Characterizing Dual Core Performance

There are three areas to look at when measuring the performance of a dual core processor:

  1. Single-threaded application performance
  2. Multi-threaded Application Performance
  3. Multitasking Application Performance

For the first category, plain-jane single threaded application performance, the Pentium Extreme Edition or the Pentium D will simply perform identically to the equivalently clocked Pentium 5xx series CPU.  The second core will go unused and the performance of the first core is nothing new.  Given the short lead time on hardware for this review, we left out all of our single threaded benchmarks given that we can already tell you what performance is like under those tests - so if you're looking for performance under PC WorldBench or any of our Game tests, take a look at our older reviews and look at the performance of the Pentium 4 530 to get an idea of where these dual core CPUs will perform in single threaded apps.  There are no surprises here; you could have a 128 core CPU and it would still perform the same in a single threaded application.  Closer to its launch, we will have a full review including all of our single and multithreaded benchmarks so that you may have all of the information that will help determine your buying decision in one place.

The next category is pretty easy to benchmark as well. Things like 3ds max, iTunes, and Windows Media Encoder, are all examples of multi-threaded applications that are used rather frequently.  We've included a few of these benchmarks as well in this article. 

The final category is by far the most interesting as well as the most difficult to truly get a hold on - multitasking performance.  The easiest way to measure multitasking performance is to have a number of applications loaded with one or more actively crunching away, and measure the performance of one or more of them.  However, an arguably more useful way of looking at multitasking performance is to look at the response time of the system while multitasking.  Unfortunately, no real benchmarks exist to measure response time of a system accurately while under a multitasking load, so we're left to do our best to try to develop those benchmarks to help answer the dual vs. single core purchasing debate.  We are still working on developing those benchmarks and unfortunately, they didn't make it into this article, but we will keep cranking away and hopefully be able to debut them in one of the upcoming successors to this piece.

We did, however, string together a few benchmarks that don't explicitly measure response time, but do offer a good look at multitasking performance.  Despite the fact that Intel has these types of benchmarks on their own, we went out and built benchmarks ourselves that was based on the feedback that we received from you all - the AnandTech readers. 

We will describe these benchmarks later on in this piece, but first, let's take a look at two largely single threaded benchmark suites with a touch of multitasking: Winstone and SYSMark.


The Test

Our hardware configurations are similar to what we've used in previous comparisons.

AMD Athlon 64 Configuration
Socket-939 Athlon 64 CPUs
2 x 512MB OCZ PC3200 EL Dual Channel DIMMs 2-2-2-10
NVIDIA nForce4 Reference Motherboard
ATI Radeon X850 XT PCI Express

Intel Pentium 4 Configuration
LGA-775 Intel Pentium 4 and Extreme Edition CPUs
2 x 512MB Crucial DDR-II 533 Dual Channel DIMMs 3-2-2-12
Intel 955X Motherboard
ATI Radeon X850 XT PCI Express

Scheduling and Responsiveness Business Application Performance
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  • Da DvD - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    Many of you are making a huge mistake. You are proposing insane multitasking tests to 'bring these processors to their knees'. This is wrong! Since when do we adjust the review to the product?
    This is similar to only running benchmarks whose working sets fit completely into the 2mb cache of a new cpu. In other words, when you review a product like this, do NOT suddenly change all your variables, keep them as you always had them. Later on, you can adjust variables (tests), and draw your conclusions accordingly.

    Also, I hope people understand that when Anand would have run these test on a dual Xeon 3.2 system, the results would have been virtually the same. You ALREADY KNOW dual cpu systems can be twice as fast as single cpu systems in certain tests, and show no improvement at all in others.

    I really appreciate the article in general, but it would have been SO much better when the PICTURE would have been complete. For this, a dual Opteron system and a dual Xeon system should have been included, AND the tests should have a reflected typical user workloads. If for some reason all cpu's would have been dualcore already, -I- still wouldn't be importing PST files while running my games. Again, when reviewing something, it's wrong to adapt the workload to the product. This is why some people now question your integrety, Anand, because quickly reading through the article DOES give the impression Dual-Core is THE thing, while there's so much it is not!

    And yes, i do realize you don't have dual Opteron/Xeon rigs at hand, but still, you choose to present this incomplete picture. It was a choice, but not necessarily the correct one ;-)

    Regards,

    DvD
    Reply
  • Zebo - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    Anand for game marks I like to see a dvdshrink deep analysis/encode, with grabit downloading 8 threads with plenty more cued, some seti at home, then run farcry and report FPS.:D

    That will bring these single procesors to thier knees obviously but I want to see if DC is really worth it since that's the type of choices I'm forced to choose between.
    Reply
  • tjahns - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    As I am not a regular reader nor familiar with the benchmarks used in this article, I am rather disappointed that the scales on the graphs in this article do not indicate what is being measured nor whether "higher is better" or "lower is better". Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    What would be better in games (I think), especially in first person shooter games, would be to compare the lowest frames per second, and not the highest or the averaged frame rate. And I think this would represent an tremendous advantage for multiprocessors/multicore Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    "Nice article, as always. I wonder how memory bandwidth increases/decreases will effect the performance of the already bandwidth hungry intel processors."
    The Intel processors are no longer bandwidth hungry, as the move to the 1066FSB showed. However, throw a second processor into the mix, and things might change
    Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    The Register has a small review on it, and compare it against a dual Xeon rig
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/05/review_int...
    Reply
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    Great article - loved the multitasking benchmarks.

    Here's what I have running all the time:

    WinAmp 5
    Outlook 2003
    Firefox 1.02
    ICQQ2003Pro
    Norton A/V2005
    drivers for audio & video :)

    How is my performance affected by multiple Word, Excel, Pshop CS windows? Can I game with them open or do I still need to shut everything down like on my current system? Could I encode a DVD and play a game? Play a DVD off one drive and encode off another?

    As mentioned some of what I want to know is can I do things that currently require me to really run two boxes? I recently moved Azareus (torrent client) and all of my DVD encoding & burning to a second rig.
    Reply
  • Macro2 - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    No games tested at all? Since when does this happen? Intel doesn't want dual core to look bad so Anandtech doesn't bench ANY games at all.

    Come on guys, judging by the article below on the Inquirer I'm not the only one who is suspicious.

    http://theinquirer.net/?article=22332

    Same ole' same ole'
    Reply
  • snorre - Wednesday, April 6, 2005 - link

    Why did you exclude dual CPU (Opteron/Xeon) systems from your comparisons?

    I recommend that you guys at Anandtech read this:
    http://theinquirer.net/?article=22332

    Well said! ;-)
    Reply
  • Bathrone - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    What about the new extreme edition and I think WinXP only supports a maximum of two cpus? Im not keen to goto 2003 Server. What are Microsoft going to do - patch XP to support 4 cpus? Reply

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