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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  • kjohnson - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I now put the Inquirer on the same level as CNN. Fox News is a better comparison. Reply
  • slatr - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Sorry.. how about a lightwave scene rendering at the same time as running a filter on a large image in photoshop. Reply
  • slatr - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • slatr - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Can we see Lightwave benchmarks again please?




    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    As always, I appreciate the comments and support, but let's not let this get too off topic. Keep the requests for tests and new scenarios coming, I can't promise I'll get all of them included but I'll do my best to incorporate as many ideas as possible.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Son of a N00b - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    ANAND!! lol...shoot to bad you already finished part to, but for all those whiners, who want games, i have to say this...

    The only gaming benchmark that would make sence is running a game while having a firewall and antivirus running....most TRUE(not you wannabe's who run firefox in the background to induce lag in fps) gamers(including me) turn off their firewalls and antivirus to get the very best possible performace, because it matters...no one multitasks with games...

    Now when you all flame about how you multitask with games, and "speak for yourself shit" let me just say, are you really going to shrink a DVD while playing Counter Strike??? YOU'D GET OWNED....

    I do not see any point in benchmarking games as thesse people mentioned...they failed to read your explanation of not including games and rush to critizise....utilize the time you have on the system running more important tests....

    /my 2 cents :-))

    and again great job with the article and the site, and I am very impressed with how you handle the BS'ers who talk ablut your integrity...i have and probably never will question this sites validability...dont come here if you just want to complain about it....
    Reply
  • retrospooty - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #92, that is a huge understatement. I have been coming here for 7 years, AT has been my start page for the last 6 years... This is 100% due to the totally unbiased and thorough reviews posted here. To compare to some trashy RAG website like the inquirer is totally inacurate. Thats like comparing CNN news to the Inquirer (magazine) LOL Reply
  • paulsiu - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Great article. You were one of the first to review, too.

    I am looking forward to see AMD's take on dual core. Whether hyperthreading make sense now that you have two real processors.

    In the real world, I am looking for dual core to be use in a home server at a price that will hopefully be cheaper than a dual cpu machine.

    Even if dual core won't make our single threaded application run faster, it may make your machine more responsive. How much crap is running in the background these days: virus checker, spyware blocker, personal firewall, drive indexer and checker. Pretty soon, we'll all need Dual Core just to keep our machine responsive.
    Reply
  • Detrius - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    An excellent application for testing would be VMware Workstation. For me, this is by far the most demanding application that I use on a regular basis. For those of you who do not have experience with this software and have a need to stage multicomputer systems but are (like me) hardware limited this is the bomb application. Plus, it makes an great multitasking load. Reply
  • kjohnson - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I stand corrected Anand. My research indicates your reputation far exceeds that of the Inquirer. Reply

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