The reason we test so many games is that they all react differently to varying amounts of CPU and GPU processing power. And it's not just that newer games act one way and older games act another - it really is a game-by-game story. There's no more telling evidence of this than our first three game examples, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, and Bioshock Infinite. All great games, all released within a month of each other in early 2013, and all taking very different approaches to game design. As you'll see, they represent the absolute polar extremes among all the games we tested, in that Crysis 3 simply devours CPU power, while Bioshock, and in particular Tomb Raider, appear to be completely indifferent to the CPU on which they are running.
Crysis 3 (February 2013)
Crysis 3, like its predecessor Crysis (2007), will probably be a stalwart of benchmarking suites for years to come. It is a fantastic game engine, and it’s actually quite efficient if you consider what it’s rendering. But easy on dual-cores it is not, and the Pentium simply gets demolished in this test. The game flat out isn’t playable. And while Hyperthreading provides a huge boost to the Core i3, it still isn’t able to conjure up enough processing power to get over the hump in this game. The Core i5 and its near-twin the Core i7-4770K without Hyperthreading perform similarly in this game, suggesting that the extra 1MB of cache on the 4770K makes no difference. What does make a difference, though, is Hyperthreading, which provides a much bigger boost in this game to the 4770K than even the 4790K's extra 500MHz of core clock.
Crysis 3, the oldest game in our benchmark suite, is ironically the clearest example of the potential of Hyperthreading. Unfortunately, besides the older Crysis 2, no other major PC game uses its advanced game engine, CryEngine 3, and as evidenced by the rest of our benchmarks, Crysis 3 stands alone in truly harnessing the power of Intel’s potent Hyperthreading technology.
Tomb Raider (March 2013)
If ever there were a counterexample to Crysis 3, it would be the equally impressive Tomb Raider, which uses essentially no CPU power to render its scenes. In this benchmark, every single tested CPU performs within the margin of error, indicating that you simply do not need more than two cores to fully utilize a video card as powerful as the GeForce GTX 780 Ti.
Bioshock Infinite (March 2013)
Bioshock, surprisingly given its sophisticated Unreal 3-based engine, doesn’t seem to respond much to CPU power either. Note that the minimums reported in this benchmark are unreliable, being affected more by disk access than rendering power. The averages, however, are quite repeatable, and as can be seen, the 4790K only beats the Pentium by 6%, despite throwing six additional logical cores and 500MHz more clock speed at the benchmark.
So far, we’ve got one game that clearly responds to both Hyperthreading and clock speed, and two that apparently do not. What else does our benchmarking suite have in store for us?