If our recent Star Wars Battlefront CPU benchmark is anything to go by, the days of dual-threaded CPUs appear to be numbered when it comes to gaming. The G3258 – a $60 powerhouse in its own right – is now encountering limitations to the extent of inability to play some games without hacks. We've found the Core i3 to be consistently performant and, although it's not on our current bench, the Athlon X4 860K seems to be the only reasonable option in the sub-$100 price-point at this time. This was preceded by the 760K, another popular chip, both of which took the same approach: Take an APU and disable the IGP, then just sell it as a CPU.
This guide rounds-up the best gaming CPUs on sale for Black Friday, ranging from $70 to $300 at the high-end. The CPUs here are built for different tasks, but will play LOL, DOTA2, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Battlefront, Fallout 4, Black Ops III, and other games to varying degrees. See what we have to say below before buying.
We've opted to exclude the X99 CPUs from this list, under the premise that these are primarily meant for production and enthusiast rigs. If you are interested in such a CPU, the i7-5930K is currently selling for $460.
This article specifically looks at single-GPU solutions to gaming at various price-points. We scale our GPU search from $100 to $600, covering PC builders across budget, mid-range, and high-end configurations. We've had extensive hands-on testing with the cards below, a fact accentuated by the burst of game launches in the past few weeks. Most of these cards have been tested in Battlefront, Fallout 4, AC Syndicate, Black Ops III, and the year's earlier titles, like The Witcher 3 and GTA V.
Black Friday starting to hit full swing, we found some of the best graphics cards of the year on sale for – in some cases – significant discount. The GTX 970 at $290, R9 380 at $143, and GTX 980 at $400 are just a few of the finds below.
Software doesn't normally warrant a standalone review on this site; we'll review the hardware and, as an accompaniment, talk about the software's ability to adequately enable that hardware. AMD's newest “Radeon Settings – Crimson Edition” (introduced here) supersedes its long-standing Catalyst Control Center, which has been retired from service. Radeon Settings, which we'll interchangeably refer to as “Crimson,” is a complete overhaul of the AMD control interface. This, we think, warrants more of an in-depth tear-down than a simple news post.
There shouldn't be major performance updates included in the preview package we were provided; at least, not any more than what we've found in 15.11.1 benchmarking. This is largely an interface improvement, moving to a minimalistic UI – the trend of late – and attempting to improve ease-of-use for anyone with AMD Radeon hardware.
Joining us for this weekend's hardware news recap is Lyndell Chase, a new host for GN's weekend news segments and forthcoming feature videos. We couldn't have picked a more news-packed week to introduce a new co-host: AMD launched the R9 380X (reviewed), nVidia posted a Pascal update and virtual reality push, overvolting support was added for the Fury GPUs, and AC Syndicate / Battlefront launched.
The R9 380X was clearly the biggest news item of the week, something we spent a considerable amount of hours testing and reviewing. We remarked that the R9 380X would be a good buy at its price-point, proving a direct challenge to nVidia's GTX 960 mainstay. The rest of the news – Pascal especially – is all worth paying attention to, even if it's a little way out.
Here's the video recap!
“Team Red” appears to have been invigorated lately, inspired by unknown forces to “take software very seriously” and improve timely driver roll-outs. The company, which went about half a year without a WHQL driver from 2H14-1H15, has recently boosted game-ready drivers near launch dates, refocused on software, and is marketing its GPU strengths.
The newest video card from AMD bears the R300 series mark, from which we previously reviewed the R9 380 & R9 390 GPUs. AMD's R9 380X 4GB GPU costs $230 MSRP, but retails closer to $240 through board partners, and hosts 13% more cores than the championed R9 380 graphics card (~$200 after MIRs). That places the R9 380X in direct competition with nVidia's GTX 960 4GB, priced at roughly $230, and 2GB alternative at $210.
Today, we're reviewing the Sapphire Nitro version of AMD's R9 380X graphics card, including benchmarks from Battlefront, Black Ops III, Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and more. The head-to-head would pit the R9 380X 4GB vs. the GTX 960 4GB, something we've done in-depth below. We'll go into thermals, power consumption, and overclocking on the last page.
Our hardware news recap for the week of 11/14 is now live on YouTube, covering a few primary topics: GPU shipment volume, a new Cherry MX Nature White switch, ASUS' move to Augmented Reality, nVidia's GameWorks VR / UE4 integration, and Corsair's HG10 updated for the 900 series.
You can find the video news recap below. This week, for those who stay up on the site, we'll primarily be working on Star Wars Battlefront content. We've also got some power supply stuff going live shortly, alongside the video version of our Black Ops optimization guide (live in a few hours from this posting).
Jon Peddie Research today released its independent GPU shipment analysis, its highlights including an averaged 9% growth in GPU shipping volume, despite a year-over-year desktop GPU shipment decline of 13%.
JPR has released these reports before. The research firm includes Intel's IGPs and AMD's APUs whenever mentioning “GPU shipments” or “GPU sales,” unless otherwise noted in their documentation. This fact is important to understand why some of the metrics appear the way they do.
NVidia's implementation of volumetric lighting utilizes tessellation for light shafts radiation and illumination of air. This approach allows better lighting when light sources are occluded by objects or when part of a light source is obfuscated, but requires that the GPU perform tessellation crunching to draw the light effects to the screen. NVidia is good at tessellation thanks to their architecture and specific optimizations made, but AMD isn't as good at it – Team Red regularly struggles with nVidia-implemented technologies that drive tessellation for visual fidelity, as seen in the Witcher's hair.
When benchmarking Fallout 4 on our lineup of GPUs, we noticed that the R9 390X was outclassed by the GTX 970 at 1080p with ultra settings. This set off a few red flags that we should investigate further; we did this, tuning each setting individually and ultimately finding that the 970 always led the 390X in our tests – no matter the configuration. Some settings, like shadow distance, can produce massive performance deltas (about 16-17% here), but still conclude with the 970 in the lead. It isn't until resolution is increased to 1440p that the 390X takes charge, somewhat expected given AMD's ability to handle raw pixel count at the higher-end.
Further research was required.
Last week, we decided to start running weekly news round-ups on Saturdays that are more video-centered, giving us some more time to continue working on heavier article content for the week. This also helps us continue creating high-quality video content, something we've done a lot of lately.
Some of our previous AMD GPU reviews have concluded that the devices were hamstrung by AMD's ability to support the hardware through adequate drivers and software. Recent attempts made by the company seek to turn this around, AMD stating on a press call that it is “getting extremely serious about software.” Radeon Software is AMD's newest endeavor to enable its hardware through improved software support.
Catalyst Control Center is being retired and repackaged as “Radeon Software,” which features a new, minimalism-inspired interface with some improved profiling functionality. The newest Radeon Software suite is codenamed “Crimson,” a version identifier for this year's deployment. We're told that each major update – likely once a year – will rollover to a new shade of red for sub-versioning identifiers of “Radeon Software.”