With all of the attention on dual core processors lately, it has been real easy to overlook the one application that might benefit more from multiple cores than any other; Linux. OK, so technically Linux isn't an application, but the kernel has supported SMP for nine years almost to the date. The road to SMP has not been an easy one for Linux, but in the last nine years, and particularly since 1999, Linux has received quite the attention as a 2-8 processor core operating system. If you need a reference, just look at how many Linux machines hold SPEC benchmark records in web serving and number crunching.

But does any of this translate to great desktop performance for dual core processors? We are going to look at that question today while also determining whether Intel or AMD is the better suited contender for the Linux desktop. We have some slightly non-traditional (but very replicable) tests we plan on running today that should demonstrate the strengths of each processor family as well as the difference between some similar Windows tests that we have performed in the past on similar configurations. Ultimately, we would love to see a Linux configuration perform the same task as a Windows machine but faster.

Just to recap, the scope of today's exploration will be to determine which configuration offers the best performance per buck on Linux, and whether or not any of these configurations out perform similar Windows machines running similar benchmarks. It becomes real easy to lose the scope of the analysis otherwise. We obtained some reasonably priced dual core Intel and AMD processors for our benchmarks today, and we will also throw in some benchmarks of newer single core chips to give some point of reference.

The Test


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  • xtknight - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    Why was FireFox 1.0.2 used on Win32 and 1.0.4 used on Linux? Just wondered. Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    Something is wrong with the graph on the Compilation test (the -j3 for the dual core Athlon was in the Pentium 660 slot). We only ran -j3 on the dual core chips. I redid the graph and it should be rendering correctly now.

  • suryad - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    #34 great question. I was about to ask that but you beat me to it. Reply
  • smn198 - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    #22 Give him a break - The removal of the 2nd xbox vs ps article meant that this had to come out a day early. Reply
  • Kocur - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    Well, Kris, do you have any theory of why single core Athlons seem to perform better with regard to single core P4s than X4200+ with regard to dual P4s?

    In my opinion there are two possibilities.

    1. HT slows both 640 and 660.
    2. X4200+ does not stretch its wings.

    In my opinion you should have adressed this problem in the article as we have learnt to expect the opposite.

  • n yusef - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    I tink tis article is fair. The Pentium D 820 is good for the price, if you don't already have a S939 mobo and RAM. It's not as ceap as you would think, becuase if the extra ~$100 for more expensive RAM, motherboard, and aftermarket HSF, but it's still cheaper for a whole system. For someone like myself who already has a S939 mobo, and DDR1 RAM, the X2s are a better bargain. The make -j3 tag should have been on all of te CPUs (it even makes non-HT single core CPUs faster), especially the 4200+.

    When you get a chance, please get a 4400+, or lower your 4800+s (Anand's actually) multi to x11 so we can see how much cache affects a dual-core CPU (each core is sharing the same memory bandwidth that only one had to itself before, so even an A64 might be bandwidth limited).
  • TheMatt - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    One comment I always have with these tests is why do you never see pbzip2? On *any* dual, quad, etc. machine I use, I always pester the admin to install pbzip2: .

    I was hoping I'd see it here to see if it gives the same speed-up with dual-core as it does with my SMP machine. I'd suggest to anyone here to try it out, it's a great program.
  • fishbits - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    "If you can't admit that the D820 is a good performer at its price, then I don't know what's going on with you, but nowhere did he slam AMD along the way."

    The D820 is really good for the price, especially if ram/mobo weren't issues. But saying you "pay through the nose" for the AMD chip and not the D840 at virtually the same price was pretty stunning.

    "In our opinion, the Pentium D 820 is really an underdog in this roundup"
    What the heck does that mean? The 820 looks like a really good multi-tasking performer for the dollar. How does that make it an "underdog?"

    We've gotta give the guys a little slack on various errors, but in "Final Thoughts?" Should the concluding paragraphs where judgement and recommendations are handed out be read two or three times before releasing them? Or maybe by at least a second set of eyes?
  • JGunther - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link


    Gaming bechmarks are the ONLY benchmarks in this article where the Pentium D doesn't occupy the top spot. Find me another review site that shows this to be the case.

    The D820 is definitely a good performer for its price, I'd never say otherwise. But there's no denying that Kris and his articles are slanted. There are no slams, but little statements like this:

    "At $558 you pay through the nose for the additional performance of the Athlon 64 X2 4200+."

    Attempt to portray AMD as the culprit, but the fact is, you pay through the nose for that additional performance whether you're looking at the 4200+ or the D840 (the latter of which is is actually the more expensive of the two).

    Anand once said that visitors to his site, he found, were about 50/50 Intel or AMD users. Though statistically, it could go either way, there is no doubt in my mind that Kris' primary computer at home runs an Intel chip. It's written all over his articles.
  • Tegeril - Friday, July 1, 2005 - link

    I don't see his analysis showing the Pentium CPUs "on top" at all. He specifically states that the AMD offering beats the pants off of Intel as usual in gaming, that the memory costs on the Intel boards are higher, and that the D820 and D840 don't suck quite as much as people want it to. He simply says that at the price point of $252, the D820 becomes a tempting option.

    To sacrifice minimal overall performance and save $290 - memory costs is probably a very good suggestion and is warranted by the analysis. It's pretty impartial from here.

    If you can't admit that the D820 is a good performer at its price, then I don't know what's going on with you, but nowhere did he slam AMD along the way.

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