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[ABT]Core i7 vs. Penryn vs. Phenom II

2624 Views 27 Replies 22 Participants Last post by  vdek
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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 1680Ã-1050 and 1920Ã-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 2Ã-2 GB Kingston DDR3 PC18000. We added it to the 1Ã-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 valueâ€, 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 â€" this one with the HD4870-X2 and the GTX 280 â€" 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 â€" 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 â€" AMD’s Phenom II versus Intel’s Penryn versus Core i7. We shall see what happens when performance meets value in PC gaming.

Pretty thorough comparison of i7 920 vs Q9550s vs Phenom II 720. Kind of sad that they didn't test amd phenom quad core, but guess they didn't have it available. Before bashing please read the bolded stuff.

SOURCE
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The result that penryn does better in games than the lynnfield is a bit sketchy.
A semi-thorough review - for gaming at least. I would have liked to see some encoding-type benchmarks, as well as multi-gpu gaming, where I believe the i7 has an advantage.

In any case, this doesn't seem to tell us anything we don't already know. You don't need an i7 for gaming, and that while AMD's offerings are typically inferior, they are a very good value.
Very interesting review.

I must admit though, I've seen a heavily OC'ed i7 pull pretty far ahead of my 720BE when running the Crysis warhead bench.
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Originally Posted by tehpwnerofn00bs
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A semi-thorough review - for gaming at least. I would have liked to see some encoding-type benchmarks, as well as multi-gpu gaming, where I believe the i7 has an advantage.

In any case, this doesn't seem to tell us anything we don't already know. You don't need an i7 for gaming, and that while AMD's offerings are typically inferior, they are a very good value.

Well X2 is a a multie GPU and if thats what i7 is better at then stick with dual cards or single cards. I am sure GTX295, 4870X2, 5890, 4850X2 are more then enough. I always thought i7 would be a lot better then a X3 matching it in games is kind of sad. I remember the good old days were AMD64 was a lot faster then P4 in games. Also in terms of encoding a quad core is more then then enough. I would care lees if a i7 does something 10s faster then a PII.
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I think I'll be buying an X3 720
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Originally Posted by ZealotKi11er
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5890.

I would love to know where you got your hands on one of those
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so in conclusion, it doesnt really matter what cpu you buy, its better to put more money into the gfx card if you game a lot.
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Originally Posted by RotaryKnight
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so in conclusion, it doesnt really matter what cpu you buy, its better to put more money into the gfx card if you game a lot.

This.
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Wait...a yorkfield quad at 4.0Ghz is better then i7 @ 3.8?

Is the small l2 cache finally showing its weakness and so what about all the other reviews where i7 destroys everything else?
Nice to see Penryn give such a strong showing, especially coming through on minimum FPS many times. 12MB Cache seems to be quite the ace in the hole.
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Originally Posted by Abrajam View Post
hmmm thats nice wow surprised on the q9550

Hrm... perhaps an upgrade is to be reconsidered...
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Originally Posted by GSingh View Post
The result that penryn does better in games than the lynnfield is a bit sketchy.
The biggest issue I see is that I do a lot more than just game. I really don't care how it compares in game anymore. At the time of purchase I sank 2000.00 in this PC. My last PC was a UD3P, and Q9300, with 4GB RAM. I seriously cannot really tell any difference from one or the other in terms of real world feel. Both systems are very very fast and I do not lag of anything really.

Long story short aside from having the ability to say it, there is no reason to upgrade from a Q series if you already have one.
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i7 does not really offer any significant advantages over the Q9550 or Phenom II for gaming. Intel designed the i7 to improve multi-threaded application performance imho.
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Originally Posted by 1keith1
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I would love to know where you got your hands on one of those


I meant 5970 and with all the version and numbers u get confused some times.
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I was already planning on getting a Phenom II x3 720be on black friday, but now I really want one!
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Originally Posted by rasa123
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I was already planning on getting a Phenom II x3 720be on black friday, but now I really want one!

you can try a athlon II x3. its a lot cheaper then the PH II x3 and I am pretty sure it would still be as fast as the PH II x3 in games if taken in relation to the ABT charts.
But the 720 is a BE
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For gaming, the i7 is only truly useful if you are running SLI/CF... Otherwise it will be fairly equal to previous gen cards... Most games don't utilize multi-threading enough to make the i7 reach its full potential.
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Originally Posted by RotaryKnight
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you can try a athlon II x3. its a lot cheaper then the PH II x3 and I am pretty sure it would still be as fast as the PH II x3 in games if taken in relation to the ABT charts.
But the 720 is a BE

The loss of L3 cache will be noticeable in games. Sure, you could overclock a bit to overcome it. But, there's still a clock for clock advantage with the 720 BE.

Though, I'm looking to get an Athlon II X4 620 anyway because it's cheap and I like 4 cores.
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