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Old Jul 7, 2010, 07:33 AM   #1
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Default Tom's asks "Gamers: Do You Need More Than An Athlon II X3?"

I posted this over at NV News bu I though you guys here might like to discuss this as well.

I did notice that some people would like to give this article a knee-jerk negative evaluation, but if you think about it, it makes sense, as there's plenty of hardware enthusiasts out there who wonder if they should have an $80 CPU and a $300 GPU, or a $300 CPU and an $80 GPU. ... and these guys/gals aren't dumbasses for it, they just might not have a lot of money to play with. This article explores that theme quite well.


http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...ance,2619.html

Quote:
AMD's Athlon II X3 440 is such a capable little chip, and and it costs so little. Is there any real point in spending more money on your gaming machine’s CPU? We explore this question with a head-to-head challenge against Intel's venerable Core i7-920.
Quote:
Since its release, the Athlon II X3 440 has had a strong impact on our recommended gaming CPU list. When you combine its high 3 GHz clock speed, trio of processor cores, and sub-$90 price tag, you end up with a real force in the gaming arena. On top of that, the third processing core allows the Athlon II X3 to be an especially great processor compared to dual-core models because that extra core can smooth out desktop performance when multitasking.

When it comes to gaming, though, the CPU can only do so much; the graphics subsystem is key. We've received some feedback on the forums suggesting that our recommendation of any processor more expensive than the Athlon II X3 440 is frivolous. The argument is that, while game performance may increase with a costlier CPU, the money is wasted because the Athlon II X3 440 is supplying all the performance that games require to achieve smooth frame rates, and that upgrading the graphics cards is the only way to remove a meaningful game performance bottleneck.

We decided to run a series of tests to really explore whether or not there's any point in investing in a CPU more powerful than the Athlon II X3 440 for gaming duty. First, we need to examine how we measure game performance and get a better understanding of how meaningful the numbers are.
I hope AMD now understands that its Athlon chips have become very, very viable options for gaming. It seems to me that when they kept the name after introducing the Phenoms that they only wanted Athlons to be office/general use CPUs. But jeez, for the price, despite the lack of L3 cache, these chips are fantastic overall.

Reading the comments (this is Tom's, mind you) I noticed quite a bit of love for the x3 configuration... however, one commenter to me represented an antithesis to the worthwhile-ness of bang-for-the-buck PC gaming. Killerclick posted the following, and it really made me cringe:

Quote:
I'm sick of these hardware articles for poor people. I want to see more benchmarks for triple SLI, CrossFireX and i7 980x. There's no reason to review a piece of hardware that costs less than $500, there's Newegg reviews for that cheap junk.
It's that kind of attitude that keeps things like an Athlon II x4 @ 3.0 ghz being called an "entry-level" chip (lik ein a recent TechPowerUp review). People like this seem to think that a gaming PC is a POS if the case costs below $250, a motherboard costs, below $200, a CPU costs below $300, etc. etc... As great as it is that there are those of us out there that can truly afford the highest-end stuff, it really doesn't help anything/anyone to spread a mantra of "expensive is the only way to go".

... I had kind of thought that by now, x3 chips would be phased out, and wouldn't be a very good option for gaming. But this appears to not be the case. Having that extra core there to help run background processes while the game is being handled by the other two cores is IMO an inexpensive and worth-it luxury.

And yes, I understand that some RTS/MMO titles like Supreme commander make use of more than 3 cores, so 4 and 6 core based systems are at an advantage in titles like this, but not everyone's an MMO/RTS junkie. Many of us play mostly FPS and racing games.

And also, if you're a multi-GPU gamer (in other words: if you have money to throw around), a more expensive CPU will help that Crossfire/SLI setup to realize its full potential... I have no qualms with that, and it makes me wonder how the new x6 CPUs perform in Crossfire/SLI vs i7. ALTHOUGH... it was interesting to see the little Athlon beat the i7 @ Stalker COP @ 25x16 with two 5870s.

Anyway, good article.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 10:54 AM   #2
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Not a bad read, no. I think one of the major sites usually does a full-blown bang-for-the-buck article at least once per year or CPU generation, so we were probably due.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 12:08 PM   #3
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While Killerclick can spend money as he pleases. Newegg reviews can be held in the same regard for expensive hardware. Only the "rich" people will be buying it, and therefor reviewing it.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 01:11 PM   #4
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While Killerclick can spend money as he pleases. Newegg reviews can be held in the same regard for expensive hardware. Only the "rich" people will be buying it, and therefor reviewing it.
interested in a PIII 1.4GHz upgrade to your system?
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 01:23 PM   #5
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Where's overclocking for Athlon II X3? I wanted to see how if it is difference.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 01:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ragejg View Post
And yes, I understand that some RTS/MMO titles like Supreme commander make use of more than 3 cores, so 4 and 6 core based systems are at an advantage in titles like this, but not everyone's an MMO/RTS junkie. Many of us play mostly FPS and racing games.
Sure but look at the mins in World in Conflict. That's a very significant advantage, don't you think?
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 02:41 PM   #7
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You know it's possible to have high end hardware and not be rich. It has a lot to do with being able to create priorities and budget also.

I know plenty of people that take in a much higher income than I do. Yet I drive a nicer car, have a larger nicer home and furnished with high end electronic and computer hardware, while they live pay check to pay check struggling to pay off debts spent on seemingly non-existent goods and non-retain-able services.

That being said, I prefer a plethora of reviews covering both affordable to high-end hardware. I think the reason why there is an abundance of reviews covering low to middle rate hardware is because of how much progress has slowed over the years. It used to be that there was a constant stream of new high end hardware coming to market. Hardly a week/month went by there wasn't something new in CPU or GPU land on the high end. That really isn't the case anymore. Which leaves a lot more room for the lower segments to gather attention to themselves.

While I some what miss the ever present new high end hardware available scene, in some ways its good as I get much more value out of my purchases as I tend to hold on to them longer. Also, hardware holds its value longer also.

Conversely, when I run into a game that could use more power and I'm already running high end hardware, it becomes a waiting game as I've got nothing to upgrade to that is worth the money spent.

That's the situation I'm in now. I've been playing games in triple 1080P resolution using Eyefinity and I can't get both high frame rates and all the eye candy at the same time in every game. I could use some more powerful GPUs. But what do I upgrade to? There isn't much beyond what I have really. 2 GTX480s might make a slight difference. But I'm not convinced it's worth it.

I'm very eager to see the successor to the HD5870 at this point.

As far as using low end AMD processors, I won't for myself. But I have no problem doing so for others specifying a budget. Most people are just looking for a computer, not a gaming PC. While most of my lower end builds are still capable of gaming with decent results, it would never be enough to satisfy me.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 04:41 PM   #8
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Compiling a list of parts I had at the house, and stuff I bought off ebay used I just built the following PC for my cousin.

ATI 3870 - Bought for $42 shipped from a member on here. Not the best card, but should overclock nice.
GB P35, DS3L - 65$ Nice motherboard with good OC potential
Core 2 Duo E6600 - Got off Ebay, 75$ shipped
$19 New Egg Case
$30 250gig 7,200rpm HD
Antec 500w PS, $35
Extra ram I had laying around, valued at 35$

So for a total of $301, I have just built my cousin a computer capable of playing most if not all games currently on the market, with reasonable eye candy and framerate.

I am going to OC the processor to 3.0, and his video card as high as I can get it and that should future proof it another 6 months or so.

Even after games are crushing his system he would still be able to upgrade the video card and the core 2 duo @ 3.0 should be able to keep up... even if we have to swap the heatsink and get it up to 3.4 or so.


There is value to be found in PC hardware... when you aren't trying to keep up with the latest and greatest.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 05:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thacker View Post
ATI 3870 - Bought for $42 shipped from a member on here. Not the best card, but should overclock nice.

Haha from the OP (me)!!

Last edited by ragejg : Jul 7, 2010 at 05:29 PM.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 05:27 PM   #10
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If you don't have 1920x1200 monitor or above then you aren't going to see a huge gap in gaming FPS in most games. But there are advantages to a faster CPU and this comes more and more into play outside gaming in things like encoding, Photoshop, and other stuff. But in gaming the videocard is king.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 06:06 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ragejg View Post
Haha from the OP (me)!!
Yea, I saw the deal you got on a 4830. That is a nice card for 55$ shipped.
I looked on ebay and other places for them and didn't find any for sale... so I think the 3870 will do for now.
In a year or so, the 4890 like I have and other cards will be around 100-75 so he can upgrade on his own after that.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 06:08 PM   #12
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I've been running with the specs in my sig for a while now and still have no intention of upgrading anytime soon. It plays Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2 @ 1680x1050 with no problems. I "may" consider an X3 or X4 later this year, but I could care less at the moment.
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Old Jul 7, 2010, 06:48 PM   #13
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The question it's posing and their conclusions seem reasonable - however I thought the game selection was rather limited given the article's intent. They ask "is this CPU enough to fill your gaming needs" and then benchmark against a mere 4 games - that barely represent the gamut of available titles out there. I mean surely they should have had at least one UE3 title and an action title that is CPU heavy like GTA4 or Assassin's Creed 2.
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Old Jul 8, 2010, 12:00 AM   #14
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Yeah, if they tossed in a 3DMark score in there you would have seen a big leap... but I suppose the point is that in real world gaming the difference isn't as big as the cash gap. But to the hardcore its never been about value anyhow. Which is good, cause those who want leaner rigs can play for less now too.
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Old Jul 8, 2010, 12:12 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FX-Overclocking View Post
Yeah, if they tossed in a 3DMark score in there you would have seen a big leap... but I suppose the point is that in real world gaming the difference isn't as big as the cash gap. But to the hardcore its never been about value anyhow. Which is good, cause those who want leaner rigs can play for less now too.
F***in' A...I've never been able to afford "bleeding edge" gear, but what I've put together in my rigs (and for others) over the years has almost always had decent and respectable enough performance.

However, my hats are off to the hardcore and early adopters...because they're willing and able to buy the best/newest stuff, I'm able to reap the benefits a little ways down the road when it becomes "good/cheap enough".
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Old Jul 8, 2010, 09:00 AM   #16
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I think some of you reading the article may have missed this part:

Quote:
Anyone who says that the graphics subsystem is all that matters should have a look at these results. Yes, the Core i7-920 costs $200 more than the Athlon II X3 440, but the dual Radeon HD 5870s paired with the Athlon system cost a whooping $500 more than the single Radeon HD 5850 in the Core i7-920 system. Despite this, the Core i7-920 system beats the Athlon II X3 440 configuration in almost every game up to 1920x1080 by a small margin. In the only game that the Athlon II X3 440 wins at 1920x1080, the Core i7-920 still manages to achieve an average FPS value over 60.

At 2560x1600, however, the graphics subsystem dominates the processor. At this resolution, the Athlon II X3 440 system has a clean win. To whom does this apply? The limited few with 30" displays.
Also, for those of us fortunate enough to live near a Micro Center, the comparison CPU price changes dramatically. An i7 930 can be had for a mere $199, making it a far better value proposition. Yes, the platform is also more expensive but as the benchmarks show, it makes a difference. Minimum framerates are also significantly higher on the i7 system, as pointed out by acoig.

Thumbs up to Ristogod for handling his finances better than most. I'm in that "other" category, though I do still manage to swing some decent gear. I just built an i7 930/GTX 480 system for a long-time customer of mine with a hardware cost of about $1500. That system @ 4.2GHz and with a graphics card nearly twice as fast as mine only benched about 30% higher in 3dmark 06. Performance in MS Flight Simulator X was better by about the same amount. It's a great system for my customer as it offers nearly the best performance money can buy for his needs, but it makes me feel better about my system knowing that my more budget-minded hardware purchases with a healthy dose of overclocking gives me performance that's not too far off the mark from a brand new high-end system.

Bottom line, if you buy relatively modern components and you aren't running eyefinity/surround or a super high resolution display (2560x1600) you will get good performance in today's games.
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Old Jul 8, 2010, 09:11 AM   #17
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The games they tested are terrible for CPU performance.

Try Company of Heroes, Grand Theft Auto 4, Bad Company 2, Oblivion, Just Cause 2, Metro 2033, or Dawn of War 2 and see what the differences look like then. My guess is the i7 would hold a significant advantage there.

Even with my current system at 1920x1080 I struggle to maintain a consistent FPS.
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Old Jul 8, 2010, 05:02 PM   #18
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I also wonder if having more CPU power wouldn't help in real-life use more. These benches are run with a clean install, and no background programs or AV running. I'd love to see benchmarks being run on "dirty" machines that have 70% full HDDs with stuff running in the background like Norton.
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Old Jul 9, 2010, 07:34 AM   #19
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The advantage of the CPU over the CPU is really game type dependent. In RTS, RPG and MMO the CPU is the limiting factor. In fact I would not do any of these on less than a quad. In all others the video card is now a bigger factor and the X3 should do fine.

Notice the wording of the question however..

"Do you NEED more than an Athlon II X3?"

The answer that is simply no. It is very possible to build a good gaming system using the Athlon II X3. This is not to say you could not get better performance but the actual NEED to gain playability is handled within the X3 package.
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Old Jul 9, 2010, 08:48 AM   #20
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Per the literal phrasing of the question one likely doesn't need more than an AII X3 for most games. Depending on the game though, more CPU power can come in handy to keep minimum framerates up.
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Old Jul 9, 2010, 09:10 AM   #21
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Trust me, I NEED the CPU I have.
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Old Jul 11, 2010, 11:01 AM   #22
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still game with an A64 x2 my workstations have more power than my gaming machines.
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Old Jul 15, 2010, 05:07 PM   #23
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Give me I7 12 cores 6ghz each and I'll kill it with Mount and Blade.
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