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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.11.08]
Manufactured by: Intel



I've said it before, and I'll say it again. In terms of gaming performance, the CPU is not nearly as significant as the video card being used. Not even close. In order to get anything more than a marginal performance difference in these tests, we have to crank down the quality to the point where you might as well not be playing the games at all. I mean who will ever want to play Unreal Tournament 3 in 800x600?

That is one reason we prefer to look at sub-$200 processors like these. Rather than drop a bundle on an expensive quad-core CPU, it would be much better to take that extra budget and put it into a better video card.

However, games are beginning to rely more and more on the processor for things like AI, physics, and game logic, so multithreaded performance is still important. Therefore, we can't just dismiss gaming performance entirely.


Crysis comes with built-in CPU and GPU timedemo benchmarks. The benchmarks are run via a script, similar to those seen in Quake engine games. Rather than being a recorded demo simply played back though, the graphics and physics effects are all done in real-time. This makes Crysis a great benchmarking tool across the board, since the CPU has to calculate all the effects as if you were playing the game. Best of all, it uses portions of the actual game, rather than a 'worst case scenario' custom level. What you see here is what you get when you play this part of the game. The demo is run 4 times (with real-time physics, no two runs will be the same) and the average framerate of the 4 runs are given below.

The game was run in DX9 mode with a resolution of 800x600 and all graphics effects set to Low. The Physics Quality was set to Very High.

As much as we tried to isolate the CPU in Crysis, it was nearly impossible. Scores are still within 2 FPS of each other.

Unreal Tournament 3

So many games use the Unreal 3 engine, that we had to start using it as a benchmark. There are two methods of benchmarking UT3 - one plays a botmatch in real time, while running in spectator mode. The other simply does a 'flyby' through a level. I would have loved to use the botmatch benchmark, but it was simply impossible to get repeatable results. I was seeing variations of up to 5 FPS from one test to another, so that idea had to be scrapped. Instead, we just ran a flyby demo:

This time we are seeing a wider spread, but nothing too significant.

ET: Quake Wars

Just another game I thought I would throw in, based on the id Tech 4 engine (Doom 3) which is far less popular than U3E.

Same old story here - performance ramps up a bit with clock speed, but only by a few FPS.

HL2 Episode Two

Finally we have the latest Source Engine game - Half Life 2: Episode Two.

Probably the most significant performance margin here, but I am not sure what is causing it. It could be the increased cache (the E8500 has 3MB per core, while the E6750 and Q6600 have 2MB per core), but we usually don't see this much of a leap from cache. In any case, this shows that while games can benefit from newe CPU's, it's much more important to have the best video card possible if gaming is important to you.

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