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Computer Upgrades: A Data-Based Perspective

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The Comparison

First we’ll introduce the test computers and software used. The overclocks used on both systems have been tested for stability in previous benchmarks, and both computers were monitored for temperatures to make sure throttling didn’t occur. After the SLI tests, one GPU was removed and the benchmarks were repeated to obtain the results on the next page.

In retro-respect, I could have normalized the CPU frequencies between the two desktop computer systems since both easily achieved an overclock of 4.6 (and the Haswell system had some room to go too). However, I wanted to give as much leeway to the AMD system as I could, to get as much of a “best case scenario” there as possible – something I’m assuming an AMD-enthusiast would do with their computer before upgrading anyway.

AMD Desktop Computer System

IMG_4742

CPU: AMD FX-8350 @ 4.8 GHz/1.44V LLC, 2400 MHz NB
Cooling: SilverStone Tundra TD02
Motherboard: Asus M5A99FX Pro R2.0
RAM: 2x4GB DDR3 GSkill Ares 1866 MHz CAS9
GPU 1: Zotac GTX 970
GPU 2: NVIDIA Reference GTX970
(Pictured GPU is a Radeon 7950, not used for this test)
PSU: Rosewill Lightning 800W Gold
Storage: OCZ Vertex 240GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Display/Resolution: 1920×1080 23″ 120 Hz Acer LCD
Case: Fractal Design Arc Midi R2

Intel Desktop Computer System

Intel_i5_970

CPU: Intel Core i5-4670K @ 4.6 GHz/1.25V
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12S
Motherboard: Asus Gryphon Z87 mATX
RAM: 2x4GB DDR3 Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz CAS9
GPU 1: Zotac GTX 970
GPU 2: NVIDIA Reference GTX970 (using a Titan cooler)
PSU: Cooler Master V700
Storage: OCZ Vertex 240GB SSD
Display/Resolution: 1920×1080 23″ 120 Hz Acer LCD
Case: Bitfenix Prodigy M

Approximate System Cost

While the below values are an approximation (component prices fluctuate from month to month – not to mention, some of these specific components aren’t even available anymore), the following table will hopefully illustrate how close these two machines are in price.  The top section contains those parts specific to each platform, and could really be considered on their own.

The second half of the table lists those component that could be duplicated between the two systems (i.e., there isn’t a difference in price, as literally the same component could be used across both systems).

A quick note: the cooling required to keep the AMD platform running at that overclock was different than what the Intel platform required, so the two cooling solutions are listed as platform specific (as their cost should be factored in to the performance shown in the benchmarks and graphs over the next few pages).  Yes, both platforms could be run on the included stock coolers, but I wanted to give the AMD platform as much room to breathe as possible – this is the level of cooling required to do so.

AMD Intel
Component Approx Cost Difference Approx Cost Component
FX-8350 $180 $50 $230 i5-4670K
M5A99FX Pro R2.0 $120 $30 $150 Gryphon Z87
Silverstone Tundra TD02 $120 -$70 $50 Noctua NH-U12S
Total AMD Specific $420 $10 $430 Total Intel Specific
8 GB DDR3 $40 $40 8 GB DDR3
GTX 970 $330 $330 GTX 970
Power Supply (SLI Capable) $100 $100 Power Supply (SLI Capable)
Storage $100 $100 Storage
Case $100 $100 Case
OS $80 $80 OS
Total System Cost $1170 $10 $1180

The Test Suite/Settings:

Nvidia Driver Ver: 358.50

GPU Clocks: Stock

Different SLI [AUTO] v1.3.1 used to enable SLI

Software:

3DMark Firestrike Extreme Graphics Test 1

3DMark Firestrike Extreme Combined

Crysis 3 – 2 min FRAPS run on “Post Human” level, avg/min/max/frametimes recorded, very high settings

Starcraft 2 – “All In” mission, Extreme settings

ARMA3 – NATO Showcase 2 min FRAPS run – Ultra settings/Standard PIP/2K draw distance/1K object distance


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3 comments

  1. Caring1

    So it’s not a data based upgrade discussion, it’s an AMD V’s Intel debate again.
    Can we stick to facts and leave bias out of it please!
    This article implies “enthusiasts” don’t use AMD platforms!
    The true cost of switching platforms should be looked at, there is more than the cost of a Motherboard and Processor for enthusiasts.

    1. Tom Jaskulka

      I take it you haven’t read the complete article? I felt there was more than enough data to form the conclusion that I made, and I stand behind my results (they should be reproducible for anyone, if you’d like to gather more data of your own). I’m not saying enthusiasts don’t use AMD platforms (they do, and I’m one of them), I’m using benchmarking to attempt to analyze where an enthusiast would get the best performance for their money.

      The fact – supported by data – remains: there are games and situations where switching to Intel CPUs will net a greater performance advantage for the same or less money than using an AMD FX CPU. The worst case scenario I’ve stumbled across so far is ARMA3 (see article for examples).

      Analyzing the cost of the platforms would have been a little out of the scope of what I was trying to do, but you have a point – perhaps I should include the total cost of the systems in the article (at the time I had purchased them, as the cost will change from month to month).

      For purposes of discussion, the Intel system was approximately $1000, the AMD (with one GTX 970) was the same ~$1000 (for the components required to generate the performance result – CPU, cooling, etc. – storage wasn’t included, although it should be added to the cost as well). I could add a cost breakdown to the systems if that would help.

      Let me ask this: given that $1000, and the option to buy one of the two platforms shown here to play games on, which one would you buy if you wanted the best gaming experience?

  2. David Gilmore

    Thank you, Tom, for this very interesting article and for your honest conclusions. I understand that you are not anybody’s “fanboy”, just someone who is tired of empty promises, exaggerated claims, and unproved “truisms” (like AMD is best bang for buck). Someone just looking for the best perceived gaming experience, like the rest of us, (even Mr. Caring 1, although his obvious bias towards AMD clouds his perception). It’s just sad that an honest effort for a real answer still somehow brings out the misguided emotions. I also gave AMD platforms a try for various builds, and my first two video cards were AMD. For a while I thought that all discreet GPUs were more trouble than they’re worth, because mine were constantly crashing my PC, or doing weird things while gaming, now I know why that was happening (AMD drivers were either poorly written or not validated with enough different hardware). Since Sandy Bridge I’ve only built with Intel and nVidia, and you know what? It is a more satisfying experience, and this article helps to explain why.

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