Due to time constraints, one feature that we’ve had to remove from our graphics performance previews as of late is CPU scaling analysis. In the past we’d rely on one or perhaps two titles to explore this topic, but this paints a fairly narrow picture of the subject matter. At the same time however, obviously the more applications and processors you add, the more time it takes: a project that may only take a day or two very quickly blossoms into three or four. Next thing you know the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) expires and it’s time to publish the article!
I like to use the term “feature creep” for this particular situation. The more features you add to the article, whether it’s additional titles for benchmarking, adding graphics cards, or including added image quality/game settings, the more time involved to prepare the article for launch day. Sometimes the hour can arrive while you’re still busy working – for instance, that RADEON 8500 or GeForce4 added to the test suite took just a little longer than estimated. That’s good old feature creep for you.
Unfortunately, this is how we got caught up on launch day for the RADEON X800 article that appeared last week. As a result, the article went up a few hours after the embargo expired, and without CPU scaling analysis. Today we’re here to correct that.
With many enthusiasts already ordering their RADEON X800 PRO boards, we figured it was the natural card to start with. We’ve also added its predecessor, RADEON 9800 XT, so you can see how it compares.
On the processor side we’ve rounded up AMD’s Athlon XP line first, with plans for a follow-up story for Pentium 4 users to follow. Processors range from the venerable 2100+ to AMD’s top-of-the-line Athlon XP 3200+. We’ve also included 2500+ and 2800+ CPUs (both using AMD’s “Barton” core), to fill in the middle. Another feature we’ve added is testing at 2048x1536 in a few applications.
And just in case you’re not familiar with the term “CPU-limited”, we’ll provide a quick refresher. Quite frankly, in many titles the graphics card is held up waiting on the CPU. You can see this in benchmarks where you hit the same frame rate regardless of graphics settings (such as increasing screen resolution). As soon as a faster CPU is inserted, the frame rates increase.
This is a situation you’d like to avoid if you’ve just plunked down $400 or $500 on a brand new graphics card, as you’re not getting the most from your money.
By the time you’ve looked over the graphs, hopefully you’ll have a better idea of which processor or graphics card best fits your needs/budget. With prices falling on the RADEON 9800 XT, it’s shaping up to be a solid solution in the sub-$300 market and may be a better choice for you than the X800 PRO.