CPU Testing Methodology
It’s actually pretty rare that vendors send us anything other than their top-end or near-top-end CPUs, and I’ll admit I was intrigued when AMD asked if we wanted to review this CPU. It came installed in an MSI 970 Gaming motherboard, which was also interesting since the 970 chipset is the bottom of AMD’s 9-series chipsets. In fact, the 970 chipset only supports one PCI-E x16 slot, and specifically is not certified for either AMD’s CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI. Nonetheless, MSI claims that this motherboard can handle both multi-card protocols, supporting two GPUs at PCI-E 2.0 x8 each. (Look for a separate review of this motherboard soon).
Given these interesting products, I decided to review this CPU as the basis for a budget gaming system, so instead of just testing CPU performance, I also tested gaming and graphics performance. Although 1440p and 4K setups are becoming more common, 1080p (1920×1080) is still by far the most common monitor resolution, so that’s what I tested at. All graphics tests were run with DX11, both with minimal and maximum settings– that is, most graphics benchmarks were run twice: once with all the settings configured as low as possible, and once with all the settings configured as high as possible.
Representing the Intel camp is a Core i3-4360 CPU. Fabricated on a 22nm process, this two-core CPU has Hyper-Threading (and thus appears to have four cores to most software), a base clock of 3.7gHz, and a maximum turbo clock of…well, since this CPU lacks Intel Turbo Boost technology, that’s as high as it goes. And since it’s not a “-K” part, it can’t be overclocked.
This might not seem fair– comparing an overclockable, 8-core CPU against a non-overclockable, 2-core CPU. But Intel CPUs historically perform much better on a per-core basis than do AMD CPUs, and both CPUs have an MSRP of $149.99, so they’re both aiming at the same market segment. To keep things as fair as possible, the same memory and video cards were used in both the AMD and Intel test systems.
- AMD Test System
- CPU: AMD FX-8320E / AMD FX-9590
- Motherboard: MSI 970 Gaming
- Intel Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i3-4360
- Motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark 1
- Video: 2x NVIDIA GTX580 reference
- RAM: 2x4GB Kingston HyperX Genesis DDR3-2133
- Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Although the MSI 970 Gaming motherboard uses AMD’s low-end 970 chipset, MSI claims their board fully supports SLI and CrossFireX. If you’re saving money on a CPU and motherboard, you have more to spend on GPUs, so I equipped the test system is equipped with two NVIDIA GTX580s in SLI.
I tested the FX-8320E at its stock clocks, overclocked with the OC Genie feature of the MSI 970 Gaming motherboard, and with the best manual overclock I was able to achieve. I’m using enthusiast-grade DDR3-2133 memory in all tests, except for the OC Genie test, because enabling OC Genie disabled the memory’s XMP profile.
OK, let’s see how this system performs, and how it compares to the high-end FX-9590 and an Intel CPU in the same price range.