The end of the year is approaching and so are Christmas holidays. This is the season when many users consider buying new hardware. It has already become a tradition: the end of November-December time frame are the hottest sales season in most computer stores. So, the hardware manufacturers as well as hardware sellers fight for the user’s money and prepare new hot products alongside with exciting marketing promotions and campaigns for this time of the year. Unfortunately, it turns out more and more difficult to make the right choice especially under informational and marketing pressure from the vendors and retailers. Those users who prefer to go shopping for their computer upgrades during the last few weeks of the year have twice as high risk of becoming the victims of aggressive marketing and promotion campaigns. In this situation we here at X-bit labs cannot leave you, guys, up for grabs. In order to help you find your way among all the hardware appearing in stores we prepare large articles covering comparative tests of a wide range of products.
This article tends to be your ultimate guide for the today’s processor market, where the cut-throat competition between two major rivals, Intel and AMD, has never come to an end. This year has brought in serious changes to this market: we all know that this is the year when dual-core processors arrived. Therefore, besides the budget solutions, each of the manufacturers offers three other types of products: dual-core CPUs, CPUs for hardware enthusiasts and extreme users, and “regular” mainstream processors. In the CPU section of our site you may find detailed reviews about the individual products from each category, therefore, we decided to apply a completely new approach to writing large comparative articles, like the one you are about to read today.
And we got most help here from the game developers, no matter how strange it may sound to you. The thing is that Christmas fever also spreads into the gaming market. New gaming applications start selling better when the New Year’s Eve is approaching, that is why most software developers and publishers try to schedule the release of new gaming titles closer to the Christmas season, too. Therefore, there appeared a few fresh new games, which require much more from the hardware platforms than their predecessors. Well, we decided to test contemporary processors using these particular games. This benchmarking session will allow us to make our recommendations about the best gaming CPUs, as the gamers are actually the most active buyers of expensive hardware. These are the games we are going to use as our major benchmarking titles today:
- Battlefield 2
- Call of Duty 2
- Quake 4
- Serious Sam 2
But before we pass over to the actual tests we have to make a few comments about the way the obtained performance results should be interpreted. We have to stress that contemporary games require a powerful graphics accelerator in the first place, and the CPU is only the second most important hardware system component. So, it may seem not really necessary to test CPUs in games at first glance. In order to evaluate how fast the tested CPUs are in games, had to use the settings that lower the image quality during gameplay. In most cases the tests were run with disabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen anti-aliasing. This is done in order for the actual CPU gaming performance to move forward. Otherwise, the system performance will be limited by the power of the graphics card and will not that greatly depend on the CPU. Well, these are the today’s realities: we can say that the CPUs have left the graphics accelerators far behind from the gaming performance point of view. However, we can always look at it from a different prospective and say that the today’s game developers got too much involved into developing the exterior looks of the game, and have almost completely forgotten that very often a lot of CPU capacities simply get wasted, while they could be involved into the calculation of gaming physics environment or into the improvement of the enemies AI.
So, when you are assembling a gaming system, you should first of all choose the proper graphics accelerator and then think about a CPU. Although, if your graphics card is very fast and the CPU is pretty slow, it can certainly prevent you from taking advantage of the performance potential of the video subsystem. The thing is that while the graphics card deals with building and displaying the scene, the central processor is responsible for preparing the data for the graphics accelerator. So, the simple rule everyone usually sticks to is as follows: the more powerful the graphics card is, the more powerful should be the CPU.