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  Nov 29, 2004, 10:30am EST 

Swapping out processors

By: Sander Sassen

When we upgrade the graphic card from a Radeon 9600XT to a Radeon X800 Pro, we see no improvement at all, clearly the processor, and the single channel memory subsystem, is the limiting factor here. We’ve not listed the scores here as they’re virtually identical to the scores with the Radeon 9600XT. The next obvious upgrade is to replace the processor with a faster one and also enable the dual channel memory subsystem by replacing the single 512MB DDR400 module with two 512MB DDR400 modules. As before the upgrade to a total of 1GB of memory yielded no results, so we used two 256MB DDR400 modules instead, for a total of 512MB. We’ve opted to replace the 2.4GHz Pentium 4 with a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 first and list the scores below simply because that’s a good indicator of how much performance we gain when moving to a faster clockspeed on the same Intel architecture.

If we then put the Radeon 9600XT back into the system and rerun the demos we see an entirely different picture. Now the system performs admirably at 1024x768, easily offering over 60 frames per second in the first demo and close to 50 in the fourth that brought our 2.4GHz down to a grinding halt. If we use high quality settings though, with AA and AF, performance is effectively cut in half. Clearly the graphic card is not able to render the demo without a significant performance hit. Putting the image quality settings back to medium settings and upping the resolution to 1280x1024 shows us that the Radeon 9600XT is able to offer better performance than at 1024x768 with high quality settings, but still isn’t able to offer the level of performance we’re looking for, a solid 45 frames per second on all demos.

Replacing the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 with an Athlon 64 3000+, sporting the same 512MB of memory on an nForce3-250 motherboard yields similar results. If we replace the Athlon 64 3000+ with the much cheaper Sempron 3100+ on the same nForce3-250 motherboard, again with the same memory configuration, it is clear that the Sempron easily keeps pace, with the Pentium 4 taking the lead by just a tiny margin, hence we’ve not listed the results. Overall we can conclude that the Radeon 9600XT is able to run at more than acceptable performance levels with a 1024x768 resolution at medium image quality settings, using these three configurations, with the Sempron 3100+ obviously being the most affordable choice.

1. Introduction
2. Swapping out processors
3. Gauging graphic cards
4. Pricing information

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