Performance Meets Value – Core i7 vs. Penryn vs. Phenom II
In our never ending quest to help you decide on which hardware is right for you, we are examining CPU platforms again. We have recently purchased Intel’s Core i7 920 processor from NewEgg.com and are going to benchmark it for you. We started out benchmarking well over a year ago with Intel’s E4300 which we managed to overclock from its stock 1.8 GHz, to 3.33 GHz. We next purchased Intel’s E8600 which clock-for-clock convincingly beat the overclocked E4300’s older architecture at its stock 3.33 GHz; never mind that we could get way more performance from E8600 with it overclocked to 4.25 GHz.
We have consistently tested all of our CPU platforms with our HD 4870, HD 4870-X2, HD 4870-X3 TriFire and GTX 280 as our top GPUs. We always test at 1680×1050 and 1920×1200 resolutions and always with maxed out DX10 settings (whenever possible) and always with 4xAA/16xAF applied.
Last year ABT got an engineering sample of Q9550S from Intel that reaches 4.0 GHz and we put our E8600 to the test where it failed to meet the quad-core’s performance in the few games that use more than two cores despite the fact that it overclocked +260 MHz higher. We then purchased an AMD value system from Newegg.com and compared the Athlon II 250 X2 with our Phenom II 550 X2 and with the Phenon II 720 X3 against our flagship Q9550S at stock, 3.5 GHz and at 3.9 to 4.0 GHz, depending on how far we could individually overclock each CPU.
We continued to test with our HD 4870-X2 and the GTX 280. Our HD 4870-X2 is very representative of the new HD 5870 performance as well as HD 4870 CrossFire. The GTX 280 is roughly equivalent to the GTX 275 or the HD 4890. These latest tests were run here and we tested with Catalyst 9-6 and GeForce 186.18.
For our new testing in this review, we use these same two video cards but are now benching with Catalyst 9-9 and GeForce 191.07. This time, we will now use only our highest performing Phenom II that was available to us last month, 720 X3. We will test it against our Q9550S and our new Core i7 920 that we just purchased from NewEgg.com together with a Gigabyte EX58-UD3R motherboard and 2×2 GB Kingston DDR3 PC18000. We added it to the 1×2 GB for tri-channel that we got from Kingston earlier this year which Karan tested and found it to be extremely fast and stable in his review here. So now we have the highest performing and rather expensive Core i7 system from Intel to set alongside their now midrange Penryn Q9550S and also to compare with the decidedly value AMD Phenom II X3. We will test performance at their stock clocks, 3.5 GHz and at each CPU’s maximum overclock.
When we say “performance meets value”, we mean that the Core i7 X58 motherboard is almost double the price of its Phenom II counterpart, the i7 920 CPU itself is almost $100 more expensive than AMD’s flagship quad processor and the tri-channel DDR3 RAM is also more than double what one would pay for memory for the AMD DDR2 platform. So we naturally ask, “is it worth it?’
We also expect our review to be in two parts – this one with the HD4870-X2 and the GTX 280 – and Part 2 which will cover HD 4870-X3 Tri-Fire and Catalyst 9-10. Since we want to really push our Core i7, we will also use the fastest graphics available to us – Tri-Fire’s HD 4870-X2 + HD 4870. We will also retest our Phenom II 720 X3 and 550 X2 and add our newly purchased Phenom II 955 X4 into the mix to see how AMD quads stack up to Penryn’s Q9550 and Core i7 CPUs when coupled with relatively fast multi-GPU graphics.
Please continue on to the next page for the complete hardware and software setup of our three platforms – AMD’s Phenom II versus Intel’s Penryn versus Core i7. We shall see what happens when performance meets value in PC gaming.