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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  • Aquila76 - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    It's happened again: the cheapest AMD64 939 processor is the better choice of the processors reviewed here for price/performance. Granted the Linux market isn't a huge chunk of the market for either company, but among those who do use Linux there is no reason to use anything but AMD.
  • fitten - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    It would be interesting to see these tests run on several S754 boxes as well. I know this one was entitled "cutting edge performance" but with the cost difference between the S939 solutions and the S754 solutions, many will opt (as I have) to go with the S754 parts. I run SuSE 9.1 Professional AMD64 on an Athlon 64 3000+ and have been pleased with it.
  • Aquila76 - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    This may be a little off-topic, but shows yet another reason California hates MS. This is what happens when you move to Windows...,3902465...

    Love the caption: Someone forgot to reboot
  • fitten - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    "Our processor test bed is completely caseless, and if we have issuse with our 3.6GHz processor out of a normal case, we can't imagine what issues might exist in a full enclosure. "

    Todays processors ("today" meaning back to the days of the original Pentium) typically run hotter with the case open than with it closed. With the case closed, cooler air is forced through the case and across the right places to help lower component temperatures, assuming that the fans are placed appropriately, are venting in the right direction, and cables/components are arranged to allow the air to flow properly.

    Newer form factors, such as Intel's BTX, are designed in a large part to cope with cooling the thing down.

    You should be running your test bed in a case with appropriate cooling.
  • Araemo - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    A note about the compilation benchmark:

    Make and gcc themselves are not multi-threaded, but make does understand a -j option to specify the # of concurrent make jobs to run. The general rule-of-thumb I have heard, is to specify a -j equal to n+1, where n is the number of processors in the system(One compile job per processor, and one control job.) So, to test if hyperthreading lowers the compile time, specifiy `time make -j 3`.

    I would personally like to see this, in addition to the single-threaded results. I read some quick-and-dirty benchmark results suggesting hyperthreading does help the compile time, but those results were published by curious people when hyperthreading was new.. I haven't seen any results on recent processors.
  • garfield - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Isn't it normal procedure for a P4 that's getting too hot that it throttles the clock speed down? Maybe that would explain the extremely bad results, though it seems a bit unrealistic that the results has been reproducible, unless each iteration of the benchmark has been run for a long time.
  • ceefka - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    First of all : good article. It really shows the early benefits of well written 64-bit software. The 3500+ is definately on my wishlist ;-)

    "This does not bode well for the processor. Our processor test bed is completely caseless, and if we have issues with our 3.6GHz processor out of a normal case, we can't imagine what issues might exist in a full enclosure."

    Rather confusing this bit, Kristopher. Anyway, I read that a good case will offer convection which apparently a caseless testbed does not. How were the tempratures of the other CPU's? Were they also a tad above average or typical peak?
  • balzi - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    Some thoughts --

    can we please have Graphs where the order of the legend is the same as the order of the bars in the bar-graph. Surely that's possible.

    also, the strange "Thermal issue" error. It seems that you thought it was weird but immediately assumed that it was correct; that the Intel CPU(s) were getting too hot.

    Did you verify this somehow?? It seems strange to call it "An unusual problem" and then trust that it's correct without question or explanation.

  • Shinei - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    "This does not bode well for the processor. Our processor test bed is completely caseless, and if we have issuse with our 3.6GHz processor out of a normal case, we can't imagine what issues might exist in a full enclosure."
    That quote made me laugh, and I'm not entirely sure why. :D

    Anyway, I see that going to 64-bit is definitely worth the price of admission, considering the huge gains the processors get in the jump. One thing I had a question on, though: Why does the result from the SSL benchmark halve between 32-bit and 64-bit? Is it that the keys are longer in 64-bit?
  • gherald - Monday, September 20, 2004 - link

    I too would prefer longer images that include both 32 and 64-bit results. Mouseover comparisons are cumbersome.

    Is sample.wav 800mb or 700mb? I'm guessing the 7 was probably just a typo.

    Nice analysis of DDR1 vs 2.

    My only gripe is I wish a full complement of "lower end" processors were included in all these benchmarks (754s, slower prescotts, and heck even northwoods)... but I guess that'd be too much work.

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