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AMD Athlon 64 FX-57, Intel Pentium D 820, Intel Pentium 4 670 Processors

July 7, 2005



It took relatively long to prepare this material, as new processors kept being added to it in the process. We initially planned it as a review of the Pentium 4 670, but then we got hold of the Pentium D 820, and recently of a new single core flagship from AMD: Athlon 64 FX-57. However, despite the significant differences in positioning and performance, we still tried to bring tests of all the above mentioned processors together into a single article. Hopefully, it will have no effect on its content quality regarding each CPU. At first we are going to say a few words about each of the latest models.

Pentium 4 670

It's a logical successor to the Pentium 4 6xx series, one of its closest representatives is the previously reviewed Pentium 4 660. Thus, there is nothing special about it: the same core architecture (Prescott-2M) as in the Pentium 4 660, the same bus clock (800MHz in terms of bandwidth) and the L2 Cache size (2MB), but its clock has grown by another 200 MHz (i.e. up to 3.8 GHz). Judging from the latest (available in Internet) Intel's plans, the Pentium 4 670 must be the last processor in this line, as the 4GHz CPU based on Prescott-2M disappeared from the roadmap of this company last year. However, as Stephen King put it, "sometimes they come back"...

Pentium D 820

It's the lowest CPU in the series of multi-core desktop "non-extreme" processors from Intel. The key difference between the Pentium D and the Pentium XE, as we have already written, is that unlike the latter, Pentium D has two physical cores, but it doesn't support Hyper-Threading. Besides, the Pentium D 820 operates at the lowest clock among the entire series of Prescott-like CPUs: 2.8 GHz. There is nothing new in other respects: it's just a Pentium XE, but without Hyper-Threading. The main peculiarity of the Pentium D series is more than democratic prices (especially considering dual cores): according to the official data from the manufacturer, wholesale prices for Pentium D 820/830/840 currently amount to $241/316/530. For comparison: the wholesale price for the Pentium 4 670 is $851, Athlon 64 FX-57 — $1031. So, Pentium D 820 can quite set up for the title of a "people's dual core processor" (for quite well-off people, though).

Athlon 64 FX-57

The renowned successor to Athlon 64 FX-55 acquired a new 90nm San Diego core (its differences from Venice are minimal) with an improved memory controller and SSE3 support. Besides, the clock has grown by another 200 MHz to reach 2.8 GHz. It's the first Athlon 64 FX manufactured by the 90nm process technology supporting SSE3. It's an indirect sign that this process technology is streamlined to manufacture flagship processors offering the highest performance. From the users' point of view, the new Athlon 64 FX is no different from the previous model: it is installed into the same CPU socket as the previous Athlon 64 FX-55 and makes no additional requirements to a motherboard.

Testing

Testbed configurations

  • Processors
    • AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 (1 MB L2, 2.8 GHz core)
    • AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 (1 MB L2, 2.6 GHz core)
    • Intel Pentium eXtreme Edition 840 (2 x 1 MB L2, 800 MHz FSB, 2 x 3.2 GHz core)
    • Intel Pentium D 820 (2 x 1 MB L2, 800 MHz FSB, 2 x 2.8 GHz core)
    • Intel Pentium 4 670 (2 MB L2, 800 MHz FSB, 3.8 GHz core)
    • Intel Pentium 4 eXtreme Edition 3.73 GHz (2 MB L2, 1066 MHz FSB)
    • Intel Pentium 4 540J (1 MB L2, 800 MHz FSB, 3.2 GHz core)
    • Intel Pentium 4 520J (1 MB L2, 800 MHz FSB, 2.8 GHz core)
  • Motherboards
  • Memory
    • 2x512 MB PC5400 (DDR2-533) DIMM 3-3-3-8 (Corsair)
    • 2x512 MB PC3200 (DDR-400) DIMM 2-2-2-5 (Corsair)
  • Video card: ATI Radeon X800 (256 MB)
  • HDD: Samsung SP1614C (SATA), 7200 rpm, 8 MB Cache
  • AC power adapter: FSP 550-60PLN (500-550W)
  • Windows XP Professional SP2, DirectX 9.0c
  • ATI CATALYST 5.4 (Display Driver 6.14.10.6525)

We selected processors for this article (in a seemingly strange way at first sight) based on the transparent (simply biblical) principle "two of every sort": it's quite logical to compare the Athlon 64 FX-57 with the Athlon 64 FX-55, the "low end dual core" Pentium D 820 with the top dual core processor from the same manufacturer - Pentium XE 840. Every pair of dual core processors was supplemented with a single core processor of a similar architecture and clock (Pentium 4 540/520). And Pentium 4 XE 3.73 GHz was a good match to the top desktop Pentium 4 670, due to the minimum clock differences. That's why this hodgepodge is quite systematic and meets the main comparison challenges, even though it looks a tad heterogeneous at first sight.

Test results

Diagrams with all test results (65 all in all) are published on a separate web page without comments, just as is. The article provides only summary diagrams that calculate the results of entire test groups into average scores. This approach appeases curiosity of the most inquisitive readers, who are against cutting down the number of test results published in our articles, and still makes the article less motley and graphics-intense.

SPECapc for 3ds max 6 + 3ds max 7.0

A complete set of diagrams

Remember that the total score in this test is calculated from the results of two subgroups of tests: interactive and rendering. Rendering has a lower weight number. That's what the victory of AMD processors has to do with, they are significantly faster than CPUs from Intel in the interactive test. You can look at the full set of diagrams at the above link.

Maya 6.5

A complete set of diagrams

The situation repeats itself: SPECapc for Maya 6 includes only the interactive component, so the AMD processors are again victorious. And our separate rendering test demonstrates quite a different situation: Intel's positions are more advantageous here. We would recommend paying your attention to the following two key moments. Superiority of the top single core processor from AMD (Athlon 64 FX-57) over all top single core processors from Intel, and the result of the "low end dual core" Pentium D 820: it managed to outperform all single core CPUs in rendering without exception, despite its moderate 2.8GHz clock and quite an average results in the Maya test from SPEC.

Thus, we've got a tendency taking shape, which (running a few steps forward) we are going to see rather often in future: sometimes, the dual core processor with a relatively low clock (and quite a moderate price in comparison with top single core processors) looks even better in well SMP-optimized software than higher clocked single core CPUs.

Lightwave 8.2, rendering

Rendering test results in Lightwave demonstrate the same tendency as those in Maya: Pentium D 820 is almost on a par with top single core processors from both companies. AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 wins on a decision among single core CPUs (this test was previously dominated by the Pentium XE 3.73 GHz with the same insignificant breakaway).

Looking through all the diagrams, you may notice that the performance difference between the Pentium 4 670 and the Pentium XE 3.73 GHz is always either absent or insignificant. That suggests an idea that the 1066MHz bus in the latter is sort of premature: a fast bus is often excessive at this core clock (and with 2MB L2 Cache!)

SPECapc for SolidWorks 2003

A complete set of diagrams

As we have already found out (you can see it on this diagram, comparing pairwise the Pentium XE 840 with the Pentium 4 540 and the Pentium D 820 with the Pentium 4 520), SolidWorks is practically indifferent to SMP systems, so everything is up to performance of a single core. Together with architectural preferences of the program itself, it leads to an impressive victory of AMD processors: neither Pentium 4 XE 3.73 GHz nor Pentium 4 670 could catch up even with the previous AMD flagship Athlon 64 FX-55, to say nothing of the new FX-57.

Adobe Photoshop CS (8)

A complete set of diagrams

It's quite a difficult situation: top single core processors are almost on a par, the "low end dual core" Pentium D 820 is in the same group (remember that the words "low end" are in inverted commas for a reason the price of this CPU is quite high, so it's cheap only in comparison with top processors). Strange as it may seem, de facto it means that the Pentium D 820 is the most attractive processor among the models reviewed here: yep, it's a tad slower than the AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 and the Pentium 4 670/XE 3.73 but then it's much cheaper!

Adobe Acrobat 6.0

It's a relatively simple and transparent test. The impressive victory is gained by all top single core processors, their results being so close that there is hardly any sense to appoint a formal champion.

All-purpose data compression (archiving)

A complete set of diagrams

Geometric mean of the results in 7-Zip and WinRAR. Considering that the AMD group demonstrates a leap forward due to WinRAR and that this archiver is more popular (though it doesn't support SMP), we can surely certify a victory of the Athlon 64 FX (both). We have also seen a considerable difference between the Pentium 4 670 and the Pentium XE 3.73 GHz for the first time (in favour of the latter). Unfortunately (running a few steps forward again), we shall see it only once...

Multimedia lossy compression (MP3/MPEG2-4)

A complete set of diagrams

Top processors from Intel generally look better, but we cannot say that AMD is heavily outperformed. Pentium D 820 looks rather good: yep, it's not in the lead, but let's not forget about the price. However, strange as it may seem, the best model in terms of price/performance ratio in this test is... the regular Pentium 4 540.

CPU RightMark 2004B

A complete set of diagrams

We can again witness a situation when the low end dual core processor is on a par with the top single core processors, all of them forming a tight group, so that it's no point in assigning a champion.

3D games and graphics visualization
in professional packages

DOOM 3

Far Cry

Painkiller

Unreal Tournament 2004

Total score in games

A complete set of diagrams

SPEC viewperf

A complete set of diagrams

The unconditional supremacy of AMD processors in game tests is cold news, Athlon 64 FX-57 has just increased the gap. The advantage of the Pentium 4 XE 3.73 GHz over the Pentium 4 670 is just nominal, which formally justifies positioning of this processor. Dual core processors demonstrate absolutely undistinguished results, which is only natural of them: games are not SMP optimized and the only "gaming" dual core AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ is not included into this review.

Conclusion

Athlon 64 FX-57 has proved up its right to be called the fastest single core desktop CPU and there is hardly any point arguing with that. On the other hand, the concept of the "low end dual core processor", represented in this review by a processor from Intel, has also proved up its right to existence: in programs with good SMP optimization, top single core processors are either outperformed by the Pentium D 820 or demonstrate similar results (at a much higher price).

From this point of view, it would be good to have a look at low end Athlon 64 X2 models: unlike the top sector of dual core processors, where the only important issue is performance and AMD processors consequently rule supreme, the sector of inexpensive multi-core CPUs might have an earnest fight between Intel and AMD... No, not for the first place in terms of absolute performance, but for the price/performance ratio.

Pentium 4 670 demonstrated nothing special, except for the fact that the 1066MHz bus is mostly excessive. However, taking into account the "non-extreme" status of this CPU, it can be considered as a good competitor to the Pentium XE 3.73 GHz (that is Intel sort of competes with itself in the sector of top CPUs). Thus, the nominal second place among top single core processors is currently shared by as many as three processors: Athlon 64 FX-55, Pentium 4 670, and Pentium XE 3.73 GHz (being significantly different in usage preferences).

The comparison between the Pentium D 820 results and the results of the identically-clocked single core Pentium 4 520[J] is deliberately left without comments, as those processors demonstrated nothing interesting. A similar performance ratio was already demonstrated in the comparison between the Pentium XE 840 with disabled Hyper-Threading and the Pentium 4 540[J]. There is nothing surprising about it, as the Pentium D is actually the Pentium XE with disabled Hyper-Threading.


Stanislav Garmatiuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
July 7, 2005.

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