AMD Bulldozer / FX-8150 Gameplay Performance Review

Today we will take a look at how the AMD FX-8150 stacks up in real gameplay versus an Intel Core i7 2500K and 2600K, at default settings and overclocked. Will any of these CPUs provide a better gameplay over the other in some current DX11 games? We show you Battlefield 3, F1 2011, and Civilization V.

CPUs and DX11 Gameplay

Please read our overview of the new AMD FX-8150 "Bulldozer" processor to learn about this new processor architecture from AMD. We've already looked at how desktop applications, both single threaded and multithreaded perform, and how synthetic performance compares. It is now time to look at how this Bulldozer CPU handles games in comparison to the Intel equivalent.

When we look into comparing CPU performance in games, we need to look toward games that take advantage of driver and CPU multithreading, or are very CPU intensive to begin with. When it comes to utilizing the CPU, DirectX 11 can actually help us out here. We often think of DX11 as a graphics API, but it has abilities within to also take advantage of multi-core CPUs. DirectX 11 introduced a new featured called driver multithreading. Released way back in September of 2009, AMD provided this preview article that details what to expect out of DirectX 11. Multithreading Rendering is described on that page, and briefly it comes down to this:

"Multithreaded Rendering is a feature which allows DirectX to be processed via multiple CPU threads. This means that a dual-, triple- or quad-core CPU can have a higher utilization across all cores than DirectX APIs in the past."

In order to utilize this feature the game itself must support it. There are currently only two games that we are aware of that use this new DX11 feature.

The not-so-new game Civilization V is a multithreaded game that utilizes driver multithreading in DX11. This game supports DX9, DX10, and DX11. In DX11 it utilizes driver multithreading. It is also important to note that the driver must support it as well.

Another game that will use this feature is the upcoming, and highly anticipated, Battlefield 3. As most gamers know, the open Beta to BF3 has been going on for a bit now, but we are unsure if the Beta supports that DX11 feature. We do know that it has been stated that the Beta does not contain all the graphics features found in the full version game. It may be that the Beta version doesn't support it yet, but the full version game should. Another game, which doesn't support this feature, but has proven to rely on the CPU is the new racing game F1 2011.

It is these three games we are going to focus on today to see how CPU performance compares. Please be aware we had a short time to test these systems, and in the following weeks we will dive into more gameplay on this new CPU. We found the results in one game to be particular fascinating that we need to look into further.

Test Setup

For our testing procedures we have tried our best to perform apples-to-apples testing. We also looked at highest playable settings, which will describe later in the article. We used the latest versions of all games tested at the time, as well as the latest software drivers. Our test system for the Intel system consists of an ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution motherboard, Intel Core i7 2500K and 2600K at stock settings and overclocked to 4.8GHz. The AMD system consisted of an MSI 990FXA-GD80 motherboard and AMD FX-8150 at stock settings and overclocked to 4.6GHz.

In this review, instead of us changing the video card like in our GPU reviews, the CPU and frequencies change. The video card remains static for this evaluation, and for that we used an AMD Radeon HD 6970. The driver version used was AMD Catalyst 11.10 Preview driver, which contains performance improvements for Battlefield 3 Beta.

We ran a set of game performance evaluation data with the CPUs at stock settings, as well as overclocked. On our graphs, the CPUs labeled with no clock speed are at stock settings using Turbo. Overclocked processors are indicated with the clock speed.