A fresh look at processor value

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Evaluating the latest processors based on a price-performance analysis is turning into a yearly tradition here at TR. Our first stab at the concept dates back to June 2007, and we tried again with a new batch of CPUs last May. Setting the stage for these articles is a bit like waiting for the stars to align, because a number of criteria must be met: we need performance numbers from a broad enough cross-section of current processors, we need to skirt new processor launches, and we need to wait for prices to be reasonably stable.

The stars have now fallen into place again (or so it would seem), and we’ve therefore taken another gander at CPU price-performance relationships using fresh numbers from our Socket AM3 Phenom II review. Once again, we threw our test results and official pricing information into a big spreadsheet, laid out the data into a veritable smorgasbord of graphs, and compiled everything neatly here for your reading pleasure.

Before inviting you to bask in the glow of our many charts and scatter plots, we should clarify this article’s purpose. This isn’t an exhaustive value assessment of all current desktop processors, nor should it be your one-stop guide to picking a new CPU. Rather, this is an attempt to determine how our collection of test processors—almost exclusively enthusiast items priced above $100—compare when we study both pricing and performance simultaneously.

Is a Core i7-920 worth the extra cost over a Phenom II X4 940 for video encoding buffs? Are dual-core CPUs like the Core 2 Duo E8400 still compelling choices compared to low-end triple- and quad-core offerings? Those are some questions this article should help answer.

The test subjects

With that in mind, let’s take a look at which CPUs we’ll be comparing today. Here’s the list on the Intel side of the playground:

Model Clock speed Cores/threads L2 cache/L3 cache Fab process TDP Price
Core i7-965 3.2GHz 4/8 1MB/8MB 45nm 130W $999
Core i7-940 2.93GHz 4/8 1MB/8MB 45nm 130W $562
Core i7-920 2.66GHz 4/8 1MB/8MB 45nm 130W $284
Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz 4/4 12MB 45nm 95W $266
Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 4/4 6MB 45nm 95W $213
Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.5GHz 4/4 6MB 45nm 95W $266
Core 2 Quad Q6600 2.4GHz 4/4 8MB 65nm 95W $183
Core 2 Quad Q8200 2.33GHz 4/4 4MB 45nm 95W $163
Core 2 Duo E8600 3.33GHz 2/2 6MB 45nm 65W $266
Core 2 Duo E8400 3GHz 2/2 6MB 45nm 65W $163

…and on the AMD side:

Model Clock speed Cores/threads L2 cache/L3 cache Fab process TDP Price
Phenom II X4 940 3GHz 4/4 2MB/6MB 45nm 125W $225
Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz 4/4 2MB/6MB 45nm 125W $195
Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz 4/4 2MB/4MB 45nm 95W $175
Phenom X4 9950 2.6GHz 4/4 2MB/2MB 65nm 140W $173
Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz 3/3 1.5MB/6MB 45nm 95W $145
Phenom X3 8750 2.4GHz 3/3 1.5MB/2MB 65nm 95W $122
Athlon X2 6400+ 3.2GHz 2/2 2MB 90nm 125W ~$90

Since retail and e-tail prices oscillate a little too much for our liking, we took our prices straight out of Intel’s official list and AMD’s processor pricing page. These are figures for bulk orders, but they should only be within a few dollars of retail prices. The only exception is the Athlon X2 6400+, which doesn’t appear on the AMD page—we got that CPU’s $90 price tag from Newegg.

Why include a discontinued CPU to begin with? Though it’s growing long in the tooth, the Athlon X2 6400+ should be roughly representative of the type of performance you can expect from some of today’s faster sub-$100 dual-core processors. It should thus serve as a useful baseline against which to compare newer and dearer offerings.

Low-end processors aside, you may see some other missing links in the lists above. There, too, time constraints forced us to make some compromises and exclude CPUs like the Core 2 Duo E7400 or Core 2 Quad Q8300. Thanks to our relatively broad cross-section of data, however, figuring out where those chips would be situated shouldn’t be too hard. (For instance, the Core 2 Quad Q8300 should perform somewhere between the Q8200 and Q9300 with a price tag of around $185.)

Finally, sharp-eyed readers might notice we didn’t factor platform or power costs into in our processor prices. That’s partially true. We’d rather keep things simple for now, but we’ll have a look at platform and power costs a little later.

Laying out our data

So, how does one represent value in graph form? We’ve re-enlisted our two trusty friends from previous value articles: performance-per-dollar bar charts and performance-versus-price scatter plots. The former should be self-explanatory—think “score points per dollar” or “frames per second per dollar.” In cases where performance is measured as a time in seconds (and the shortest time is best), we’ll use “rate” as our metric. We’ll usually define rate in kilohertz or megahertz, which we work out with a formula like “1/seconds × 1000” or “1/seconds × 1000000.”

You can use the perf-per-dollar charts to get a more precise look at which CPUs offer more bang for your buck, but be careful: getting the most thingamajigs per dollar isn’t the whole story. You’ve gotta look at the whole picture. Processor prices don’t rise linearly with performance, so faster offerings will almost always seem like poorer deals than low-end dual-core chips. That doesn’t mean extra performance (and the resulting time saved) isn’t worth it.

Our scatter plots look like so, mapping performance to the Y axis and price to the X axis:

As you’d expect, the best possible processor would sit at the top left of the plot, offering the highest performance at no cost. Conversely, the poorest choice would be at the bottom right.

In a nutshell, our scatter plots provide a visual representation of the value curve, which should help locate the most interesting combinations of pricing and performance. The performance-per-dollar bar charts come as complements to these plots, laying out the same data (more or less) in a purely numerical fashion.

In our view, the best deals often lie where either performance stops rising substantially while prices keep rising or where prices suddenly shoot up without performance following suit. You’ll see what we mean once we get into our comparisons.

Test notes

Although we used the results from our Socket AM3 Phenom II review, we did a little hedge trimming and left out several configurations. The Core 2 Extreme QX9775 “Skulltrail” config and Core 2 Extreme QX9770 were the first to go, since the QX9770 is discontinued now, and the QX9775 setup’s high asking price would make our scatter plots harder to read. Besides, we really wouldn’t recommend blowing three large on a pair of Core 2 processors today, since the Core i7 is available.

We also removed our DDR3-powered Phenom II X4 810 setup for consistency’s sake. That shouldn’t be particularly consequential, because the X4 810 performed almost identically in our real-world tests regardless of the memory type we used. If you’d like to see the DDR3 performance results anyway, feel free to check out our review.

As for our remaining setups, we carried over several little testing peculiarities: our Core 2 Quad Q8200 is actually an underclocked Q8300, the Phenom II X4 920 is an underclocked X4 940, and the Core 2 Quad Q9550 is an underclocked Core 2 Extreme QX9650. We expect the performance of these “simulated” CPUs to be identical to the real things, but we kept some of them out of our power consumption testing because we do anticipate power use would vary slightly from the actual products.

Our testing methods

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and the results were averaged.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Core 2 Quad Q6600

2.4 GHz

Core 2 Duo E8400

3.00 GHz

Core 2 Duo E8600

3.33 GHz

Core 2 Quad Q8200 2.33 GHz

Core 2 Quad Q9300 2.5 GHz

Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66 GHz

Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83 GHz

Core i7-940 2.66 GHz

Core i7-940 2.93 GHz

Core i7-965

Extreme 3.2 GHz

Athlon 64 X2 6400+

3.2 GHz

Phenom X3 8750

2.4 GHz

Phenom II X4 920

2.8 GHz

Phenom II X4 940

3.0 GHz

Phenom X4 9950

Black 2.6 GHz

Phenom II X3 720

2.8 GHz

Phenom II X4 810

2.6 GHz

System bus 1066 MT/s

(266 MHz)

1333 MT/s

(333 MHz)

QPI 4.8 GT/s

(2.4 GHz)

QPI 6.4 GT/s

(3.2 GHz)

HT 2.0 GT/s

(1.0 GHz)

HT 3.6 GT/s (1.8 GHz) HT 3.6 GT/s (1.8 GHz)
HT 4.0 GT/s (2.0 GHz) HT 4.0 GT/s (2.0 GHz)
Motherboard Asus P5E3 Premium Asus P5E3 Premium Intel DX58SO Intel DX58SO Asus M3A79-T Deluxe Asus M3A79-T Deluxe MSI DKA790GX Platinum
BIOS revision 0605 0605 SOX5810J.86A.2260.

2008.0918.1758

SOX5810J.86A.2260.

2008.0918.1758

0403 0403 11/25/08
1.6 (1/21/09)
North bridge X48 Express MCH X48 Express MCH X58 IOH X58 IOH 790FX 790FX 790GX
South bridge ICH9R ICH9R ICH10R ICH10R SB750 SB750 SB750
Chipset drivers INF Update 9.0.0.1008

Matrix Storage Manager 8.5.0.1032

INF Update 9.0.0.1008

Matrix Storage Manager 8.5.0.1032

INF update 9.1.0.1007

Matrix Storage Manager 8.5.0.1032

INF update 9.1.0.1007

Matrix Storage Manager 8.5.0.1032

AHCI controller 3.1.1540.61 AHCI controller 3.1.1540.61 AHCI controller 3.1.1540.61
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 6GB (3 DIMMs) 6GB (3 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs) 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair TW3X4G1800C8DF

DDR3 SDRAM

Corsair TW3X4G1800C8DF

DDR3 SDRAM

Corsair TR3X6G1600C8D

DDR3 SDRAM

Corsair TR3X6G1600C8D

DDR3 SDRAM

Corsair TWIN4X4096-8500C5DF

DDR2 SDRAM

Corsair TWIN4X4096-8500C5DF

DDR2 SDRAM

Corsair TWIN4X4096-8500C5DF

DDR2 SDRAM

Memory speed (Effective) 1066 MHz 1333 MHz 1066 MHz 1600 MHz 800 MHz 1066 MHz 1066 MHz
CAS latency (CL) 7 8 7 8 4 5 5
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 7 8 7 8 4 5 5
RAS precharge (tRP) 7 8 7 8 4 5 5
Cycle time (tRAS) 20 20 20 24 12 15 15
Command rate 2T 2T 2T 1T 2T 2T 2T
Audio Integrated ICH9R/AD1988B

with SoundMAX 6.10.2.6480 drivers

Integrated ICH9R/AD1988B

with SoundMAX 6.10.2.6480 drivers

Integrated ICH10R/ALC889

with Realtek 6.0.1.5704 drivers

Integrated ICH10R/ALC889

with Realtek 6.0.1.5704 drivers

Integrated SB750/AD2000B

with SoundMAX 6.10.2.6480 drivers

Integrated SB750/AD2000B

with SoundMAX 6.10.2.6480 drivers

Integrated

SB750/ALC888

with Realtek 6.0.1.5704 drivers

Hard drive WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
Graphics Radeon HD 4870 512MB PCIe with Catalyst 8.55.4-081009a-070794E-ATI drivers
OS Windows Vista Ultimate x64 Edition
OS updates Service Pack 1, DirectX redist update August 2008

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their products and support are far and away superior to generic, no-name memory.

Our single-socket test systems were powered by OCZ GameXStream 700W power supply units. The dual-socket system was powered by a PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1KW-SR power supply. Thanks to OCZ for providing these units for our use in testing.

Also, the folks at NCIXUS.com hooked us up with a nice deal on the WD Caviar SE16 drives used in our test rigs. NCIX now sells to U.S. customers, so check them out.

The test systems’ Windows desktops were set at 1600×1200 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

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.

Crysis Warhead

We measured Warhead performance using the FRAPS frame-rate recording tool and playing over the same 60-second section of the game five times on each processor. This method has the advantage of simulating real gameplay quite closely, but it comes at the expense of precise repeatability. We believe five sample sessions are sufficient to get reasonably consistent results. In addition to average frame rates, we’ve included the low frame rates, because those tend to reflect the user experience in performance-critical situations. In order to diminish the effect of outliers, we’ve reported the median of the five low frame rates we encountered.

We tested at relatively modest graphics settings, 1024×768 resolution with the game’s “Mainstream” quality settings, because we didn’t want our graphics card to be the performance-limiting factor. This is, after all, a CPU test.

A cursory look at the scatter plot and perf-per-dollar chart tells us the Core 2 Duo E8400 is among the better-placed solutions here. It performs almost as well as the Core i7-940 for considerably less dough, and getting much higher performance involves shelling out over $100 more. That only gets you a handful of extra frames per second, too.

With that said, we should take a step back and qualify these observations. As we’ve just noted, we tested in a non-GPU-limited scenario in order to highlight CPU performance. Should you run the game at a higher resolution or higher visual quality settings, the graphics processor(s) could easily become the primary bottleneck, somewhat mitigating the benefits of a faster CPU.

Then again, our results give a very clear idea of what you can buy today to avoid running into CPU bottlenecks, and you can see that the slower processors in the bunch do tend to struggle with this game. Pay special attention to the median low frame rates we reported when thinking about avoiding CPU-based slowdowns. Although we haven’t graphed those results on a per-dollar basis, the CPUs whose frame rates bottom out in the teens and low twenties are questionable performers in Warhead, which is one of the most processor-intensive PC games today.

Far Cry 2

We decided to test Far Cry 2 by recording frame rates during the jeep ride sequence at the very beginning of the game. We found that frame rates during this sequence were generally similar to those when running around elsewhere in the game, and after all, playing Far Cry 2 involves quite a bit of driving around. Since this sequence was repeatable, we just captured results from three 90-second sessions.

Again, we didn’t want the graphics card to be our primary performance constraint, so although we tested at fairly high visual quality levels, we used a relatively low 1024×768 display resolution and DirectX 9.

The Core 2 Duo E8400 does well here, too, but AMD’s Phenom II X3 720 looks even better positioned.

Of course, even at this relatively low resolution, CPU performance doesn’t seem to impact average frame rates quite as much as in Crysis Warhead. Even the Core i7-940 only leads the X3 720 by 2.8 FPS overall, although it does generate significantly higher “median low” frame rates.

Unreal Tournament 3
UT3 normally isn’t quite as CPU-limited as the titles on the previous page, so we concocted an interesting scenario by setting up a 24-player CTF bot match on the epic Facing Worlds map. We racked up frags like mad while capturing five 60-second gameplay sessions for each processor. The screen resolution was set to 1280×1024 for testing, with UT3’s default quality options and “framerate smoothing” disabled.

The Phenom II X 720 comes out on top yet again, this time beating our cheapest processor in the perf-per-dollar chart—a rare occurrence—and lying awfully close to the top left of our scatter plot.

Admittedly, you’re probably not going to notice the difference between 76 and 133 FPS on a typical LCD monitor. However, it’s worth pointing out that the “median low” frame rates these processors generate aren’t all above the 60 FPS limit—so you may notice choppiness in busier fights with a slower processor. Regular UT3 games without a gazillion bots will probably be less demanding, however.

Half Life 2: Episode Two

Our next test is a good, old custom-recorded in-game timedemo, precisely repeatable.

Here, we have a virtual toss-up between the Core 2 Duo E8400 and Phenom II X3 720. Considering the E8600 is almost neck-and-neck with the Core i7-965, we’ll have to conclude Half-Life 2: Episode Two is more sensitive to high clock speeds and single-threaded performance than to parallel number-crunching power.

Source engine particle simulation

Next up is a test we picked up during a visit to Valve Software, the developers of the Half-Life games. They had been working to incorporate support for multi-core processors into their Source game engine, and they cooked up some benchmarks to demonstrate the benefits of multithreading.

This test runs a particle simulation inside of the Source engine. Most games today use particle systems to create effects like smoke, steam, and fire, but the realism and interactivity of those effects are limited by the available computing horsepower. Valve’s particle system distributes the load across multiple CPU cores.

Valve’s particle simulator really seems to take advantage of extra cores and threads—so much so that the Core i7-920 ended up third in our perf-per-dollar chart despite its high price tag. We should probably point out that buying a Core i7 involves blowing at least $200 on an X58 motherboard and paying a premium for triple-channel DDR3 memory kits, though. (We’ll look at full system prices in a little while.)

WorldBench

WorldBench’s overall score is a pretty decent indication of general-use performance for desktop computers. This benchmark uses scripting to step through a series of tasks in common Windows applications and then produces an overall score for comparison. WorldBench also records individual results for its component application tests, allowing us to compare performance in each.

We’ll look at the overall score, and then we’ll show individual application results alongside the results from some of our own application tests. For the sake of conciseness, however, we won’t be look at all individual tests—we’ve left out Nero 7 Ultra Edition, Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5, Firefox 2.0, and 3ds max 8 DirectX performance.

The Core i7-920 looks far less appealing in WorldBench’s overall rankings, where the $163 Core 2 Duo E8400 finishes just nine points (7%) behind.

If our scatter plot shows anything, it’s that general desktop productivity tasks in the WorldBench suite aren’t terribly CPU-bound overall. That’s why so many points are clumped together. We’d see even more clumping together if it weren’t for AMD’s south bridge chips, whose inadequate support for Native Command Queuing leads to poor performance in WorldBench’s WinZip, Nero, and Photoshop CS2 tests. Have a look at page six of our Socket AM3 Phenom II review for more details.

Productivity and general use software

MS Office productivity

Multitasking – Firefox and Windows Media Encoder

Office is a perfect example of an application where higher CPU performance doesn’t do all that much: going from our baseline Athlon X2 6400+ to a Core i7-965 only reduces the test run-time by about 11%. Coincidentally, the i7-965 is also around 11 times more expensive than the 6400+.

Our multitasking test shows more notable differences and, naturally, gives the advantage to triple- and quad-core CPUs. The Phenom II X3 720 does particularly well there, although the Core 2 Duo E8400 isn’t all that far behind. Jumping on the Core i7 bandwagon in this instance only yields substantial performance dividends with the $999 Core i7-965 Extreme Edition.

Image processing, file compression

Photoshop

With AMD processors at a disadvantage because of the NCQ issue we mentioned, Intel’s offerings reign supreme in Photoshop CS2. The Core 2 Duo E8400 looks particularly strong here, almost nipping at the Core i7-920’s heels. Then again, a newer version of Photoshop or a different mix of filters might be more multithreaded and thus better able to take advantage of additional processor cores.

The Panorama Factory photo stitching
The Panorama Factory handles an increasingly popular image processing task: joining together multiple images to create a wide-aspect panorama. This task can require lots of memory and can be computationally intensive, so The Panorama Factory comes in a 64-bit version that’s widely multithreaded. We asked it to join four pictures, each eight megapixels, into a glorious panorama of the interior of Damage Labs. The program’s timer function captures the amount of time needed to perform each stage of the panorama creation process, but we’ll be looking at the total operation time today.

Extra cores matter a lot more in The Panorama Factory, where the Core 2 Quad Q8200 looks compelling despite being clocked a whole gigahertz below the Core 2 Duo E8600. The Core 2 Quad Q9400 isn’t a bad alternative, although the extra performance it brings will cost you an extra $50.

WinZip file compression

Same deal as with Photoshop CS2: this is an older release that seems to favor dual-core CPUs, and Phenoms perform poorly here because of the NCQ problem from which AMD’s south bridges suffer.

Media encoding and editing

x264 HD benchmark

This benchmark tests performance with one of the most popular H.264 video encoders, the open-source x264. The results come in two parts, for the two passes the encoder makes through the video file. These scores come from the newer, faster version 0.59.819 of the x264 executable.

We’ve chosen to report results for the individual passes, then report an aggregate result based on a sum of encoding times for both passes. We’ll be basing our value calculations on that aggregate.

Multiple cores shine in recent video encoding applications like this, so it’s no surprise to see the Phenom II X3 720 being (apparently) penalized for its lack of a fourth core. Like in The Panorama Factory, the Core 2 Quad Q8200 is one of the most attractive deals here in spite of its low clock speed.

Windows Media Encoder x64 Edition video encoding

Windows Media Encoder is one of the few popular video encoding tools that uses four threads to take advantage of quad-core systems, and it comes in a 64-bit version. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to use more than four threads, even on an eight-core system. For this test, we asked Windows Media Encoder to transcode a 153MB 1080-line widescreen video into a 720-line WMV using its built-in DVD/Hardware profile. Because the default “High definition quality audio” codec threw some errors in Windows Vista, we instead used the “Multichannel audio” codec. Both audio codecs have a variable bitrate peak of 192Kbps.

Windows Media Encoder delivers results similar to those of the x264 HD benchmark, although the AMD processors perform relatively better. The Core 2 Quad Q8200 and Phenom II X4 810 are practically neck-and-neck on the value scale here, the latter being both faster and more expensive.

LAME MT audio encoding

LAME MT is a multithreaded version of the LAME MP3 encoder. LAME MT was created as a demonstration of the benefits of multithreading specifically on a Hyper-Threaded CPU like the Pentium 4. Of course, multithreading works even better on multi-core processors. You can download a paper (in Word format) describing the programming effort.

Rather than run multiple parallel threads, LAME MT runs the MP3 encoder’s psycho-acoustic analysis function on a separate thread from the rest of the encoder using simple linear pipelining. That is, the psycho-acoustic analysis happens one frame ahead of everything else, and its results are buffered for later use by the second thread. That means this test won’t really use more than two CPU cores.

We are encoding a massive 10-minute, 6-second 101MB WAV file. Our results are from a 64-bit version of LAME MT built using an Intel compiler. We left out results from the build made with a Microsoft compiler since this version produces lower encoding times with both Intel and AMD processors (and it apparently doesn’t penalize the AMD CPUs).

Surprise, surprise: the Core 2 Duo E8400 looks extremely well-positioned in a benchmark that doesn’t benefit from more than two cores.

3D modeling and rendering

Cinebench rendering

Graphics is a classic example of a computing problem that’s easily parallelizable, so it’s no wonder we can exploit a multi-core processor with a 3D rendering app. Cinebench is the first of those we’ll try, a benchmark based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D rendering engine. It’s multithreaded and comes with a 64-bit executable. This test runs with just a single thread and then with as many threads as CPU cores (or threads, in CPUs with multiple hardware threads per core) are available. We’ll be looking at the multithreaded results here.

The Core i7-920 really shines in this test, outpacing similarly priced quad-core processors quite noticeably. That said, we should once again note that a Core i7 platform costs more—that’s because LGA1366 motherboards and triple-channel DDR3 memory kits are still somewhat expensive. For more modest budgets, the Phenom II X4 810 and Phenom II X4 940 both look interesting (more so than the Intel equivalents).

POV-Ray rendering

We’re using the latest beta version of POV-Ray 3.7 that includes native multithreading and 64-bit support. Some of the beta 64-bit executables have been quite a bit slower than the 3.6 release, but this should give us a decent look at comparative performance, regardless.

3ds max rendering

Here are two more 3D rendering benchmarks where the Core i7-920 really distances itself from previous-generation products. If you’re shopping for cheaper alternatives, the AMD options clearly perform better in POV-Ray, while 3ds max 8 awards higher marks to Core 2 Quad processors like the Q8200.

Valve VRAD map compilation

This next test processes a map from Half-Life 2 using Valve’s VRAD lighting tool. Valve uses VRAD to pre-compute lighting that goes into games like Half-Life 2.

For at least part of the Source engine map building process, Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q8200 is more tantalizing than triple- and quad-core offerings in the same price range. It’s also a better deal than pricier Core 2 Quads. The Core i7-920 does quite well here, too, although these charts still don’t account for platform costs.

Folding@Home

Next, we have a slick little Folding@Home benchmark CD created by notfred, one of the members of Team TR, our excellent Folding team. For the unfamiliar, Folding@Home is a distributed computing project created by folks at Stanford University that investigates how proteins work in the human body, in an attempt to better understand diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cystic fibrosis. It’s a great way to use your PC’s spare CPU cycles to help advance medical research. We’d encourage you to visit our distributed computing forum and consider joining our team if you haven’t already joined one.

The Folding@Home project uses a number of highly optimized routines to process different types of work units from Stanford’s research projects. The Gromacs core, for instance, uses SSE on Intel processors, 3DNow! on AMD processors, and Altivec on PowerPCs. Overall, Folding@Home should be a great example of real-world scientific computing.

notfred’s Folding Benchmark CD tests the most common work unit types and estimates performance in terms of the points per day that a CPU could earn for a Folding team member. The CD itself is a bootable ISO. The CD boots into Linux, detects the system’s processors and Ethernet adapters, picks up an IP address, and downloads the latest versions of the Folding execution cores from Stanford. It then processes a sample work unit of each type.

On a system with two CPU cores, for instance, the CD spins off a Tinker WU on core 1 and an Amber WU on core 2. When either of those WUs are finished, the benchmark moves on to additional WU types, always keeping both cores occupied with some sort of calculation. Should the benchmark run out of new WUs to test, it simply processes another WU in order to prevent any of the cores from going idle as the others finish. Once all four of the WU types have been tested, the benchmark averages the points per day among them. That points-per-day average is then multiplied by the number of cores on the CPU in order to estimate the total number of points per day that CPU might achieve. We’ve isolated that last number for this exercise, but you can view detailed results in our Socket AM3 Phenom II review.

This may be a somewhat quirky method of estimating overall performance, but it generally ought to work. We’ve discussed some potential reservations about how it works here, for those who are interested.

Our Folding@Home scatter plot looks almost the same as those on the previous page: the Core 2 Quad Q8200 does very well, and the Core i7-920 is ahead of the pack by a considerable margin. Clearly, the Q8200’s 2.33GHz clock speed doesn’t hamper its ability to perform competitively in apps that put its four cores to work.

Power consumption and efficiency

Our Extech 380803 power meter has the ability to log data, so we can 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. (We plugged the computer monitor into a separate outlet, though.) We measured how each of our test systems used power across a set time period, during which time we ran Cinebench’s multithreaded rendering test.

All of the systems had their power management features (such as SpeedStep and Cool’n’Quiet) enabled during these tests via Windows Vista’s “Balanced” power options profile.

Although we don’t usually include “simulated” CPU speed grades in our power results, we’ve made an exception for the Q8200 out of sheer curiosity.

You can see detailed results in our Socket AM3 Phenom II review, but for this article, we decided to look only at the amount of energy used to render the scene. Since the different systems completed the render at different speeds, we isolated the render period for each system. We then computed the amount of energy used by each system to render the scene. This method should account for both power use and, to some degree, performance, because shorter render times may lead to less energy consumption.

In effect, we’ll be looking at power efficiency per dollar. The 1/microjoules value in our power efficiency per dollar graph is really 1/(watt-seconds/1000000), or 1,000,000 m-2 kg-1 s2. That’s a little obscure, but it quantifies power efficiency in a readable fashion based on the source data, which is in joules.

Since the cheap triple- and quad-core processors completed the test more quickly than the dual-cores, we’re not surprised to see these CPUs score better on our efficiency-per-dollar chart. The Core i7 does deliver the best energy efficiency overall, which leaves the i7-920 in an enviable position on our value scatter plot. You’ll pay dearly for the additional efficiency of the higher end Core i7 processors, though.

Average performance

If you can’t be bothered to study all of our charts and scatter plots… well, you probably should anyway. Our synthetic average-performance-versus-price plot is seducingly straightforward, but it’s very much an artifact of our test suite, which probably consists of more multi-threaded apps than what your typical enthusiast might run.

To create a synthetic “performance” score, we computed an unweighed average for results in all 22 of our benchmarks (including the WorldBench overall score). As our baseline, the Athlon X2 6400+ gets a 100% score. Other scores are all relative to it.

Since our aggregate performance scores are somewhat biased toward multithreaded tests, the Core 2 Quad Q8200 looks like a better overall deal than the Phenom II X3 720—even though the X3 720 leads in non-multithreaded tasks.

Looking at the rest of the plot, we can spot several other trends. The Core 2 Quad Q9400 and Phenom II X4 940 are neck-and-neck, but the X4 920 outperforms the Q9300. That means the 920 may be a better overall deal than the Core 2 Quad Q8300, which has the same clock speed but less cache than the Q9300. (The 920 and Q8300 are both priced almost identically, although the AMD offering is slightly cheaper at Newegg.) In plainer terms, AMD’s high-end quad-core offerings are refreshingly competitive.

Looking further north, the Core i7-920 distances itself from the pack quite a bit overall. This is probably a good time to start looking at how full system pricing factors into the Core i7 formula, though. Let’s do that now.

Below, you’ll see another scatter plot with the same aggregate performance scale on the Y axis. To get our pricing numbers for the X axis, we’ve added the cost of a motherboard, memory kit, graphics card, and hard drive to that of our processors. Wherever it made sense, we picked components from our latest system guide. Also, we got all our prices from Newegg. Here’s a complete breakdown:

Intel LGA775 platform AMD Socket AM2+ platform Intel Core i7 platform
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P $135 Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4 $115 Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD3R $210
4GB Kingston DDR2-800 $41 4GB Kingston DDR2-800 $41 6GB Kingston DDR3-1333 $92
Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB $180 Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB $180 Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB $180
Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB $80 Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB $80 Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB $80
$436 $416 $562

So, does the value picture change at all when we do this?

The Core i7-920 does look less appealing when we factor in the cost of other parts, but it still seems like a worthwhile step up. Looking at the lower portion of the graph, it’s also clear that cheaping out on a processor doesn’t impact the cost of a full system as much as one might think. At least, going from our baseline Athlon to a Phenom II X4 940 only raises the full system price from $506 to $641. That’s a 27% price increase (less once you throw in an enclosure, monitor, and all that jazz), but at least here, you get a 56% overall performance increase in return.

Speaking of the Phenom II X4 940, we didn’t just pick it as a random example—this processor really looks particularly compelling. It’s a somewhat better deal than the Core 2 Quad Q9550, and it’s not only as fast as the Q9400, but also slightly cheaper when we account for the lower prices of AMD enthusiast motherboards. (Actually, the X4 940 is 30 bucks cheaper than the Q9400 on Newegg right now, even though official price lists give the advantage to the Q9400.) You might find the X4 920 more enticing because of its even lower price, but the 940 has an unlocked upper multiplier, which can make overclocking considerably easier.

Conclusions

We can’t really condense 64 different graphs or 11 pages of analysis and peripheral information into a short conclusion. However, we spotted several noteworthy constants in all of these graphs.

Generally speaking, AMD’s Phenom II X4 processors appear to be slightly better deals than the Intel Core 2 Quad equivalents. Not only are they great performers for the money, but the Socket AM2+ and AM3 platform has a better upgrade path than Intel’s soon-to-be-retired LGA775 platform. The Phenom II X3 720 is more of a mixed bag, since it’s the top performer neither in single-threaded tasks nor in heavily multithreaded ones. However, the 720 is still a good middle ground between cheap quad-cores and high-end dual-core CPUs.

Also, the Core i7-920 really distances itself from other processors in multithreaded tasks, but without giving much ground to dual-core chips in other tasks. Pricey X58 motherboards and DDR3 memory make the i7-920 an expensive step up, but clearly, you’re not throwing your money out the window. The i7-920’s position bodes well for upcoming mainstream Nehalem derivatives (Lynnfield), provided they’re not dramatically slower.

We should probably give a few pointers to folks who are shopping for a new CPU right now, as well. To start off, while this article contains many useful nuggets of information, we strongly recommend you also read our system guides and performance-oriented processor reviews to get a more complete picture of the market.
If you’re still unsure of what to buy, then take a step back and think about all of the applications you run. Looking at the relevant tests here should help you determine which processor can do the best job overall for the money. You’d be ill-advised to pick a CPU strictly based on our average-performance scatter plots on the previous page, because our test suite may not reflect what you’d run in your day-to-day activities. If you use your PC for nothing but games, for example, then a dual- or triple-core processor with a high clock speed may be a better investment than a part like the Core 2 Quad Q8200.

Otherwise, your processor choice should depend in large part on your overall budget. We’ve established that going from a cheap duallie to a decent quad-core processor doesn’t break the bank when one considers the cost of an entire system. However, that doesn’t mean you should allocate a disproportionate portion of cash to a fast processor and neglect other pieces like the graphics processor and memory. Our system guides should help you make that call better than this article can.

Comments closed
    • thebeastie
    • 10 years ago

    Yeah even if you do some kind of “easy overclock point” it would be totally so much more useful.

    I am doing some research to look into what CPU to buy for my gaming PC, including overclocking in gaming benchmarks is just so important I can easily afford a i7 Core 2, but if its not going to be any faster under my preferred games at my preferred resolution then why bother? I may as well go for a faster GPU.

    I hit this site/review with a big amount of excitement only to find it couldn’t be any more useless to my research its just same same old rubbish I can find anywhere else.

    Its not hard to do, just put OC’ed next to the correct graph.

      • swaaye
      • 10 years ago

      Easy? You want them to find the overclocking potential of every CPU they tested and test all of them at that speed? Every intarweb viewer has his own personal favorite overclocking choice so they would have to do most if not all of the CPUs. That would be many hours of work that would just happen to be completely useless for people who don’t care to overclock.

      And there’s the small issue that every CPU overclocks differently. One Q6600 can do 3.4 on stock voltage, another can only do 2.6. The test results would be misleading as a result.

      Hey, maybe we should throw in *[

    • StuG
    • 10 years ago

    I feel that overclocking should NOT be added in these reviews. The main reason being that its unreliable. Every chip has a different overclocking point, and putting that into a dollars/fps graph would be just plain stupid. If you say you can get BLANK chip for a certain price and it can OC to something, than someone buys is (that isn’t a huge enthusiast) and it can’t OC to w/e TR had it at, they have been mislead. I feel TR is one of the only review sites that doesn’t mislead its readers, and it has no reason to start that now.

    Though I do feel that a graphics card version of one of these reviews could be a great help to many users. And I feel that you covering potential last gen-cards (similar to how you covered the X2) is important, as you can pick up great deals on 8800GT’s and HD3870’s for below $60 if your lucky. For prices like that, sometimes they are worth it.

    Awesome review, nothing short of TR’s top 10 best IMO.

    • provoko
    • 10 years ago

    Awesome article TR. I read every page and dugg it too.

    The best part was page 11 when you configured 3 systems and their cost and plotted that too.

    You’ve saved me hours of research when it comes to system building and buying decisions.

    Thank you.

    • blitzy
    • 10 years ago

    good info to know, havent been keeping up with hardware lately but this keeps me in the loop a little

    thanks

    • fpsduck
    • 10 years ago

    Nice article.
    But hm…
    why don’t use more CPU-intensive game like GTA IV for benchmarking?

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      Because it’s filled with insurmountable (V)RAM usage and shovelware.

    • sigher
    • 10 years ago

    I miss a benchmark for filtering/sorting although I’m sure it’s in a small percentage part of the tests I’d like to know specifically how a CPU does in sorting/filtering/regex stuff since I find I do use that plenty.
    Also I find the choice of winzip, which nobody uses anymore, an odd one, why not 7zip or winrar? Winrar is most intensively used in the real world, and 7zip has a nice inbuilt benchmark making life easy for reviewers.

    Oh incidentally, the filtering, sorting and RegEx stuff would also help indicating how fast a CPU can do a virusscan, which is another thing a CPU can be busy with for some time.

      • swaaye
      • 10 years ago

      I have a feeling that good ‘ol Zip (deflate) is by *[

        • lycium
        • 10 years ago

        a lot of efficiency-minded people are using 7-zip these days.

    • Buzzard44
    • 10 years ago

    I’m amazed at how perfectly linear AMD’s performance/price comes out over all their chips most of the time. I’m impressed.

    • travbrad
    • 10 years ago

    Looks like I was right to get my E8400 a few months back ๐Ÿ™‚ It hasn’t really dropped in price since then, and it has some ridiculous headroom for overclocking.

    While this situation is definitely easy on the wallet, I’m beginning to wish some game devs would push the envelope a bit more. We haven’t even seen anything match Crysis, let alone surpass it (and that came out 1 1/2 years ago now)

    • derFunkenstein
    • 10 years ago

    OK, so in Firefox 3.0.7, if you’re using the extra-wide layout, the table in the article still isn’t as wide as the article, so you still have to scroll (there’s a big empty space on either side of the frame, though)

      • Cyril
      • 10 years ago

      Should be fixed now.

    • not@home
    • 10 years ago

    You know what would make those scatter plots easier to read? Diagonal lines going from the lower left to the upper right. Maybe put them in a different color or something. I do not know if that is possible but it would be helpful.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 10 years ago

    I too think it’s a shame that no e7000 series CPUs were included especially since they ranked so high in the previous article in this series. That’s my only real complaint.

    • Bombadil
    • 10 years ago

    The 7750 is miserable. I just ordered a $55 X2 5800+ — I’ve been using a $20 overclocked Sempron LE-1250. My E7200 can run at 4.2GHz in a $55 motherboard–that would score well in the performance/$ category, but it does use a lot of power.

    • CapnBiggles
    • 10 years ago

    *pets his overclocked e8400 and purrs contentedly*

      • Kurotetsu
      • 10 years ago

      ……..

      Uhh, I guess can I see what you were going for, but that doesn’t make your comment any less disturbing.

        • Meadows
        • 10 years ago

        He could be a furry IT enthusiast.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 10 years ago

      I’ll get you next time, Gadget?

        • CapnBiggles
        • 10 years ago

        Heh, more this than that, yes.

    • indeego
    • 10 years ago

    For your average graph at the end, why not make the prices for everything be a percentage over what the 6400+ cost is? That way both axis are percentagesg{<.<}g

    • JdL
    • 10 years ago

    Hey guys, can you throw in a Q6600 overclocked to 3.4 GHz and compare it to the rest? To me, this article is useless without overclocked CPU’s.

    Just thoughts ๐Ÿ™‚

      • _Sigma
      • 10 years ago

      Even 3.0-3.2 would be helpful, given it’s a popular OC cpu. It would be nice to see how it fits into the general trend.

      • Krogoth
      • 10 years ago

      It would be about on the the level of a i7 920 or i7 940 at stock.

        • Meadows
        • 10 years ago

        Except those i7 models don’t exist.

        Edit: Krogoth ninja-edited as always to avoid ridicule.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 10 years ago

    My Q9300 looked so much better last time.

    • no51
    • 10 years ago

    Perhaps Meadows should have pushed for his unit more in this review.

    • retired-hiker
    • 10 years ago

    For productivity tasks time is money. I wonder how rates of $10/hr and $50/hr would affect the value proposition on productivity tasks?

    • moshpit
    • 10 years ago

    Yet again, FPS-itis strikes. So, you pick a bunch of games from the LEAST CPU intensive gaming genre and make broad declarations. This is getting tiring. Can NO site benchmark a CPU for gaming? Where’s the RTS games? Where’s the flight sims? Yet again, FPS is the only genre of games ignorantly benchmarked for a CPU test. YOu pick the ONE genre known for GPU limitation and not much CPU interaction and showcase it. This is ridiculous.

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Actually, the “broad declarations” seemed to be in line with the test results I read, which was everything /[

      • valrandir
      • 10 years ago

      Agreed. More RTS. I also suggest benchmarking Eve-online in a 1000+ fleet battle, probably the most cpu intensive mmo game out there.

        • UberGerbil
        • 10 years ago

        How reproducible is such a battle? Benchmarks don’t count for much if they can’t be consistently reproduced.

        • Krogoth
        • 10 years ago

        Ahem, Supreme Commander and Forged Alliance takes the cake.

        There is still no x86 rig that can handle 1000 units, 8 AI players on a 81×81 map without turning into a mud race after a 30 minutes of game time.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 10 years ago

          except the built-in FA benchmark is broken.

    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    These are the coolest articles. Thanks Cyril.

      • tfp
      • 10 years ago

      he’s putting danny e. out of a job.

        • danny e.
        • 10 years ago

        only if they update for every new CPU. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Coruscant
    • 10 years ago

    Might it be worthwhile to plot the price/performance curve, and note significant deviations from the curve.This would identify parts that perform much better (or much worse) than typical. I think it’s generally understood, and well illustrated by the logarithmic trend in the price/performance charts, that significant premiums at the high end will result in nominal increases in performance.

    • Thresher
    • 10 years ago

    I guess what this means to me is that my trusty E8400 is good enough for now. The only thing I need is a faster video card.

      • Freon
      • 10 years ago

      The C2D still looks great if you are concerned primarily about gaming and don’t need to do a lot of video encoding or software 3D rendering on tight time constraints or in volume. Write off those few tests and it would change the picture a lot.

    • hermanshermit
    • 10 years ago

    Very interesting and thorough article. Exactly why I read the Techreport.

    However, I think it’s pretty bad news for CPU and PC manufacturers.

    The raw performance difference between the top and the bottom is about 3X, but this just doesn’t translate into the most used real world apps.

    I consider myself a PC enthusiast, but I don’t game and only very occasionally encode a video (hey if I can bittorent a 40minute show in 7mins, why bother? No i7 will do that..). There simply isn’t the need to upgrade anything from the dual-core 64-bit era (what 3+ years now) for 90%+ of the PC using community. RAM is almost being given away. Stuff any old machine with 4GB worth, ramdisk browser and media player caches and you have a rocket-fast PC for nearly every task.

    I’ve been using netbooks as my primary PC for 6 months now. My most used desktop is a 690G machine by virtue that it has HDMI for my TV.

    Power is great when you need it, it’s just that most of us don’t, at least not for most of the time. Portability and connectivity are far more important. The biggest limitation is in front of the keyboard – how fast you type and how quickly you can read. I’m not in the bit surprised notebooks have overtaken desktops in sales and the only overall increase in sales are in the netbook area.

    Damn – I wish I had an excuse to build a new machine, but I just don’t lust after the latest and greatest anyone.

    • FireGryphon
    • 10 years ago

    Excellent article. I like that the X2 6400 was included to give us a usable metric of how systems based on that family of chips performs compared to the newer chips.

    The tri-core chips present an interesting proposition. It’s good to see they’re actually a decent buy.

    • Decelerate
    • 10 years ago

    I sooo want the 720, but board prices are scary…

    When are those Windows 7 purchase vouchers coming up again?

    • HurgyMcGurgyGurg
    • 10 years ago

    The E8400 is missing from the power consumption testing, don’t know if it’s due to the E8600 being close enough or if a data point just fell out of the log.

    Besides that its surprising how well grouped the CPUs are in terms of total performance verse price, you really can’t go wrong with any choice except maybe the E8600 and Q9300.

    Good to see AMD actually beating Intel in a good deal of the benchmarks… at least in value.

    • Krogoth
    • 10 years ago

    Excellent article.

    In a nutshell, if time is $$$$ get a i7. Otherwise, any of other chip do well enough. The non-i7 Quad cores do have an edge in rendering, numbering crunching tasks over their dual-core counterparts. If that is your primary concern.

    • blockhead
    • 10 years ago

    How about the Atom 330?
    I know it’s a different class of cpu but it made the “Kitchen PC” and when the Intel motherboard AND cpu cost $79.99 the value proposition starts to look good for applications like, well, the kitchen pc.

    Great article as usual.

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Yeah, I’d be curious to see that too. Perhaps with the i7 CPUs removed from the data set, just to make the graphs more compact and sensible.

      Maybe it’s time for another “budget processor” roundup?

      • lex-ington
      • 10 years ago

      I think that price/performance issue with the atom will really depend on what you’re doing.

      For $81 I can purchse an X2-4400 and a motherboard using the GeForce 6100 chipset. May not be the best when it comes to power consumption, but I can build work machines to do stuff like CAD and so forth on it and play games without any stuttering. That to me is a great proposition.

      • Bombadil
      • 10 years ago

      My $20 Sempron / $40 740G/SB700 laughs at Intel’s Atom junk.

    • slash3
    • 10 years ago

    So in conclusion, let’s all buy Athlon64 X2 6400+ chips.

    ๐Ÿ˜›

      • Krogoth
      • 10 years ago

      You know that X2 was there as a comparison for the pre-Core 2 generation? X2 6400+ is the paragon of its family.

        • slash3
        • 10 years ago

        Twas a jest, naturally.

    • pullmyfoot
    • 10 years ago

    Good job. Its things like this that distances this site from the many others out there (I kicked Toms outta my bookmarks long ago :))

    Though as some of the others have said, it would have been nice if you guys had thrown in one of the new K10 Athlon chips, though I’ve heard theyre not very good, but for the price they would have been an interesting chip to examine. I presume they will run a little slower than the 6400+X2

    • Mourmain
    • 10 years ago

    This is one of the more interesting and original kind of analyses that TR does… Nice going guys!

    I’d like to suggest an improvement. When lookng at plots of performance vs. price, I’m looking for which processors get the most bang for the buck. If you plot curves of “equal bang for the buck”, these look like a fan radiating from the origin. (They’re just straight lines with slopes of 0.5, 1, 2, 4, etc., so they also get denser towards the top-left, and rarer towards the bottom-right.)

    Anyway, my suggestion is that these may be interesting if plotted grayed-out below the points, so one could compare bang-for-the-buckiness of different procs. It would also show that both the overly-cheap and the overly-expensive ends of the scale usually fall away from the best-buy line.

    • Prototyped
    • 10 years ago

    Once again I’m disappointed in your choice of processors today.

    * No E8500? It’s $20 more than an E8400 and slightly faster.

    * You included the E8400 (3 GHz) and the Q8200 (budget quad core) but not the E7500 (budget dual core, 2.93 GHz), which is nearly as fast as the E8400 and $30 cheaper, with the exception that it lacks VT and has half the L2 cache (but still a copious amount). I suspect the E7500 would do substantially better than the E8400 on a bang-for-buck basis.

    * You included an Athlon 64 X2 6400+, which is out of production for the retail market, but not the newer, K10-based 2.7 GHz Athlon X2 7750, which might have been more interesting. And at 95 W it’s even rated for a lower TDP than the 90 nm, 125 W 6400+.

    * If you follow the slope of a line joining the origin with the datapoints in your overall system scores, the Q9550 more or less comes out on top if we maximize performance within the highest range of bang-for-buck.

      • Peldor
      • 10 years ago

      I’m disappointed the very cheap 7750 didn’t make it as well (although the list price of $79 is high compared to street), but great work on the total system cost charts at the end.

      • grantmeaname
      • 10 years ago

      do you say once again because you haven’t realized it’s the same processors as the last CPU review?

      • Saribro
      • 10 years ago

      Page 1, 3rd paragraph, seriously.

      • tfp
      • 10 years ago

      waaahaaaaa

        • Meadows
        • 10 years ago

        Having difficulty expressing yourself?

          • tfp
          • 10 years ago

          not at all

      • indeego
      • 10 years ago

      Seriously? An e8400 and an e8600 were benched. You can’t make your own judgment call that performance and price of an e8500 will fall within those two processorsg{

    • Firestarter
    • 10 years ago

    Time to overclock a I7 920, or so it seems.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 10 years ago

    PhenomII 920 isn’t that bad. Shame it’s not an AM3 chip.

    Wow, you guys outdid yourselves this time. Not only did you include a bar graph of “frames per dollar” metric, but you even had a “systems cost-added” scatterplot. I don’t know if either of those were requested, but I liked them a lot.

      • Meadows
      • 10 years ago

      Yes, and they just made me realise how cheap DDR3 is starting to get. This is beginning to make some impulse cogs turn in my head.

      • wingless
      • 10 years ago

      Buy 6GB DDR3 kits for your AM3 system so you have a spare 2GB stick just in case. Buy two kits and you can build three AM3 systems. Thanks Intel!

        • Meadows
        • 10 years ago

        That’s an interesting way to conceive a “half full glass”.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 10 years ago

    That was a really good article guys…nice one.
    It’s very nice to see the Phenom processors performing so well and at such decent prices.
    The Core i7 965 Extremely expensive Edition is a beast and walks away with the /[< Alpha Male<]/ of CPUs title.

    • UberGerbil
    • 10 years ago

    Boy, that NCQ issue on the AMD platform really hurts them in a couple of the tests. But I thought some of the folks here reported getting NCQ to work on the 700 or 750 SB. Is that incorrect?

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 10 years ago

      It’s working on my 790x, fairly easy to install too.
      enable 1-4 sata as ahci, 5-6 as ide, install with the drive on 5-6.
      after drivers install you can enable ahci on all channels.

      TR intentionally benchmarks the boards with AHCI disabled.

      Works perfectly fine though.

        • Palek
        • 10 years ago

        That is jumping through some serious hoops, still.

        I’m not much of a Windows wizard, but… If the issue is that by default the Windows XP install disc does not have ATi/AMD drivers, and therefore it does not recognize the drives in AHCI mode, rolling the ATi/AMD drivers into a custom install image would fix that, right?

        Also, do Vista and Win7 ship with ATi/AMD chipsets drivers? Does that fix the AHCI issue?

          • l33t-g4m3r
          • 10 years ago

          no it isn’t. :rolleyes:
          slipstreaming drivers is a much bigger hassle.
          If you’re putting together a new system, chances are high that you will be setting /[

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Vista installs natively on AHCI.
            Congratulations.

            • Hattig
            • 10 years ago

            So the AMD platform get’s poor marks with AHCI because Tech Report uses an 8 year old operating system for testing?

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Tech Report _[

            • Palek
            • 10 years ago

            True, slipstreaming is not exactly a walk in the park. Point taken. ๐Ÿ™‚ (Although, once you have a slip-streamed install disc you can reuse it for subsequent re-installs.)

            Question: is there a reason why you are suggesting to enable AHCI on SATA channels 1-4 during install? Why not just set them all to IDE mode? Not nitpicking, just wondering if there is a rationale to it.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 10 years ago

            the reason is so windows will install the driver.
            If you don’t have it enabled, windows won’t detect an AHCI device.

            @ meadows.
            yes it does, but there is still installation issues on AMD chipsets.
            My disc wasn’t SP1 either, which may have newer drivers.

            here’s where I first read about this trick:
            ยง[< http://ivoidwarranties.blogspot.com/2008/07/amd-780g-vs-ahci.html<]ยง

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            Interesting — thanks for offering that link / technique. There’s another post on that blog noting that SATA optical drives may have trouble on that chipset if they’re not running in AHCI mode
            ยง[< http://ivoidwarranties.blogspot.com/2009/03/ahci-vs-dvd-writing.html<]ยง Now the question is: how much difference does NCQ make?

        • Flying Fox
        • 10 years ago

        XP or Vista?

        And won’t Windows BSOD if you change the boot drive mode from IDE to AHCI like that?

          • Meadows
          • 10 years ago

          I don’t know about IDE-installed Vista systems. but I’ve set my disks (boot disk included) to IDE-AHCI and back before – by accident -, so it ought not to be fatal.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 10 years ago

            Yes it’s not fatal but it will BSOD b[

      • Palek
      • 10 years ago

      I simply cannot understand how this problem could have persisted for so long. You would think that b[

    • UberGerbil
    • 10 years ago

    Cue the usual bitching about game benchmarks running at “unrealistic” resolutions. (It would be amusing to see a graph with all the markers clustered tighter than the WorldBench Office one, though). Meanwhile, as someone who skipped right to the non-gaming benchmarks, I’d like to thanks for all the work you put into this.

      • toyota
      • 10 years ago

      well in this case all the cpus are pretty good so yeah they would have been bunched together pretty close at real world settings with a single 4870.

        • Mithent
        • 10 years ago

        That’s true, but it would make more sense to me to skip the gaming tests entirely if the options are between GPU-limited and meaningless, and running at settings any gamer is very unlikely to be using and thus also meaningless?

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 10 years ago

      I stopped reading when I got to that point. I realized that the article wasn’t targeted at me, so I’m not going to waste my time.

        • tfp
        • 10 years ago

        waaahaaaaa

      • Flying Fox
      • 10 years ago

      You can also cue Brian_S bitching about no SLI systems and the graphs not putting his beloved i7 in a good light. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Dagwood
    • 10 years ago

    I wished TR had used Intel’s E7200 instead of AMD’s 6400, it came out on top of most of the charts on the last CPU review. But that is just a nit pick. All and all very usefull information.

      • xzelence
      • 10 years ago

      I think they didn’t include the E7200 because they discontinued that line. The next closest thing I’ve seen that is still being sold is the E7400 @ 2.8GHz.

    • lycium
    • 10 years ago

    Ahhh, this article has been a long time coming methinks, finally an excellent in-depth look at some of the interesting performance or quality metrics by which one can compare modern CPUs! Great job.

      • lycium
      • 10 years ago

      performance / watt for rendering vs gaming vs office use would also be nice, for future articles!

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