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AMD Athlon FX-60 vs. X2 3800+ - Game Performance Compared

Is it worth spending an extra $700 on a processor? Today we compare the AMD Athlon FX-60 and X2 3800+ as gaming CPU's.

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8 minutes & 15 seconds read time

Introduction and The Differences


You cannot please everyone! We try to please as many people as possible with our articles but there is no denying that we just cannot please everyone. A common comment that pops up in our articles is why are we using an Athlon X2-3800+? We don't use it because it's all that AMD gave us but because we went and purchased multiple processors for our testing labs and the X2 3800+ was the best bang for buck.

Today we are going to compare the FX-60 and X2 3800+ against each other. We know now that the FX-60 is going to be the faster processor but what we want to have a look at how much extra performance we get, from such an expensive processor. We are going to be purely looking at graphics card performance and why you might ask? The answer to that is easy, because 90% of the time when we test a high-end card, the complaints attack these articles as to why we are using a $300 processor on a $1200 graphics card setup.

Thanks to our good friends at Gigabyte here in Australia, we have got ourselves an FX-60 and a pair of GeForce 7900GTX cards. We had a look at performance of the 7900GTX's on the FX-60 the other day in an article and we were impressed.

The Basic Differences

We are not going to look at the processors in depth or anything but just a simple look at what the basic differences are between each CPU:

Price: FX-60 comes in at a massive $1011 while the X2 3800+ costs a more respectable $295.

Speed: FX-60 and X2 3800+ are both Dual Core processors. The FX-60 is clocked at 2.6GHz and the X2 3800+ is clocked at 2GHz.

Cache: The amount of cache impacts prices of processors and as expected the FX-60 has more with 2MB included while the X2 3800+ only has 1MB.

Apart from these three main differences, the processors use the same technology like SSE, SSE 2 and SSE3 along with 3DNOW! technology.

Let's have a look at our test setup and get straight into the benchmarks.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and 3DMark03

Test System Setup

Processor(s): AMD Athlon FX-60 and X2 3800+
Motherboard(s): nVidia nForce 4 X16
Graphics Card(s): 2 X Gigabyte GeForce 7900GTX in SLI (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Corsair PC3500LL PRO DDR (Supplied by Corsair Micro)
Hard Disk(s): WD Raptor 74GB 10,000RPM SATA (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows XP Professional SP2
Drivers: nVidia ForceWare 84.21 and DX9c

This article would not have been made possible without cooperation from Gigabyte as their Athlon FX-60 processor saw a bucket load of benchmarks over a period of three days.

While we are concentrating on the processors, the review follows our standard VGA layout as we are more interested on the impact of the two processors in synthetic and real world gaming performance as opposed to direct memory and CPU performance.

Please don't leave comments saying why we didn't compare chipset or memory or CPU performance. We have made it clear already that we are only interested in investigating the impact on gaming performance between the two processors.


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 360
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By combining full DX8 and partial DX9 support with completely new tests and graphics over the previous version, 3DMark03 continues the legacy of being the industry standard 3D benchmark.

Please Note: Due to recent events with the 3DMark03 series, we are adding results purely for those who are still in favor of 3DMark03. These results should not be taken too seriously and are only added for interest sakes.

Like we have found when overclocking our processor in our regular graphics card articles, the processor speed doesn't give huge performance increases with the more expensive and more power FX-60.

Benchmarks - 3DMark05


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120
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3DMark05 is the latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and higher.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.

3DMark05 which is slightly more intensive shows that the FX-60 is about 20% quicker, with exactly the same settings.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102
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3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.

3DMark06 really sees a good performance increase with the FX-60. We can see the X2 3800+ falls short of 7000 while the FX-60 breaks 8000 without a sweat.

Benchmarks - Far Cry

Far Cry

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: PC Games Hardware Demo
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There is no denying that Far Cry is currently one of the most graphic intensive games on the market, utilizing PS2.0 technology (the latest versions support Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c) and offering an exceptional visual experience there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards struggle.

Far Cry is a very CPU limited game when it comes to high performance graphics cards and whenever you get an extra few MHz; a good increase is always seen. You can see both resolutions give us almost a 30% increase over the X2 3800+.

Benchmarks - Half Life 2

Half Life 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Time demo
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By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original, and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player's presence affects everything around him, from the physical environment to the behaviors even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

We benchmark Half Life 2 with our own custom timedemos as to avoid possible driver optimizations using the "record demo_name" command and loading the timedemo with the "timedemo demo_name" command - For a full list of the commands, click here.

With such a hefty graphics card setup, Half Life 2 finds that it is hitting a CPU limitation - the upgrade to the FX-60 gives us almost a 25% increase from the X2 3800+.

Benchmarks - Doom 3

Doom 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Time demo
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Doom 3 is the latest game to hit our test lab and is one of the most intensive games to dates. With our own custom time demo we are able to give a realistic rating on what kind of FPS you will be achieving.

For more information on benchmarking Doom 3 we recommend you check out our extensive article regarding it here.

Doom 3 at the lower resolution finds a good increase but at the higher resolution which is what you would be playing with sees only a small increase and the X2 3800+ offers an excellent frame rate.

Benchmarks - Quake 4

Quake 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
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Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.

Doom 3 and Quake 4 being so similar see almost the same results, with about 20% of an increase at the lower resolutions but closer to 15% at the higher but this is probably just enough to make that higher resolution more playable.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
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F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.

At the lower resolution the FX-60 offers HUGE performance in both the average and minimum FPS yet when we move to the higher resolution the increase while there isn't as significant.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

In our High Quality tests we bump the Antialiasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) up causing the card(s) to be put under more load.

This usually helps us remove the CPU limitation. We are using 8 x AA and 16 x AF. Since we are using such high-end cards our AA and AF tests while not only being bumped up in quality are moving to 1600 x 1200 to remove the processor limitation as much as possible.

With AA and AF on we really begin to stress the system and the FX-60 gets an increase of over 10% when compared to the X2.

3DMark06 also sees more then a 10% increase in scores with the FX-60 well and truly getting past 7000 marks.

Half Life 2 without AA and AF saw large increases at both resolutions, when we really put the stress on the system the FX-60 was faster as expected but not hugely like our other tests.

Doom 3 didn't see major increases with the processor overclock but here the difference is significantly smaller.

Final Thoughts

We knew from the word go that the AMD Athlon FX-60 was going to be the faster processor but so it should be at $700 more. The FX-60 is a great gaming processor but the chances are you already know this. What we wanted to look at was how the FX-60 compared against our test bench CPU. At most we see performance increases of 25% with a performance increase of 10% to 15% being more common.

To get more out of such a heavy graphics card setup, the FX-60 is what you're going to want but it is not the be all and end all of performance as our benchmarks results we're not exactly mind blowing when compared to the cheaper X2 3800+. Sure, we understand that overclocking can come into the picture and the FX-60 can commonly hit 3GHz on air and hit more with water and phase change but for two processors at stock, the X2 3800+ really holds it ground for the price.

The other thing we can see is that the FX-60 is offering an average of 85FPS with HL2 running at 1600 x 1200 and 8xAA / 16xAF. The X2 3800+ running the same settings gets almost 75FPS. So, while the difference is 10FPS (or about 13%), the game play is going to feel identical for 90% of people.

If you're buying the Athlon FX-60 as a gaming processor to use with an SLI 7900GTX setup, it is all useless without a decent monitor. Your chain is as strong as the weakest link and if you're running a 19" LCD that only does 1280 x 1024, you're just throwing money down the drain. The absolute minimum monitor you would want for setup like this is one pumping out a resolution of 1920 x 1200 with the Dell or Apple 30" being your best companion running a massive 2560 x 1600.

The Athlon FX-60 is a great gaming processor with plenty of power as already mentioned but unless you are completely serious about gaming and want to run very high resolutions with all the settings turned on, it's hard to justify spending so much money on a CPU - the X2 3800+ might do the job just fine if you aren't all that interested in running high resolutions.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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