Futuremark releases synthetic gaming benchmarks every few years, in our chart below we’ve included all their 3DMark benchmarks since 2001SE, until 3DMark06 none of those benchmarks supported multi cores so results should be close for most:
As expected, once you no longer run CPU specific benchmark or do tasks which depend on more factors than just raw CPU power, the difference diminishes, only 3DMark06 shows a noticeable difference between the two processors, the 3D06 CPU tests shows close to 100% performance scaling when the amount of cores is increased. The overall score goes up by ~12%.
Our test setup is equipped with an ATI HD 2900 XT which can be considered a “gamer” video card, with enough pixel pushing power to run the latest games; to find out if the extra 2Mb L2 cache and 45nm manufactering process yields a noticeable improvement in games we choose two FPS games; first up FEAR. An older game which doesn’t support multi core:
At 1280x960 High Quality the video card is not the bottleneck as you can see the 170+ average FPS results, still the CPU hardly makes a difference here, the extra L2 cache is responsible for ~1% difference...
On to a brand new game, Crysis from Crytek is a long awaited spiritual successor of Far Cry, this new game is known to bring the latest and greatest hardware to its knees. We picked up this intriguing tidbit about the game from Shacknews
Shack: What is the main limiter for Crysis in terms of GPU, CPU, or RAM? If users are near the low end of the requirements, which should they upgrade first?
Cevat Yerli: We would say first CPU, then GPU, then memory. But it must be in balance. If you are balanced, we are more CPU bound then GPU, but at the same time at higher CPU configurations we scale very well for GPUs.
Shack: Is there dedicated support for 64-bit and dual- and quad-core processors, and if so how does the game distribute its tasks? Do you suggest a higher-clocked dual-core over a quad-core, or is quad-core performance enough to give it the edge?
Cevat Yerli: We support both 64-bit and multi-cores. Multi-core will be beneficial in the experience, particularly in faster but also smoother framerates. 64-bit and higher memory will yield quicker loading times. We recommend quad core over higher clock.
Crytek is claiming that you should first upgrade your CPU before
you buy a new VGA card if you want better performance in Crysis. Also, according the Cevat Yerli, instead of increasing the speed of your Core 2 Duo CPU, you are better of with a lower clocked Quad Core processor. Let’s put these claims to the test shall we?
At 1280x1024 (a rather modest resolution) we are happy to get close to 20 FPS with the HD 2900 XT. Moving from the Core 2 Duo to a Core 2 Quad CPU which has more L2 is and underwhelming experience, we get a boost of ~2%, worth the extra cost?
For those people playing the Crysis Demo right now on their Windows XP machine we found a nice little tweak
which allows you to enable the "Very High" quality settings under XP/DX9, making the game look very close to what you get in Vista/DX10.
Let’s forget about multi cores for a moment and compare single core performance ->