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i3 vs i7 - Gaming Performance [updated]

post #1 of 195
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**PLEASE KEEP THIS THREAD CIVIL**

Introduction:
There have been numerous discussion about how different the i3 and i7 perform in games, and whether the more expensive 1366 CPUs are worth it over the much cheaper i3, if you mainly game on your system. There are always many who will say the quad-core i7 will dominate the dual-core i3 and others who will say the i3 can stand up to the i7. I too wondered this, considering I had moved from a Phenom II to an i5-750 to the i3 and not noticed much difference. So I decided to bench off the 2 CPUs against each other to see how they compare in some of todays games.

Test Systems:
Intel Core i3-540 @ 4.2Ghz w/ HT
Gigabyte H55M-UD2H
Corsair XMS3 4GB @ 1608 8-8-8-20 1T
Radeon HD 6970 (Cata 11.1a)
Western Digital Caviar Black (OS)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Intel Core i7-920 @ 4Ghz and 4.2Ghz w/o HT
ASUS P6T WS Professional
Corsair XMS3 4GB @ 1600/1608 8-8-8-20 1T
Radeon HD 6970 (Cata 11.1a)
Western Digital Caviar Black (OS)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit


Games Tested:
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (Operation Aurora - FRAPS)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (In-game benchmark tool)
Crysis Warhead (Benchmark tool - Frost)
Dirt 2 (In-game benchmark tool - London)
Far Cry 2 (Benchmark tool - Ranch small)
Grand Theft Auto IV (In-game benchmark tool)
Just Cause 2 (In-game benchmark tool)
Lost Planet 2 (In-game benchmark tool - Test B)
Metro 2033 (Benchmark tool - Frontline)
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (In-game benchmark tool)


Testing Methodology:

Unlike most reviews, where games are tested at low to medium quality settings to see a (larger) difference in CPU performance, I ran these games at the highest possible settings because as with most other people with similar hardware, they would run the games at the highest (playable) settings they could, so it would be pointless to run on low or medium settings. Click the links for the settings for Lost Planet 2 and GTA IV, as they were not set to maximum because they were unplayable. The settings for Metro 2033 were DX11, V.high quality, AAA and AF 4X with tessellation on and Advanced DoF off. AA was set to highest (where possible) in all other games, aside from the above. All games were run at 1920x1080 resolution. Where FPS is zero, it is because the benchmark tool did not provide minimum fps results.

Results:
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008.jpg

009.jpg


Conclusion:
So there you have it. In most cases the i3 outperforms the i7, however it lags behind in Lost Planet 2, GTA IV and Dawn of War 2 - Games which require more CPU power. While there is not a huge difference (in most cases) here, there could be a bottleneck in Multi-GPU setups, where the CPU would need to do more work, so I suspect the i3 would fall further behind the i7 there although I don't have a pair of one graphics card to test so I can't provide those results. Overall though, these results amazed me because I thought the i7 would beat the i3 by a long way in most of these games, however that is not the case.

So if you considering moving from an i3 to an i7 and the main thing you do on your system is game then it may not be worth it to you, or if you are thinking of moving from an older generation of CPUs but are constricted by a budget, then the i3 is great once overclocked. Of course you could always upgrade for "future-proofing", especially now that an i7 setup can be had for a good price. In the end the i7 is still a better buy if you have the money for it but if you don't and are thinking of saving up but need a desperate upgrade, the i3 is something else you can consider for a lot less that will give you comparable performance in most of the games.

Thanks for reading and i appreciate any feedback.
~Razi3l

Edited by Razi3l - 8/19/11 at 3:40pm
    
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post #2 of 195
Wicked sick review mate!
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post #3 of 195
Nice comparison, a little surprising. I mean I know most games are still optimized for dual core, I guess I was hoping more would be taking advantage of the quad. I wonder how much the non-triple-channel ram (4gb?) hurt the i7.
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post #4 of 195
Very interesting review.
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post #5 of 195
Quote:
Originally Posted by BinaryDemon;12422767 
Nice comparison, a little surprising. I mean I know most games are still optimized for dual core, I guess I was hoping more would be taking advantage of the quad. I wonder how much the non-triple-channel ram (4gb?) hurt the i7.

Maybe a single frame per second tongue.gif
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post #6 of 195
get raped lol

nice review
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post #7 of 195
Thank you, Razi3l, for making this comparison. I for one have grown tired of people saying that dualcores are pure crap for gaming nowadays, and that one would be stupid to buy one since they aren't worth anything anymore. This comparison however proves all of those people wrong ( looking at you, people who say that Sandy Bridge processors are the only ones worth buying anymore tongue.gif ), and might also prevent people from dumping more money into a system than necessary.
+ rep for this one Razi3l, you deserve it !
    
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post #8 of 195
wow this is very surprising and very angrying at the same time, this review tells me that basically for what I do from day to day I could easily do fine with a dual core over a quad core until I add more gpu's? ***!
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post #9 of 195
The better test would have been to compare them with the processors at the same speed instead of one clocked to 4.2ghz and one at 4.0ghz. We all know that most games are only using 2 cores and are more dependent on MHZ when the same GPU is being used.
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post #10 of 195
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by appleg33k85;12422904 
The better test would have been to compare them with the processors at the same speed instead of one clocked to 4.2ghz and one at 4.0ghz. We all know that most games are only using 2 cores and are more dependent on MHZ when the same GPU is being used.

True, but these were typical overclocks. To get the most I could just put the i3 at 4.5Ghz but not every chip will hit that, but most should do 4.2 fine, same for the i7, not every one will do 4.2 and 4Ghz is more common. I guess some can argue its not totally fair but the i7 has more cache for example and all that so rolleyes.gif
    
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