iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Intel Pentium, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad Processors

Final tests of mid-end CPUs for the legendary platform.

December 28, 2009

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The benchmarking procedure (the list of software and test conditions) is described here. To make the diagrams easier to read, the results are represented in percent (100% stand for the result of Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 in each test). The detailed results and absolute values are provided in this spreadsheet.

3D visualization

Quad-core processors fail to show their full potential here, so there is nothing surprising about high-clock dual-core processors being the optimal choice. Especially Core 2 Duo E8600, which frequencies of the cores and cache (as well as its size) are very high. And the E7600 does not fare very well against the E6500: it's not a radical difference between 2MB and 3MB of cache, and frequencies are getting very close in these families. When cache size differs twofold (as in the Q9505 and the Q9550) is quite another matter. However, we can see that contribution of the twofold difference in cache size at the same frequency equals that of the cache increased by 1MB and frequency increased by 133MHz in lower models. DDR3 deteriorates results, but only insignificantly. For apparent reasons, AMD Athlon II processors are outperformed here even by Pentium -- extra cores are of no use here, and they have small cache.

3D rendering

In return, the extra cores snap in the action in final rendering: Athlon II X3 435 easily outperforms all dual-core processors and even gets close to Core 2 Quad Q8200. And the X4 630 invades the "inner sanctum" of Mid-End and Top quad-core processors from Intel: that's the effect of four cores and a higher clock rate. Cache memory is insignificant here: half as much cache in the Q9505 vs. Q9550 reduces performance only by 1%. And there is simply no difference between DDR2 and DDR3.

Scientific calculations

We have already seen it somewhere. That's right -- a couple of cores are enough. What matters here is the clock rate. This test also needs more cache to certain limits. And you may ignore the memory type here.

Bitmap processing

Two applications from this group may need more than two cores, the others need neither extra cores nor large cache -- in fact, its reduction from 6MB to 3MB per die raises performance significantly. As a result, the second place is taken by the new Q9505, which is the only unexpected result in this group of tests.

Data compression

As we expected, the absolute leader in this test is Core 2 Duo E8600 -- our archivers do fine with two cores. However, this processor leads in the clock rate, and L2 Cache frequency. Besides, we shouldn't forget that this processor has the largest cache per core among processors of this design. However, sharing cache between Core 2 Quad cores is not much of a hindrance: archivers can use both halves. The C2Q Q8200 actually managed to outperform the Pentium E6500, despite a big difference in their clock rates. And the Q9505 defeated the Core 2 Duo E7600, even though their difference in clock rates is lower here (these processors are actually two dual-core dice glued together). However, decreased cache size expectedly did not let the last processor get close to its predecessor: the difference is about 10% even with DDR2. On the other hand, it's not that much, considering that cache size differs twofold. DDR3 losses are close to maximum in this group of tests - about 5% (that was also expected). As a result, the Q9300 + DDR2 is outperformed by the Q9505 + DDR3 less than the latter is outperformed by the Q9505 + DDR2.

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