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Top Dual/Quad-Core CPUs: Enticing Heights

Testing four top processors from Intel and AMD.

July 28, 2008



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Tests

  1. Our test method is described here.
  2. All data types are reduced to one relative integer score: performance of a reviewed processor compared to performance of Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, which is considered 100 points.
  3. Detailed results are available in this Excel spreadsheet. The article contains only summaries of each benchmark class.
  4. If detailed results are worthy of your attention, we mention them.

Professional tests

3D Modeling and Rendering



For the sake of simplicity, we'll not pay attention to the difference of 40 MHz between Core 2 Duo E8500 and Core 2 Extreme QX9770. So we consider them operating at the same frequency. In this case, the situation in the Intel camp is slightly disappointing: even though there are quite a lot of render speed tests in this group, four cores outperform two cores only by just 18%. That's not much, especially for this group of tests, which can efficiently use cores.

Phenom X4 9850 outperforms the old Athlon 64 X2 6400+ by about 11%. However, considering that four cores were competing with two cores here, this is one Pyrrhic victory. Of course, we don't forget that the 6400+ clock rate is higher by almost 30%, but Phenom is based on a new core. In other words, we expected better results.

CAD/CAM



In the Intel camp, the top quad-core processor has a minimal advantage over the top dual-core processor. However, CAD/CAM tests are traditionally indifferent to multiple cores, so there is nothing surprising here. Phenom X4 is outperformed by Athlon 64 X2, but it's also not unusual, because we already saw the new AMD core demonstrate bad results in this software class many times. The problem is most likely in the software - but users of these programs do not feel better, do they?

Compile



The quad-core processor from Intel demonstrates some advantage, but we shouldn't forget that compilers are sensitive to memory exchange rates, and the QX9770 has an advantage not only in the number of cores, but also in FSB clock rate. Phenom is again outperformed by the high-clocked Athlon 64 X2, which indicates that the test does not utilize four cores very efficiently.

Professional photo processing



Everything is simple here: Adobe Photoshop CS3 is well optimized for quad-core operation, so it leaves no chances to dual-core processors. Both quad-core processors are victorious. However, if we compare results of Phenom X4 9850 and Core 2 Extreme QX9770, we'll see a big difference.

Scientific applications



Comparison of Core 2 Duo E8500 and Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (we decided to treat them as equally-clocked processors) is not optimistic: four cores are out of favor in this group of tests, they provide only a nominal advantage. Phenom's failure proves this empiric conclusion. However, it happens mostly because of totally inadequate performance of the quad-core processor from AMD in one of MATLAB tests.

Our comment is absolutely simple: we face some incompatibility problem here, when the program apparently treats the processor inadequately. However, this is a reality - this program exists, and it works that way. Moreover, this is a popular program: it's a widely spread "heavy" mathematical suite, actively used in various fields of scientific research and manufacturing. If we speak of what should adjust to what, it must be Phenom to change, not vice versa: MATLAB has a much longer and glorious history.

Web server



It's another group of tests, where a dual-core processor has practically no chances to win in a competition with a quad-core processor. But if we compare quad-core processors from both competitors, you'll see the bitter truth you were asking for.

Total professional score



The total score is indicative: the top quad-core processor from Intel managed to outscore the top dual-core processor from the same company by 8%, even though not all professional tests can use four cores adequately. And the top quad-core processor from AMD outscores the dual-core processor by only 1 point. OK, we remember that Athlon 64 X2 6400+ operates at a much higher clock rate. But generally speaking, it's not our problem, isn't it?


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