AMD Phenom II 9xx CPUs With DDR3 Support
The Q9550 finally gets a chance to prove that it has its huge cache for a reason. We have another interesting fact to report. As this group includes few applications, results here depend much on the counting method. For example, if we pay attention to the total archiving time instead of mean results (both archivers processed the same files), Core i7 and Phenom II score on a par, while the Q9550 really spends less time on this task.
To all appearances, this new group of audio encoding tests will favor Core i7 as well. Phenom II is apparently out of favor here. Both models are outperformed even by Core 2 Quad processors. Besides, results with DDR3 memory are for some reason worse than with DDR2.
The leader in video encoding is quite distinct. In other respects, this situation is more interesting for a reviewer. If you take a look at detailed results, you will see that Phenom II and Core 2 Quad have an advantage over each other in less popular codecs (Canopus and XviD correspondingly). Moreover, Phenom II outperforms even i7 in its favorite codec. Differences in other tests are subjectively unnoticeable, which is also reflected in the total score.
In our new test procedure we've updated the list of games and increased quality settings, so these tests are hard both for CPUs and the graphics card (GeForce GTX 275). The CPU load is diversified. That is unlike audio codecs that use only integer units, these tests utilize floating-point computations as well. So the spread of results is not wide, and it's hard to pinpoint a single leader. On one hand, the Core i7 scores the most. On the other hand, 'it can be easily fixed' by enabling Smart Profiles in Phenom II. Besides, games are not just resource hogs, they often reveal some platform peculiarities, in particular, implementations of graphics ports in a chipset. For example, Devil May Cry 4 may be limited by such restrictions, as it comes up with illustrative results. It's no secret that Core i7 suffers from performance drops with some graphics cards. It suggests an idea that Intel was not just greedy, when the company did not allow NVIDIA to design its own chipset for the i7. The X58 probably needs such administrative protective measures, being not that perfect in technical respect.
Phenom II is advancing on Core 2 Quad. The latter does not have mainstream models (in terms of price and positioning) left in the series that would look better at least in terms of performance in modern applications (even if we discard the issue of platform prospectivity and price). Besides, Phenom II processors benefit from the upgrade to DDR3 memory. It's not very noticeable with low-clocked models. But as their clock rate grows, the effect becomes more prominent (that's a strong trump card for overclockers even now). Besides, even top Core 2 Quad models do not gain that much from this upgrade, even if we compare with DDR2-800 (not with DDR2-1066 with as low timings as possible like here). Our tests illustrate it very well. And considering that the future Core i5 will replace the cheaper i7 models at first instead of bringing Nehalem to the mass segment, we don't predict any radical changes until the end of the year.
However, it does not mean that AMD can slow down its development of processors with the overhauled core. Despite the complex economic conditions, the company even runs ahead of schedule in some aspects. Statistics confirm that inexpensive processors are the most popular choice, but it's important for a manufacturer to offer processors for other market segments not to depend directly on pricing policies of its competitor. Thus, if AMD continues to actively expand its line of processors and offers models to match the i5/i7 by raising frequency (or by developing Smart Profiles), it will be much more interesting than just cutting prices for the previous models, while the competitor is introducing new solutions. In fact, the 13% difference (130/115 according to the total score) is not that much. And Phenom II is already no worse in games and a number of professional applications. But there are some tests, encoding in the first place, where the lag can be eliminated only with alternative methods (at least until the next generation of CPUs is launched), because the i7 will also expand towards higher clock rates. And these methods have been promised long ago: shifting computations to the GPU. Fortunately, the ball has starting rolling, and ATI Stream is already supported by third-party codecs. But it will obviously take time at least to adopt OpenCL, to release DirectX 11, and to add support for these APIs in drivers from both GPU manufacturers. Then it will all depend on how efficient GPU-assisted computations will be. In other words, if this game is worth the candle, developers of x264, DiVX, and other codecs will add support for this technology into their products even without any sponsoring, which is implied in case of proprietary standards, such as ATI Stream or NVIDIA Cuda.
We express our gratitude to Corsair Memory for contribution to our testbeds.
The GeForce GTX 275 graphics card has been provided by Palit.
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