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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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    For those of you concerned about favoring one manufacturer or another, remember that these are the very same multitasking tests we've used in every other dual core review we've published here. If I had to guess at why Intel is faster it'd probably be because Intel seems to be a bit faster in things like flash and DVD shrink.

    As far as not including a faster Intel single core, it really boiled down to time. Intel's fastest single core is faster in some of the SYSMark tests as was pointed out, but in other SYSMark tests it continues to lose. I pointed people back at our original Intel dual core articles for an idea of how Intel's dual core compares to single core. Also, I think our earlier articles make a good case for the advantages of dual core over single core, so this article served more as a "Which Dual Core is Faster?" piece.

    As far as the memory timings go, I did not notice any real world performance difference between the two timings.

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

    I dont know what to think as far as this article or Anandtech in general...

    In this article it seems like AMD destroys Intel in all of the benchmarks except for the ones that Anandtech made. It could be that Intel is just a "better multitasker", or it might not. It would be interesting to do some specific tests though to figure out *where* exactly AMD's chips are getting slowed down in these benchmarks.

    As far as design style goes... AMD's chips have an integrated north-bridge and memory controller. The K8 was designed from the start to handle multi-core. The memory controller also helps with memory latency, etc etc. Intel on the other hand slapped together two single core chips into a dual core. It would seem like Intel would have bandwidth issues, and resource conflicts, but maybe that's not the case. Maybe AMD's memory controller is having a harder time handling two cores.

    What I do know though is that AMD's chips dominate single threaded applications. It would seem like two of AMD's cores should beat out two of Intel's cores, unless there is some sort of bottleneck in the controlling of the cores.

    As far as the biasing.. I'm not sure what to think of that either. Article titles like "The Consequence of Waking Up a Sleeping Giant: Intel Roadmaps Inside" make me wonder. Does anyone remember the OCZ VX Gold memory review? It kinda sucks, but Anandtech needs to make money somehow. It doesnt necessarily mean they're doing questionable things.. but that possibility is always there. =(

    Anyway, I'd really like it if we tried to look a little bit closer at the Anandtech composed multi-tasking tests, and maybe try to create a few more tests to figure out where AMD's bottleneck is. That would be world class.
    Reply
  • blckgrffn - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    I second the need for a high end single core P4 in these tests, even if you just include previous results or something. It is hard for us to flip between reviews and try to make comparisons.

    Thanks,
    Nat
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    AGAIN no single core/highest frequency Intel CPU i.e. 3,8 or 3,73 EE!

    Look up SySmark 2004 Data Analisys for example and you'll see what I mean (192 for Intel 3,73 Vs. 150/159 for AMD X2 4400/4800) That would make AMD not look so good, so you just skipped that CPU 'cause it messes up a pretty AMD winning or just slightly loosing picture ah?

    Can you say BIAS?

    Hell I'm a HUGE AMD fan, but distorting the picture like this is just not acceptable. Don't just tell your truth, tell the WHOLE truth.
    Reply
  • blckgrffn - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Viditor:

    Maybe if we had run these multitasking tests in the past, we might have picked up on this trend of Intel actually being faster in multitasking than AMD, but who could really know for sure? I am guessing that we are seeing the benefits of long pipelines allowing for greater parellism (sp?), and since we are doing things that really don't do much branching (like video encoding) we are seeing what Intel wanted to have happen along. Just a thought. I am a big AMD proponent, but for some reason the high end P4's have *felt* like faster desktop processors to me.

    We definitely know that AMDs memory access technique is much better yet more expensive than Intels, so that definitely can't be it. What I found interesting is how the dual core was slower in some single threaded apps even at identical clockspeeds and cache size. Also, in some of the benchmarks, 512K of cache certainly looks to perform better. Did AMD not increase the depth of the sets of the cache to double it to one meg? Or did they take the lazy way out and just double the number of sets like Intel on the Prescott, driving up the latency?

    Sorry for the long post!
    Nat
    Reply
  • Viditor - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    One other critique Anand...

    On the Intel platform, you used DDR2-667 with 4-4-4-15 timings, and on the AMD platform you used the DDR400 with 2-2-2-5/1T timings.
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but tests elsewhere show that running at 2-2-2-10 instead of 2-2-2-5 is a big improvement on single core CPUs...did you do any memory comparisons in this case (in your copious free time...)? :-)
    Reply
  • drteming - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    1 core for graphics, 1 core for physics... Reply
  • Jep4444 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    #39, when the Venice was launched nearly every benchmark proved SSE3 didnt do much for the core

    i had heard some negative things about the X2 but after seeing this bench(aswell as a few others from other sites) i can put my skeptimism to rest

    hopefully ill be able to pick up one of these things somewhere down the road(i plan to get a new system in about a year and one of these would be a nice fit if the price comes down a little)
    Reply
  • michal1980 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    #44 just crying cause he can't afford one. Reply
  • Viditor - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    After reading through many of the reviews out there, it seems that Anand is the only one I've found that does specifically a multitasking (as opposed to multithreading) test. What's interesting is that in all of the multithreading results, the X2 4800+ wins handily across the board...but NOT in Anand's multitasking benches.
    Does anyone have a theory for this?
    Reply

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