Well, it’s time we made some conclusions. The processor tests in new gaming applications once again proved that AMD CPUs boast the best architectures for gaming needs. Almost in all contemporary shooters K8 CPUs provided better results. And sometimes the performance difference between AMD solutions and the rivals reaches unbelievably high rates. The maximum CPUs with NetBurst architecture from Intel can boast is a slight lag behind AMD processors in a few selected games, while in other games the performance rates may be dramatically low. So, the major statement remains the same: gamers should go AMD.
However, the mere fact that there are a lot of CPU types in the today’s market, even within the same price group, can be quite confusing for the PC users. While it is not that hard to decided between the Athlon 64 and Pentium 4 processors offered at the same price point, the dual-core solutions may appear a stumbling stone. Some time ago we could simply mark them as “not for gamers” and we could be absolutely right about it. Their working frequencies are lower than those of their single-core fellows, and the actual advantages of having a second core haven’t been used by the gaming applications at all. Now the situation has changed a lot. Graphics processor developers released new driver versions that can support multi-threading, and game developers began to modify their engines so that they could take good advantage of dual-core architectures. As we see, new shooters based on gaming engines from id Software can already use the power of two processor cores. Since these gaming engines are among the most popular nowadays, Quake 4 and call of Duty 2 may very soon become far not the only ones using dual-core. Moreover, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if some other gaming engines also acquire dual-core support: progress keeps going forward.
Therefore, the question about the best gaming CPU starts to seem pretty hard to answer turning from a practical matter into something from the applied philosophy area. However, let’s not give in and try to find an answer anyway.
Having analyzed the obtained results we can state that any of the contemporary CPUs will be good for games. Let’s take a look at the results once again. Even though all our tests were carried out in real applications are still somewhat synthetic. In order to reveal the performance dependence on the CPU speed we had to set lower resolution, disable anti-aliasing, reduce the textures quality, etc. In these testing conditions all CPUs provided more or less acceptable fps rate. Some processors were faster, some were slower, however, in real gameplay with real graphics quality settings any gamer would use all this advantage will disappear. This is because the graphics quality and other gaming settings are usually determined by the graphics card potential. By increasing the quality settings, the fps rate will drop down to 40-60 fps, which is ok for normal gaming experience. And you know, any Pentium 4 CPU with the actual working frequency of 3.0GHz and up and any Athlon 64 with the performance rating of 3000+ and up can process that number of frames per second, as we have already shown in our tests. In other words, in real gaming conditions the performance will still be limited by the graphics processor, and not by the CPU.
I have to stress that we arrived at this conclusion having one of the today’s fastest and most powerful graphics cards in our system: NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GT. And if this powerful graphics card doesn’t require a super-fast CPU, then what can we say about the mainstream graphics solutions? It means that gamers with the mainstream or slower video subsystem shouldn’t even think of getting a powerful CPU: it will be just a waste of money.
So, we can state that games are not the applications you should look at when shopping for the new CPU. There should be some other applications involved, and each of you should define the set of tasks for himself.