iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Scene Rendering in 3ds max 5.1: Top x86 CPUs of All Architectures
Part 2. Final Render Stage-1 and General Summary on the Single-Processor Systems

March 8, 2004

This review continues the first part devoted to Brazil r/s and 3ds max 5.x Scanline renderers. The second part (as you can see from the name) tests the rendering rate with the Final Render Stage-1 SP2 and draws a conclusion for the single-processor systems.

The last article is this series (Part 3) will be devoted to the most popular dual-processor systems (AMD Athlon MP, Opteron, Intel Xeon) and will study the effect of Hyper-Threading on the rendering rate in all top Intel Pentium 4 processors. 

Tests in Final Render Stage-1 


The best results are demonstrated by Prescott (Pentium 4 3.2E Ghz). The eXtreme Edition follows it (the same clock speed but the old core and a large L3 cache). Then goes Pentium 4 3.4 Ghz Northwood of the highest clock speed and both AMD64 CPUs. Athlon XP 3200+ comes out the last, but we got used to it being late. The competition of Prescott and eXtreme Edition of the same clock speeds is of the most interest. Note that the eXtreme Edition is actually the same Xeon (Gallatin), i.e. the server-type Northwood. That is why there could be two reasons why it could lose to Prescott: 

  1. The fast 1MB L2 cache is preferable to the slow 2MB L3 cache (Xeon's L3 bus is only 64 bits wide).
  2. The Prescott core architecture (the part that doesn't relate to the cache) works in this subtest better than the Northwood core architecture.

The final answer why Prescott turns out to be so good will be revealed in the third part.


AMD's platform leads at rendering the scene with the Displace effect. Note that it beats its competitors everywhere - both Athlon 64 3400+ and Athlon XP 3200+. Let's see what general laws operate here.

The first fact is that the processor with the smallest total cache size loses the battle in the Pentium 4 group. The second fact is the Prescott based CPU turns out to be the best in the Pentium 4 family. The third fact is that the Athlon 64 3400+ outscores the Athlon 64 FX-51 though the latter has the same clock speed and a dual-channel memory controller, within the AMD's family. Well, such situation can be explained by the memory latency. It agrees with the fact that the latency is the only factor why Athlon 64 3400+ performs better than Athlon 64 FX-51 and why Pentium 4 eXtreme Edition outedges Northwood, at the lower clock speeds: in this case the latency is partially made up by the large L3 cache. Finally, this assumption agrees with the fact that the AMD64 processors outscore all Pentium 4 CPUs in latency at the expense of the integrated memory controller. However, the scores of the Athlon XP 3200+ look a bit confusing as it features an external memory controller. But if we take into account for the DASP integrated into the NVIDIA nForce2 north bridge...


The picture is standard. Prescott is not the best but it outscores the Northwood in spite of its lower clock rate, the AMD64 outedges the "AMD32" :). But it doesn't take the lead. 


Pentium 4 3.2E Ghz (Prescott) and Pentium 4 3.4 Ghz (Northwood) exchanged their places, but on the whole, the picture looks similar to all previous subtests (not only for Final Render): the Pentium 4 platform leads, with the AMD64 following it, and the Athlon XP 3200+ drags far behind. 


The AMD64 comes closer to the leading group. In all other respects, the picture is standard. 


The results are unprecedented, though we checked them several times. The only idea we have is that the Athlon XP 3200+ doesn't support the SSE2 instruction set. We do not know any other differences between this only outsider and the other processors which might cause such a big lag.


We can't explain what helped the Pentium 4 eXtreme Edition to perform so well - well, it shines in Final Render / Global Illumination and in Final Render / Volume Light (both these effects are used in the final scene), but even the summary advantage mustn't have caused such a breakaway. The defeat of the Athlon XP 3200+ can be explained by the Volume Light effect - it takes quite a lot of time to render this effect with Final Render on this processor. The other 4 processors form a dense group, with Intel's models alternating with the AMD64. They actually run at the same speed. But note that the middle group is led by the Pentium 4 3.2E Ghz (Prescott).


The fast scene with the decreased quality settings makes no problems for all AMD's processors, even for Athlon XP 3200+. This fact reveals one more peculiarity of interaction of Final Render and AMD's platform.

Drawing the conclusion

Here you can see a couple of diagrams with variations a la "average temperature in the hospital".

Let's start with the most correct results: the geometrical mean of the rendering time for all scenes. The diagrams use the results of the previous part as well, i.e. they combine the rendering time in the Brazil, Scanline and Final Render Stage-1 subtests.

There's nothing that could surpsrise you. All the Pentium 4 are ahead, both AMD64 follow them though the gap is pretty wide, and the Athlon XP 3200+ is an outsider. Prescott Ghz outscores Northwood 3.4 Ghz at  expense of the Final Render - remember that this processor didn't shine in Brazil and Scanline

If we combine all the scores to get the total runtime for all tests, we will see that the Athlon 64 3400+ and Athlon FX-51 beat the Pentium 4 3.4 Ghz. If you know the difference between the geometrical mean and sum (and an arithmetic mean since usage of the overall coefficient has no effect on the layout), you will understand why the picture changes. But it depends on what kind of calculation of the total scores you like.

Summary on the single-processor systems

Within the frames of this final rendering performance test technique in 3ds max 5.1 SP1 the Intel Pentium 4 platform becomes a leader. At least two Pentium 4 CPUs take the lead in the most tests.

Please read carefully what's written above in italics because if you don't get the idea you might not understand the conclusions we made in this article or arrogate to us statements we didn't make. 

Within Intel's group the eXtreme Edition becomes a pure leader bit it's also the most expensive processor. Brazil r/s and Scanline prefer Northwood, and Final Render Stage-1 favors Prescott. The AMD64 platform demonstrates the mid-level scores. But if you choose this platform remember that it isn't worth going with the extremal versions like Athlon 64 FX because the ordinary Athlon 64 is not worse in the most cases and it's cheaper. It also concerns the boards for this CPU. Athlon XP 3200+ loses to all processors, that is why if you need a speedy solution and you can afford it, do not take this one.

Stanislav Garmatyuk (nawhi@ixbt.com

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