Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Build: Meet the Parents - Part 2

I have put together some graphs to compare the performance of the new machine I built for my parents, the Green Machine (MkII), and my own gaming rig, Daedalus. I didn't have time to run a full suite of tests, so I opted to compare general processing and graphics performance.

Synthetic CPU Tests

My first CPU benchmarks were performed using Cinebench 11.529 and I ran both single and multi-threaded tests. An arbitrary score at the end is produced; higher is better.

I used benchmarking feature of POVray as a second comparison, which simply records how long a scene is taken to render; the quicker the better. I used the 3.7 beta release, as the stable release (3.6) does not support multi threaded rendering and, therefore, benchmarking.

In both tests, the single threaded performance of the Intel Core i3-4130 in the Green Machine outstrips the overclocked Phenom II inside Daedalus by roughly 50%. However, there is a much smaller gain in performance in the multi-threaded benchmarks; I suspect this is down to there being three physical cores available in the unlocked Phenom II (Daedalus) compared to the 4 logical (2 physical) in the i3-4130 (Green Machine). The Green Machine still beats Daedalus in the multi-threaded tests, but the additional performance of the newer Haswell architecture is offset by having more cores available in the older Phenom II chip.

Synthetic GPU Test

I used Unigine version 3.0 to test the raw graphical performance of both machines here. To keep things simple, I only ran a single set of tests, as opposed to trying to compare performance with different configurations. The settings I used were:

  • DirectX 11
  • 1920x1080
  • 8x Anti-Aliasing
  • 16x Anisotropic Filtering
  • Shaders: High
  • Textures: High
  • Occlusion: Enabled
  • Refraction: Enabled
  • Volumetric: Enabled
  • Tessellation: Normal

These results are interesting as they pitch a lower end GPU from one generation (Green Machine's 7790) against a higher end one from an older generation (the 6950 inside Daedalus). You can see that there is little variation in performance here, with Daedalus reporting slightly higher average and maximum FPS values, while the Green Machine posts a superior minimum FPS score. Not bad considering a 7790 costs around £120-130 and the 6950 set me back around £200 when I originally bought it!

Real World - Games

I used the Fraps tool to benchmark real world performance, measuring minimum, maximum and average FPS alongside individual frame times. I chose three different games to test:

  • Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead
  • Battlefield 3
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I compared frame times by producing a graph showing how long each frame took to render, but to improve the comparison, I decided to produce percentile comparison graphs for the frame time. This was inspired by PC Perspective's own reviews. I believe provides an easier way to visualise performance differences; the standard frame time graphs tend to have a large number of data points.

On to the benchmarks, first Arma 2:

Arma has a reputation for being a CPU hog and the above results seem to confirm this. The minimum frame rate recorded was noticeably higher on the Green Machine, while there was no real difference in the maximum and average. The frame times are very similar as well, with the percentile graph confirming that the Green Machine edges out Daedalus when it comes to the slower frames.

Next, we take a look at Battlefield 3:

This set of results is intriguing; while the Green Machine posts superior frame rates (especially minimum), the frame times show that Daedalus produces a more consistent performance. The Green Machine seems to have some real spikes with some individual frames, which are clearly visible on the frame time graph and affect the highest percentiles drastically.

Finally, let's see the Skyrim benchmarks:

This is another interesting set of results. There are small differences in frame rates between the two machines, however, the frame times and percentiles show a much larger variation in performance for Daedalus. Again, I suspect the superior CPU in the Green Machine helps a lot here.


Seeing how well my parent's systems compare to my own gaming system really gives me pause for thought. The CPU benchmarks were as expected, but I was very impressed how well the Green Machine performed in the gaming benchmarks. Especially as the Unigine benchmark showed how Daedalus only slightly outperformed Green Machine.

Arma 2 really benefits from single threaded performance, which is why I believe the Green Machine shows slightly superior performance here. I think the larger variation in frame times exhibited by the Green Machine during the Battlefield 3 and Skyrim tests can be attributed to it's fewer physical cores compared to Daedalus, as well as the older machine's 6950.

I've since ordered some new parts to upgrade my primary gaming system, including an i5-4670K, which I'm hoping will improve performance in the games benchmarked, as well as other, CPU intensive, titles I play.