The Real Test - AnandTech's Multitasking Scenarios

Before our first dual core articles, we asked for feedback from the readers with regards to their multitasking usage patterns. Based on this information, we formulated some of our own benchmarks that would stress multitasking performance. We've already gone over the impacts of dual core CPUs on subjective interactions, so we'll just point you back to previous articles for our take on that, if you haven't read them already. In the end, we know that dual core CPUs make our systems much more responsive and provide the same sort of smooth operation that SMP systems have done for years, but the question now is - who has better multitasking performance? AMD or Intel? And that's exactly what we're here to find out.

We started with a test bed configured with a number of fairly popular applications:
Daemon Tools
Norton AntiVirus 2004 (with latest updates)
Firefox 1.02
DVD Shrink 3.2
Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1.0
Newsleecher 2.0
Visual Studio .NET 2003
Macromedia Flash Player 7
Adobe Photoshop CS
Microsoft Office 2003
3ds max 7
iTunes 4.7.1
Trillian 3.1
DivX 5.2.1
AutoGK 1.60
Norton Ghost 2003
Adobe Reader 7
Cygwin
gcc
mingw
Doom 3
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
What's important about that list is that a handful of those programs were running in the background at all times, primarily Microsoft's AntiSpyware Beta and Norton AntiVirus 2004. Both the AntiSpyware Beta and NAV 2004 were running with their real time protection modes enabled, to make things even more real world.

We will be looking at AMD vs. Intel dual core scaling in another article, so for now, we are comparing the dual core chips featured in this article to the fastest single core AMD CPU - the Athlon 64 FX-55. We have already looked at Intel's dual core scalability in previous articles for those who are interested. In the end, our previous tests have shown us that no single core CPU can compete with even the slowest dual core CPUs in any of these tests.

Multitasking Scenario 1: DVD Shrink

If you've ever tried to back up a DVD, you know that the process can take a long time. Just ripping the disc to your hard drive will eat up a good 20 minutes, and then there's the encoding. The encoding can easily take between 20 - 45 minutes depending on the speed of your CPU, and once you start doing other tasks in the background, you can expect those times to grow even larger.

For this test, we used DVD Shrink, one of the simplest applications available to compress and re-encode a DVD to fit on a single 4.5GB disc. We ran DVD Decrypt on the Star Wars Episode VI DVD, so we had a local copy of the DVD on our test bed hard drive (in a future version of the test, we may try to include DVD Decrypt performance in our benchmark as well). All of the DVD Shrink settings were left at default including telling the program to assume a low priority, a setting many users check in order to be able to do other things while DVD Shrink is working.

We did the following:

1) Open Firefox using the ScrapBook plugin loaded locally archived copies of 13 web pages. We kept the browser on the AT front page.
2) Open iTunes and start playing a playlist on repeat all.
3) Open Newsleecher.
4) Open DVD Shrink.
5) Login to our news server and start downloading headers for our subscribed news groups.
6) Start backup of Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. All default settings, including low priority.

This test is a bit different than the test that we ran in the Intel dual core articles, mainly in that we used more web pages, but with more varied content. In the first review, our stored web pages were very heavy on Flash. This time around, we have a wider variety of web content open in Firefox while we conducted our test. There is still quite a bit of Flash, but the load is much more realistic now.

DVD Shrink was the application in focus; this matters because by default, Windows gives special scheduling priority to the application currently in the foreground. We waited until the DVD Shrink operation was complete and recorded its completion time. Below are the results:

Multitasking Performance - Scenario 1

As we showed in the first set of dual core articles, tests like these are perfect examples of why dual core matters. The performance of the single core Athlon 64 FX-55 is dismal compared to any of the dual core offerings. You'll also note that the Athlon 64 X2 4200+ completes the DVD Shrink task in less than half the time of the higher clocked single core FX-55. The reasoning behind this is more of an issue with the Windows' scheduler. The problem in situations like these is that the Windows scheduler won't always preempt one task in order to give another its portion of the CPU's time. For a single threaded CPU, that means that certain tasks will take much longer to complete simply because the OS' scheduler isn't giving them a chance to run on the CPU. With a dual core or otherwise multi-threaded CPU, the OS' scheduler can dispatch more threads to the CPU and thus, is less likely to be in a situation where it has to preempt a CPU intensive task.

The Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is within striking distance of the Extreme Edition 840, but Intel still holds the crown in this test.

3D Rendering Multitasking Scenario 2: File Compression
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  • FlakPanzer - Monday, June 20, 2005 - link

    This looks very promising, my next rig is definately going to have one of these fine AMD X2 processors. Reply
  • cryptonomicon - Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - link

    anand, thanks for the preliminary overclocking results. me and my DFI compadres are very eager to see how this chip overclocks and hope you add an overclocking page section as soon as you receive a production X2. Reply
  • gamara - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    Would be interesting to also see if DC had any affect on SLI performance. Not sure if the driver work of splitting the duties for 2 video cards would be streamlined with a second core on the processor.

    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - link

    #88 are you talking about the PD 3.0GHZ 356US or the PD 2.8GHZ 241US? The 3.2GHZ 530US is the worst price/performance DC in Intel's arsenal it cost more then twice as much as a single core and then some.

    Just like how the 4600+ and 4800+ are now costing more then twice the single core versions.

    I don't understand why people are going to assume the motherboard is expensive. Why must you have the flagship 955X motherboard?

    The lanuch pricing of the 955X is 50US, which is the same as the price of the 925X when it was launched.

    There is also the 945P chipset to consider which also supports Dual Core and is a less expensive alternative price at 38US which is only 1 dollar more then what the i915P chipset cost at launch.

    Since the chipsets base pricing match what the 925X and 915P were at launch we should logically assume that pricing of these chipsets will be similar to what i915 and i925 were at launch.

    Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - link

    Oh yeah baby 100th post... how often do you get that honor? even if you have to cehat to get it *cough* post 99 Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - link

    lalala ala al ala ala ala Reply
  • philthedrill - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - link

    #97, are you being serious? Read my post on #81.

    Performance drops with HT when there are memory bandwidth intensive apps due to the shared data TLB. The shared FSB also hurts Intel, and it only gets worse as you scale up with more processors.

    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - link

    Since the advent of HT on P4, AMD has been at a great disadvantage in multitasking scenarios and I thought dualcore would end that. Well, I guess P4 is just better at that. Really ironic, when AMD has touted K8 as being designed from ground up for DC and Intel just slapping two cores together - LOL.

    Nontheless AMD is still doing great with X2 chips, and I too can't wait to get one, since I think we all multitask non-stop, even if we don't realize it (AV, Antispyware, SETI, FAH, Word, IE, Firefox, Opera, Acrobat, ACDsee, Photoshop, Outlook, BT, eMule, ... and the we open a game on top of that). Just yesterday my A64 3200+ S754 / 1 GB RAM gave me real trouble with gazlion windows open, while writing my graduation paper. Had to restart the bastard, grrr.
    Reply
  • Son of a N00b - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    TY for including OC results...

    maybe a whole 'nother article on this?
    Reply
  • Quanticles - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    i think if ppl want AMD's prices to come down, then we should all pitch in and build a new fab for them Reply

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