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Revisiting the Past Part 2:
Dual-Core NetBurst-Based Intel Processors

August 1, 2007



To continue our series "Revisiting the past" we are offering an article, which fans of a company well-known and still considered alternative have been anticipating. Let them recall the time when sky seemed more blue, grass was greener, girls prettier, and their favourite company had almost fulfilled the dream of dancing on its main competitor's grave.

Unfortunately for them, old lion had found enough strength to give a good roar, which has set back the realization of their dreams indefinitely. However, at least in hindsight let us pay tribute to a period, when the lion's old age was mentioned more often than his royal status. It was interesting, was it not? At least unusual - for a change!

So today on our circus arena we have dual-core processors based on Intel's NetBurst architecture - perhaps, one of the most controversial architectures in the history of x86-processors. It started out with disappointments and faint hopes, then justified the hopes and made us doubt the disappointments, and, finally, redoubled disappointments and totally destroyed all hopes. Not an easy path indeed, and in any case a bright page in the history of modern processors. Well, enough words - let numbers do the talking.

Hardware and software

Testbed configuration

CPU Mainboard Memory Video
Pentium D 805 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Pentium D 915 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Pentium D 930 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Pentium D 940 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Pentium E2140 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Pentium E2160 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Core 2 Duo E4400 ASUS P5B Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Athlon X2 BE-2350 ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
Athlon 64 X2 5000+ ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 GeForce 8800 GTX
  • 2 x 1024 MB RAM
  • Samsung HD401LJ (SATA) HDD
  • Boxed coolers
  • Cooler Master RS-A00-EMBA PSU
Processor Pentium D 805 Pentium D 915 Pentium D 930 Pentium D 940 Pentium E2140 Pentium E2160 Core 2 Duo E4400 Athlon X2 BE-2350 Athlon 64 X2 5000+
Process, nm 90 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 90
Core frequency, GHz 2.66 2.8 3.0 3.2 1.6 1.8 2.0 2.1 2.6
# of cores 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
L2 cache*, KB 2x1024 2x2048 2x2048 2x2048 1024 1024 2048 2x512 2x512
Bus frequency**, MHz 533 (QP) 800 (QP) 800 (QP) 800 (QP) 800 (QP) 800 (QP) 800 (QP) 2x800 (DDR2) 2x800 (DDR2)
Multiplier 20 14 15 16 8 9 10 10.5 13
Socket LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 AM2 AM2
Heat emission***, W 95 95 95 95 65 65 65 45 89
AMD64/EM64T + + + + + + + + +
VT - - + + - - - + +

* - "2 x ..." means per core.
** - For AMD processors this is memory controller bus clock rate.
*** - Measured differently for Intel and AMD processors; impossible to compare directly.

Software

  1. Windows XP Professional x64 edition SP1
  2. 3ds max 9 x64 edition
  3. Maya 8.5 x64 edition
  4. Lightwave 3D 9 x64 edition
  5. MATLAB R2006a (7.2.0.32) x64 edition
  6. Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 2.0
  7. SolidWorks 2005
  8. Photoshop CS2 (9.0)
  9. Visual Studio 2005 Professional
  10. Apache HTTP Server 2.2.4
  11. CPU RightMark 2005 Lite (1.3) x64 edition
  12. WinRAR 3.62
  13. 7-Zip 4.42 x64 edition
  14. FineReader 8.0 Professional
  15. LAME 3.97
  16. Monkey Audio 4.01
  17. OGG Encoder 2.83
  18. Windows Media Encoder 9 x64 edition
  19. Canopus ProCoder 2.01.30
  20. DivX 6.4
  21. Windows Media Video VCM 9
  22. x264 v.604
  23. XviD 1.1.2
  24. F.E.A.R. 1.08
  25. Half-Life 2 1.0
  26. Quake 4 1.3
  27. Call of Duty 2 1.2
  28. Serious Sam 2 2.07
  29. Supreme Commander 1.0.3220

Testing

While choosing competitors for the article's main characters we resorted to the approach, which has become our tradition: one competitor that mostly loses, one - that is roughly equal, and one - that is better in just about everything. This way it will be easy for you to clearly see positioning of the contestants in the present-day ratings: "faster than X, slower than Y". Furthermore, if one is faster than Y - then it is definitely faster than the main characters of this article. And vice-versa.

A necessary foreword to the charts

We present the results of our tests in two unique ways due to our testing method. First of all, in the summary diagrams of this article all data types are reduced to one - relative integer points. What we mean by relative integer points is that the performance of all processors is relative to that of one processor, which in this case is the Intel Core 2 Duo E4300. The performance of the Core 2 Duo E4300 is rated at 100 points. Second, detailed results regarding the tests are available in a Microsoft Excel table. In the article itself only summary diagrams are given which are grouped together by benchmark classes. Nevertheless, when required, we will occasionally draw your attention to the expanded results which are located in the Excel file.

3D modeling suites

Only Pentium D 940 has managed to win over the Intel's dual-core low-end model, which in itself is an unambiguous verdict. Some might complain about Pentium D 950/960, which has an even higher clock rate, not taking part in the tests. However, choosing between expansion of test set and article's overall informative value we decided to exclude Pentium D 950/960 as being inadequately expensive. They are certainly more expensive than those new Intel and AMD processors that have higher performance in nearly every task.

CAD/CAE

Strange though it may seem, Intel's oldies feel quite well in this subtest. Pentium D 915/930, which are budget models by modern standards, have beaten Pentium E2140, while Pentium D 940 has even outrun Pentium E2160. Let us remind you, we are not considering absolute performance of the "old fellows". They can compete with CPUs based on AMD's K8 core and Intel Core only in price-performance ratio. In this case they didn't do such a bad job, at least in comparison to new processors from Intel. In regards to main competitor's CPUs, even the quite low-end (for the segment in consideration) AMD processor has won a clear victory over Intel's old core.

Digital photo processing

A rather rare case, when a software "bias" towards a certain kind of CPU can produce results leading to an inadequate overall choice. It's hard to believe, but if most of the time you are working with Adobe Photoshop - Pentium D is a good budget solution for you! Nearly any CPU can be matched with a program, which it will be great for. The "key" is that in this case it is a rather popular program among professionals...

Compiling

Clearly Pentium D is not the best choice for compiling. Even the top model (among the adequately priced) was able only to catch up with Pentium E2140...

Web server

No comments are necessary. One could have thought that web-server would appreciate a whole 4 megabytes of L2-cache. However, it wasn't enough for Pentium D 940. It has lost to both Pentium E2140 (which has four times less L2-cache!) and AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350, which also has just 1 MB for the two cores (we'll disregard the clock rate... )

Synthetics

The situation is almost the same as with compiling speed test, but this time Pentium D 940 has managed to catch up with Pentium E2160. Considering its clock rate and cache size it is a doubtful "achievement", to say the least...

Data compression

Here the competition of Pentium D subgroup with AMD rather than Intel processors is of most interest. It is an example of classic "nothing cuts diamond" situation. Athlon X2 BE-2350 came out even with Pentium D 940, in contrast to previously winning over it almost every time. Why? Because this is data compression software - it has a large data vocabulary. You can have the most progressive processor core architecture, but still four times less L2-cache will significantly cut your abilities in this case...

OCR

Despite the many counter-arguments, this chart makes one consider the statement "Intel Core is the heir of NetBurst" in all seriousness. However, practice is the criterion of truth, as Carl Marx said, and in this case we see his aphorism confirmed. Intel processors irrespective of architecture are ahead of AMD in this subtest (contrary to the general tendency). Either ABBYY programmers should be credited for that, or some key features have indeed been inherited...

Audio encoding

AMD processors don't look bad in this subtest. Though usually we don't comment on it in the new testing method, since the task itself has become obsolete.

Video encoding

A once-popular misconception that processors based on NetBurst-core have some decisive advantage in video encoding is destroyed de facto. Neither higher frequency nor a significant advantage in L2-cache size give them any considerable advantage over a CPU with core optimized for execution of modern code. It has finally become apparent in the present day.

Games

...It was all clear with games even before the NetBurst epoch was over...

Overall scores



Pentium D 940 having a clock rate of 3.2 GHz and total L2-cache size of 4 MB in a final effort has managed to outrun Pentium E2140 with a frequency of 1.6 GHz and total L2-cache of 1 MB. At that, it has still failed to surpass Pentium E2160 (1.8 GHz / 1 MB) and Athlon X2 BE-2350 (2.1 GHz / 1 MB). Apparently, not all was right with the architecture. "The highest tree has the greatest fall" - is an epitaph that comes to mind.

Supposed power consumption


Pentium D 805 is unique in being not only based on NetBurst, but also on 90 nm technology. However, even a 65-nanometer process hasn't allowed processors based on NetBurst core to beat anyone, apart from themselves. As a whole, it is clear that in power consumption Pentium D lose to both AMD K8 core (in all of its numerous modifications) and Intel Core. It would have been overlooked, surely... had they demonstrated higher than the other architectures' performance. Yet, when a minus in one area adds to a minus in another it is hard to reach anything other than the objective verdict, no matter how much one would like to.

Conclusions

What does it all boil down to? Pentium D, as a processor class, has performed quite well in CAD/CAE subtest, more or less adequately in OCR and data compression subtests (thanks to a gigantic advantage in cache size over the other competitors in the latter case), and very successfully (in regards to price) in Adobe Photoshop CS2 subtest. On one hand, it's not so bad for a yesterday's architecture. On the other hand, this result can be considered good only for a yesterday's architecture, because superiority of both Intel's new and AMD's old architecture is apparent in the rest of subtests and requires no comments.

That is, to NetBurst's credit we may add that currently there is still a certain number of wide-spread software for which Pentium D family can be an appropriate choice (not so much in terms of pure performance, as in price-performance ratio). You don't have to be a genius to predict that with time this range of software will continue to narrow down. And you don't have to be a professional analytic to realize that of the "old" architectures (which in this case include not only Intel NetBurst, but also AMD K8) AMD K8 is the more suited to present day reality. We merely obtained a numeric confirmation of what was intuitively understood.

Perhaps, it is a good reason to say goodbye to NetBurst architecture. Northwood had its moment of triumph and it shall not be forgotten. Unfortunately the moment was only one. And it was a long time ago...

Testbed memory modules were provided by
Corsair Memory Russia


Stanislav Garmatyuk (nawhi@ixbt.com)
August 1, 2007

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