From reading reviews and posts, not just on this forum but any hardware enthusiast site, I can get the impression that for building a gaming machine, the Phenom is a horrible choice. While it certainly does have its fair share of problems (clock speed, TDP, etc.), gaming is certainly not one of them.
But the question is, if AMD’s Phenom just happened to overpower Intel’s Core 2 Quad in anything clock-for-clock would anybody notice? Specifically, I'm speaking of gaming performane here. During my aimless wandering throughout the internet, I came across a set of benchmarks at OverclockersClub. While the topic of this specific review was Intel’s Q9450, there are some interesting numbers regarding the Q6600 (2.4GHz) and the Phenom 9600 (2.3GHz). These are the two processors I will be comparing.
These tests were performed with a GeForce 8800GT at settings that users would actually play at with this card. I feel that this makes these numbers valuable since they should be representative of what someone would experience with a similar system. Note that because the graphs are all in Flash rather than images, I can’t actually post the graphs here, but you can check out the review here
First up is the Crysis SP Demo, which was tested at all medium settings and 2xAA. At 1024x768, you can see that the 9600BE is really no match for the Q6600 (-8fps). But, at 1680x1050 it becomes much closer and the Q6600 only has a 4fps lead over the Phenom. Moving up to 1920x1200, the slower-clocked 9600BE actually outperforms the Q6600 by a single fps.
Crysis CPU Winner: Tie (at higher resolutions, they each win one)
Moving on to the Crysis GPU test, at both 1680x1050 and 1920x1200, the Phenom 9600BE delivers higher framerates than not only the Q6600, but the QX9770 and the overclocked Q9450 as well.
Crysis GPU Winner: Phenom
The next game tested was “Knights of the Sea” (DX10, High Quality), which I don’t really know anything about, but it’s tested anyway. At both of the higher resolutions, there’s really no room for argument that the 9600BE doesn’t keep up with the Q6600.
Knights of the Sea Winner: Q6600
As for BioShock (Max Settings), the Phenom is definitely more competitive than with the previous test, but it still isn’t quite enough to gain the edge over the C2Q part.
BioShock Winner: Q6600
Call of Duty 4 is obviously a very popular game, and the results are kind of interesting (Max Settings, 4xAA, Max AF). At both of the higher resolutions, the 9600BE manages to outpace the Q6600 despite the clock speed disadvantage.
CoD 4 Winner: Phenom
World in Conflict is next, and was tested at Very High detail with 16xAF.At 1680x1050, the 9600BE barely beats the Q6600, but at 1920x1200 it again beats not only the Q6600, but the QX9770 and Q9450 as well.
WiC Winner: Phenom
Next up is Call of Juarez (High Detail, 2048x2048 Shadowmaps, Normal Shadow Q, 4xAA). Although the framerates weren’t playable, the 9600BE matches the Q6600 at 1680x1050, but at 1920x1200 it manages to best the QX9770 and Q9450 again, barely.
CoJ Winner: Phenom
The final game test was Company of Heroes which was run with max settings and 8xAA. This test is interesting because the Phenom just dominates the Q6600, QX9770, and the Q9450 at every resolution. The higher resolutions actually make the C2Q look completely uncompetitive.
CoH Winner: Phenom
Looking at the results here, even though the 9600BE is clocked slower than the Q6600, it still manages to come out on top for gaming 5 out of 7 times. Perhaps even more impressively, 3 of those 7 times it bests a 3.2GHz C2Q. The point here is that if someone is building a gaming machine, and wants to go quad core, Phenom may genuinely be the better solution.
UPDATE: It seems as if the same property holds true for Phenom X3's vs Core 2 Duo's:
With an HD3870X2...
Crysis CPU & GPU:
Company of Heroes:
World in Conflict:
With an 8800GT... @ 1680x1050 & 1920x1200... (Repeated tests omitted)
Knights of the Sea (DX10, High Image Quality):
Call of Duty 4 (Max Settings, Extra Texture Q., Max AF, 4xAA):
Call of Juarez (High Detail, 2048x2048 Shadowmaps, Normal Shadow Q., 4xAA):
Despite a 600MHz+ clock speed disadvantage, the Phenom still comes out on top in every game tested except World in Conflict.
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