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Intel Sandy Bridge Plus SLI for Stereo 3D Gaming with 3D Vision

February 23rd, 2011 · 13 Comments · GeForce 3D Vision

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… ;)

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nick 3DvB // Feb 24, 2011 at 02:12

    5GHz!!! Nice OCing! 8 )

    I expected more fps scaling with CPU speed?

    Hopefully Crysis 2 can put all those CPU cores to good use.

  • 2 Bloody // Feb 24, 2011 at 12:57

    Lately games are becoming more and more dependent on the video card performance and capabilities and thus they rely less on the CPU, especially if you have a quad or six-core processor that they cannot fully utilize. Unfortunately games still cannot take full advantage of multi-core processors and still use only one or two cores at max…

  • 3 tritosine // Feb 24, 2011 at 14:10

    As expected . Just as I can mitigate the cpu limit imposed by the phenom2 running at 3.2ghz stock and stock cooler ( in another room) at 1280*720, by just engaging 3d vision, system becomes completely gpu limited, with SLI running at 85-95% usage. Good job nVidia , I hope this is my last x86 cpu . :)

  • 4 Bloody // Feb 24, 2011 at 15:12

    I’ll do some more tests with the video cards overclocked to compare what further benefits can be achieved in terms of improved performance in 2D (plain 3D) and stereo 3D mode… with the CPU running at 5GHz of course ;)

  • 5 steve // Feb 24, 2011 at 15:42

    Could we see some minimum frame results please? I’d expect the overclocking to help out immensely there :)

  • 6 Rhialto // Feb 24, 2011 at 19:37

    hmmm.. Was looking for a single GTX 560 Ti and a 2600K. Now I see you have 2 x GTX 580 in SLI and I look at Metro 2033 results. I bought that game a few months ago but it’s unplayeable on my current setup.

    One solution would be to keep my CRT and lower the resolution. I would not like to play on a LCD outside of native resolution and that’s why I never bought a LCD.

  • 7 Mathew Orman // Feb 24, 2011 at 21:56

    That is not worth the expense and risks involving over-hitting and or damaging the processor.
    I would simply get two nVidia graphics card and outperform this setup without any risks and cooling hardware expenses.
    It is just an overprices gimmick which is not the best or preferred solution to increase rendering speed for Games running in stereoscopic mode.

    Mathew Orman

  • 8 Nick 3DvB // Feb 27, 2011 at 01:21

    Who’s “setup” are you talking about Matt? Bloody’s new system is already using two GTX580 in SLI, so good luck with out-performing that! Over-clocking is an over-priced gimmick? lol There is no risk, if you know what you are doing, I have over-clocked every CPU I have owned (sinse 486!) and I have never damaged one yet. It is still cheaper to overclock a good mid-range CPU ( normally the same core as a high-end model anyway) and to buy a good cooling system then it is to buy a $1000 top model CPU, those “extreme” CPU models really are for lazy people with more money than sense…

  • 9 Silversurfer // Mar 24, 2011 at 17:27

    isn’t the reviewer losing GPU bandwidth on the p57/p67 Intel chipset with X16/X8 ssli PCI express slot speeds as opposed to the x57 [and the future x78 chipset mobo’s later this year] with the x16/X16 sli slot speeds?
    otherwise, this is a very helpful review structure of S-3D hardware.

  • 10 Bloody // Mar 24, 2011 at 17:39

    Yes, there is a slight decrease in the performance when both PCI-E slots are running in x8 mode. But we need another chipset to support dual x16 with Sandy Bridge, and until then we are stuck with x8/x8.

  • 11 Domoaligato // May 3, 2011 at 22:46

    do you happen to have a build log for this system?
    I have 2xEVGA GTX 580’s in SLI and need the info on the fitting you used to connect the 2 gtx 580 blocks together in serial.


  • 12 Domoaligato // May 3, 2011 at 22:47

    fyi I also have a sabertooth P67 with the wierd spaced PCI-EX slots that is why I am asking.

    Thanks again!

  • 13 Bloody // May 3, 2011 at 23:39

    It is a variable SLI/Crossfire VID connection nipple G1/4′, don’t remember what brand it was… maybe it was from Phobya.

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