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


View All Comments

  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link


    Please, oh, please read Anand's blog from now on. He did just as you are suggesting a couple of days ago before the article was posted/written. He asked the readership for multitasking scenarios and he but those in the article.

    Read his blogs. They are awesome.

    Keep up the good work, Anand and Anandtech staff, and even though you don't have to give into the naysayers about lack of gaming benchmarks, thanks for being understanding and giving the readers what they want.

    That is the sign of true journalistic integrity. :)
  • suryad - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    As always great work Anand, and for all the users griping about the multitasking testing setup, well maybe Anand would be open to a set of multitasking suggestions his readers most regularly do. Maybe we can all offer suggestions and they will be tested for the second look probably sometime in the future on dual cores and hopefully AMD will have their bad boys out off the cage by then.

    Also benches on Linux would be great...64 bit and 32 bit.

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


    I'll let my actions speak for themselves, I've got gaming in Part II and surprisingly enough, it's no different than what I said in Part I - gaming performance of the dual core Pentium D is identical to a single core Pentium 4 of the same clock speed.

    The multitasking tests in Part I were largely determined by responses to a "how do you multitask" question I posted in my blog on Friday. Out of the 65 responses, hardly any mentioned gaming as a multitasking scenario, so given my limited time with the system I decided to focus on what the readers asked for. That's also why I split the article into multiple parts, I knew that more performance testing would be desired but a desire for information would also be there on day one.

    Insinuating that Intel somehow strong armed me into excluding certain benchmarks is just ignorant of how things work, at least at AnandTech. It's a great way to get attention but it's way off base. Intel told me when the system was shipping and when the NDA lifted, no more, no less. I spent all weekend putting together benchmarks that I thought the readership would like to see, not simply re-run benchmarks that we already had results of.

    I've been doing this for 8 years, and the one thing I've always known is that it doesn't matter who is first to publish an article, but it is the article that does the best job and is the most thorough that matters. Trading integrity for exclusivity never makes sense, thinking it does requires a very short term memory and no sense of how things pan out in the long run. Being that in 3 weeks AnandTech will celebrate its 8th year anniversary, I don't think you can argue that type of thinking is characteristic of myself or anyone at this site.

    But I'm not here to try and correct anyone's misconceptions of myself or this site, I'm here to deliver what the readers want and what will help you all make the best, most accurate purchasing decisions. In doing so I've taken every last comment to heart, as I always do, and I'm doing my best to incorporate your requests into Part II...just as I did in Part I.

    As I mentioned in my blog, I'm an open book with nothing to hide, if there are questions of integrity or ethics fire away and I'll be more than happy to answer them.

    Take care,
  • Amagus - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Wow that Inquirer article basically insinuates that Anand (it's obvious who he's referring to) was bought out because part I of a preview (!!) didn't contain any gaming benchmarks. I wouldn't stand for that. Reply
  • blwest - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Nice article, as always. I wonder how memory bandwidth increases/decreases will effect the performance of the already bandwidth hungry intel processors. Reply
  • michael2k - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #83, #85

    Gaming wasn't addressed because gaming, by itself, won't see huge improvements with dual core*

    If you run IRC, AIM, FireFox, and BitTorrent while you game, then yes, you will see a performance increase, but not over a single core CPU running only the game by itself. A fast single core CPU will be much, much, better for a game. Or if you run WoW and EQ on two monitors, you will see a benefit.

    *Drastic rewrites of OpenGL and DirectX will see benefits with dual core. For example, if front and back buffers were handled by different CPUs, or if you can split the screen into to sections and have one half processed by one CPU and the other half by another. Another performance technique might be to let one CPU deal with vertex culling, occlusion, and decomposition, while the other CPU deals with shadow calculations, or something suitably complex. But that requires the game to be written for dual core, and won't appear on games already on the market.
  • kjohnson - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    Here's why this article does not mention any gaming benchmarks: Reply
  • bdchambers79 - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I just thought I'd say, I often run the Persistance of Vision Raytracer ( in the background on my computer for several hours (or days... hehe) at a time. While it's running, I am able to do little more than edit text. However, I also like to code and play games.

    So, what I would like to see would be POV-Ray running in the background, with MS Dev Studio or GCC running multiple times in the foreground; or, POV-Ray in the background with a game (NOT necessarily Doom3, guys, though it would be a good benchmark) in the foreground (perhaps in a window, so you can see POV's results). Or, for those truly masochistic souls, POV, DevStudio and Doom3 all running at the same time (though that's less likely to occur in RL) :)
  • BLHealthy4life - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    I didn't read every single post here, but i do hope that it's ben mentioned that there were wasn't one single game run on this system. Surely this will be done in part two??

  • fitten - Tuesday, April 5, 2005 - link

    #80, that kind of change won't happen withough redigning the memory interface (of either) which would mean that current motherboards wouldn't be able to use the parts (which at least AMD is claiming will be possible). Reply

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