January 6, 2004
No CPU review
could be complete without some gaming benchmarks! So,
we continued our testing with a DirectX benchmark,
Novalogic's combat helicopter simulation, Comanche 4.
Although this is a game benchmark that can be used to test
the relative performance of video cards, frame rates are
strongly influenced by processor speed and available memory
Novalogic Comanche 4 - DirectX 8 Gaming
CPU Limited As They Get...
The Athlon 64-FX
51 still holds the record for the fastest, non-overclocked
Comanche 4 frame rate we have scene to date, but the Athlon
64 3400+ wasn't too far behind. The 3400+ finished
about 10% behind the FX-51, but it outpaced the rest of the
pack. The 3.2GHz P4 was nipping right on its heals
Quake 3 Arena v1.32 - Demo004
Who thinks we'll break 1000FPS by Year's End?
For the next set
of benchmarks, we took some Quake 3 Arena v1.32 Timedemo
(Demo004) scores using the game's "Fastest" quality setting,
with audio disabled. Running Quake 3 with a high-end
graphics card with these minimal settings isolates memory
and processor performance. Frame rates are limited by
the number of polygons and data the CPU and memory
subsystems are able to push through the system bus, without
being limited by the graphics subsystem.
profile in the Quake 3 test, was very similar to Comanche 4.
The FX-51 once again finished in first place, outpacing the
Athlon 64 3400+ by roughly 5.5%. The 3400+, however,
pulled ahead of the P4 by about 3% and ahead of the A64
3200+ by approximately 6.3%. The aging Athlon XP 3200+
finished a distant 5th.
Unreal Tournament 2003 - CPU Test
CPU Limited As They Get...
Lastly, we did
some benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2003.
When testing with UT 2003, we use specific settings and .INI
files, that ensure all of the systems are benchmarked with
the exact same in-game settings and graphical options.
For these tests, we used a "Low-Quality" feature set that
isolates CPU performance.
The Athlon 64
FX-51 was the clear winner in the Unreal Tournament 2003
benchmark, with the only frame-rate well past the 200FPS
mark. Even though Epic's Unreal engine has
traditionally favored the Athlon's architecture, the 3.2GHz
Pentium 4 surprisingly finished last in this test, getting
trounced by even the Athlon XP 3200+. The Athlon 64
3400+ finished behind the FX-51, missing the 200FPS mark by
only 9.35 FPS, besting the 3.2GHz P4 by a wide margin, a
trait of this game engine more than anything else, that
seems to favor AMD processors in general..
Overall, we were
impressed by the Athlon 64 3400+. With an introductory
price of $417 (in 1K unit quantities), this CPU is not
cheap, but the price is in-line with the competition.
The 3.2GHz Pentium 4 is currently priced in the $390 range
at many on-line retailers. The Athlon 64 3400+,
however, outperformed the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 in most of the
benchmarks. In the less meaningful synthetic tests,
and in the 3D modeling tests, the P4 outran the Athlons, but
in our real world office and content creation benchmarks,
and in the gaming benchmarks, the Athlon 64 was clearly
faster. As of the time of this article release,
the Athlon 64 3200+ is still selling for over $400, but with
the introduction of the 3400+ , 3200+ prices will nosedive.
We're told we can expect wide-spread availability of 3400+
immediately, and can also expect Tier-1 system availability
around launch time from Fujitsu Siemens. HP should also be
jumping on the bandwagon, with system availability around
mid-January. Today, AMD is also introducing three new
Mobile Athlon 64 processors, the 3200+, 3000+ and 2800+
which are priced at $293, $233 and $193, respectively (in 1K
AMD seems to be
back on the right track, but there are still some obstacles
ahead. Rumor has it, the move to a 90 nanometer
manufacturing process is giving both Intel and AMD some
trouble. Intel's Prescott, which was supposed to
arrive late last year, has been pushed back and won't launch
until sometime in February. AMD's processor roadmap
doesn't show any CPUs produced on a 90 nanometer process
arriving until the second half the year, if all goes
according to plan. For now AMD and Intel remain
competitive with each other, but if one company manages to
work the kinks out of their 90 nanometer manufacturing
processes, and can quickly ramp up clock speeds, the other
may be left in their wake. Time will tell...
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