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Benchmark Results: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

AMD FX-8150 Review: From Bulldozer To Zambezi To FX
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When Cataclysm first launched, we wrote a guide on its performance across a wide range of processors, graphics cards, and in-game settings (World Of Warcraft: Cataclysm--Tom's Performance Guide). In that story, we identified some very clear performance trends: mainly, that the then-experimental DirectX 11 code path really helped performance, that Nvidia’s cards ran much faster than AMD’s, and that Intel’s CPUs blew AMD’s out of the water.

Now, DirectX 11 is a supported component of the game (and we’re testing with it today). We’re using GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards, eliminating the graphics variable altogether, and yet we still see the AMD processors struggle.

At 1680x1050, Zambezi runs nearly 40 FPS slower than Core i5-2500K without AA. That hit you see the Intel chips taking? A result of the increased graphics load with 8xAA applied. The Core i7-920 and AMD processors don’t realize the same penalty because they’re what’s limiting performance. Our GeForce GTX 580 still has speed to give down there in the 70-80 FPS range.

Fast-forward to 2560x1600. Increased graphics load with anti-aliasing enabled knocks all six contenders down to about 60 FPS. However, without AA, you still get about 25 FPS more on a Core i5-2500K.

It’s a bummer that the Bulldozer architecture isn’t able to put any distance on AMD’s quad- and hexa-core flagships in this popular, mainstream title. Keep one thing in mind, though: we’re using a GeForce GTX 580, the fastest single-GPU graphics card you can buy. If you’re using a less powerful graphics card, the bar where it’ll emerge as your performance-limiter will drop, making FX-8150 look better. I don’t like the fact that AMD has to rely on other components bottlenecking performance to achieve parity, but that’s how this works.

Make The Right Comparison

This brings us to an important point. In an attempt to discount Intel's top-of-the-line platform, AMD shows what you’d spend on a Core i7-980X-based gaming machine versus its FX-8150. The cost of a triple-channel memory kit, X58-based motherboard, and Extreme Edition processor adds roughly $800 bucks. Crazy, right?

But if AMD’s marketing department read Tom’s Hardware, it’d know that we don’t even recommend Gulftown-based chips for gaming. We’re fans of CPUs that leave more of your budget available for graphics muscle. From my Core i7-990X review:

“Now, in the face of a new flagship processor, we see that there are actually situations where a Core i7-900-series chip still makes sense. Frankly, enthusiasts and gamers need not apply…The $770 you pocket as a result of not buying an Extreme Edition CPU buys a sick set of GeForce GTX 570s in SLI and a couple terabytes of storage.”

Just be careful with the marketing. FX-8150 goes up against Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2500K—not Core i7-980X. You’ll pay the same for memory, close to the same for a motherboard, and more or less for the processor itself, depending on your decision to use the i5 or i7 as a point of comparison. Some games are graphics-limited, so the FX consequently fares really well. Other titles let the CPU stretch its legs more. And, at least in the games tested here, Sandy Bridge appears to have more “in it.”

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