OpenCL ICD AMD APP 1526.3 AMD APP 1526.3 AMD APP 1526.3
IGP drivers - - -

They all shared the following common elements:

Hard drive Kingston HyperX SH103S3 240GB SSD
Discrete graphics XFX Radeon HD 7950 Double Dissipation 3GB with Catalyst 14.6 beta drivers
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Power supply Corsair AX650

Thanks to Corsair, XFX, Kingston, MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, Cooler Master, Intel, and AMD for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. Thanks to Intel and AMD for providing the processors, as well, of course.

Some further notes on our testing methods:

  • The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1920x1080 in 32-bit color. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled in the graphics driver control panel.
  • We used a Yokogawa WT210 digital power meter to capture power use over a span of time. The meter reads power use at the wall socket, so it incorporates power use from the entire system—the CPU, motherboard, memory, graphics solution, hard drives, and anything else plugged into the power supply unit. (The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet.) We measured how each of our test systems used power across a set time period, during which time we encoded a video with x264.
  • After consulting with our readers, we've decided to enable Windows' "Balanced" power profile for the bulk of our desktop processor tests, which means power-saving features like SpeedStep and Cool'n'Quiet are operating. (In the past, we only enabled these features for power consumption testing.) Our spot checks demonstrated to us that, typically, there's no performance penalty for enabling these features on today's CPUs. If there is a real-world penalty to enabling these features, well, we think that's worthy of inclusion in our measurements, since the vast majority of desktop processors these days will spend their lives with these features enabled.

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.