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Test Setup

Who Says You Need Four Cores?
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System Hardware
Processors AMD Athlon X2 4850e @ 2.5 GHz
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition @ 2.5 GHz
Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 @ 2.53 GHz
Motherboards Gigabyte MA74GM-S2 740G
Intel DG45ID G45
Graphics Integrated Radeon 2100-series
Integrated GMA X4500 HD
Memory 4 GB (2 x 2 GB ) Corsair Dominator DDR2-1066 5-5-5
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB SATA
Power Supply PC Power and Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 ATX

Benchmark Software
Adobe Photoshop CS3 Applying six filters on a 96MB TIFF file
WinZIP Eight files, 139 MB
iTunes Audio CD Terminator 2, convert to AAC
PowerDVD 8 Ultra Blu-ray playback, 100 seconds of Casino Royale
TMPG Express 4 Five minutes Terminator 2, encoded with XviD and DivX
Half Life 2 : Episode 2 Timedemo, low settings, 1024x768
World in Conflict In-game benchmark, low detail, 1024x768
3DMark Vantage Entry mode
PCMark Vantage Default run
SiSoft Sandra CPU, multimedia, and memory bandwidth benchmarks

A few notes about our three configurations here.

The AMD-based setups are both driven by Gigabyte’s 740G-based MA74GM-S2. The board supports AHCI, but we are running it in legacy IDE mode as a result of the horrible process involved in getting it to work. Moreover, because the740G southbridge doesn’t support HyperTransport 3.0, the Phenom X4 9850’s HT link is throttled back to 1 GHz. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the integrated Radeon 2100 graphics core does not support DirectX 10, nor does it help accelerate Blu-ray media playback.

Intel’s G45 does feature hardware decode acceleration of Blu-ray, but you need the latest version of either WinDVD or PowerDVD in order to take advantage of the chipset’s video functionality, else the hardware won’t be put to use. We went with the latest build of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD, which successfully recognized the chipset’s acceleration capabilities.

The same version of PowerDVD also identified the 740G’s Avivo engine and turned it on. However, when Blu-ray content is being played back, the acceleration is non-functional since 740G cannot do H.264.

Another interesting point was that the 740G/Athlon X2 4850e combination seemed to do a lot of memory frequency throttling. With Cool’n’Quiet enabled, the processor would slow to 1 GHz, while the memory bus would drop to 200 MHz (DDR2-400). At full speed, the core would accelerate to 2.5 GHz and the memory would top out at about 350 MHz (DDR2-700ish), never quite getting up to 400 MHz. We thought that maybe a bug in CPU-z was the problem, but our memory bandwidth numbers definitely indicate a memory bandwidth issue.

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