Gone are the days of old when using shear raw frequency (core speed) on just one CPU core, when we can share the load over multiple cores; therefore, getting our computing needs done even faster. These last couple of years we have seen an proverbial explosion of CPU types hit the market. AMD and Intel have been producing CPU’s (Central Processing Unit) that have more cores and or more threads available on these CPU’s. Now the question remains for us gamers that use computers, “What is the difference between a quad core CPU to a hex core, and is there any real differences between these CPU’s?” And the final question that a lot of us PC gamers ask ourselves, ” What CPU will give me the most bang for my buck?” In this article I will be comparing three CPU’s to one another and answer those very same questions. The CPU’s I chose for this tasking is a Core i5 750 socket 1156 Quad Core CPU, A Core i7 930 Quad Core with Hyper threading (8 total CPU threads available and turned on) socket 1366 CPU, to finally the mighty Hex (Six) Core CPU the Core i7 970 socket 1366 CPU. The video cards I will be using is none other then my paired up AMD/ATI Water Cooled 6970’s in Crossfire.
The Ground Rules
Like all articles there has to be some ground rules in place for me to do a proper comparison.
Since I wanted to know if there truly was a difference between each of the tested CPU’s I needed to set my first rule of, all CPU’s will use the same exact frequency. The CPU that determined the bare minimum frequency was the Core i5 750 CPU, running at a 2.66 GHz frequency. The settings used for “Default” CPU core speed was a BCLK of 133 x 20 on the motherboard, and memory was set at 1066 MHz BCLK of 133 memory divider set at 8, this “Default” setting was applied to all CPU’s tested. This will give a base line performance and allow me to do a Clock to Clock comparison only allowing the individual CPU’s capabilities to have any advantage ie. Hyper Threading, PCI-E lanes available etc. etc. For the overclocking portion of this testing all CPU’s used again the same exact settings. The BCLK was set to a 215 and the CPU utilized a 19 multiplier giving me roughly a frequency of 4.1 GHz. The memory had a the same multiplier of 8 giving me a 1720 MHz overall frequency, on all CPU’s tested.
I did not use any power saving features, or any turbo settings during my testing.
The below listed items were used in all three of the CPU’s tested, and their exact configuration.
HDD’s : 4 x 320 Gig Seagate Momentus in Raid 0, 1 Western Digital 1 TB Green HDD as a back up
CD/DVD Drive : Lite On Blu-Ray DVD burner combo drive
PSU : PC Power and Cooling 950 Watt
Sound Card/ Sound System : Creative X-FI Fatality Pro, Logic tech 5.1 Surround speakers with Eagle Tech 2.1 Speakers combined for a 7.1 surround system.
Keyboard : Hewlett Packard Wireless Elite
Mouse : Razer Imperator
Memory : Crucial Ballistx 1333 MHz used for both as Triple Channel memory configurations socket 1366 CPU’s (6 gigabytes), and ran in dual Channel mode on the socket 1156 CPU (4 gigabytes).
Video Cards : Sapphire 6970’s used in Crossfire configuration
Monitors : 2 x Asus ML248 LED LCD monitors, and 1 Asus VW246 CCFL LCD monitor 1920 x 1080 per monitor, combined resolution with Eyefinity enabled resolution 5760 x 1080
Cooling : Loop 1 300 GPH pump with a Heatkiller CPU water block with a XSPC Quad 120mm radiator, Loop 2 300 GPH pump with 2 Koolance 697 video card water blocks ran in parallel with a triple 120mm radiator, both in a 14 cup shared stainless steel reservoir
Fans : 7 120mm 80 CFM fans for cooling the radiators
As we can see I kept a lot of the components the same on all three CPU’s, the only thing I changed was the Motherboard and or CPU’s. What I used as far as hardware for each CPU will be listed below.
Core i7 930/970 CPU’s : I performed the testing on a Asus Rampage II Extreme motherboard with the latest updated BIOS
Core i5 750 CPU : Test was performed on a Gigabyte P55A-UD4P
A fresh install of Windows 7 64 bit was performed on all three of the CPU’s tested, and I also used at the time the latest drivers/updates available. Catalyst 11.2 drivers were used on the video cards. Since this is a “gaming” comparison on how CPU’s influence our games I will only be using two resolutions, one of these resolutions I will be using is 1920 x 1080 (or better known as 1080i), the final resolution I will be using is my Eyefinity combined resolution of 5760 x 1080. The below games and or benchmarks will have there settings used during testing. No AA was applied during testing, to keep things as simple as possible for myself. These results are based on an “average” of three runs per benchmark or games on both single monitor resolution of 1920 x 1080, and on Eyefinity combined resolution of 5760 x 1080. Your results may vary greatly from my own.
The Games/Benchmarks Used
3DMark11 : Performance setting was used
3DMark Vantage : Performance setting used
3DMark06 : Performance setting used (there are still a lot of people using this ancient benchmark)
Unigine Heaven 2.1 : No AA/AF, tessellation setting used was normal, shader setting was set to high
Dirt 2 : No AA/AF, all other graphical settings was set to high
Aliens Versus Predators : There are no settings available on this benchmark. So standard settings used.
Darkest Of Days : No AA/AF, graphics set to max or High, CPU physx set to low (no Ageia supported hardware)
Bad Company 2 : No AA/AF, maxed out graphical settings (Fraps tested on level 2 with me blowing the hell out of anything and everything in sight with a grenade launcher for maximum carnage and debris)
Dead Space 2 : No AA/AF, maxed graphical settings (Fraps tested on level 9)
Lost Planet 2 : Maxed graphical settings, No AA/AF
I will be breaking this category into two sub categories, Default CPU speed of 2.66 GHz and then Overclocked CPU speeds of 4.1GHz.
Default CPU speed of 2.66 GHz
Starting off on the oldest benchmarks that is being used today. During the 3DMark06 testing we can see that the Core i7 970 CPU was preferred over the other 2 CPU’s.
Making our way over to 3DMark Vantage, again we see that the Core i7 970 CPU was preferred over both of the Core i5 750, and the Core i7 930.
Now once we turn our attention over to 3DMark11 we start to see a whole different story. Looking at the GPU portion of testing, the Core i7 930 had the best overall GPU performance out of the three CPU’s. But the Core i7 970 had the best performance in CPU, and combined tests that it takes the overall win. The Core i5 750 CPU even did well enough to keep up with the Core i7 930, telling me that the CPU influence was at a minimal.
This on is a hard one, we can see the Core i7 970 takes the lead on this benchmark but it is not by a significant amount. the only real large gap we get between the three CPU’s tested was when I ran this benchmark at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 on the average frame rates.
Dirt 2, when comparing both of the Core i7 socket 1366 CPU’s (930, 970) we can see that these CPU’s are pretty well matched to one another. The Core i5 750, is somewhat limiting our frame rates. This is the difference between having hyper threading (core i7 CPU’s 930/970) and not having hyper threading (Core i5 750)
On Alien Versus Predator, the CPU does very little on influencing this game title. There is small increase’s of frame rates from one CPU to the next, this is not enough of a gain to clearly see a major difference.
Darkest of Days got my rather scratching me head on these results. The CPU that performed the best was the Core i7 970, and the Core i7 930 plus the Core i5 750 performed nearly identical.
Bad Company 2 is one of them games that uses a lot of particle physx, so the more we blow apart buildings, bodies, and throw smoke grenades the more work we put on the CPU itself. I ran around on the second level with my grenade launcher blowing apart buildings, fences, people, and generally everything that got in my way. Trying to put as much work as I can possibly think of onto the CPU. As we can see with BC2, that having more cores or threads available to us made our game more pleasant.
Dead Space during chapter 9 is the best place I thought to test these three CPU’s out on because there are multiple aliens and a lot of chances of watching physx in action as we blow apart aliens. On the minimum frame rates we don’t see much a difference between each CPU. On the average frame rates the CPU that had the best performance was the Core i7 970 CPU.
Lost Planet 2 gave us some rather interesting results. the only time we seen a major difference between the 3 CPU’s tested was on the 1920 x 1080 resolution. Once I cranked the resolution to 5760 x 1080, I can not see any major differences between the 3 CPU’s tested.
Overclocked CPU speed of 4.1GHz
Time for me to start cranking the frequencies on these three CPU’s and see how things fair then. A reminder these CPU’s are all overclocked identical, same BCLK of 215, the same CPU multiplier of 19, with having the exact same memory frequency of 1720MHz.
Unlike in our first testing of 3DMark06 when using a default CPU speed of 2.66GHz, overclocking these CPU’s Starts changing on how the CPU’s influence our results. This time the Core i5 750 CPU was able to keep up with both of the Core i7 930/970 CPU’s on the SM2, and the SM3 tests (GPU testing).
In our 3DMark Vantage testing on the GPU portion of testing the three CPU’s tested made very little influencing.
The Core i7 930 and the Core i5 750 CPU topples the mighty Core i7 970 on the GPU portion of testing with 3DMark11.
Similar to the default portion of testing these CPU’s of 2.66GHz, I can not see any real major differences. the Core i7 970 did manage a slight lead on the average on the resolution of 1920 x 1080.
With Dirt 2 testing the top two CPU’s to have for this game is the Core i7 930/970. But having a minimum frame rates of 98.6 at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and frame rate of 49 at the extreme resolution of 5760 x 1080 while using the Core i5 750 CPU is nothing to be sneezing at and is very respectable.
On the 1920 x 1080 resolution we don’t really see any differences between the three CPU’s. Once expanding the resolution to 5760 x 1080 the Core i7 930/970 performed the best.
I think i am going to have to call a tie on this game.
Bad Company 2 still shows that it prefers the Core i7 930/970 CPU over its smaller brother the Core i5 750. I would not say minimum frame rates of 91 (1920 x 1080) and 46 (5760 x 1080) is bad, this is still showing very much playable frame rates.
Dead Space 2 still prefers to have a lot of threads available to it, but at the same time the little Core i5 750 does really well on putting up some respectable frame rates.
I am calling this one way to close to declare a winner, so they are all tied.
Looking at all of these results, brings us back to our original question. “What is the difference between a quad core CPU to a hex core, and is there any real differences between these CPU’s?” The answer is a pretty simple one, when it pertains to just gaming, None. Granted we had a slight performance increase when comparing the Core i5 750 to the Core i7 930/970 CPU’s, but it was not enough a major difference to offset the added cost of the socket 1366 CPU’s. Well unless you are a “Benchmarking Whore” (one who has to have the biggest and highest score out of everyone) then these types of people naturally going to want to have the Core i7 970/980 Hex core CPU’s in their rigs. the next question I am going to answer is, ” What CPU will give me the most bang for my buck?” Quite frankly the Core i5 750 (or similar variant CPU the Core i5 2300) will give you the most bang for your buck as far as overall gaming performance. Even when I attempted to bottleneck the Core i5 750 CPU with a pair of AMD/ATI 6970 video cards on a limited 16 x ( Split into a 8×8 configuration on the Core i5 750) PCI-E lanes, compared the Core i7 930/970 32 PCI-E lanes (Utilizing a full 16 x 16 PCI-E lane configuration) could not truly bring the Core i5 750 CPU to its knees. So really and truly we do not need to spend an exorbitant amount of money (when I speak Exorbitant amount I mean 1500+ USD) on a computer to make it current game playable, like it has been thought. I will add this though, if you are doing more then “Just Playing Games”, like video, audio, picture editing then you going to want the Core i7 930 CPU or bigger, the added threads will make short work on whatever your computing needs are.