Although we have performed a few interesting benchmarks of processors on Linux in our past benchmarks, whenever I get cornered by a professor on campus or guest speak at a Linux Users Group, the first question anyone asks me is, "Which processor should I get for my new workstation?" Although the possibilities are totally limitless, the Linux users whom I have met generally have the mentality of "build something out of complete new parts, so it lasts" or "build something out of stuff that I find for free." Generally, the latter doesn't present many options, so today, we will address the first scenario - which new components make the ultimate Linux workstation. We found a few high end AMD and Intel processors to pit against our comprehensive Linux benchmark suite. Of course, don't forget to check out some of our other benchmarks including AMD Sempron, Opteron 150 and Nocona 3.6 from last month.

With so many socket, memory and processor configurations, recent computer configurations can be extremely confusing. DDR2 or DDR1? AMD or Intel? 1MB L2 cache or 512KB? HyperThreading on or off? None of these are easy questions, particularly if we throw an alternative opterating system in the mix. We set up all of our benchmarks so that they can be replicated easily by anyone using a similar configuration. Below, you can see which configurations were used for the benchmark analysis.

 Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): AMD Athlon FX-53 (130nm, 2.4GHz, 1MB L2 Cache, Socket 939)
AMD Athlon 64 3800+ (130nm, 2.4GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (130nm, 2.2GHz, 512KB L2 Cache)
Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz (130nm, 512KB L2 Cache, 2MB L3 Cache)
Intel Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz (90nm, 1MB L2 Cache)
Intel Pentium 4 530 3.0GHz (90nm, 1MB L2 Cache)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC-3200 CL2 (400MHz)
2 x 512MB Corsair PC2-5400 CL3 (475MHz)
Motherboards: DFI LanParty 915P-T12 (Socket 775)
MSI K8T Neo2 (Socket 939)
Memory Timings: Default
Operating System(s): SuSE 9.1 Professional
Kernel 2.6.5-7.108
Compiler: linux:~ # gcc -v
Reading specs from /opt/gcc-mainline/lib/gcc/i586-suse-linux/3.4.1/specs
Configured with: ../configure --enable-threads=posix --prefix=/opt/gcc-mainline --with-local-prefix=/usr/local --infodir=/opt/gcc-mainline/share/info --mandir=/opt/gcc-mainline/share/man --libdir=/opt/gcc-mainline/lib --libexecdir=/opt/gcc-mainline/lib --enable-languages=c,c++,f77,objc,java,ada --enable-checking --enable-libgcj --with-gxx-include-dir=/opt/gcc-mainline/include/g++ --with-slibdir=/lib --with-system-zlib --enable-shared --enable-__cxa_atexit i586-suse-linux
Thread model: posix
gcc version 3.4.1 20040508 (prerelease) (SuSE Linux)

For the majority of the benchmark analysis, we leave the HyperThreading capabilities of the Intel processors off. Unfortunately, most workstation applications are not capable of multi-threading applications, and running HyperThreading penalizes the Intel processors when it isn't needed. We do run some benchmarks where multiple threads are utilized, and in those instances, we take some special consideration with multiple benchmarks. For most of our tests, you will see 32-bit binaries on 32-bit Linux kernels. Moving the mouse over these benchmark graphs will actually reveal the 64-bit tests that we have done with our Athlon 64 processors. The Intel processors in this analysis do not have 64-bit capabilities.

We also have a small DDR2 versus DDR1 comparison near the end of this article. For the Intel processors, we use the DDR2 memory provided by Corsair exclusively except for the DDR2 versus DDR1 comparison. We chose the MSI K8T board for our AMD tests, since it was one of the most stable and reasonabily priced motherboards for the 939 architecture. DFI won our spot as the Socket 775 test bed for its DDR2/DDR1 support and solid stability. Testing DDR2 versus DDR1 was extremely relevant to this motherboard, since we could just swap memory modules without changing motherboards. Let's jump right into benchmarking.

Generally, all of our benchmarks are taken three times and then the highest marks are recorded unless stated otherwise. Note that we have updated to the more current GCC 3.4.1.

Database Tests
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  • Cheval - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Using Firefox 1.0PR and those graphs don't work either.
  • jensend - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Were any of the 32-bit binaries (incl kernel) conducted with -mregparm=x where x!=0? See e.g. - improvements in the use of registers are generally the main source of performance improvements for x86-64, and using this parameter can significantly improve gcc's register usage on regular x86. Generally, mregparm=3 is recommended for the kernel and =1 for C++ code.
  • RyanHirst - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    o, i c.
  • LittleKing - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    The article is good, but the Rollover images don't work in FireFox 9.2.
  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    I had trouble compiling crafty. The numbers were more to show the impact of compiler options rather than actual chess numbers themselves.

  • RyanHirst - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Liked the article! I was disappointed to see you stuck with the only chess engine on the planet that is faster on a 3.6GHz P4 than a 2.4GHz A64. The Crafty benches looked odd, but they were more realistic. Even with HT optimized engines like Frtiz8 (which has competed internationally for as much as $1 million on Xeon machines, including one 4-way Xeon "donation" from Intel) pull almost identical numbers between the top a64 and the top p4.
    If, as I assume, you left HT off [which you should for benchmarks. there are some odd issues with HT and chess], there just isn't a chess program around (except apparently TSCP) that pulls these numbers.
    I know there is a risk of sounding fanboyish. That is not my intent. I play in the computer engine room on, and I know the numbers I get from other machines. The benchmark you are using is simply not representative of chess engines. Please take a look at Frtiz benchmarks at: [disregard the top dual xeon score; "Deep Fritz 8" calculates many more nodes/s than regular "Fritz8", even on a single processor]. Again, this is an engine that is optimized for the Pentium architecture.
    Less dedicated engines like Crafty show the results that, unfortunately, you found questionable in the previous article. Bob Hyatt has been programming chess for decades and Crafty is available on every major desktop OS. It's part of the SPEC2000 benchmark [where it performs identically on a lowly XP3200 and a Xeon 3.4]. It is also the first engine out the door with a 64-bit clean code! In one of the few fields where 64-bit computing can offer a near perfect doubling of calculations/s, why leave out the 64-bit bench? If you're concerend Crafty is Athlon optimized, check out Hyatt's homepage: ...his ICC account pet machine is a dual Xeon.

  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    johnsonx: sorry about that- i put in the 530 score for the 3500+. The correct score is 175.

  • johnsonx - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Good article Kris.

    I think you've got a graph error on the 32-bit MEncoder graph. You show the P4 530 and the A64 3500+ tied at 146fps, but then show the A64 3800+ at 193fps; that's a 32% higher score for a CPU that is only 9% higher-clocked and otherwise identical. Methinks the 146fps for the A64 3500+ is an error; it should be somewhere between 165 & 175, right around the P4EE.
  • WooDaddy - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    "whenever I get cornered by a processor on campus or guest speak at a Linux Users Group"



    Kris.. I think you meant professors ;)

    I'd still lock your doors and grab weapons of minimal destruction. Professors are scary. Especially the fat ones with suspenders who talk about overclocking their PDP-11s.
  • Illissius - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Nice review, and you actually compared 32- and 64-bit for once ;). Would've been more interesting to do it back when you had some 64-bit Intel processors in the mix as well, though...
    Why no 64-bit results on the kernel compile? :/ That's probably the single benchmark out of all of them I'd be most interested in (Gentoo :D).
    Also, UT2004 has both 32- and 64-bit Linux versions, and nVidia has both 32- and 64-bit Linux drivers. Seeing as this was a desktop review, that would've been nice to see.

    I'd personally have been more interested in s754 processors, but they're the same architecture anyways so I can mostly extrapolate their performance from the ones tested, so it isn't a big deal either way.

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