Final Words

At this point, having seen dual core CPUs from both AMD and Intel, there's no question that dual core is desirable on all fronts; whether we're talking about the server world or on your desktop, dual core improves performance by a noticeable amount and the performance benefits will only get better down the road.

As a server solution, the dual core Opterons enable a whole new class of performance to be realized on platforms. Two socket servers will now be capable of having the performance of a 4-way system, something that has never been possible in the past. AMD's push with dual core into the server markets half a year before Intel's dual core Xeon arrives is going to tempt a lot of IT departments out there; the ability to get 4-way server performance at much lower prices is an advantage that can't be beat.

Despite AMD's lead in getting dual core server/workstation CPUs out to market, Intel has very little reason to worry from a market penetration standpoint. We've seen that even with a multi-year performance advantage, it is very tough for AMD to steal any significant business away from Intel, and we expect that the same will continue to be the case with the dual core Opteron. It's unfortunate for AMD that all of their hard work will amount to very little compared to what Intel is able to ship, but that has always been reality when it comes to the AMD/Intel competition.

On the desktop side, we are extremely excited about the Athlon 64 X2. The 4400+ that we compared here today had no problem competing with and outperforming Intel's fastest dual core CPUs in most cases, and at a price of $581, the 4400+ is the more reasonably priced of the X2 CPUs. That being said, we are concerned that availability of the lower cost X2 CPUs will be significantly more limited than the higher priced models. At the ~550 marker, your best bet is clear - the Athlon 64 X2 will be faster than anything that Intel has for the desktop.

What's quite impressive is how competitive the Athlon 64 X2 is across the board. With the Pentium D, we had to give up a noticeable amount of single threaded performance (compared to Intel's top of the line Pentium 4 CPUs) in order to get better multithreaded/multitasking performance, but with AMD, you don't have to make that sacrifice. Everything from gaming to compiling performance on the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ was extremely solid. In multithreaded/multitasking environments, the Athlon 64 X2 is even more impressive; video encoding is no longer an issue on AMD platforms. You no longer have to make a performance decision between great overall performance or great media encoding performance - AMD delivers both with the Athlon 64 X2. Also keep in mind that the performance preview that we gave of the Athlon 64 X2 today is actually a very conservative estimate. The shipping Athlon 64 X2 CPUs will run with regular DDR memory and with much faster motherboards - meaning that you should be prepared to be impressed even further down the road.

The real problem is that AMD has nothing cheaper than $530 that is available in dual core, and this is where Intel wins out. With dual core Pentium D CPUs starting at $241, Intel will be able to bring extremely solid multitasking performance to much lower price points than AMD will. And from what we've seen, it looks like that price advantage will continue for quite some time. It all boils down to economics, and in the sense of manufacturing capacity, Intel has AMD beat - thus allowing for much more aggressively priced volume dual core solutions. Then there's the issue of availability; as impressive as AMD's dual core desktop offerings are, we're honestly worried that we won't see any real volume until late this year at best. Intel does have a golden opportunity now to really step forward and regain some enthusiast marketshare, but we seriously doubt that we'll see anything faster than the Pentium D 3.2 anytime soon. It's strange how tables have turned, making Intel look like the value CPU manufacturer in the dual core race.

Now that we've seen both AMD and Intel dual core solutions, it's time to play the waiting game. Dual core Opteron 8xx series CPUs should be available now, with the 2xx and 1xx series following in about a month. The Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition should be shipping before the end of this month, with expected retail availability next month. And the big wait, of course, will be for the Athlon 64 X2, which will be available towards the end of this year.

Our dual core coverage does not stop here. We have more in the works including the promised Workstation comparison, a look at how multitasking in Linux is impacted by dual core, and even more multitasking scenarios modeled based on your feedback (so, keep it coming).

Gaming Multitasking Scenario
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  • Opteron - Monday, June 20, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • mikeshoup - Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - link

    I think a better option for testing compiling speed would be to pass a -j argument to make when compiling FireFox, and tell it to run as many parallel operations as the processor can take threads. IE: -j2 for a dual core or ht cpu Reply
  • fritz64 - Thursday, May 05, 2005 - link

    I know what I will be getting after fall this year. Those numbers are impresive! Reply
  • jvarszegi - Friday, April 29, 2005 - link

    So they're reproducible, but only in secret. And you knew, as usual, about mistakes you were making, but made them anyway to, um, make a valid comparison to something else that no one can verify. Nicely done. Whatever they're paying you, it's not enough. Reply
  • Ross Whitehead - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Zebo -

    You are correct you can not reproduce them, but we can and have 10's of times over the last year w/ different hardware. I do not believe that because you cannot reproduce them discounts their validity but it does require you have a small amount of trust in us.

    We have detailed the interaction of the application with the database. With this description you should be able to draw conclusions as to whether it matches the profile of your applications and database servers. Keep in mind, when it comes to performance tuning the most command phrase is "it depends". This means that there are so many variables in a test, that unless all are carefully maintained the results will vary greatly. So, even if you could reproduce it I would not recommend a change to your application hardware until it was validated with your own application as the benchmark.

    The owner of the benchmark is not AMD, or Intel, or anyone remotely related to PC hardware.

    I think if you can get beyond the trust factor there is a lot to gain from the benchmarks and our tests.
    Reply
  • Reginhild - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Wow, the new AMD dual cores blow away the "patched together" Intel dual cores!!

    I can't see why anyone would choose the Intel dually over AMD unless all the AMDs are sold out.

    Intel needs to get off their arse and design a true dual core chip instead of just slapping two "unconnected" processors on one chip. The fact that the processors have to communicate with each other by going outside the chip is what killed Intel in all the benchmarks.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Thursday, April 28, 2005 - link

    Ross,

    How can I reproduce them when they are not available to me?

    From your article:
    " We cannot reveal the identity of the Corporation that provided us with the application because of non-disclosure agreements in place. As a result, we will not go into specifics of the application, but rather provide an overview of its database interaction so that you can grasp the profile of this application, and understand the results of the tests better (and how they relate to your database environment)."

    Then don't include them. Benchmarking tools to which no one else has access is not scientific because it can't be reproduced so that anyone with a similar setup can verify the results.

    I don't even know what they do. How are they imporatant to me? How will this translate to anything real world I need to do? How can I trust the mysterious company? Could be AMD for all I know.
    Reply
  • MPE - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    #134

    How can it be the best for the buck ? Unless you are seeing benchmarks from Anand that says so how could come to the conclusion?
    At some tests the 3800+ was the worse performer while the X2 and PD where the best.

    You are extrapolating logic from air.
    Reply
  • Ross Whitehead - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    #131

    "no mystery unreproducable benchmarks like Anand's database stuff."

    It is not clear what you mean by this statement. The database benchmarks are 100% reproducable and are real life apps not synthetic or academic calcs.
    Reply
  • nserra - Wednesday, April 27, 2005 - link

    You are discussion price and it's not correct since intel goes from 2800 to 3200 and amd goes from 3500+ into 4000+ (i'm ignoring amd new model numbers, still based on older).

    I complete disagree the AMD model numbers, the should be = to single core, the should just had the X2.

    The TRUE X2 will be more performer than opteron, by 2% to 5%.
    Reply

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