As I’ve already mentioned a few days ago I started testing the new Intel Sandy Bridge platform for gaming in 2D and stereo 3D mode with the idea to see if the added CPU performance will benefit you with better framerates in games. I’ve used my current 3D test PC based on an Asus P55 Sabertooth motherboard with an Intel Core i5 750 and two GeForce GTX 580 video cards running in SLI to compare it to the newer Asus P67 Sabertooth motherboard together with an Intel Core i5 2500K processor. I’ve ran the same benchmarks on the standard frequencies and then at overclocked frequencies for both processors on the tho platforms.
On the Asus P55 Sabertooth motherboard I’ve ran all the benchmarks with the Intel Core i5 750 processor at both the default frequency of 2.66 GHz and then with about 50% overclock with the quad-core processor running at 4 GHz. The two GTX 580 video cards were running in SLI with their default frequencies, so it was only up to the processor to provide better performance.
The newer Asus P67 Sabertooth motherboard builds on the P55 model that I currently have, still offering very nice set of features and a great overclocking potential for the Sandy Bridge platform. I’ve had the motherboard installed in the test system together with an Intel Core i5 2500K processor with water cooling.
The Intel Core i5 2500K processor is also a quad-core model, running at 3.3 GHz by default (the 3.4 GHz on the screenshot above is due to the Turbo mode) and the goal with that processor was also to get it overclocked with about 50% and that means 5 GHz. I’ve had no trouble getting to 5 GHz, thanks to the good motherboard and the water cooling, although the required voltage is a bit high, the CPU I have is not among the top overclockers, but is still quite good (batch L051).
But now let us see how good is to have a faster processor with some benchmarks, I’m starting with 3DMark 2006 and 3DMark 2011 (11), both are synthetic tests and do not reflect real world usage. But it is still interesting to see how a faster CPU can increase the performance. In 3DMark 2006 the result in points scales quite nice, but this is due to the fact that the test is running at a lower resolution and is more CPU dependent than the newer version 11. In 3DMark 2011 I’ve used the extreme mode that stresses the video car much more and the end result is not that CPU dependent, so the increase in performance is not that big.
Moving to games, the table above shows the results in six different popular games, more demanding titles that also work well in stereo 3D mode. They were run in 1920×1080 resolution, with maximum level of details, 4xAA was enabled in COD: Black Ops, Fallout New Vegas and Left 4 Dead 2, the AAA mode was active in Metro 2033 and 2xAA in Mafia 2 with Just Cause 2 being the only one without AA. As you can see there is nice improvement with a faster CPU, with the new Sandy Bridge platform running at default frequency getting results that are very close to the ones achieved with the overclocked older platform. There is a nice improvement, although not that big when comparing the result with the default frequency of the processors and after that when they are overclocked with 50% higher frequency.
And repeating the same thing as above, but now the games are ran with stereo 3D mode enabled through 3D Vision. Have in mind that the framerate numbers you see in the table above for the stereo 3D mode represent the average number of frames measured per eye, so the actual number of frames rendered are twice as much. Another thing to note is that due to the way the technology works (vsync is enabled) the maximum framerate is 60 fps per eye, so games that get very close to 60 fps will have no noticeable performance increase. So the two games that you should point your attention to in this table of results are the more heavier Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metro 2033 and Just Cause 2 that are rendering much less than 60 fps per eye. Call of Duty: Black Ops and Just Cause 2 do show good improvement with a faster processor speed, however in Metro 2033 the improvement is less apparent. The reason that Metro 2033 is not scaling that well with a faster CPU speed is that the game is relying too much on the video cards using technologies like PhysX and heavier tessellation in DX11 mode.
So what are the conclusions after all of this, simple, the faster the processor – the better, however overclocking your video card(s) can often bring better performance increase than overclocking the processor when talking about gaming. One of the reasons for that is due to the fact that most games still cannot take full advantage of all the cores available in a multi-core processor. So the new Intel Sandy Bridge platform is a good choice for a high-end gaming PC with a powerful video card, or better make them two in SLI, but aside from overclocking the processor you should overclock the video cards as well. Playing games in stereo 3D can benefit from a faster processor and the Sandy Bridge CPUs do handle nice and offer good overclocking potential. The Asus Sabertooth series of motherboards, both for the older and for the newer platform, is also a good choice and my personal favorite… not only because of the way they look, but also because they offer a nice set of features and offer a great overclocking potential and experience. And in a few weeks we should also start seeing the new revised B3 chipset for the Sandy Bridge platform back in motherboards on the market. So it is upgrade time… ;)