The Real Test - AnandTech's Multitasking Scenarios

Before our first dual core articles, we asked for feedback from the readers with regards to their multitasking usage patterns. Based on this information, we formulated some of our own benchmarks that would stress multitasking performance. We've already gone over the impacts of dual core CPUs on subjective interactions, so we'll just point you back to previous articles for our take on that, if you haven't read them already. In the end, we know that dual core CPUs make our systems much more responsive and provide the same sort of smooth operation that SMP systems have done for years, but the question now is - who has better multitasking performance? AMD or Intel? And that's exactly what we're here to find out.

We started with a test bed configured with a number of fairly popular applications:
Daemon Tools
Norton AntiVirus 2004 (with latest updates)
Firefox 1.02
DVD Shrink 3.2
Microsoft AntiSpyware Beta 1.0
Newsleecher 2.0
Visual Studio .NET 2003
Macromedia Flash Player 7
Adobe Photoshop CS
Microsoft Office 2003
3ds max 7
iTunes 4.7.1
Trillian 3.1
DivX 5.2.1
AutoGK 1.60
Norton Ghost 2003
Adobe Reader 7
Doom 3
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
What's important about that list is that a handful of those programs were running in the background at all times, primarily Microsoft's AntiSpyware Beta and Norton AntiVirus 2004. Both the AntiSpyware Beta and NAV 2004 were running with their real time protection modes enabled, to make things even more real world.

We will be looking at AMD vs. Intel dual core scaling in another article, so for now, we are comparing the dual core chips featured in this article to the fastest single core AMD CPU - the Athlon 64 FX-55. We have already looked at Intel's dual core scalability in previous articles for those who are interested. In the end, our previous tests have shown us that no single core CPU can compete with even the slowest dual core CPUs in any of these tests.

Multitasking Scenario 1: DVD Shrink

If you've ever tried to back up a DVD, you know that the process can take a long time. Just ripping the disc to your hard drive will eat up a good 20 minutes, and then there's the encoding. The encoding can easily take between 20 - 45 minutes depending on the speed of your CPU, and once you start doing other tasks in the background, you can expect those times to grow even larger.

For this test, we used DVD Shrink, one of the simplest applications available to compress and re-encode a DVD to fit on a single 4.5GB disc. We ran DVD Decrypt on the Star Wars Episode VI DVD, so we had a local copy of the DVD on our test bed hard drive (in a future version of the test, we may try to include DVD Decrypt performance in our benchmark as well). All of the DVD Shrink settings were left at default including telling the program to assume a low priority, a setting many users check in order to be able to do other things while DVD Shrink is working.

We did the following:

1) Open Firefox using the ScrapBook plugin loaded locally archived copies of 13 web pages. We kept the browser on the AT front page.
2) Open iTunes and start playing a playlist on repeat all.
3) Open Newsleecher.
4) Open DVD Shrink.
5) Login to our news server and start downloading headers for our subscribed news groups.
6) Start backup of Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. All default settings, including low priority.

This test is a bit different than the test that we ran in the Intel dual core articles, mainly in that we used more web pages, but with more varied content. In the first review, our stored web pages were very heavy on Flash. This time around, we have a wider variety of web content open in Firefox while we conducted our test. There is still quite a bit of Flash, but the load is much more realistic now.

DVD Shrink was the application in focus; this matters because by default, Windows gives special scheduling priority to the application currently in the foreground. We waited until the DVD Shrink operation was complete and recorded its completion time. Below are the results:

Multitasking Performance - Scenario 1

As we showed in the first set of dual core articles, tests like these are perfect examples of why dual core matters. The performance of the single core Athlon 64 FX-55 is dismal compared to any of the dual core offerings. You'll also note that the Athlon 64 X2 4200+ completes the DVD Shrink task in less than half the time of the higher clocked single core FX-55. The reasoning behind this is more of an issue with the Windows' scheduler. The problem in situations like these is that the Windows scheduler won't always preempt one task in order to give another its portion of the CPU's time. For a single threaded CPU, that means that certain tasks will take much longer to complete simply because the OS' scheduler isn't giving them a chance to run on the CPU. With a dual core or otherwise multi-threaded CPU, the OS' scheduler can dispatch more threads to the CPU and thus, is less likely to be in a situation where it has to preempt a CPU intensive task.

The Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is within striking distance of the Extreme Edition 840, but Intel still holds the crown in this test.

3D Rendering Multitasking Scenario 2: File Compression


View All Comments

  • PetNorth - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    #88 (not 48 lol)

    "Pd (3.2) vs X2 (4200+), Pentium D wins price/ performance"

    What are you talking about?

    PD 3.2 estimated cost is $530 and X2 4200+ estimated cost is $537. Not to mention much more expensive board and DDRII. And X2 4200+ simply smokes to PD 3.2 in basically everything.

  • classy - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    Was it possible to drop the multiplier to 11 so we could see the potential performance of a 4400+? Reply
  • PetNorth - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link


    "Pd (3.2) vs X2 (4200+), Pentium D wins price/ performance"

    What are you talking about?

    PD 3.2 estimated cost is $530 and X2 4200+ estimated cost is $537. Not to mention much more expensive board and DDRII. And X2 4200+ simply smokes to PD 3.2 in basically everything.
  • wharris1 - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    Sorry about my original post inquiring about NCQ; I failed to notice the PATA notation on the Seagate. Having said that, would you consider comparing the multitasking performance with NCQ enabled and disabled on these new dual core X2s? Reply
  • CrimsonChaos - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    Nice review. I'm in the crowd of those who can't wait for (AMD) dual-core processors to become available. As far as I can tell, the X2 4800 ran games nearly as fast as the FX-55 and outperformed the FX-55 in multi-tasking. So what reason is there to buy the FX-55 once these are released (assuming prices are close)?

    #84 - I do not think that the background tasks of Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware programs use much CPU. Aside from the initial launching of the program, the CPU usage to keep the program running is minimal -- if any at all. I was under the impression they just ate up RAM while running. Correct me if I'm wrong?

  • psyched - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    Anand, was this tested on 32bit version of XP? Wouldn't the #s be even more in favor of X2 should we have the proper drivers and run it under XP x64 OS?

  • DigitalDivine - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    Pricing for the X2 dual cores within amd product like makes sense. 4200+ is a tad faster than the 4000+ only in mutlitasking mode, but then that's why you are buying dual cores anyway, for multitasking multithreading.

    but once you put intel's pricing in the mix, with intel's capacity to just churn out silicon, they can afford to price these much lower. unlike amd, pricing it down to stimulate demand...

    the x2's sit in the happy middle of the Pd, and the PEE, and the pricing shows that.

    Pd (3.2) vs X2 (4200+), Pentium D wins price/ performance

    but X2 (4200+) vs PEE (3.2), X2 wins hands down. which is kinda sad, the 4800+ is not even challenged.

    300 vs 500 vs 1000, those are the competing prices for the chips... so it's a bit hairy to compare.

    now, dual core 256k or even 128k would be welcomed, as we saw performance betwen sempron 3100+ and the a64 2800+, performace with half the cache is negligable. so if amd makes dual cores with 256k cache or even 128k, that could help with the transistor count and keep the total area small. giving amd some slack in cost, and lower power consumptions. (*but that doesn't necessarily mean lower prices to consumers).

    * i can only hope and dream
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - link

    #85... with dueling cores Unreal 3 will suck... the processors will be too busy dueling with eachother to run the game. ;) Reply
  • jkostans - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Awesome article. I was reading an article over on tom's hardware on the X2 where they did a little more intensive power consumption test. Here is a quote which really got my interest,

    "However, there is something that we can't really tolerate: the Pentium D system manages to burn over 200 watts as soon as it's turned on, even when it isn't doing anything. It even exceeds 310 W when working and 350+ W with the graphics card employed! AMD proves that this is not necessary at all: a range of 125 to 190 Watts is much more acceptable (235 counting the graphics card). And that is without Cool & Quiet even enabled."

    I just felt this is something anandtech didn't touch on as thoroughly and should really be considered. I mean a 350w PS will fry or shut down using one of these bad boys in a gaming machine. I wouldn't even feel safe with my Vantec 400w PS.
  • stance - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Anand, Please write article showing what future
    games will be like with duel core cpu's and
    if with bois updates performance might increase.

    future game i.e. UNREAL III

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