AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750

We pit the AMD Phenom II X4 965 against Intel's Core i5 750 in controlled conditions...

PC Specialist supplied us with what at first glance appear to be two identical PCs. They share the same accessories, the same system case and monitor and almost identical internal components. Identical, apart from the core processor architecture. The Vortex HD 750 is based on Intel's Core i5 750 processor, whereas the Fusion HD 965 uses AMD's Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition.

The core specification for both PCs is the same: 4GB Corsair XMS3 1600MHz DDR3 provides system memory, with a 1TB Seagate ST3100333AS hard drive for storage. They also both include a 22x LG DVD burner. Graphics duties are taken care of by one of AMD's latest ATI Radeon HD 5770 cards, with 1GB GDDR5 memory. Power comes courtesy of a 600W FSP Quad Rail PSU and everything's housed in a CoolerMaster Sileo 500 system case, finished in matt black, with internal damping helping to keep the PCs quiet.

An Acer V243H monitor provides a 24in 16:9 format display with full-HD 1080p resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels. A trio of inputs covers VGA, DVI and HDMI. Speakers, wireless keyboard and mouse are all provided by Logitech.

Both systems use Asus motherboards - a M4A79XTD Evo for AMD, and P7P55D for Intel. These are closely-matched in specification, although the latter has an extra PCI slot and a pair of extra USB ports. Both offer Express Gate and good overclocking capabilities.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750: CPU overview

The AMD Phenom II x4 965 and Intel Core i5 750 offer broadly similar performance. They're both quad-core processors which are great for multi-tasking and multi-processing, but there are some key differences:

* The AMD chip runs at a faster clock rate of 3.4GHz compared to the 2.67GHz of the Intel.

* They also have different cache architectures, the Phenom II X4 having 6MB of Level 2 cache compared to 8MB in the Intel Core i5. They also have different methods of interfacing with system memory and the graphics subsystem, although these differences result in relatively minor performance differences in real-world applications.

* According to the specifications, the Core i5 also has lower power requirements than the AMD chip - a fact that's bourne out by our own test results.

* It's also worth noting that the Phenom II X4 965 BE is currently AMD's flagship desktop CPU; this is most certainly not the case with the Intel processor which is part of a range containing many faster processors, some of which are available as drop-in upgrades for the Core i5 750.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750: Performance

Our WorldBench 6 test reveals overall system performance when running a selection of popular desktop applications. When pitted directly against each other, the Intel-fuelled Vortex HD 750 took the lead by around 4%, scoring 130 points compared to the 125 points of the Fusion HD 965.

Taking a closer look at the scores for the individual applications which make up WorldBench 6, we see that the Intel system is faster in all tests by varying amounts, except for tests involving Firefox, where the AMD PC takes a small lead.

And we do mean small: we're talking about a difference of around 10 seconds in a task taking three minutes. Overall, the performance differences between the two architectures are small enough to make no difference to most users.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750: Gaming

Both of these PCs make great gaming systems. The ATI Radeon HD 5770 offers very good performance as well as support for the latest DirectX 11 features from forthcoming games as well as those built in to Window 7 and Windows Vista. While you may get better raw speed out of an older card (think: Radeon HD 4890), you'll miss out on quality-enhancing features such as tessellation, which gives increased object detail, and depth-of-field lens effects which give 3D scenes considerably more realism.

Both these features are used to great effect in the Unigine Heaven benchmark which, along with STALKER Call of Pripyat, we've used to evaluate performance running DirectX 11 games. We've also included our regular Crysis and FEAR tests for reference.

With graphics performance largely down to the graphics card, there's little difference in gaming performance between the two. Occasional differences of one or two frames per second do occur however, and usually in favour of the AMD-based PC. For example, the Fusion HD 965 managed 21.34 frames per second when running Crysis at 1920x1080 at the "very high" quality level with DirectX 10. The Vortex HD 750 managed 21.1 frames per second on the same test.

However, on older games and when running tests at lower resolutions the Intel-based system comes out on top, scoring 66.9fps compared to 61.3 frames per second when running Crysis at 1024x768 in the "high quality" mode and using DirectX 9.

Both DX11 tests produced similar results - the AMD system delivering a very small performance lead over the Intel system. In Unigine, for instance, we saw a 0.5fps difference in AMD's favour at 1920x1080 resolution.

What this does suggest is that for gaming, the Fusion HD 965 is every bit as good as the Vortex HD 750 despite its lower performance at WorldBench 6.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750: Power Consumption

We compared power consumption figures of the main systems, when sitting idle and when running the Unigine Heaven benchmark. Because the configurations of both systems are the same, any differences in power consumption can be attributed to the processor and motherboard selection.

Intel came out on top: where the AMD-based Fusion HD 965 consumed 103W at idle and 163W under load, the Vortex HD 750 required only 59W and 120W respectively.

Lower power consumption is not only greener, it also means you may get away with quieter cooling fans, and increase scope for overclocking.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 vs Intel Core i5 750: the verdict

These systems are closely matched in general performance, with often hair-splitting differences in gaming performance. The Intel-based PC delivers better application performance with considerably better power consumption; while the AMD-based machine can deliver fractionally better games performance, plus a price advantage of around $100. This may not seem much but you could always apply this saving elsewhere, offsetting the extra electricty you'll be consuming, for example, or adding a second hard drive.

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Paul Monckton

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