|The Fast-Enough Budget Computer: Built and Tested|
|Articles - Featured Guides|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Thursday, 24 March 2011|
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Testing and Results
If you want to read detailed tests on the processor and video card used in the Fast Enough Computer, Benchmark Reviews tested the AMD Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition CPU here and the Sapphire Radeon 6850 video card here (the AMD 560BE CPU is identical to the AMD 565BE CPU I used, except that its stock clock speed is 3.3GHz rather than 3.4GHz).
I wanted to see how overclocking and hardware upgrades affected performance, so I tested five different hardware configurations:
Both AMD CPUs were tested with the stock heat sink. I was able to easily overclock the 565BE to 3.9GHz by increasing the multiplier to 19.5x; no voltage tweaks were required. The processor would boot and run at 4.0GHz (20x multiplier) but would fail stress testing. Poking around the interwebs, I see that the maximum air-cooled overclock of the 560/565 seems to be about 4.1GHz, so I don't see much point in spending extra money for a third-party CPU cooler that would only enable another 200MHz or so of clock speed. I increased the shader clocks on the Sapphire Radeon HD6850 from the stock 775MHz to 900MHz and the memory clock from 1000MHz to 1050MHz. These speeds seem to be reachable by any retail Radeon HD6850 video card, but dedicated overclockers might be able to squeeze out a bit more performance.
The games I benchmarked were Crysis Warhead, Street Firghter IV, Aliens vs. Predator, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and BattleForge. I tested at 1680x1050, and in each case I set the game settings as high as I could consistent with my 30fps-average goal. Aliens vs. Predator and Street Fighter IV were tested with dedicated benchmarking utilities released by the game vendors; BattleForge was tested with its built-in benchmark tool, Crysis Warhead was tested with the HOC Crysis Warhead benchmark tool, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was tested using FRAPS. I didn't include synthetic benchmarks like Unigine Heaven or 3DMark Vantage since I was only interested in game performance.
DX10: Crysis Warhead
When the original Crysis debuted in late 2008, it quickly garnered a reputation for bringing the most powerful systems to their knees. Even today, its CryEngine game engine needs a lot of hardware thrown at it to get good frame rates at decent resolutions without having to turn off many of the visual effects.
The Fast Enough Computer returned a solid 37 frames per second average in its base configuration. However, in the latter part of the "Airfield" demo, where Sykes emerges from the crashed cargo plan and jets are attacking the Exosuit, frame rates drop below 20fps (the minimum was 13fps, the maximum, 45fps), which made the visuals rather stuttery. Actually playing the game revealed that while it's broadly "playable", you'll frequently see the frame rate drop low enough to be irritating. Turning off anti-aliasing increased the maximum frame rate recorded in the benchmark from 45 to 51fps, but surprisingly did not affect the minimum or average frame rates.
The overclocked configuration increased the average frame rate a little over 10%, but surprisingly, there was almost no benefit from adding another 6850 in CrossFireX. Switching out the 565BE to a quad-core Phenom II 965 Black Edition gained a mere one frame per second, but adding CrossFireX into this mix cranked things up another nine frames per second, although the minimum frame rate was still only 15 frames per second. In general CryEngine games seems to "like" NVIDIA video cards better. Sadly, the 890fx chipset does not support SLI, so although you could use a single NVIDIA video card in the Fast Enough Computer, your only upgrade option would be to replace it with a faster card. Overall, I'd have to say that Crysis Warhead is a marginal proposition on the Fast Enough Computer, which just isn't Fast Enough for this game.
DX10: Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter IV is the latest in a series of games that began back in 1987. It uses a proprietary Capcom graphics engine, and despite its high-speed visuals, it just doesn't require much graphics horsepower...your netbook would probably make a perfectly adequate Street Fighter IV platform. Capcom makes a dedicated Street Fighter IV benchmark available so you can test your system, and that's what I ran.
With all visual settings at their maximums, the Street Fighter IV benchmark returned 113 frames per second. Overclocking and CrossFireX added a few percentage points, and going to a four-core processor actually slowed things down fractionally. However, CrossFireX proved synergistic with the Phenom II 975 processor, and frame rates shot up by over 50%. This phenomenon is something I'd see repeated in other tests.