Article Index

Test System Specifications and Methodology

Main system Technical specifications

ProcessorAMD A6-3650
2.6GHz
Intel Core i3-2100
@ 3.1GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte A75M-UD2H F3 BIOS Asrock Z68 Fatality Professional P1.30 BIOS
Memory 8 GB - 2x4GB Kingston HyperX Plug-n-Play
DDR3-1600 CL9
KHX1600C9D3P1K2_8G
8 GB - 2x 4GB Kingston HyperX Plug-n-Play
DDR3-1600 CL9
KHX1600C9D3P1K2_8G
Cooling Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Artic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro Revision 2
Graphics Integrated
Radeon HD 6530D
Integrated
Intel HD Graphics 2000
Monitor Dell Ultrasharp U2412M 24" LCD Dell Ultrasharp U2412M 24" LCD
Hard Disk Drive 500GB SATA 3Gbps
Samsung Spinpoint F3 502HJ
500GB SATA 3Gbps
Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ
Optical Drive LG GH22NS30 SATA DVD+RW LG GH22NS30 SATA DVD+RW
Case Generic Micro ATX format tower  Generic ATX format Mid Tower
Power Antec Smartpower 2.0 500 Watts Antec Smartpower 2.0 500 Watts
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64bit Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64bit
Graphics Driver AMD Catalyst 11.9 Intel 15.22.50.64.2509 (8.15.10.2509)
Storage Driver AMD SATA 1.2.001.0296 Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.6.1022
Chipset Driver AMD 8.881 Intel Chipset 9.​2.​0.​1030
USB 3.0 Driver AMD 8.881 asmedia ASM1042 1.14.1
USB Storage Drive WD Mybook 3.0 2TB WD Mybook 3.0 2TB

Comparative system technical specifications

ProcessorIntel Pentium Dual-Core E6300
@ 2.8GHz
Intel Celeron E1200
@ 1.6GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte EP45-DS3R F11e BIOS Gigabyte EG45M-UD2H F5a BIOS
Memory 4 GB - 2x 2GB Transcend
DDR2-800 CL5
2 GB - 2x 1GB Kingston
DDR2-800 CL6
Cooling Intel OEM cooling bundled with CPU Intel OEM cooling bundled with CPU
Graphics Gigabyte GTX460OC-1GI
NVIDIA GTX460 1GB
Integrated
Intel GMA X4500HD
Monitor Dell Ultrasharp U2412M 24" LCD Dell Ultrasharp U2412M 24" LCD
Hard Disk Drive 500GB SATA 3Gbps
Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ s
500GB SATA 3Gbps
Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ
Optical Drive LG GH22NS30 SATA DVD+RW LG GH22NS30 SATA DVD+RW
Case Generic ATX format Mid Tower Generic Micro ATX format tower 
Power Antec Smartpower 2.0 500 Watts Antec Smartpower 2.0 500 Watts
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64bit Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64bit
Graphics Driver NVIDIA GeForce 280.62 Intel HD Graphics 15.17.17
Storage Driver Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.6.1022 Intel Rapid Storage Technology 10.6.1022
Chipset Driver Intel Chipset 9.​2.​0.​1030 Intel Chipset 9.​2.​0.​1030
USB 3.0 Driver NEC 2.1.19 N/A
USB Storage Drive WD Mybook 3.0 2TB WD Mybook 3.0 2TB

Test Methodology

The aim of the performance tests in this review is to show what levels of performance the AMD A6 and Intel i3 as mainstream PCs can achieve with modern software and tasks only. Mainstream computing does include gaming.

CPU

We have two competing current systems and two older but distinct systems for reference in our evaluation

  • The AMD A6-3650 2.6GHz APU represents the 2nd highest tier of AMD's 2011 mainstream performance processor line-up. The AMD A8 is higher and A4, E2 are lower. This system has an integrated 'discrete class' mid level Radeon GPU. AMD typically offers four true CPU cores at a lower price than Intel as they feel more computing power is more useful in modern workloads than less cores and higher clock speeds.
  • The Intel i3-2100 3.1GHz CPU represents the entry model of Intel's 2011 mainstream performance processor line-up. The i5 is higher while the Pentium and Celeron are lower. This system has updated integrated Intel graphics. This Intel product has two CPU cores and two additional virtual CPU cores, allowing four software threads to be executed simultaneously without the need for four true cores. This feature called hyper threading allows the i3 to provide a 'free' performance boost to make up for its lack of CPU cores. The smallest Intel CPU with four true cores, their i5 sells for a higher price point and has higher CPU but not Graphics performance than the AMD APU
  • The Pentium Dual Core E6300 2.8 GHz Dual Core CPU is an example of a $100 price point high-speed CPU catering for mainstream computing from 2009. We equipped this system with a high-speed DirectX11 gaming/3D graphics card, NVIDIA's GTX460 from 2010. This combination represents an affordable and mainstream performance computing/gaming system as well as demonstrates the performance gains a graphics DirectX11 graphics card can give an older/weaker system with the latest software.
  • The Celeron E1200 1.6GHz Dual Core CPU is an example of an old entry-level priced processor from 2008 catering for value computing. This chip provides smooth, responsive performance at the minimum clock speed (GHz) compared to its companion models, which operate at 1-2GHz faster speeds with additional features. This part has additional relevance in that it is to entry level Intel Core2 processors still available in new but discontinued and obsolete notebooks. This system has relatively weak CPU and graphics performance. This system is outfitted with Intel's best integrated graphics for the Core2 CPU.

These two Core2 Duo systems offer a reference for the AMD A-Series and Intel 2nd Generation Core i3 mainstream computing platforms. The Celeron E1200 has relatively weak and is the minimum spec required for responsive computing.The Pentium E6300 has very powerful graphics but is only a dual core budget CPU of an older generation. Where as the AMD A6 and Intel i3 are supposed to have balanced performance in all areas. The combination of these four systems should demonstrate the relevance of good graphics performance in modern software not just for graphics applications but any software that is GPU accelerated as well as generation to generation performance 2008-2011.

All four systems are capable of and support the same premium multimedia functions such as Blu-Ray playback, HDMI display output and support for HD display and video however with the feature set and quality depending on the system.

Motherboard

The motherboard, system board, main board, logic board whatever you like to call it is the most important part of the system. It provides the backbone and framework for the PC's components. This is more critical for typical end users than computer savvy ones who may not be able to tolerate or handle any nuances or odd behaviour with cheaper or obscure brand parts. Tech savvy users do not want to put up with a 'crap' and buggy motherboard either. All the motherboards used in this review are not entry level models, are of good design, use high quality components and have stable BIOS code with lack of any significant bug fixes or known issues.

Initially we had intended to use an Intel Desktop board with H67 or Z68 chipset paired with the i3 CPU however a review unit was not available in time for our review resulting in our use of the Asrock Fatality motherboard for this system.

Although the Asrock board is mainly aimed at gamers and enthusiasts and is priced accordingly, it has a similar feature set to the Gigabyte AMD board we used and is not overly the top compared to some higher up models such as Gigabyte Killer, ASUS ROG and EVGA FTW boards specifically intended for enthusiast/gaming.

Performance at stock clock speeds should be similar product to product. If performance is significantly different, then either a vendor's product is boosting performance by over-clocking/cheating, tweaking certain settings to borderline levels that can compromise system stability or they have very, very good engineers.

With most of the chipset logic now integrated into processor on both platforms, overclocking and tweaking is streamlined and normalised between boards compared to older generation products. Although it might look like an affordable and simple board, Gigabyte has been promoting the overclocking and performance of its A75 motherboards via other review sites, online marketing campaigns as well as logos on the product packaging describing the performance of the product when overclocked. We have reached over-clock speeds of near 1GHz on top of the stock speed of the APU, 3.5+ GHz for the AMD A6 is possible.

Both platforms afford good tweaking possibilities for enthusiasts. Some easy to use overclocking features are included in the BIOS of both boards to streamline the overclocking process. Some users may not want to overclock and will choose the board for its features and appearance. One of the target markets for the A-Series is Mainstream gamers, mainstream gamers being casual gamers who do not have the top of the line PC designed and built specifically for the maximum gaming performance possible. The Asrock Fatality does have a focus on the integrated graphics which is unusual for a 'gaming' board. The Intel graphics is just enough to go on if a user wishes to purchase a graphics card at a later stage.

Cooling

Hardware or software sent to media for use in reviews often is either pre-production or does not come with the full retail package. In such cases, reviewers have to compromise at times and use accessories such as cooling parts that are not what the end users will receive with their new PC.

The AMD A6 and INTEL I3 were supplied by their manufacturers as review units without the factory cooling. We elected to use two brand new aftermarket coolers from Cooler Master and Arctic Cooling of the higher specification at the A$30 price point

The heat sinks are more powerful than the factory cooling both supporting processors up to 130 Watts. The fans on both coolers are the same type ('PWM') with their ability to change speed to suit conditions but larger than those found on the factory coolers. Factory cooling offers quiet operation, which these two coolers also offer.

We could have used older (but technically suitable and compatible) cooling on both AMD and INTEL platforms but these do not offer the same user experience in terms of quality, noise and cooling power as what is supplied in the box. Additionally, Users typically upgrade not downgrade their cooling.

Power

Mainstream consumer or business PCs typically do not use expensive power supplies whose purpose is to power high performance gaming PCs.

Typical power supply range is 300 to 550 watts for generic 'white box' PCs and brand name PCs may use smaller power supplies for smaller size PCs. In 2011 380 watts is a common capacity for new generic PC chassis.

To emulate and replicate such PCs we used a variety of modern generic power supplies ranging from 300 to 550 watts to determine the stability of each system with smaller, lesser quality power supplies.

For power consumption tests and our reference gaming system we used Antec 500W smart power power supply which is able to support a performance gaming class graphics card such as the GTX460 we used.

Chassis

PC motherboards are built to a standard form factor so that all boards and cases are interchangeable. There are always exceptions to the rule. The motherboards we used in this review are all of the standard micro ATX or standard ATX format and should be compatible with the majority of cases manufactured in the last ten years. The Z68 and P45 motherboards do not have an overhang at the front of the motherboard unlike some high end boards.

Graphics

Manufacturers typically use a baseline resolution and graphic detail settings when they discuss performance numbers for their products.

As of 2011 this baseline is typically 1366x768 resolution with low or medium details or 1600x900 resolution. These resolutions are common and relevant to laptop/notebooks but not so much with desktop computers which is what we are looking at in this review. 1366x768 resolution monitors form the entry level products in the display market at $80-$100 and are typically of smaller sizes, 16-18.5 inches. Mainstream consumers look for and buy larger monitors such as 20 to 24" Additionally older monitors such as 5 year old LCD screens are still popular of 15 to 19 "inches. These run at 1280x1024 resolution which is slightly higher than 1366x768.

A single baseline configuration provides a easy comparison between products and is perfectly suited to testing notebooks as they have less variation in display resolutions but this does not give the full picture (no pun intended) for the performance of a powerful and modern desktop computer.

Modern software especially 3D Games will automatically configure their detail settings to suit particular types of hardware. Different systems with different settings can not be equally compared as lower settings equals better performance but significantly worse image quality.

For these reasons we have tested all games at three resolutions.

We tested each game at the following resolutions

  • Best-case 3D performance: 1024x768 (0.7 megapixels) with Low quality game pre-set. No anti-aliasing.
  • Medium/Typical case 3D performance: 1280x1024 (1.3 megapixels) with Medium quality game pre-set. No Anti-Aliasing. This resolution also caters for 1366x768 resolutions (1.0 megapixel) common with entry-level monitors and notebooks.
  • Worse case 3D performance: 1920x1080 (2.07 megapixels) with High quality game pre-set and 4x Anti-Aliasing.
    In applications such as HTML5 web,content creation and some games 1920x1200 resolution (2.3 megapixels) should present little performance penalty.

Using these three sets of performance data we can determine the optimal system setup to achieve good performance (aiming for 30 frames per second) for a particular application or game.

Users expect their 'brand new pc' to be fast and powerful. By seeing best typical and worst cause performance, better purchasing decisions can be made to suit ones requirements or to adjust system settings to achieve good performance.

Professional 2D and 3D applications was tested at 1280x1024 and 1920x1080 only.

We tested PC test suites at their default pre-set resolution. If no default is used, we tested at 1280x1024 and 1920x1080

Software and Drivers

We used the latest available software and drivers at time of testing from the manufacturers websites with exception of NEC USB3 driver which we sourced from a specialist website. . For The AMD system, the drivers for the RAID, SATA, USB3 and chipset must be obtained from the software disc provided with the motherboard or downloaded from the motherboard vendors' website. AMD does not have these drivers for download from their website. We recommend not to throw out the software DVD.

We re-ran the Core i3/HD2000 with new 2509 driver, which is a significant release that adds performance improvements. The previous official driver was April 2011; the new driver was released on September 7. The release notes for this driver release citied significant speed ups in many popular game applications so we took the decision to rerun our benchmarks to give the Intel system a fair chance. More so than AMD and NVIDIA graphics, Intel's is highly dependant and reliant on its software driver to fix performance and compatibility with popular software.

Games Settings

We list the settings we used for our game benchmarks. Some games do not have overall profiles and auto configure themselves so we have to customise to suit our needs. All games tested with V-sync disabled.

 Low - 1024x768Medium - 1280x1024High - 1920x1080
Trackmania Low Preset, 4x AF Medium Preset, 4x AF High Preset, 4x AF, 4x AA
HAWX2 low low high off off low off medium medium high off off low off All High/On, 4x AA
GTA IV Low, 4x AF, 21 31 51 Details Medium, 4x AF, 21 31 51 Details High, 4x AF, 21 31 51 Details
Just Cause 2 Low, 4x AF Medium, High Textures, 4x AF All High/on except NVIDIA specific options, 4x AF, 4x AA
Lost Planet 2 Low, Motion blur off Medium, Motion blur off High, Motion blur off, 4x AA
Resident Evil 5 Low, Motion blur off Medium, Motion blur off High, Motion blur off, 4x AA
Deus Ex: Human Revolution All effects off, Trilinear Post Processing on, Tesselation on, Trilinear All effect on, 16x AF, Soft shadows, Edge AA
Duke Nukem Forever low, medium, none, off, none, off, off medium, medium, world, motion blur off, film effects off, postprocess off All High, Motion blur off, FSAA/FXAA
Streetfighter IV on, default, off, low, high, off, off, off, low, off on, default, mid, high, mid, off, off, mid, off All High/On, 4x AA
World In Conflict Low Preset, DX9 mode Medium Presert, DX10 mode High Preset, DX10 mode, 4x AA

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