New test protocoleWe elaborated a new test protocol for this review. We’d been using the old one (the one used in our giant 185 CPU roundup) for two years and it was time to make some changes. To make sure we were prepared for the launch of a new architecture with such variable performance and to get as thorough a vision as possible, we opted to increase the number of tests.
For our 3D tests, we moved up to the 2011 version of 3ds Max, and we used close-up scenes supplied by Evermotion, one prepared for the built-in rendering engine, Mental Ray, and the other for another very popular rendering engine, V-Ray 2.0.
For compilation we switched to the source code of the 3D Ogre engine which is compiled both via MinGW / GCC and Visual Studio 2010. We have added 7-Zip, more effective both in terms of compression and multithreaded use, to WinRAR for file compression.
For video encoding we have kept x264, in its latest 2085 build, in tandem with the StaxRip interface and carried out a two-pass encoding of an extract from Avatar. The same encoding was also carried out with the MainConcept H.264 codec using the Reference application.
We have also introduced a processing test for RAW photo file lots. After trying many different pieces of software, we went with Adobe Lightroom, the leader in this domain, and Bibble.
We finished up our tour of applications with quite an unusual choice, namely artificial intelligence chess algorithms. We used Fritz Chess Benchmarking, by Chess Base, as well as Houdini Pro 2.0 via the Arena 3 interface.
Next come the tests designed to evaluate processor gaming performance. Once again, we decided to increase the number of tests and ran seven games:
- Crysis 2
- Arma II: Operation Arrowhead
- F1 2011
- Rise Of Flight
- Total War: Shogun 2
- Starcraft II
- Anno 1404
These tests were still carried out at maximum quality detail settings (not including anti-aliasing), with the exception of Crysis 2 where we opted for Ultra instead of Extreme mode as there wasn’t sufficient playability at Extreme mode with just one graphics card. We also abandoned the 800*600 resolution and have provided scores at 1920*1080, nevertheless looking for quite heavy scenes in which processor limitations come into play.
For Crysis 2, we used a solo game saved in a high load scene and measured the framerate during a continuous burst of firing, while in Arma II: OA with all graphics options at max, crossing a village in the first mission was enough to have many CPUs on their knees. In F1 2011, we measured the framerate at the start of the Monaco GP and in Rise Of Flight we launched a customised mission of 32 against 32, with the framerate measured with the back-facing view of our 31 acolytes.
In Total War Shogun 2 we used the huge battle of the 'DX9 CPU' test modified for DX11 and suitable graphics settings, while in Starcraft II a major attack during a replay was generously donated by some French forum users. For Anno 1404 we loaded up a scene of a city of 46,600 inhabitants that we viewed from a distance.
For this test we set the AMD FX’s up against their Phenom II X4 and X6 predecessors as well as the LGA 1155 Sandy Bridge Core i7/i5/i3s and the LGA 1156 Lynnfield Core i7/i5s. We also included the LGA 775 platform as a reference, in the form of the Q6600 and the Q9650 and QX9770. Because of a lack of time we didn’t do any testing on the LGA 1366 platform this time, but unfortunately it has to be said that the AMD FXs already have their hands full with the quad core Intel CPUs, as you’ll see:
- ASUSTeK P5QC (LGA775)
- Intel DP55KG (LGA1156)
- Intel DP67BG (LGA1155)
- ASUS M5A99X EVO (AM3+)
- 2x4 GB DDR3-1066 7-7-7 (Q6600)
- 2x4 GB DDR3-1333 7-7-7 (Q9650)
- 2x4 GB DDR3-1600 9-9-9
- GeForce GTX 580 + GeForce 280.26
- SSD Intel X25-M 160 GB + SSD Intel 320 120 GB
- Corsair AX650 Gold power supply