New Testing Methodology

Every twelve to eighteen months it makes sense to upgrade our test beds in order to best represent what is available on the market. How the upgrade occurs depends on what is being tested, and in the case of our APU reviews it is clear that due to the wide range of graphics options available, as well as at different price points, that we have to adjust our gaming testing.

For 2015 our CPU performance testing regime remains untouched aside from the late 2014 addition of Linux-Bench for a glimpse into Linux based performance. On the gaming side, our games have been updated to the following:

  • Alien Isolation (First Person Survival-Horror)
  • Total War: Attila (Strategy)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (Open World Sandbox)
  • GRID: Autosport (Driving)
  • Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor (Action-Adventure)

Because budgets for gaming graphics cards can vary, or users decide to keep the same card for several generations, we will be testing each of these titles in both low, medium and high end graphics setups. This means we can see where the bottlenecks are for CPU performance at each stage. We have also been able to source both AMD and NVIDIA cards for most of these areas, should one side of the equation scale more than the other.

The GPU sections are split into three based on where they fit in their independent stacks rather than for direct competition:

 - Integrated Graphics
 - ASUS R7 240 2GB DDR3 ($70)
 - Dual Graphics (where applicable)

 - MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245-$255 on eBay/Amazon, $330 new)
 - MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240)

 - ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB ($560)
 - MSI R9 290X Gaming LE 4GB ($380)

On the low end, we have selected settings in order to make the current best integrated graphics solutions score between 45 and 60 frames per second. On the mid-range and high-end, we typically pull out 1080p maximum settings or almost-maximum.

The Shadows of Mordor (SoM) benchmark throws up a little interesting teaser as well due to the use of its Dynamic Super Resolution technique. This allows us to render at 3840x2160 (Ultra-HD, or ‘4K’) with our settings despite using a 1080p monitor. As a result, we also test SoM at 4K ultra with our mid-range and high-end graphics setups.

For the high-end setups, as we have managed to source 2 cards of each, means that where applicable we can test both SLI and Crossfire setups. We apply this to Shadows of Mordor at 4K as an extra data point.

For clarity, this means:

R7 240 2GB
Dual Graphics
GTX 770 2GB
R9 285 2GB
GTX 980 4GB
R9 290X 4GB
Alien Isolation 720p Ultra 1080p Ultra 1080p Ultra
Average Frame Rate Average Frame Rate Average Frame Rate
Total War: Attila 720p Performance 1080p Quality 1080p Quality
Average Frame Rate Average Frame Rate Average Frame Rate
Grand Theft Auto V 720p Low 1080p Very High 1080p Very High
Average Frame Rate
%FPS <60 FPS
Average Frame Rate
%FPS <60 FPS
Average Frame Rate
%FPS <60 FPS
GRID: Autosport 1080p Medium 1080p Ultra 1080p Ultra
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate
Shadows of Mordor
720p Low
1080p Ultra
4K Ultra
1080p Ultra
4K Ultra
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate
Average Frame Rate
Minimum Frame Rate

For drivers, we locked down the 350.12 WHQL versions from NVIDIA soon after the launch of GTA V. Similarly, the 15.4 Beta drivers from AMD are also being used. These will remain consistent over the next 12-18 months until the next update.

All of our old (and new) benchmark data, both for CPU and graphics performance, can be found in our benchmark database, Bench.

We have a variety of benchmarks here, including legacy benchmarks such as CineBench 11.5 and TrueCrypt, which are not published in the main review. All CPUs/APUs that have been tested in our new 2015 style will be labeled in the dropdown menus by having its launch price listed, e.g. ’AMD A10-7850K (95W, $173)’. With any luck over the course of the next six months we will be adding new data and re-testing older processors for the database in order for our readers to compare old with new.

AMD A8-7650K Review AMD A8-7650K Test Setup, Overclocking
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  • xprojected - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    - MSI GTX 770 Lightning 2GB ($245-$255 on eBay/Amazon, $330 new)
    - MSI R9 285 Gaming 2GB ($240)

    Hold on. You suggest that the 770 and the 285 are nearly the same price, but you list the used/refurbished price for the 770 first. That opens up a Pandora's box, doesn't it? If it's too hard to find a card new, pick a different one, like the 970, or 960, which is actually close in price to the 285 (at least a couple go for $200 on Newegg). Even though you say you split the GPUs based on price ranges, rather than similar prices, people are going to compare ATI to NVidia and you have an unfair used-vs-new price comparison.
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Ideally the tests are meant to show comparisons within a GPU class, not between GPU classes. Ultimately I work with the cards I have, and on the NV side I have a GTX 980 and a GTX 770, whereas on the AMD side is an R9 290X and R9 285 (the latest Tonga). In comparison to what I have, the 980/290X are high end, and the 770/285 are a class below. The 770 Lightning is also hard to source new, due to its age, but is still a relevant card. If I could have sourced a 960/970, I would have.
  • Navvie - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    That is one of the things that really puts me off AT these days. The attitude of "this is what I have available, this is what I'll test against." If it's not relevant don't use it. Get out the AT credit card and buy some new hardware.
  • milkod2001 - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    if they want to spend more money they will have to make more money first.

    To make more money they would have to spread million annoying ads and this site would quickly turned into Toms super boring "best SSD for the money" articles like, with millions amazon, newegg links, ads and all that crap

    They better use what they have in disposal and try to maintain still decent enough articles, reviews etc.
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    "Despite the rated memory on the APUs being faster, NPB seems to require more IPC than DRAM speed."

    Guys.. the Intel chips have better memory controllers since many years. They extract much higher performance and lower latency if you compare them at similar DRAM clock & timings. Lot's of AT benchmarks showed this as well, back when such things were still included (e.g. when a new architecture appears).
  • rp1367 - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Here we go again, this is another pro Intel review. The crooked company who paid AMD Billion $ settlement case due to unfair competition practices are still being supported by lots of rotten people based on their comments here is disturbing. I find these people scum on this earth as they continue to support the scammers. Shame on you guys!

    By the way the review is biased as you benchmark it using DX11. This is another manipulative benchmark trying to hold on the past and not on the future. Read my lips "WE DONT WANT DX11 review only! DX12 is coming in a few months why not use the MS Technical review version so people can have a glimpse instead of repeating to us reader, then you redo the benchmark when MS has released its new OS (MS 10). If you dont have full version DX12 now (as we all know) then do not benchmark it bacause it is the same for the past 5 years. You are just wasting your time if your intent is neutral to general consumers as if you are trying to sway us from the truth.
  • shadowjk - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    Speak for yourself. What use to me are benchmarks of APIs I don't have and can't get, of games I don't have and don't play. With this latest review method change, the last game I had disappeared, so now I can't compare the results with my own system anymore. This makes it harder to decide whether this product is a good upgrade over my current system or not.
  • Teknobug - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Looks like A8 7600 with R7 240 dual gfx is the combination here. I have an A8 7600, so now just need that card.
  • UtilityMax - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Am I the only poster who is impressed with the performance of the Kaveri parts in the gaming benchmarks?

    For one, the Kaveri parts virtually eliminate the need for a $70 discrete GPU. If you were thinking of that kind of low-end GPU, might as well buy an APU. Next, the is very little difference or none at all in average FPS under many settings if you use a $240 dedicated GPU, which means that and $200 GPU is still the bottleneck in a gaming system. Only once the benchmarks are run with very high end GPUs, we finally see the superiority of the Haswell parts.

    Of course, the business, web, compression, and conversion benchmarks are another story. Except for a few special cases, the APUs struggle to catch a Core i3.
  • meacupla - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Yeah, these APUs are certainly a lot better on the CPU front than what they used to be.

    I think the APU's only downfall is that $72 Pentium G3258 and availability of cheaper (sub $100) H97 motherboards to overclock them on.
    A88X FM2+ boards are around the same price as H97 boards, but that $30 saving from cheaper CPU can go into a decent cooler for overclocking.

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