Far Cry 5
The fifth installment in the Far Cry series is set in rural Montana, and while you might not think them all that similar, as someone born and raised in rural Texas, I feel right at home. Of course, that could be as much an indictment of my hometown as it is praise of Ubisoft’s simulacrum. While Far Cry 5 will sprad some work out across multiple cores, its performance relies heavily on how fast a chip can churn through a single thread.
Look at those pencil-thin frame-time plots. Far Cry 5 is an impressively-optimized game. It’s also probably the most single-threaded-performance-sensitive title in our set of gaming benchmarks. Our new Ryzens acquit themselves very nicely in Far Cry 5; while they don’t quite match the raw speed of the Coffee Lake CPUs, they still turn in excellent performances, especially in terms of smoothness.
Gaming and streaming with Far Cry 5 and OBS
Both AMD and Intel have extolled the virtues of many-core CPUs for video game streaming. After all, most games barely make any real use of six cores, much less eight, ten, or more. Most recently, AMD demonstrated Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 on stage at E3 on one of the very same Ryzen 9 3900X CPUs that we’re reviewing today. However, The Division 2 is a multiplayer online game, and that makes it a little harder to benchmark reproducibly. Instead, we’re going to use Far Cry 5.
We ran the game through our normal benchmark scenario on each system while streaming using Open Broadcaster Software and its built-in x264 software encoder. Our canvas resolution was the same as our base resolution, which is to say that we were streaming in 1920×1080, at 60 frames per second, with a video bitrate of 6 Mbps. We used the same in-game settings that we used for the benchmarks on the previous page.
The x264 AVC encoder has a variety of presets ranging from “ultrafast” down to “placebo.” These presets control how much analysis the codec does when encoding each video frame. With a constant bit rate—which means a constant file size—the preset primarily affects encoding speed and image quality; the slower the preset, the better your stream will look. Most game streamers use the “veryfast” or “faster” presets while streaming.
In the demo at E3, AMD used the “slow” x264 preset. AMD technical marketing honcho Robert Hallock correctly noted on-stage that this is a much more demanding scenario than most hardware is even capable of. Indeed, we tested the “slow” preset and found that only two CPUs in our data set were able to stream smoothly at that setting: the Ryzen 9 3900X, and the Threadripper 2920X. In both cases, however, doing so clogged up the CPU to the point that the stream was dropping a few frames here and there.
A few dropped frames isn’t that big of a concern, but our test run is relatively sedate. Intense combat is likely to increase the game’s demands on the CPU. Furthermore, many streamers use various overlays including camera and input feeds as well as audience engagement tools. All of these overlays, as well as the step of compositing them into the stream, use additional CPU (and GPU) time. With that in mind, we decided to exclude the “slow” results from our benchmark test here. Results marked with “(medium)” used that preset; otherwise, tests were done with the “fast” preset.
There are so many results that our “Frame times by percentile” graph became a blurry mess, but you can easily see at a glance that every result becomes a lot less flat while streaming. Compare to the game-only results on the previous page.
There are a few take-aways here: the Ryzen 9 3900X is just about as good at streaming this game as the Core i9-9900K, the Ryzen 7 3700X more-or-less matches the Core i7-8700K, and HEDT CPUs are just not suited for this kind of thing.