Test System Setup
- AMD Athlon 64 3800+, 4000+, and FX-55 processors
- MSI K8N Neo2 motherboard (nForce 5.10)
- 1 GB (2 x 512 MB) Corsair XMS PC3200 DDR RAM
- VisionTek 9800 Pro 128 MB (Catalyst 4.9 drivers)
- Adaptec 19160 SCSI controller
- 36 GB Seagate Cheetah 15,000 RPM HD (NTFS)
- Windows XP Professional – Service Pack 2
- DirectX 9.0c
The benchmark suite used to test the Athlon 64 3800+, 4000+, and FX-55 is listed here. All games are configured for 32-bit color and trilinear texture filtering as the baseline default. Anti-aliasing and anisotropic texture filtering are, of course, disabled throughout all tests. Windows XP is also configured to have Automatic Update, System Restore, and all unnecessary startup services disabled. Fraps v2.3.2 was used to record performance scores unless otherwise noted. However, because a faster AGP graphics board was not available for use in the test system, in-game options for each title were changed to lower, less demanding graphics settings to keep the 9800 Pro from becoming a performance bottleneck and thus preventing the tested processors from differentiating themselves. Once PCI Express chipsets for AMD systems become available here in the near future, this will no longer be an issue since SimHQ’s ‘hardware lab’ has several high-end PCIe graphics boards available for testing.
Scores for the Athlon 64 3800+ in this review are not comparable to those from SimHQ’s original review of the CPU because, as mentioned above, testing was conducted with lower in-game settings, updated Catalyst drivers from ATI were used, and a different motherboard, MSI’s K8N Neo2, which is based on NVIDIA’s nForce 3 Ultra chipset, was installed in the test system; the 3800+ review’s test system used ASUS’ A8V Deluxe mainboard, based on VIA’s K8T800 Pro chipset.
The Comanche 4 benchmarking demo was run with texture compression and hardware shaders enabled and sound disabled.
A piece of software that has traditionally scaled very closely with CPU speed, the C4 demo displays a consistent performance increase for each resolution and processor. In fact, the FX-55 is the first CPU to break the 80+ frame rate barrier in SimHQ’s testing.
Lock On: Modern Air Combat was tested using the first three minutes of the MiG-29 Intercept demo. The in-game graphics default setting of low was applied in the hopes of keeping the 9800 Pro card from becoming a performance choke-point in the test system.
Without a doubt the graphics card is refusing to allow LOMAC to scale with processor changes.
Next is Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004, the ruling king of civilian aviation simulation. Testing consisted again of SimHQ’s dusk flight over the city of Hong Kong, with an external camera view positioned behind the aircraft. The game’s display settings were placed at medium low and all box options were unchecked.
Unfortunately, in the effort to prevent the slower graphics card from bottlenecking the test systems, FS 2004 appears to have capped itself at 100 fps. The in-game frame rate option was set to Unlimited and the display’s refresh rate was not set at 100 Hz. Further experimentation with in-game graphics settings, such as placing each sub-section at high, still saw the frame rate pegged at 100; in fact, not until the hardware options were placed at near-maximum settings did the frame rate begin to drop.
SimHQ will continue experimenting with FS 2004 in an effort to find a combination of settings that allow the simulation to scale with system changes.