Core i5, Core i7, CrossFire, And SLI: Gaming Paradise, Redux?

Benchmark Results: Far Cry 2

Using Ultra Quality settings, Far Cry 2 crosses the threshold from CPU- to GPU-bound. With one Radeon HD 4870 X2 installed, you get very similar performance across all five of our test platforms at 1680x1050. But adding a second in CrossFire shows where the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II get choked up, and where the Core i7 and Core i5 stretch their legs. The same as true at 2560x1600—you get amazing performance from a $199 Core i5 and two $400 Radon HD 4870 X2. Sounds disgustingly imbalanced, right? Nevertheless, Intel’s entry-level i5 delivers the goods.

A single GeForce GTX 285 actually favors AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, ironically enough, at 1680x1050, but the results even out at 2560x1600. SLI does help Nvidia here, but not nearly as much as ATI’s CrossFire. And because we didn’t test on the 790i or 980a chipsets--less common platforms than 790GX or P45, we say--there’s no way to tell how an Nvidia-based solution would fare against the three Nehalem-based builds.

We see a similar story with the introduction of anti-aliasing. The numbers aren’t as high, of course, but a single Radeon HD 4870 X2 is still constrained by our benchmarked platforms. Meanwhile, a pair of the flagship cards takes off when backed by either of the Core i7s or Intel’s new Core i5. AMD’s Phenom II X4 965 edges out the Core 2 Quad, but both platforms trail still.

In contrast, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 285 favors the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II with only a single board installed. The SLI-capable X58 and P55 configurations demonstrate significant gains with a second card available, but again we’re left to wonder if SLI-equipped Core 2 Quad and Phenom II platforms would outperform the newer Core i7 and Core i5 chips if more prevalent motherboards were available for them.

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  • wild9
    Interesting..whilst the Phenom II is a refined core rather than a new design, it still seems able to hold it's weight. It's also apparent that even the fastest Core i5's and i7's are getting some great results not from nVidia cards, but from AMD/ATI.
  • wild9
    ^ Source: single-card configurations, i.e. what most people can afford.
  • david__t
    "Running at 1680x1050 represents a solid baseline for mainstream gamers, while 2560x1600 serves as today’s Holy Grail."
    With so many people attaching their PCs to 1080p TVs why do we consistenly see a lack of 1920x1080 resolution results? Besides, many people still use top quality 17" & 19" monitors with 1280x1024 resolutions.
  • Anonymous

    At 1280x1024 you sure as hell don't need Tri SLI 285 or CrossfireX 4870x2. In fact single 4850 will do.
  • madogre
    This makes me rethink my whole i5/i7 upgrade at the first of the year.
    I'm guessing my Q6600 @3.6 is alittle faster then the Q9550 used in the tests.
  • Anonymous
    Maybe a i5 and 2x4770 GPU might do some good at a very low price?
  • kasperg
    the Q9550 was only clocked @ 2.83GHz, they should atleast used the Q9650 or OC the Q9550 to 3.4GHz like the PII 965
  • Anonymous
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  • Anonymous
    then why not clock the i7 920 to 4GHz and all of the others accordingly?