In our article called First Look at Presler: Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955 CPU Review we described all the issues connected with the performance of the dual-core processors in games in great detail. The thing is that even though the current version of NVIDIA drivers does support multi-threading formally, in reality this support is not quite polished-off yet. In other words, we do not doubt the presence of multi-threading support in the current version of NVIDIA’s ForceWare drivers, but for some reason it is activated not every time when it could really improve the performance. As a result, we see pretty strange fluctuations in the obtained results. This is actually the reason why in the previous review we didn’t enable the multi-threading support in the drivers at all.
NVIDIA gave us a new driver version 81.97 for this new round of benchmarks. According to the driver developers, all the above listed problems have been successfully eliminated in this driver version. I have to admit that this is mostly true. In most cases we noticed a performance improvement in systems built with dual-core processors. However, not all the problems have been eliminated. For example, you will have to disable the multi-threading support in the drivers for AMD Toledo based systems if the games support multi-threading already. Otherwise, you will not be able to achieve the maximum performance. Moreover, Pentium Extreme Edition processors featuring four computational virtual cores puzzle the drivers completely, so that we have to disable the Hyper-Threading technology in these CPUs, in order to achieve more or less correct results.
Therefore, since the situation with the drivers hasn’t been completely resolved yet, and the drivers haven’t been optimized for dual-core processors, the benchmark results should still be regarded as preliminary.
According to the diagrams above, a lot of gaming applications, even not the most contemporary ones, can actually benefit significantly from the use of dual-core processors by simply installing the optimized drivers. For instance, you can see the effect from these drivers in Half-Life 2 and FarCry with a naked eye. Contemporary dual-core processors outperform the top-of-the-line single-core CPUs in these games. However, in some latest gaming titles, such as F.E.A.R., the dual-core architecture provides almost no evident advantage.
As for the performance correlation between the Intel; and AMD CPUs, the release of the optimized drivers doesn’t change anything. AMD processors remain faster in games. And even overclocking doesn’t help Intel to win back the leadership.