Watch Dogs 2 CPU Benchmark - Threads Matter

By Published February 20, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Watch Dogs 2 CPU Benchmark Results – 1080p/High

We published a lot of Watch Dogs 2 results in our i5-2500K revisit, and those numbers remain the same; however, we’ve added several more CPUs to our lineup. As we noted back then, high-end i7s reach a cap of 110-114 FPS thanks to system limitations, but other CPUs are allowed to really push their limit and provide good comparative numbers.

All CPUs tested managed at least a near-60 FPS average, but a few dipped well below that in the 1% and 0.1% lows. Interestingly, every i7 (including the venerable 2600K) managed above 54 FPS or greater at their 1% lows, and the newer 6700K and 7700K CPUs reached an obvious limit around 113 FPS. Meanwhile, none of the lower threadcount i3s and i5s managed to surpass 85 FPS average, although that still meets the acceptable performance threshold for most users.

watch-dogs-2-cpu-benchmark 1

Our in-depth testing of the i5-6600K revealed that it was capable of handling the Very High preset while keeping 1% lows above 60 FPS, but not Ultra. The i7-6700K outperformed its i5 counterpart by just over 40% at the High preset, making it (and i7s in general) the clear choice for higher graphics in WD2. To support this theory, the i7-7700K dropped from 112.7 FPS average to 87.3 with hyperthreading disabled, a 22% decrease even despite the i7’s maximum FPS being limited by other factors. This kind of performance gap is unusual but encouraging, as it means WD2 is taking serious advantage of multiple threads, a valuable feature for both benchmarking purposes and actual gameplay.

This trend extended downwards to the i3s tested, which performed abysmally. The brand new i3-7350K ($180), when overclocked to 5.0GHz (as it should be), scraped by with 68 FPS average, barely outperforming the six-year-old overclocked i5-2500K. The i3-6300 ($150) at its stock frequency had a lower average FPS than every other CPU we tested, including the stock 2500K.

The obvious exception to the “more threads = better” rule is AMD’s FX-8370, which scored between the i5-2500K and i5-3570K (both stock) at 62 FPS average with 8 physical cores. This largely boils down to something that is still surprisingly unknown: An AMD “core” does not equal an Intel “core.” The two companies have vastly different definitions of what constitutes a core under each architecture, and further have vast differences in CPU designs that would impact gaming performance (different prefetch/branch prediction routines, cache configuration, so forth). With the older FX series of CPUs, we’re looking at 1FPU per 2INT units, so that FPU is getting split in ways that may not be agreeable to a floating point-intensive task.

Improvements based on frequency were somewhat less consistent. Overclocking the i7-7700K ($350) was almost completely ineffective, as it was already at the limit of what the system could handle—we managed only a 1 FPS increase in average framerate by pushing it to 5.1GHz. More dramatic results could be seen at the bottom of the spectrum, where overclocking the i5-2500K (from its boost clock of 3.7GHz to 4.5GHz) lifted it past the 60 FPS barrier from 58.5 to a more tolerable 67 average (with improvement in 1% and .1% lows as well). Obviously, frequency affects performance, but there are other factors at work—for instance, the 7350K barely improved at all when overclocked.

Generationally, FPS increases are relatively small. There was about a 7.1% performance gain from the 3.9GHz boost i5-6600K to the 4.2GHz boost i5-7600K ($240), just slightly under the percent difference in frequency. The 6600K in turn scored a 7.4% increase in FPS over the i5-4690K, but their boost frequency is the same: the main difference is the 6600K’s 14nm process, compared to 22nm in the older 4690K.

Which CPU to Buy for Watch Dogs 2?

Strictly for Watch_Dogs 2 performance, it seems that moving from an i3 to an i5, or from an i5 to even an older-model i7 is a more cost-effective way to improve performance than simply upgrading to the newest CPU. As of this writing, no i3, the overclocked K-SKU being the exception, could provide solid framerates even just at the High graphics preset. Watch Dogs 2 is definitely playable on the i5 lineup and even the FX-8370, as we’ve previously shown the game is a tolerable performer even at a sub-60FPS framerate (we’ve found 45-50FPS to be agreeable with this title, subjectively). The i3-6300 struggles to keep up a bit, but isn’t so bad.

Still, if you were to buy a CPU just to play this game, the i5 & i7 units do show substantial improvement over the i3 units and FX units. This is one of those rare titles where it wouldn’t be too hard to bottleneck even a GTX 1070 with an i5 CPU.

Editorial, Testing: Patrick Lathan
Host, Test Lead: Steve Burke
Video Production: Andrew Coleman

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Last modified on February 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

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