The benchmarking procedure (the list of software and test conditions) is described in this article. To make the diagrams easier to read, results are represented in percents (100% stands for the result of Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 in each test). Detailed results in absolute values are published in this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.
Hyper-Threading is only a burden in this group of tests, so the fastest processor at 2.66 GHz here is Core i5 750. Xeon X3450 and Core i7 920 demonstrate the same results (although we hoped that the former would be faster owing to the more aggressive boost mode).
But these tests show why you may need Hyper-Threading: all other things being equal, performance gain reaches 28 points, while higher frequencies of Core i7 860 let it shoot forward only by six points.
HT must formally deteriorate performance here, but the Xeon demonstrate atypical results. It can be written off to different motherboards, to be more exact, to different release dates of their BIOS versions, manufacturers may raise performance a little to make up for losses.
Adobe Photoshop and Paint.Net prove HT useful. Its advantage is not as noticeable as in rendering, but we cannot ignore it. The other applications do not need this technology. But don't forget that Photoshop is the professional standard, so results of PhotoImpact ($20 editor for laymen) are much less relevant, when you choose a processor.
Archivers respond positively to higher memory performance, no wonder Core i7 920 lost here. It's not a secret that HT gives a small performance gain in archivers. So all these results make sense. Except for the similar results of the X3450 and i7 860, of course.
If you buy a computer for work, choose the one with Hyper-Threading. This looks like a slogan, but it's actually true.
However, this technology may come in handy for some entertainments as well. It's especially noticeable in audio encoding. Video encoding is slowed down by Canopus ProCoder and DivX. But is it really important, considering that the heaviest codec (x264) favors Hyper-Threading? That's much more important.
Games most certainly do not need HT. However, performance drops from this function are very small, so you can ignore them in all cases, unless you want a gaming computer. Games may be the primary software for a home computer, but it will certainly be used for other tasks as well. Just buy a video camera, and performance gains in video processing will justify performance drops in games.
Both good and bad results are included into the total score with the same weight coefficients, so performance gains are not very high -- 10%. However, they are not small either -- to gain just as much, you will have to add $300, much more than $46 of difference between the X3450 and i5 750. You may also resort to overclocking, of course. But we can say for sure that Xeon X3450 and especially X3440 are more interesting for overclockers than Core i7 860 (they are cheaper, they are easier to overclock, they will demonstrate similar results at the same frequencies) or i5 750 (faster at the same frequency). It's a curious phenomenon, considering that Xeons are designed for servers and workstations. However, as we have already found out, official positioning does not necessarily coincide with useful applications -- they may be much wider than the former. So we shouldn't ignore single-socket Xeons, when we choose a home computer -- they may be very beneficial.
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