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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  • silverblue - Thursday, May 14, 2015 - link

    I've often wondered if the G3258 is really the better choice in this price range. Sure, there are titles it cannot play, but workarounds exist in one or two titles to allow it to work. Newer titles may indeed render it obselete, but there's always the argument about buying a better CPU for the platform later on. Additionally, it overclocks like buggery if you feel that way inclined; how long has it been since we had a CPU that could be overclocked by 50% without costing the earth in power?

    The concern I have with upgrading just the CPU is that Intel doesn't stick with its sockets for a long time, and if you're buying a CPU that will eventually become as useful as a chocolate fireguard when playing modern titles, it'd make more sense to buy its i3 cousins in the first place. AMD is banking on you considering its quad core APUs for this, however they have their flaws too - FM2+ has a year left (Carrizo is destined for FM3 along with Zen), they don't overclock as well, power usage is higher even during idle, and the GPU-less derivatives don't appear to be any faster. H81 boards aren't expensive, either, for overclocking that Pentium. Still, you really do need a discrete card with the G3258/Athlons, whereas the APUs and i3 have enough iGPU grunt to go into an HTPC if you're not gaming heavily.

    Decisions, decisions... and right now, I'm wondering how I could even consider AMD. Has anybody made systems for both Pentium and Athlon/APU systems and can share their thoughts?
  • Tunnah - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Nice review, covers pretty much everything, and says what I guess everyone was expecting.

    One thing I wondered though, why choose the 770 for mid-range when the 960 is a much more logical choice ? Price wise it's £140 here in UK so I guess about $200 over the pond, and is a much more competent card than the 770
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Because I've had 770s in as part of my test bed for 18 months. The rest of the cards (290X, 980, 285) I've sourced for my 2015 testing, and it's really hard to source GPUs for testing these days - I had to personally purchase the 285 for example, because I felt it was extremely relevant. Unfortunately we don't all work in a big office to pass around hardware!
  • meacupla - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    If you do ever get a GTX 960 or 750Ti, it would be nice to see some total system power consumption numbers between overclocked A8-7650K+R7 240 vs. i3-4xxx+750Ti vs. overclocked G3258+750Ti
  • Drazick - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Could you please add MATLAB to your performance benchmark?
    Or at least Python / Julia.

    We need data about scientific computation.

    Thank You.
  • UtilityMax - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    "Scientific computation" is a somewhat amorphous term. Moreover, I don't know if there exists a benchmark suite for either Matlab or Python. In any case, Matlab and Python or both used in numerics as fast prototyping tools or for computations where the compute time is inconsequential. If you're running in speed issues with Matlab it's time to start coding in something else, although in from my observations, most people who run into performance issues with Matlab don't know how to optimize Matlab code for speed. Most don't know how to code at all.
  • freekier93 - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Your really don't know what you're talking about... Matlab is SO much more than fast prototyping software. I have quite a few programs what would be good speed tests, one of which being a full non-linear aircraft dynamics Simulink simulation. A 5 minute simulation could easily take 2 minutes of compute time. Anything that starts getting into serious differential equations takes compute time.
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    3DPM is a Brownian Motion based benchmark, and Photoscan does interesting 2D to 3D correlation projections. The Linux benchmarks also include NAMD/NPB, both of which are hardcore scientific calculations.
  • Smile286 - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Author, do you know about existence of 'Haswell Refresh' CPU models? It's basically the same 'Haswell' with +100/+200/+300 MHz to their x86-core's speed. Why not use them in tests? It's not like it's 2013 right now, when i3-4330 was released. FYI, i3-4370 have the same $138 MSRP (tray) as i3-4330, but it +300 MHz faster.

    Same story about i3-4130 and i3-4170: +300 MHz for i3-4170 basically for free.

    You should put them in test rather an old 'Haswell' core i3 models. Thanks.
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    How could a next generation API improve AMD's APU performance if it already has decent if not very good performance in integrated 3D graphics (beating the lowest end discrete)?

    AMD still needs better CPU performance as it shows poorer value compared to an Intel of near or similar price (without considering the GPU).

    The occasional gaming niche is pretty nil too as that kind can be accomplished in a notebook, tablet, or smartphone.

    This remains valuable for people with regular gaming in mind but with absolutely limited budget. I see myself getting this for getting back into Diablo 3 after a day from work but saving a bit more, I might as well get a decent laptop.

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