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The Test

As always we're only presenting a subset of our entire CPU test suite here. For all of the numbers as well as other comparison options check out Bench.

CPU: AMD A8-3850, AMD A6-3650, AMD Athlon II X4 635, AMD Athlon II X3 455, AMD Athlon II X2 265
Intel Core i3-2100, Intel Core i3 540, Intel Pentium G850, Intel Pentium G840, Intel Pentium G620, Intel Pentium G620T
Motherboard: Intel DH67BL (Intel H67)
ASRock A75 Extreme6 (AMD A75)
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.2.0.1025
AMD Catalyst 8.862 RC1
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M (80GB), Corsair P256 SSD (256GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR3-1866 2 x 4GB
Video Drivers: AMD Catalyst 8.862 RC1
Intel 2372
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64

Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance

To measure performance under Photoshop CS4 we turn to the Retouch Artists’ Speed Test. The test does basic photo editing; there are a couple of color space conversions, many layer creations, color curve adjustment, image and canvas size adjustment, unsharp mask, and finally a gaussian blur performed on the entire image.

The whole process is timed and thanks to the use of Intel's X25-M SSD as our test bed hard drive, performance is far more predictable than back when we used to test on mechanical disks.

Time is reported in seconds and the lower numbers mean better performance. The test is multithreaded and can hit all four cores in a quad-core machine.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 - Retouch Artists Speed Test

The Pentium G620 does a lot better than its Athlon II X2 counterpart, there's no contest here. The race is a lot closer between the G840/850 and the Athlon II X3 455, but in the end the Pentiums are faster. Both perform a bit better than the more expensive AMD A8-3850.

x264 HD Video Encoding Performance

Graysky's x264 HD test uses the publicly available x264 encoder to transcode a 4Mbps 720p MPEG-2 source. The focus here is on quality rather than speed, thus the benchmark uses a 2-pass encode and reports the average frame rate in each pass.

x264 HD Encode Test - 1st pass - x264 0.59.819

x264 HD Encode Test - 2nd pass - x264 0.59.819

Once again the G620 is faster than the Athlon II X2 265 despite the latter's clock speed advantage. The G840 and G850 are faster than the 620 but not fast enough to overcome the extra core advantage of the X3 455. If you're spending $80 on a CPU for video encoding go for the Athlon II X3 455.

3dsmax 9 - SPECapc 3dsmax CPU Rendering Test

Today's desktop processors are more than fast enough to do professional level 3D rendering at home. To look at performance under 3dsmax we ran the SPECapc 3dsmax 8 benchmark (only the CPU rendering tests) under 3dsmax 9 SP1. The results reported are the rendering composite scores:

3dsmax r9 - SPECapc 3dsmax 8 CPU Test

Not all heavily threaded tasks are going to favor more cores. In this case the IPC advantages of Sandy Bridge give the G850 equal performance to the X3 455.

Cinebench R10

Created by the Cinema 4D folks we have Cinebench, a popular 3D rendering benchmark that gives us both single and multi-threaded 3D rendering results.

Cinebench R10 - Single Threaded Benchmark

Single threaded performance is going to be a big advantage of the SNB Pentiums. Even the G620 is a good 14% faster than AMD's Athlon II X2 265 and the rest scale up with clock speed. What this translates to is great general use performance as well as solid performance in those apps that are still bound by the performance of a single thread.

Cinebench R10 - Multi-Threaded Benchmark

Multithreaded apps however start to benefit from more cores. In this case the Athlon II X3 455 isn't much faster than a G850 and only 4.5% faster than a G840, despite its core count advantage.

PAR2 Multithreaded Archive Recovery Performance

Par2 is an application used for reconstructing downloaded archives. It can generate parity data from a given archive and later use it to recover the archive

Chuchusoft took the source code of par2cmdline 0.4 and parallelized it using Intel’s Threading Building Blocks 2.1. The result is a version of par2cmdline that can spawn multiple threads to repair par2 archives. For this test we took a 708MB archive, corrupted nearly 60MB of it, and used the multithreaded par2cmdline to recover it. The scores reported are the repair and recover time in seconds.

Par2 - Multi-Threaded par2cmdline 0.4

Our Par2 extraction test is another multithreaded scenario where two Sandy Bridge cores manage to slightly outperform three Athlon II cores. Whereas before it was a pretty simple "more cores, better multithreaded performance" argument, the SNB Pentiums do complicate things a bit.

WinRAR - Archive Creation

Our WinRAR test simply takes 300MB of files and compresses them into a single RAR archive using the application's default settings. We're not doing anything exotic here, just looking at the impact of CPU performance on creating an archive:

WinRAR 3.8 Compression - 300MB Archive

Once again we've got a multithreaded test with a murky outcome. The G850 is hot on the heels of the Athlon II X3 455, as is the G840.

Gaming Performance

Our first set of gaming performance results come using a discrete GPU. In the case of the Crysis Warhead results it's a GeForce GTX 280, while everything else uses a Radeon HD 5870. Across the board the Pentium manages to do better than its Athlon II competitors, of course with a discrete GPU that's not unexpected. Next we'll see how these stack up with processor graphics.

Crysis Warhead - 1680 x 1050 - Mainstream Quality (Physics on Enthusiast) - assault bench

Dragon Age Origins is another very well received game. The 3rd person RPG gives our CPUs a different sort of workload to enjoy:

Dragon Age Origins - 1680 x 1050 - Max Settings (no AA/Vsync)

World of Warcraft needs no introduction. An absurd number of people play it, so we're here to benchmark it. Our test favors repeatability over real world frame rates, so our results here will be higher than in the real world with lots of server load. But what our results will tell you is what the best CPU is to get for playing WoW:

World of Warcraft

Starcraft 2

Power Consumption

The new Pentiums draw very little power, not only compared to their AMD counterparts but also the rest of the Sandy Bridge lineup.Without Hyper Threading, overall execution resource utilization is lower and thus power consumption is lower. It doesn't look like any of these chips come close to hitting their max TDPs as the Pentium G620T only draws 4W less than the G620 despite being rated with a 30W lower TDP.

Load Power Consumption x264 HD 3.03 1st pass (Win7/Radeon HD 5870)

The Matchup Processor Graphics Performance
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  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    If you want to use a "super duper" cheap PC you use Llano, not a Pentium. Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    What's apparent from your response is that Llano can beat a Pentium only when you make sure to ignore the requirements and instead stick to a couple of words without true meaning. Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    The details of the "super duper" were in the post I replied to, which I was obviously referring to.
    I intentionally put "super duper" in quotes, as it seemed a rather inefficient way to convey its message.
    I stick to what I said though: if you need a small system with some power to get your everyday job done, you should look for something that gives you the best value for your bucks, as well as the lowest acceptable level of performance.

    Hey, we're reviewing the Pentium family here: anybody interested in gaming machines, or high-performance PCs, should look elsewhere.
    If you look at Pentium, is because you seek entry level, unpretentious performance.
    And my point is that Llano is a much better alternative than the Pentiums in these areas: they have slightly less performing CPU cores, much better GPU (which, let's not forget, helps an awful lot in web browsing, Flash acceleration) and all for a similar price.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    The issue I find when trying to build a budget Intel box over a budget AMD box is not so much the CPUs (though often I find the Intel chip will come in around £15 more) but the motherboards.

    I can get a decent Gigabyte motherboard for the AMD chip with USB3.0/eSATA/HDMI/Firewire/optical out etc.

    The same cost Intel board will still have serial and parallel ports and maybe 4 USB2.0 ports and thats pretty much it.

    Intel at the budget end just isnt attractive or value for money. Oh it might be a bit faster but Joe Customer doesnt notice that.

    Intel - Nice CPUS, shame about the crappy motherboard choices.
    Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    From the moment that the 1st Athlon arrived, Intel stopped making sense for budget PCs.
    It is very clear today: Sandy Bridge is the undisputed champion of performance and efficiency, only clouded by a mediocre GPU, and yet, despite the significant architectural advantage, they compete with AMD's pricing by crippling their CPUs to the level where it makes no sense anymore.

    Unless you're an Intel fanboy/aficionado, like ET, it should be clear to you that the efficiency advantage of a dual core Pentium G620, over an Athlon II X3, are easily balanced by performance advantage (Tom's Hardware places the Athlon II X3 au-pair with the G850). When compared to the G850, you have higher cost, less flexibility, and 2 cores instead of 3. Quite frankly, I'm still waiting for a good benchmarking methodology, that shows how much CPU cores the various background programs (virus scanners, power management, instant messaging, live feeds, ...) take on a regular basis and what real-life impact do they have on a 2-core vs 3-or-more-core CPU.
    Reply
  • seapeople - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    I don't see why everyone is so negative about Intel "crippling" their CPUs to sell them at lower prices. Sure, Intel could just sell their 2600K for $100 and still make a profit, but that would basically drive AMD out of business and then our government would step in and then we would have Intel Company A and Intel Company B. Company B would buy the remnants of AMD and then we would have Intel and Pseudo-AMD Intel.

    How would that be better?
    Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - link

    The fact is crippling their CPUs doesn't really save them any money, since the silicon is very likely exactly the same.
    The gripe, at least from my side, is that you need a degree to figure out what does what.
    And yes, Intel has enough money to throw AMD out of business any time they want to, which is also why it bothers me that people try to look for value in low-performance, crippled Intel units, when they have better solutions on AMD's front: if you don't find this info on specialized, semi-professional websites like Anandtech, then where can you?

    Let's not forget what was happening with Pentium II and Pentium 4 back then when Intel had, basically, no competition. I am convinced that we have Sandy Bridge today (which is a fantastic piece of technology), only thanks to the kick in the balls that AMD gave Intel with the Athlon back in the days.
    I hope history repeats itself with Bulldozer: it is only going to do all of us customers, good.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    For all you know without AMD sucking dry the world's resources and crapping up everything with endless complaints, lawsuits, appeals to world courts and the EU, spending hundreds of millions fragmenting the PC space and wasting dies on crap, we'd have INTEL CPU's at twice and thrice the speed they are now.

    Instead Intel has had to spend vast resources coddling the crybaby amd and billions in court, constant engineers to help the crybaby loser company do x86 compatibly, and on and on.

    AMD is much more likely a SCOURGE to progress and innovation - and now after sucking the world dry, they are still worse than broke.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    It is clear that NONE of you people have clue one what Intel makes on any cpu.

    The saddest of issues is amd LOSES MONEY on everything they make.

    Now, since every one of you Intel haterz tells us amd is such a good deal, isn't it YOU who need to change ? Aren't you people the real problem ?

    AMD should charge more, and all you amd fanboys SHOULD BUY IT when it is no better a deal than any Intel - then we could have TWO competitors, one of which is no longer losing it's shirt.

    Instead I'm sure you'll keep demanding amd strip their prices ever lower, THEN THEY WILL GO OUT OF BUSINESS - and you'll blame Intel, or the government, but NEVER you, never yourselves, never the REAL PROBLEM.
    Reply
  • yo2020 - Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - link

    It would be great if we have a chart for Power Consumption without discrete GPU. Reply

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