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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  • hosto - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #110 - did you notice better performance on the p4 that you used to have? because on single instance of firefox, the amd chips blow the p4's away....yet, when i have multiple panes open with my a64 it chugs quite nastily if there is flash content. Is there some way that macromedia have optimised the flash player for the P4 for firefox? i wonder if the same slowdowns would be noticeable with internet explorer, or if it is specific to the player in firefox/mozilla? Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #106
    I hope you mean in multithreaded apps, as has been said many times before... single threaded apps run the SAME, therefore no benchies were included

    #108
    So true --- its the only reason why I wish I still had my p4HT over the amd64
    Reply
  • xsilver - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    ANAND ... for your gaming benchmarks I recommend a scattering of commonly used programs

    1) the lot of antivirus, trillian, firefox, spyware running in background
    2) gaming related stuff like teamspeak or an audio cd playing in the background (to drown out the crappy game music :)
    any other gaming related stuff would be good too....

    if dual core proves itself, there should be no performance drop, whereas the single core will drop somewhat
    Reply
  • hosto - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    thats funny the comment about the flash going slowly in firefox on the AMD processors in the benchmark..ive noticed the same on my athlon64 3200+ that i cannot have too many flash sites opening without it chugging. Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    this would be funny, but if simply having another core helps out with responsiveness and nothing else, I'm getting the dual VIA C3 mini-itx board hahahahaha!

    OK, not dual core, but hell, it's still small enough and they take only 7w each.
    Reply
  • ksteele - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I would like to see some "apple to apple" benchmarks by removing the clock speed disparities.

    Pentium D 820 2.8Ghz versus Pentium 4 520 2.8Ghz
    Pentium D 830 3.0Ghz versus Pentium 4 530 3.0Ghx
    Pentium D 840 3.2Ghz versus Pentium 4 540 3.2Ghz

    This will allow us to see the true benefit of dual cores without the speed differences.
    Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    sorry for some typpo's Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #101 and some others
    You'are mistaken, Inquirer is NOT to be compared to AT. Is is solely news/romours/opinions site and THAT IS THEY ARE BEST AT ! The practical(not theoretical as at CNN...)non-existence of censorship makes them what they are.
    One thing for sure: they make biased and wrong stance against AT on this, but this is what they do almost all the time.

    The beauty of The Inquirer's approach to journalism is that it let's the reader choose which report is to be taken seriously. They even state it in articles regularly.

    I just hate those juornalists that usurp the right for correct judgement just for themselves.

    Just to make clear: I'm in no relation to The Inq. except readeship.

    To Anand:
    This is one of the best articles(at all) a have read so far. And it looks like it's going to be even better when it's completed. Keep up the good work.

    To topic: One thing should be noted. That is that the VERY poor performance at the singlecore(AMD & intel HT off) scenarios is NOT to be atributed to their inferiority but mostly to the incredibly crappy windows scheduler. Availability of multiple CPU's to it just partly hides its inefficiencies. Let's face it. HT is mainly a Windows baby. No way Intel would make the trouble developing it *NIX system were the main ones.
    Reply
  • ksteele - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I noticed the dual core's have 1MB L2 cache. Does this mean they are 5xx based? Do they support Intel EM64T, XD Bit and Enhanced Intel Speedstep Technology? Reply
  • Gatak - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #83 So you do not think that a game can utilize two CPUs? Run physics and I/O on one Core and render 3D and textures on the other.

    Also, Even though a game is single threaded, you still have the OS in the background, you have the video and audio card drivers running in separate threads. harddisk I/O and interrupt handling is also spread out on multiple cores.
    Reply

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