Gaming Performance (Discrete GPU)

For our gaming tests, we are using our AMD Ryzen 9 5950X paired with an NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti graphics card. Our standard test suite consists of 12 titles, tested at four configurations:

  • Stage 1: Actual Gaming (1080p Maximum Quality, or equivalent)
  • Stage 2: All About Pixels (‘4K Minimum’ Quality)
  • Stage 3: Medium Low (‘1440p Minimum’)
  • Stage 4: Lowest Lows (720p Minimum or lower)

The final three settings are a set of CPU-limited gaming, and help find the limit of where we move from CPU limited to GPU limited. Some users baulk at this testing finding it irrelevant, however these configurations have been widely requested over the years. The contraire to this testing is the first setting, at 1080p Maximum: this being requested given that 1080p is the most popular gaming resolution, and Maximum Quality because this graphics card should be able to handle almost everything at that resolution at very playable framerates.

All the details for our gaming tests can be found in our #CPUOverload article.

Stage 1: Actual Gaming
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, SMT On vs SMT Off
AnandTech Settings Average
Chernobylite 1080p Max 100% -
Civilization 6 1080p Max 103% -
Deus Ex: MD 1080p Max 99% 100%
Final Fantasy 14 1080p Max 102% -
Final Fantasy 15 8K Standard 100% 99%
World of Tanks 1080p Max 100% 102%
World of Tanks 4K Max 103% 102%
Borderlands 3 1080p Max 101% 103%
F1 2019 1080p Ultra 103% 106%
Far Cry 5 1080p Ultra 104% 104%
GTA V 1080p Max 99% 100%
RDR 2 1080p Max 100% 100%
Strange Brigate 1080p Ultra 101% 101%

In real-world gaming situations, there’s very little to pick between having SMT enabled or disabled. Almost universally it is either beneficial or a smidgen better to have it enabled, with F1 2019, Civilization 6, and Far Cry 5 seemingly the best recipients. I’ve also added in the Stage 3 result from World of Tanks, just because that benchmark doesn’t really have a proper settings menu.

Stage 2: All About Pixels
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, SMT On vs SMT Off
AnandTech Settings Average
Chernobylite 4K Low 99% -
Civilization 6 4K Min 105% -
Deus Ex: MD 4K Min 98% 100%
Final Fantasy 14 4K Min 102% -
Final Fantasy 15 4K Standard 100% 100%
Borderlands 3 4K Very Low 101% 104%
F1 2019 4K Ultra Low 100% 100%
Far Cry 5 4K Low 101% 100%
GTA V 4K Low 100% 101%
RDR 2 8K Min 100% 100%
Strange Brigate 4K Low 100% 100%

With our high resolution settings with minimal quality, there is only one outlier in Civilization 6 on the average frame rates, which seem to be a bit higher when SMT is enabled.

Stage 3: Medium Low
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, SMT On vs SMT Off
AnandTech Settings Average
Chernobylite 1440p Low 100% -
Civilization 6 1440p Min 105% -
Deus Ex: MD 1440p Min 97% 96%
Final Fantasy 14 1440p Min 102% -
Final Fantasy 15 1080p Standard 101% 105%
World of Tanks 1080p Standard 101% 101%
Borderlands 3 1440p Very Low 103% 105%
F1 2019 1440p Ultra Low 99% 99%
Far Cry 5 1440p Low 99% 99%
GTA V 1440p Low 100% 99%
RDR 2 1440p Low 100% 100%
Strange Brigate 1440p Low 100% 100%

At the more medium settings, we’re starting to see some more variation (Borderlands gets a few percent from SMT). We’re starting to see Deus Ex:MD drop off a bit with SMT enabled.

Stage 4: Lowest Lows
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, SMT On vs SMT Off
AnandTech Settings Average
Chernobylite 360p Low 106% -
Civilization 6 480p Min 102% -
Deus Ex: MD 600p Min 91% 91%
Final Fantasy 14 768p Min 102% -
Final Fantasy 15 720p Standard 99% 102%
World of Tanks 768p Min 101% 100%
Borderlands 3 360p Very Low 108% 110%
F1 2019 768p Ultra Low 102% 105%
Far Cry 5 720p Low 100% 101%
GTA V 720p Low 99% 98%
RDR 2 384p Low 100% 103%
Strange Brigate 720p Low 95% 95%

This is perhaps our most varied set of results, with Deus Ex:MD showing an almost 10% drop with SMT enabled. DEMD is usually considered a CPU title, but so is Chernobylite, which sees a 6% gain. Borderlands is +8-10% with SMT enabled, which is more of a modern game. However, I doubt anyone is playing at these resolutions.

Overall Gaming Performance

If we take full averages from all the data points, then we’re seeing a rough +1% gain in performance in the more complex scenarios across the board.

Resolution Average Comparison
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, SMT On vs SMT Off
AnandTech Setting aka Average
Stage 1 1080p Max Actual Gaming 101% 101%
Stage 2 4K+ Min All About Pixels 101% 101%
Stage 3 1440p Min Medium Lows 101% 101%
Stage 4 < 768p Min Lowest Lows 100% 101%

In reality, any loss or gain is highly dependent on the title in question, and can swing from one side of the line to the other. It’s clear that Deus Ex prefers SMT off, and F1 2019 or Borderlands prefers SMT on, but we are talking fine margins here.

CPU Performance Power Consumption, Temperature
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  • dotjaz - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    Do you understand what "S(imultaneous)" in SMT means? Barrel processors are by definition NOT simultaneous. They switch between threads.
  • quadibloc - Friday, December 4, 2020 - link

    That all depends. There could be a unit that switches between threads to dispatch instructions into the pipeline, but instructions from all the threads are simultaneously working on calculations in the pipeline. I'd call that a way to implement SMT.
  • Elstar - Friday, December 4, 2020 - link

    Guys, I've got bad news for you. The difference between a barrel processor ("temporal multithreading") and SMT is all about the backend, not the frontend. I.e. whether the processor is superscalar or not. Otherwise there is no difference. They duplicate hardware resources and switch between them. And the frontend (a.k.a. the decoder) switches temporally between hardware threads. There are NOT multiple frontends/decoders simultaneously feeding one backend pipeline.
  • Elstar - Friday, December 4, 2020 - link

    For example the "SMT4" Intel Xeon Phi has a design weakness where three running threads per core get decoded as if four threads were running. (And yes, just one or two running threads per core get decoded efficiently.)
  • dotjaz - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    You nailed 2 letters out of 3, gj.
  • Luminar - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    Talk about being uninformed.
  • MenhirMike - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    Will be interesting to see if this looks different with Quad-Channel Threadripper or Octo-Channel EPYC/TR Pro CPUs, since 16 Cores/32 Threads with 2 channels of memory doesn't seem very compute-friendly. Though it's good to see that "SMT On" is still the reasonable default it's pretty much always has been, except in very specific circumstances.
  • schujj07 - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    Also would be interesting to see this on a 6c/12t or 8c/16t CPU.
  • CityBlue - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    In your list of "Systems that do not use SMT" you forgot:

    * All x86 from Intel with CPU design vulnerabilities used in security conscious environments
  • MenhirMike - Thursday, December 3, 2020 - link

    To be fair, "x86" and "security conscious" are already incompatible on anything newer than a Pentium 1/MMX. Spectre affects everything starting with the Pentium Pro, and newer processors have blackboxes in the form of Intel ME or AMD PSP. You can reduce the security risk by turning off some performance features (and get CPUs without Intel ME if you're the US government), but this is still just making an inherently insecure product slightly less insecure.

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