Core count vs frequency, what matters for gaming?

Published: 23rd Feb 2017, 14:05 GMT   Comments

While we await Ryzen official release on March 2nd and more importantly reviews to be published, a very interesting discussion is taking place on various forums. What has a bigger impact on gaming performance? Does Intel have an upper hand by offering higher-clocked CPUs, or maybe current games can use the potential of multi-threading?

Core count vs core frequency

To answer this question we will take a look a great mini-review published at ComputerBase. It is commonly believed that games can’t utilize the power of new CPUs and single-thread performance is much more important. But is it really? Current games, especially those utilizing DirectX12 API, are already working great with multi-core CPUs.

The review at compares latest Broadwell-E and Kabylake processors. We also have Haswell, AMD FX CPUs and some older (but still very popular) Sandy Bridge processors.

For all tests only one graphics card was used, which is TITAN X Pascal. As explained, the best gaming graphics card on the market was used to avoid any GPU bottlenecking. Also, only two resolutions were used (1280×720 and 1920×1080).

Here’s the list of all games that were used for comparison:

  • Anno 2205 – FPS
  • Ashes of the Singularity (DX12) – FPS
  • Battlefield 1 (DX11/DX12, Multiplayer) – FPS
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (DX11) – FPS
  • Dishonored 2 – FPS
  • Doom (Vulkan) – FPS
  • F1 2016 – FPS
  • Gears of War 4 – FPS
  • Project Cars – FPS
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX11/DX12) – FPS
  • Shadow Warrior 2 – FPS
  • The Witcher 3 – FPS
  • Total War: Warhammer (DX11) – FPS
  • Watchdogs 2 – FPS

And here are the results:

It appears that core count is more important than frequency after all. The only exception being 6900K, which is 200 Mhz higher clocked than 6950X. Of course high-frequency still matters, and Kabylake vs Haswell is a good example (22% faster with 20% clock difference).

This minireview proves that Ryzen has not much to fear from higher-clocked Kabylake, but let’s be honest, no one really knows how SMT & XFR will work for games. A mystery which can end with a big disappointment or Intel marketing crisis.

The full analysis, including other GPUs, framerate testing and obviously Ryzen, will be posted by ComputerBase when NDA is lifted on March 3rd.

Speaking of Ryzen and marketing, AMD did not use quad-channel on Broadwell-E CPUs during the presentation (more here).

Source: ComputerBase

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