Articles: CPU

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The second game we selected for our today’ test session is the 3D shooter announced a few weeks ago by the Monolith Company – F.E.A.R. This game has already managed to win many gamers’ hearts and awards due to its unbelievable gaming environment and high-quality implementation. From the technical prospective, F.E.A.R. is a great measuring tool for the system performance, as it uses the system resources to the full extent.

Although the game developer recommends using a 3GHz CPU, 1GB RAM and a RADEON X800 or GeForce 6600 graphics accelerator for pleasant gaming experience in F.E.A.R., the game will not actually be that much fun on a system with this configuration. At least, if you enable full-screen anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering together with SoftShadows, the fps rate will drop below acceptable gaming performance even with the today’s fastest graphics card installed.

According to the game developers, even though F.E.A.R. loads the graphics subsystem heavily enough, the CPU power is also very important for this shooter. To check what they were actually talking about we carried out a very simple test: we looked how greatly the gaming performance would decrease for game modes with different quality settings when the CPU frequency reduces. Note that we used not only NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT, but also an ATI RADEON X800 PRO graphics card.

Well, these are hardly very illustrative results, I should say. Of course, you can notice a slight performance drop when the processor frequency reduces (this is, however, true for all graphics settings other than the maximal). In other words, if your graphics accelerator doesn’t work at the utmost of its power, you will see some difference in the fps rate. But one you set the graphics quality to high or maximum, the CPU speed will not affect the gaming performance at all, or will have very little influence on it. So, you shouldn’t really be that much concerned about buying a proper CPU for playing F.E.A.R.

As for our tests, we had to set the graphics quality to Medium (no anti-aliasing and no tri-linear filtering), in order to eliminate the influence of the graphics subsystem on the obtained results.

Well, we don’t see any overwhelming victory of the AMD processors here, unlike the situation in Battlefield 2. We can even state certain parity between the rivals with a slight advantage of the Athlon 64 processors. For example, the top Athlon 64 with 4000+ performance rating is only 2% faster than Pentium 4 670. We can see the same situation if we compare the performance results of the slower CPU models. Athlon 64 CPUs are just a few frames per second faster than Pentium 4 6xx processors working at the clock sped corresponding to their rating. In fact, the only reason why you see so many green bars at the top of the diagram above, is because AMD is currently offering a lot of expensive Athlon 64 FX processors working at high frequencies of 2.6-2.8GHz.

Despite the fact that F.E.A.R. is an absolutely new game, it cannot boast efficient support of dual-core processors. The major influence on the gaming performance is imposed by the L2 cache size and CPU clock frequency.

Besides the CPU speed and graphics subsystem performance, the gaming performance in F.E.A.R. is also affected by the amount of system memory installed in your platform. The formal tests carried out with an Athlon 64 FX-57 processor (the same platform and settings as in Battlefield 2) reveals a difference of about 1-2%:

However, in order to avoid constant turning to the swap file for data during the actual gaming process, F.E.A.R. you may want to go for more than just 1GB of RAM. In conclusion, I would like to stress that F.E.A.R. doesn’t really need a powerful CPU. Our tests showed that even a Pentium 4 3GHz or Athlon 64 3000+ are fast enough to make this game run at over 100fps. Although these results were obtained at the Medium graphics quality settings and the performance will definitely be lower with maximum settings, it will not go down because of the CPU. So, if you are going to spend a lot of time playing F.E.A.R., them it would be best to invest into the powerful graphics subsystem in the first place.

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