Nehalem's Media Encoding Performance

We had time to run two of our media encoding tests: the DivX 6.8 and x264 workloads.

DivX 6.8 with Xmpeg

Our DivX test is the same one we've run in our regular CPU reviews, we're simply encoding a 1080p MPEG-2 file in DivX. We are using an unconstrained profile, encoding preset of 5 and enhanced multithreading is enabled.

The DivX test is an important one as it doesn't scale well at all beyond four threads, any performance advantage Nehalem has here is entirely due to microarchitectural improvements and not influenced by its ability to work on twice as many threads at once.

DivX 6.8 w/ Xmpeg 5.0.3

Clock for clock, Nehalem is nearly 28% faster than Penryn in our DivX test. Even better is when you put this performance in perspective: at 2.66GHz Nehalem is faster than the fastest Penryn available today the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 running at 3.2GHz. At 3.2GHz, Nehalem will be fast. The improvements in performance here are entirely due to the faster L2 cache and micro-architectural gains; being able to have more micro-ops in flight and improved unaligned cache accesses give us a significant improvement in video encoding performance.

The last time we saw these sorts of performance gains was when Conroe first launched.

x264 Encoding with AutoMKV

Using AutoMKV we compress the same source file we used in our WME test down to 100MB, but with the x264 codec. We used the 2_Pass_Insane_Quality profile:

x264 w/ AutoMKV 

Encoding performance here went through the roof with Nehalem: a clock for clock boost of 44%. Once more, Nehalem at today's artificially limited, modest clock speed is already faster than any Penryn out today. What Intel did to AMD in 2006, it is doing to itself in 2008. Amazing.

A Quick Path to Memory Faster Unaligned Cache Accesses & 3D Rendering Performance
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  • SiliconDoc - Monday, July 28, 2008 - link

    lol- Buddy you are thinking. Reply
  • magreen - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the amazing preview, Anand!

    I hope you and Gary will get us more Nehalem information quick like bunnies.
    Reply
  • yottabit - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Great Article Anand! I'm so excited for this new technology. But that socket and triple channel memory archetecture makes me want to puke in my mouth a little bit. It's very reminiscent to me of the Socket 423/RDRAM era. I have the feeling that they are going to release this setup for a lot of the early adopters and then screw them over by dropping the socket completely, when they decide that Dual Channel DDR3 is fast enough. I can't picture two platforms running side by side, with two entirely different sockets. People whant a Nehalem but need 4 gigs of ram will end up buying 6 Gigs of ram... and DDR3 ain't exactly cheap.

    I wish they had plans to through this into the mainstream faster. I'd love to have one of these, in dual channel variety. I'm still running an old early A64, and I'm holding out for these next gen processors in the next year or two.

    Its awesome to see that nice performance per clock increase, but the triple channel memory is a real slap in the face to me. Its like Intel saying "look, we increase clock for clock performance, but we also decided to use some brute force and raise our power consumption and motherboard complexity for no reason by adding another impractical memory channel". I don't see it as elegant at all. I think they are overcompensating for their lack of memory bandwith in recent times. :-

    Maybe AMD will have a chance to jump in with some nicer Phenom's before Nehalem comes out and actually capture some quad core market?
    Reply
  • npp - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I'm tired of all those people who just can live with the fact that the world is spinning and the CPUs that were reviewed here are simply far faster than the Penryn or Phenom you just bought yesterday... Get used to the fact, this is how thing happen today. Nehalem will be probably the most advanced x86 (x64) CPU when launched, and it just happened that Intel developed it - it could have been anybody else, say AMD, or nVidia, or whoever you prefer, no difference to me. Things go ahead, and some vendors simply get the job done first, in the grand scheme of things, it is all the same. All those fanboys I see around sound like some 3 year old children fighting for candy to me, It's amusing to see how AMD or Intel PR locked you up, guys.

    Now a brief question, aimed directly at Anand, I guess: I still can't figure out why memory performance is so low even via an advanced controller such as Nehalem's. As far as I can tell, 3-channel DDR3-1066 should be able to deliver up to 25,5 GB/s of bandwidth, far from the figures we see. How does this happen? And once more: you measured some 46ms latency altogether, how was that obtained? Assuming memory clock of 133Mhz, this should yield something like CAS4 (~30ms) latencies for the memory, am I right?
    Reply
  • fitten - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    30us

    As far as single/dual/triple channel, it seems that Anand and gang were able to test with all three modes (you'll notice the comment about WinRAR being 10% faster with triple channel compared to single channel on the pre-release motherboard)... so you don't *have* to buy 3 sticks of memory... if you want 4GiB, you should be able to get 1x4 or 2x2 and leave the other slot(s) empty.
    Reply
  • npp - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    It's all nanoseconds, of course, not milli- or micro, my fault. Never mind, I'm still awaiting some reasonable explanation about the "modest" bandwidth measured. 12GB/s copy is by no means little - I can't say if it's achievable via overclocking today, I'm not into that kind of business - but still I would guess no. Still, it seems little compared to the max. theoretical values. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I think we may have to wait for a final Nehalem platform before we can make any calls on memory bandwidth figures, but do keep in mind that the amount of usable memory bandwidth will depend largely on how it's being measured. If the algorithm is even slightly compute bound we won't see perfect scaling with theoretical memory bandwidth.

    I'm not sure how Everest measures bandwidth so I can't tell you exactly what numbers we should be seeing there, but it is useful for comparing a relative increase in bandwidth between Penryn and Nehalem.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • npp - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    Thank you very much, very kind of you to bother answering my question! Keep up the good work here at Anandtech. Reply
  • NINaudio - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    I'm not sure hwy everyone is so concerned about DDR3 prices being high. A quick check shows that you can get a 2gig kit of ddr3-1600 for under $150 already. By the time Nehalem is out for mass consumption ddr3 will be even cheaper. I would say that it's pretty realistic to expect to be able to get a 3gig triple channel kit for under $100 and a 6gig triple channel kit for around $175 by the time nehalem is available to us. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, June 05, 2008 - link

    What I'm really interested in is why Intel felt that Nehalem needed a three channel DDR3 memory controller. Will it really be necessary for higher clocked Nehalem (or is it Nehalems)? It'd be great for the versions of Nehalem with integrated graphics but I figured those would mostly be pushed into the mainstream, dual channel SKUs anyways. Looks like we'll have to wait at least a few more months before we can find out for sure.

    -A
    Reply

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