Our testing showed that when gaming at high resolutions the limiting factor is not the processor, but is actually the graphics card. This was shown to be true in three out of the six games that we benchmarked. We used the ATI Radeon X1900XTX graphics card, which is the fastest single card GPU on the market (not counting the NVIDIA 7950GX2) and comes priced at a healthy $499 so it’s not like we put in a weak video card by any means. The reason we didn’t run X1900 CrossFire is because how many people can really afford it to start with? Most gamers we know still run a single GPU and no physics card! We tried to make our testing go along with what marketing data has shown in recent months.
The bulk majority of gamers run resolutions of 1280×1024 or lower and for this group of gamers the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6600 won five out of the six games when tested at this resolution. In the benchmarks where the processor mattered like Comanche 4, Far Cry and X3 Reunion the Intel processor was able to show clear advantages versus the AMD competition.
So after running these benchmarks it’s clear that at 1600×1200 and the eye candy enabled the GPU is the limiting factor right now when it comes to gaming performance. With the next generation ATI and NVIDIA graphics solutions already taped out and due for a launch later this year we should be seeing better gaming performance before Windows Vista starts shipping.
As for which processor wins the battle? The answer really isn’t that easy to answer. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 processors have a ton of support in the market right now. You can find AMD AM2 motherboards running chipsets from ATI, VIA and NVIDIA all over the place. An example of this is Newegg and the fact that they carry 36 AMD AM2 motherboards with the prices starting as low as $63 for one of these boards. If you look at the Intel side of the market it’s still just starting out with very few Intel 965 Express based motherboards on the market. This morning Newegg only lists five Intel 965 Express Core 2 Duo ready motherboards with pricing starting out at $148 and two of the five are sold out. With the Intel 965 Express chipset being out for nearly six weeks I expected more than five motherboards to available today. Like I pointed out in my launch article the limiting factor for Intel will be their chipsets.
AMD has said for weeks they want to be the price versus performance leader and when the prices drop on AMD processors next week I have no doubt that AMD’s platform will be cheaper to build for the time being. With that said and done most people use their computers for more than just playing games, so be sure to take a look at the bigger picture before your next purchase.
Feel free to look here for some non-gaming performance numbers between Conroe and AM2.