When a new processor makes its way into my testbed, I like to take the time to see what kind of performance increase the overclock we use day in and day out gives us when compared to its stock speed.
With our new GIGABYTE EX58-UD5, I've taken the time to have a bit of a play and find a rock solid speed that can be used for many graphics card reviews over the coming months.
Being the optimist I am, I thought I would go straight to 4.2GHz (hey, it's worth a try) and while it got into Windows without too much drama, firing up prime found us quickly greeted with a BSOD. Dropping to 4GHz increased stability, but since the system must be 100% stable, a further drop to 3.8GHz was the perfect point.
So, with that all said and done let's have a closer look at our testbed today and see what kind of performance difference we get when moving our i7 920 from 2.67GHz all the way up to 3.8GHz.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-Bit
Drivers: ForceWare 180.47
We're using our new test system which packs everything an enthusiast would want. Graphics card power has come in the form of a GIGABYTE GTX 280 that carries with it stock clocks. We're using our new benchmark line-up, albeit a cut down version. We'll also only be looking at Vista this time around. Let's now get stuck into our first benchmark.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Under Vantage we can see the overclock does very little for performance. Since by default the NVIDIA drivers turn GPU PhysX on, we thought we would disable to see if there is more of a difference when it's handed over to the CPU.
As suspected, here we can see a bit more of a boost between the two configurations when PhysX is disabled on the GPU.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 126.96.36.199
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
Across the board we see impressive gains with the CPU clocked at 3.8GHz; the minimum increase is as high as 20% at some points.
Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead
Version and / or Patch Used: unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here
Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.
It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.
Crysis Warhead manages to see some good gains with the best being seen in the minimum department at resolutions of up to 1920 x 1200.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
FC2 also manages to show some excellent gains and once again we see the best gains being seen at up to 1920 x 1200 in both the minimum and average department.
Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here
Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.
Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.
Left 4 Dead, like everything else we've seen today sees some good gains. This time, though, they're really only seen at 1680 x 1050.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Far Cry 2
Turning AA and AF on, we can see the 3.8GHz setup does come out slightly faster.
World In Conflict
WIC finds a good extra 4FPS with the 3.8GHz setup in the minimum department, bringing us so close to that 30FPS minimum we love to see.
Left 4 Dead
Under Left 4 Dead we can see the overclock does very little when it comes to extra performance here, with both setups scoring almost identically.
What we're seeing these days is that with such a line-up of intensive games, at 2560 x 1600 a CPU overclock is doing very little due to all the pressure being placed on the graphics card. At 1920 x 1200 and below, however, we can see that the CPU increase is more helpful and manages to yield some pretty impressive gains.
If you're running 2560 x 1600, is it still worth overclocking? - Of course! While a lot of games don't see the big gains that the lower resolutions indicate, we do still see an increase in performance nonetheless. We can also see that some games see a better performance jump than others, which means the games you might play could see bigger gains.
All in all, we do see some impressive performance increases when we move to 3.8GHz, with some games showing better gains then others. With 3.8GHz being 100% stable for us, not only under games but also under prime, we've found the sweet spot for our new test system. So, with everything said and done, look forward to all our graphics card reviews from here on which use the setup we have here today.
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