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? Or even 1024x768?
That being said, 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.
Ouch! That's all I can say - the Phenom lags far behind the Q6700. Looking at these CPU-limited results, you could probably deduce that the Q6700 will allow you to play with higher settings than the Phenom.
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:
Again the Phenom is quite far behind, but not so much that it would significantly affect performance at more video card-limited settings.
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.
This time it's both the 65nm processors that lag well behind the 45nm part, by quite a bit!
HL2 Episode Two
Finally we have the latest Source Engine game - Half Life 2: Episode Two.
This time, gaming performance is in line with pure calculation performance we've been seeing all along.
I don't think this gaming benchmark needs much of an introduction. It's not exactly the best real-world benchmark for CPUs, so we won't spend too much time dwelling on it:
Since 3DMark Vantage is so GPU-limited, performance is roughly the same across all three CPUs. This reflects the point I made at the beginning of this page - gaming performance is far more related to the graphics card than the CPU! Not to say that it makes no difference at all though - that all depends on the scenarios.
Also, games are becoming more threaded, and are making more use of the CPU for things like physics and AI, something 3DMark Vantage tests individually:
With a focus on AI pathfinding and physics calculation, and the GPU mostly out of the equation, we see similar results as before.
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