Intel vs AMD for Second Life

Second Life™ users want performance. Most of you know Second Life is NOT an optimized game world but rather a hobbyists-built world that can drag even the best gaming machine down to single digit frame rates. So, performance is a thing among SL users.

CPUs are the heart of performance with the GPU being the legs.

Both Intel and AMD have new CPUs out. So, the natural question is which is best for running Second Life?

In general, this is how the two stack up in head to head testing. (8+ min)

For some data processing in the beginning AMD is noticeably ahead. Yet in the games similar to Second Life the Intel consistently renders about 5±% more frames.

Another take on the AMD/Intel CPUs is here.

What we find is both CPUs use the same clock speeds, base and at burst speeds. So, theoretically they would be of equal power for SL. However, Intel’s task swapping of threads seems to provide a bit of an advantage.

The Intel i7-8700k 3.7GHz 6 Core 12 Threads (capable of being overclocked) is selling for US$350 at Amazon and B&H Photo. Prices as of 5/28/2018.

The AMD Ryzen 7 2700x 3.7GHz 8 Core 16 Threads (can be overclocked) is selling for $320 at B&H and Amazon.

So, it appears that for $30 more you can get 5% more performance with Intel. Whether are not that will be true for Second Life, we don’t know. Plus, there are so many other factors that affect SL performance we can’t know how any given combination will perform until the unit is tested.

You’ll notice game benchmarks do not include SL performance in their results. To reach gamers Linden Lab should pay them to include the tests as part of the the Lab’s marketing effort. Testers test the popular games. SL doesn’t really fall in that category.

Also, it is hard to get consistent tests in SL. Unless both machines use the same avatar (two accounts using the same starter avatar) and are in the same place looking the exact same direction with the same viewer settings, things are different. SL changes by the second. That makes it hard to come back latter and repeat the tests. Things will change.

My front porch tests are not consistent over time. My cute neighbors have moved out and their nice dance club is gone. I am now staring out my window at another dumb castle. So, my ‘porch’ FPS test results will change… again. Professional testers hate that. They want consistent tests that can be repeated over time. So, I doubt we will see SL in any test results that we don’t do ourselves.

14 thoughts on “Intel vs AMD for Second Life

  1. Intel has an edge in frame rate in Second Life itself. AMD has more cores and more threads at a similar price, but SL can’t take full advantage of all of them so Intel’s edge in single core performance is what matters. Content creators, who are likely to be running other software like Photoshop or Maya at the same time as SL, may have a reason to prefer AMD; the extra cores will provide better multitasking.

  2. I have beendoing multiple tests in Second Life with my system (X5650 Xeon and GTX 780). I have also been searching all the Youtube videos for comparisons between my system and the newer hardware etc. I also have 2 friends who have far superior hardware (8th gen Intel + GTX 1080 ti and the other has an AMD Ryzen 7 1700x + GTX 1070). At one of their SIMS I was getting 325 fps with just 3 avatars on the SIM and only me in view. So my friend sent me a TP to an event she was attending for a Lag Test. 15 fps with 53 avatars. If i limited my view to one avatar I got 30 fps. Removing avatars using the “Rendering Types” tool only got me about 165 fps (slower SL server perhaps?). My friend with the AMD and 1070 was getting the same result as me. Using MSI Afterburner to view each cores performances shows me SL does use more than one core (1-6 over time) but from what I’ve read in a forum and from the results I see all rendering is done on one core (1 thread if using hyper-threading). That thread is typically between 60-100% (is that the bottleneck?) which is when you hit the wall of Lag it seems. So when you check Task-manager and see your cpu is only at 20% that is the avg so not applicable to your performance use in SL. Based on that I suspect you need the fastest single core performance you can get which is the Intels atm however the Ryzens are not on the slow side since they are twice the single core performance as my Xeon and they still have the same performance and lag. My friend with the Ryzen is not happy with the upgrade which might have been unnecessary for Second Life (upgraded from a FX cpu). So if that’s the only reason for an “upgrade” you may find it’s not going to be a benefit. So you need to look at what system and/or price will benefit your overall computer use such as other games, multi-tasking, or video editing etc. In my opinion the newer AMD and Intel cpus are good products. Also You have to look at the cost of the motherboard and Ram upgrade you are also going to need. In the case of AMD some older boards are compatible with the new Ryzen so maybe you save $$$? Anyway it seems that you can’t get better performance on SL with hardware more powerful than mine and a system like mine used is very cheap now with the Xeon being less than $50 and a motherboard in the $150 range and a GTX 780 is about $250 range (however it seems a GTX 1060 would be the better buy for a little more $. I would be very happy if someone could prove me wrong but unfortunately I think that’s the case at the moment. Have you noticed that the Ryzen has a lot less cu usage vs the 8700 and at times even when generating the same fps? Is that good or bad re: Second Life?

  3. I will add that, for now, Intel CPUs are clear leaders when it comes to overclocking… My old 2500K @ 4.6GHz (locked at that clock on all cores) still performs as well or better on a per-core basis than any Zen CPU (which are limited to 4GHz on all cores at best) and just slightly under a Zen+ 2700X…

    Currently, I’d say the fastest CPU for SL would be an overclocked 8600K (the SMT aspect is totally useless and even often degrades per-core performances, so a 8700K is of no use for gaming). A 8600K is easily overclockable to 4.8GHz (some even reach 5GHz) with a good air cooling solution (Noctua or equivalent cooler).

    To upgrade my main system, I will wait for Intel 8-core CPUs or Zen2 (hoping that the latter will be able to at the very least reach 4.6GHz on all cores).

  4. I agree. Don’t expect anyone to prove you wrong.

    A few weeks ago Oz Linden mentioned they got a ‘render engine’ guy from the Sansar team. We currently have an RC viewer with render engine fixes. So, we have proof they are working on the render engine. Whether or not we’ll see them work major performance enhancements… we’ll have to wait and see.

  5. Hmmm 325fps on a Xeon x5650 I think that is a bit I highly dought it , I have and HP z600 with duel xeon x5660 and I cant even break 30fps drops to 5fps in places lol

    • SL Viewers are CPU bound by the render engine. But, the overall configuration of the system is as important to performance as the CPU, if not more so. If I had to pick just one factor as the most important, I would go with CPU speed, GHz.

      My single i5-6600k at 4.1GHz usually stays above 20FPS even in crowded regions. I will occasionally see it drop to single digits when I enter a crowded region. But, once textures have downloaded and decompressed the FPS picks up.

    • This is a screen capture as proof
      Shadows and hyperthreading disabled. There must be some differences in the way I set up the viewer and my system in comparison to yours.

  6. Whether CPU or GPU speed is more important depends on what your bottleneck is.

    In areas with a crowd of avatars, the bottleneck is usually doing the math on all of them. Your frame rate will slow dramatically no matter what kind of video card you have. What you need here is computing speed, and specifically single core computing speed because this part of the process does not appear to be multi-threaded. Intel has the edge here. We need more SL-specific testing, but I think it’s around 15% at a given clock speed. If you do go Ryzen you want the second generation parts, which have a much more intelligent speed boost algorithm that can boost single cores as needed.

    In areas where there are fewer avatars and drawing the scenery is most of the burden, GPU performance becomes more important. It’s likely to be the limiting factor in places like that, so your frame rate will go up with a better GPU. Running at higher resolution also taxes the GPU more, while if you keep the field of view the same rather than displaying more avatars and scenery, running at higher resolution has little effect on CPU load.

    Where GPU power really comes into play is enabling visual effects. Anti-aliasing, shadows, reflections, depth of field… all of that stuff draws on your graphics processor. The more GPU you have, the more of them you will be able to turn on. If you want to be able to run ALL the eye candy you’re going to need a serious GPU, at least if you don’t just want the eye candy for photographing empty sims.

    For a system to really shine you need both CPU and GPU. Right now Intel will give you the best frame rates in a crowd because they have the best single thread performance at the high end. The best CPU overall for SL performance right now is the limited edition i7-8086K, followed by the i7-8700K. Once the i7-9700K and i9-9900K become available they should match (but not be better than) the 8700K in SL and be better for content creation because of the two additional cores. Fancier stuff like the Extreme Editions and the current i9 (not the i9-9900K) are actually slower for SL; they have more cores but each one is a bit slower.

    The choice gets less clear in the under-$200 space because the Ryzens are such good values there. The Ryzen 5 2600 and Ryzen 5 2600X are standouts at their price points. Also remember when you calculate the system price that AMD motherboards are usually less expensive than comparable Intel motherboards. Ryzen also has the edge for content creators who go back and forth between SL and graphics software, because the higher core count at any given price means better multitasking and better rendering performance in programs like Photoshop and Blender. The additional cores might also be an advantage for making machinima, but that will need testing.

    There is a special place at the low end for the Ryzen 5 2400G (currently $110 at Micro Center, including the $30 discount when you also buy a motherboard), which has no rival for making a really inexpensive SL system because of its more than acceptable integrated graphics. Just make sure to couple it with fast memory – DDR4-3200 will make a big difference when you’re using an APU. And make sure to set aside at least 2GB for graphics; trust me on this one, I’ve tested it.

  7. My goal was to find out which CPU is better for SL (without paying a 500 bucks worthy CPU like the i9-9900k)
    I’m aware SL doesn’t use multi-cores, but single-core: so in theory it benefits from the highest clocked frequency.
    I finished my CPU performance comparison FPS-wise in SL with same hardware/settings/viewpoints/avs/etc. for the Ryzen 5 3600 vs. Ryzen 7 1700x [stock + overclocked] – check it out here:

    The same I did for the i3-9350kf vs. i5-9600k here:
    Conclusion below the vids.

      • I now also tested the i7 9700k + i9 9900k [stock + overclocked] aswell.

        Comparison Performance FPS – Second Life – i3 / i5 / i7 / i9 / Ryzen 5 3600 / 7 1700x:

        • Your tests make perfect sense with Cinebench scores. Ryzen 3600 gets 196 in comparison to the I9 990k @222 so if anyone wants to know if an upgrade is possible they just need to use the single core scores as a comparison. $240 vs $640.

      • Be aware that if you have ALM enabled the Windlight setting you choose is a significant factor. In one test the difference between 6 pm and 6 am was about 110 fps. I used MSI Afterburner and monitored all cores and 2 were being used to a high degree from the 30-100% range at the same time. I had SMT disabled with a Ryzen 3600 which boosts to 4200mhz on its own. On a Sim with 20 avatars reduced fps dramatically (25) but after derendering 10 of them i was able to get around 50-70 fps with a 64m draw. MY gpu is a GTX 780 with usage maxing at 98% with ALM turned on but if I cap fps at 60 the usage will go down to 40% or less also dropping temps as well.

    • I have been doing similar tests between Ryzen 3600 stock and my old Xeon X5650 system with the same Gpu GTX 780. Ryzen definitely wins that contest due to double the single core performance. I used MSI Afterburner and Cinebench for my tests. I did not overclock but when running SL it shows the Ryzen running at a boosted frequency of 4.2 GHZ. So if you have overclocked to that frequency what is it really running at in game? Probably highr since you see a fps difference? SL does use more than one core (2-5 or so) but one core generally is doing most of the work.

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