When we looked at the AMD A8 Trinity CPU recently we started thinking how nice it was to have AMD back as a sensible choice for a system. As we've said many times we grew up on AMD chips here at OC3D, from the Thunderbirds to the Barton chips and onwards to the Phenom.
As much as we love the amount of performance for a sensible price that Intel provide with their i5's, the reality is that as consumers it's important to have as much choice as possible. A strong AMD line-up forces both Intel and nVidia to raise their games and lower their prices.
So with that in mind we wondered if a system fully based around AMD components could provide a good gaming experience. The newer Catalyst drivers have unlocked a lot of performance in the 7 series Radeon cards, so can a combination of those and a well-overclocked FX CPU give us good value gaming?
We want to give the AMD system the best chance at shining, so with some RAID SSDs and the best of the HD7970s it should be enough to ensure that we see the finest possible performance. With a hefty overclock on the FX8350 and running at the popular 1920x1080 resolution this should give us a good indication of whether the AMD can make the grade.
AMD FX 8350 @ 4.6GHz
Club3D 7970 Royal Ace
8GB of 1600mhz Corsair Vengeance
2x 60GB Corsair Force 3 GT's Raid 0
Corsair AX750w PSU
Corsair H110 CPU Cooler
Corsair 550D Case
We're comparing it to our normal GPU test bench of an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.6GHz. Motherboard apart the other specifications are identical.
Starting off with the very latest 3D Mark we see that, despite otherwise similar specifications and identical GPU's, the Intel offering pretty handily beats the AMD one. It's only when we get down to the Firestrike Extreme test, where the GPU is the limiting factor, that the scores get close. Albeit still far apart.
3D Mark 11
Things get closer in 3D Mark 11. The lack of pure CPU grunt is holding back the Performance result, but the Extreme test is much better. Given the extreme test is more representative of the resolutions and image quality you'll play at we have hope for the gaming results.
3D Mark Vantage
Things continue in the same vein in 3D Mark Vantage. So let's move on to some gaming results.
We'll start with a couple of games we're rather thin on results for, just to give you an idea of the latest titles. Bioshock Infinite, a superb game, runs buttery smooth on our AMD rig. Even the minimum frame-rate is above the magic 60 mark.
The adventures of Lara Croft play superbly well on the AMD setup. Although it drops to 43 FPS that's more than enough to ensure a smooth experience, and in playing you certainly don't notice the frame rate lowering. A good start.
Far Cry 3
Moving into the jungle with Jason Brody and the lack of CPU performance is really noticeable. 8 frames behind our first HD7970 test, and a whopping 12 behind the Intel test on the same card and drivers. 30 is right on the borderline of where we'd like to be. Fortunately Far Cry 3 is slower paced so it's tolerable.
The benefit of the latest Catalyst drivers can be felt in Hitman Absolution. Also the power of the full-spectrum AMD setup. Only 3 FPS average below a LGA2011, which is vastly more expensive. Good job, Agent 47.
After all this time since its release, Metro 2033 is still a stern test of any system. The Radeon cards always perform well, but on the AMD FX8350 we end up around the level of the nVidia cards. It says a lot that the HD7970 is reduced to the level of a HD7870 here.
Resident Evil 5 DX9
Yikes. Sure the performance is still enough to be perfectly smooth and playable. It's not exactly an impressive score though is it.
Resident Evil 5 DX10
Changing to the DirectX 10 mode doesn't improve things. There is an extremely tight window on Resident Evil 5. Only 36 frames between the minimum and the maximum we achieved. A CPU limited result if ever there was one.
Resident Evil 6
We haven't really got a lot to compare Resident Evil 6 with, such is its newness. However, the GTX650Ti Boost proved playable, so the vast increase we see from our AMD rig should give a smooth gaming experience.
Our first big shock of the day. United Front Games offering particularly likes this combination, giving us a much more playable result than we've seen previously. Nearly 10 frames better than our original HD7970 test on the i7-3960X.
With the anti-aliasing off we get a decent average result in Unigine Heaven, although it's worth noting that the frame-rate drops significantly at times.
Increasing the anti-aliasing gives us the same result. Overall the AMD rig is capable of a great average frame-rate in Unigine Heaven, but the minimum frame-rate is the lowest we've tested on Radeon cards. That lack of CPU power coming to the fore again.
Our final test finishes off our thoughts that the AMD FX CPU is capable enough when the GPU starts to be stressed, but it lacks the raw horsepower for big benchmark numbers.
The fun of multi-tasking capabilities.
So at the beginning we wondered if the All AMD Rig could stack up against our Intel 2011 bench rig in gaming scenarios.
Firstly, and as a surprise to absolutely nobody, the benchmark results definitely don't perform well on the FX8350. On low resolution settings, or ones in which the CPU makes up a larger proportion such as the zero anti-aliasing tests, the AMD FX8350 lacks the oomph required to challenge the Intel setup. You only have to look at the minimum frame-rate in Unigine Heaven, or the relatively poor results in the Performance tests of 3D mark, to see that the CPU can't compete with the Intel.
However, when one processor costs £150 and the other £550, then benchmarks aren't really a cause for concern. One of the biggest differences between a high-end CPU and a mid-priced one is usually to be found in benchmarks but on the flip side these dont always directly link in to FPS scores.... So how do the gaming results stack up?
Extremely well. Throughout our testing, barring a couple of games, our AMD system was consistently just a shade below the vastly more expensive Intel setup. The two games that bookended the results were Far Cry 3, which performed probably the poorest of our titles, and Sleeping Dogs which gave an extremely good showing on the AMD setup (both AMD branded games).
All in all, if you want a gaming system, and one costing less than the equivalent Intel high-end arrangement, then finally AMD are capable of playing with the big boys again.
We're extremely pleased to see AMD fighting back after so long in the Intel shadow, with a great value, good performing, desirable gaming platform. Factor in their focus on free gaming titles with the Never Settle and Never Settle Reloaded promotions and their new found focus to games a whole with Far Cry 3, Crysis 3 and the yet to be released Battle Field 4 all AMD branded and its not hard to see that their focus is finally back where it matters. Its because of these last two reasons we have decided to give the AMD Gaming experience as a whole the OC3D Gamer Choice award.
Thanks to AMD for supplying the hardware for today's review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D forums.