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
Cygwin
gcc
mingw
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
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  • Viditor - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Anand

    Consider that an open invitation for dinner and drinks at The Rocks in Sydney Harbour.
    Ya know, Computex Taipei is coming up at the end of this month...and those circle pacific fares aren't THAT expensive... ;-)
    Reply
  • nserra - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    I was looking at the transistor count of both AMD and Intel implementations of dual core and the look almost the same, despite intel uses 300mm vs amd 200mm. But my point is amd have ondie memory controler and intel Hyperthreading, all in all the processors “look” the same? Could i say this? (5% die for HT vs 5% die for Memory controller)

    Of course Amd have a better design since it drains less power and offers better performance.
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    We're definately interested in some preliminary overclocking results... well... I am anyway. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Samus

    Sorry about that, it's not intentional. I haven't published any overclocking tests for one major reason: the CPUs are still far away from being widely available; I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea based on the overclocking results of these early samples.

    If you guys are interested, I can publish some preliminary findings here however.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Viditor

    If I ever manage to get some time off, both Vinney and I would love to head down to Australia :)

    Murst

    If the differences are negligible (around 3% or less) then I'd say that's due to normal variances in the benchmarks - at a quick glance, that's what the majority of single threaded benchmarks are showing. There are other situations where the scheduler may confuse the picture a bit, but for the most part I'm not seeing any evidence of that in these tests.

    tagger123

    I used 32-bit Windows XP Pro. At this stage the 64-bit version of Windows is pretty much useless for the desktop unless you've got some very specific 64-bit desktop apps that you're using.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Samus - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Anand,

    Why are you continuing to neglect our questions regarding overclocking? Is there an NDA or something disallowing you to discuss the topic?

    -Tim
    Reply
  • Murst - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    So, is there any explanation why, in many tests, the single core 2.4 w/ 1mb cache is significantly faster than then dual core 2.4 w/ 1mb per core?

    That just doesn't seem to make any sense. Seems like the design of the dual core is not as great as everyone was saying if it slows down applications by that much.

    It just seems like there shouldn't be a performance hit by adding another core with AMD's implementation, but there obviously is.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    tagger123 - as most (if not all) of the apps are 32bit only, I would guess it was standard XP... Reply
  • tagger123 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    hi Anand

    Would like to know if you used windows xp or xp64 and if so - would it have any performance hit or increase on amd 64 x2
    Reply
  • Viditor - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    "you going to hire anand as a consultant?"

    Nope...but I'll buy the first round if he and his lady ever hit Sydney...! :-)
    Reply

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