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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  • Ender17 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Anand, have you tried overclocking these X2 chips? Reply
  • AnandThenMan - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Very poor (pre)review IMO. Not nearly enough multi-tasking tests, and NO overclocking tests for some strange reason. And what about power consumption tests? Observations on heat output?

    And I agree with #18, the Q3 or Q4 statement with no explanation is odd and getting annoying.

    Hothardware and Thetechreport have much better preview articles.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    dougSF30

    AMD is playing a bit of a word game with regards to availability. When they say available in June, they mean that through select system system builders the Athlon 64 X2 will be available in June. Across the board availability (as in you'll actually be able to buy an Athlon 64 X2 CPU alone) will be Q3/Q4 - that is directly from AMD to my inbox. It's just that availability in June sounds a lot better, much like Intel saying that availability in May sounds good - both companies appear to be playing the same word game ;)

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

    NIce review Anand, I've more or less chosen the 4400+ X2 as my next processor from my XP 2100+. She's getting venerable now, pushing 3 years old now. Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    I just creamed my pants. Who the F*ck wants an 820 Pentium D with you can have a freaking "X2" F*ck yeah! thats Xtreme muther F*cker!

    Its like that "America F*ck Yeah!" song from America World Police.......

    "Wal-Mart, F*ck yeah! Taco Bell, F*ck yeah! X2, F*ck yeah! Pentium D..............(Distant) fuck yeah?"

    wow this is the most F*cks I've seen in a single Anand post, or thread for that matter.

    F*ck it. I'm all for setting records :)
    Reply
  • Da3dalus - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    When the time comes, an X2 shall be a nice upgrade from my current s754 3200+ :) Reply
  • dougSF30 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    What's with the opening bias?

    (1) AMD, unlike Intel and the 840EE, does not claim to have launched the X2. Providing a performance preview != paper launch.

    (2) AMD states in writing that the X2 will be available in June. Not "Q3 or Q4". This is the second time Anandtech has made these "late this year" comments which contradict AMD's official stated position, with no explanation.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Thanks Anand:)

    DrMrLordX, if you really think it's poorly priced consider this. the lowest end San Deigo, aka the "value" line in that series, a 2.2 is $350. Adding another core is only 50% more money inside 4400.

    Don't even start looking at dual opteron 248's which cost $1000 just for processors, not to mention expensive ECC and mobos pluys it's slower.

    I see real value in the 4400 and I'm a huge proponet of $70 wonderchips like XP mobiles.

    This is a workstation chip with a cheaper than workstation price.
    Reply
  • Ender17 - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Great article BTW. AT is my fav review site. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, May 9, 2005 - link

    Zebo

    2-2-2-5/1T

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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