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Dual-Core Versus Quad-Core: Part 2

Dual-Core Versus Quad-Core: Part 2
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This is a comparison that will probably get your emotions running high, as it represents a shootout between apples and oranges. But it is also a comparison that is extremely relevant, as it reflects the current market and answers very important questions about the current offerings from AMD and Intel. We decided to put AMD’s most efficient quad core processor up against one of the fastest Intel dual core CPUs: it’s the AMD Phenom X4 9350e 2.0 GHz against Intel’s Core 2 Duo E8500 at 3.16 GHz.

Although it doesn’t seem appropriate to compare a 3.16 GHz dual core processor to a 2.0 GHz quad core model—especially since the first one is made by Intel and the second is from AMD—this comparison makes a lot of sense. Performance-wise, the Phenom X4 clearly has the potential to leave the Core 2 Duo in the dust, but we wanted to check whether or not this applies in everyday life with real applications, and to see if the Phenom can keep up in the area of efficiency. As it turns out, these two products have a lot more in common than you might think.

Different Architectures and Efficiency

Let’s first talk about where the products are dissimilar, starting with their architectures, which could not be more different. AMD utilizes its optimized 65 nm DSL SOI process, while Intel has been at 45 nm for a while. AMD integrated the DDR2 memory controller and uses Socket AM2+ (940 pins), while Intel relies on Socket LGA775 and the chipset for memory performance, using either DDR2 or DDR3 RAM. AMD offers a third-level cache (L3) that is shared by all processing cores, but it also offers a dedicated L2 cache. Intel, on the other side, shares the L2 cache between both cores, and offers larger cache capacity (6 MB L2 for Intel vs. 4x 512 KB L2 and 2 MB L3 cache for AMD). As verified by test results, the 65 nm AMD quad core seems to be handicapped when it comes to efficiency, but we’ll look at that in detail later on.

Same Thermal Design Power

Despite their entirely different construction, the AMD Phenom X4 9350e and the Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 are both rated at a maximum thermal design power (TDP) of 65 W. This means that they’re both suitable for desktops and HTPCs that you don’t want to equip with sophisticated cooling for reliable operation. Reaching the 65 W TDP is not difficult for Intel using its efficient 45 nm process (P1266), but it certainly requires a selection process for AMD, as the 4-core Phenom X4 series isn’t as efficient as the 45 nm Core 2 series. The selected model e9530 is a low-power Phenom X4 variant, though.

Same Performance?

We’ll answer this question in the benchmark section, but the shootout will be exciting. Additional cores typically don’t scale anywhere near to linearly, meaning that going from two to four cores will not result in doubled computing performance, unless your applications are really thread-optimized and are not bottlenecked by other system components. While AMD’s Phenom X4 at 2.0 GHz provides great performance for multi-core optimized applications, the Core 2 Duo by Intel delivers more performance per clock, and also comes with a 58% faster core clock speed of 3.16 GHz, which should bridge the performance gap on thread-optimized applications.

Same $200 Price Point

For me, this was the key point for running this article: AMD’s most efficient quad core costs the same as Intel’s speedy dual core processor. The price point of $200 is probably the maximum amount of money an average user without particularly deep pockets is willing to spend, considering that prices will keep dropping. Shelling out more on a processor is only worthwhile if you have specific applications that require more performance. The Core 2 Duo should provide better power efficiency, while the Phenom X4 may very well outperform the Core 2 in many applications. We wanted to have answers, so we got to work.

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  • 19 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 7:46 AM
    one thing that the authors forget that a typical use for a computer isn't just decompressing, surfing or gaming. The typical use is decompressing AND surfing AND using a resource hog like Skype AT THE SAME TIME! Oh, did I hear BitTorrent or multiple YouTube flash videos? How about them fancy Flash Ads, about 3 of them in every one of those 20-30 open tabs in the browser? Why don't you compare a quad core and a dual core in such an environment for general performance and responsiveness?
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 7:47 AM
    Maybe in Windows the time of the Quad core or even the Duo core hasn't arrived yet, but in Linux the multicore processors have been supported for a lot longer and I wouldn't be surprised if you find many more apps in Linux that are natively multithreaded. How about rerunning your comparison in Linux and see who's the winner there where neither processor has the advantage. Both are well supported in Linux where as many of the tests in Windows lopsidedly tainted toward Intel products. In other words, try a scenario where the processors are treated equally by the testing software.
Other Comments
  • -8 Hide
    nachowarrior , September 4, 2008 6:29 AM
    good work on getting the benchmarks out. but a better comparison would be amd quad vs amd dual. due to the fact that amd has the only real quad core. I think most if not all of us know that most apps aren't ready to scale well up to a full quad proc. keep in mind that amd has four ACTUAL cores on their procs, not two logiced out to four as intel does. Get programs that are fully optimized to run on four acutal cores, the benchmarks will change quite a bit. I honestly don't recommend a quad core to anyone for the price at this point in time unless they plan on keeping their computer upwards of at least 4 years due to the fact that software takes too long to catch up to hardware. Multi core scaling on the software side just isn't there yet. Look to amd's dual core offerings for a good price/performance ratio at this point in time.

    but none the less... it's good to have some charts at this current point in time. thanks for the time put on the benchies... i'll click a sponsor or something. :-p
  • 4 Hide
    ahmshaegar , September 4, 2008 6:34 AM
    Just wondering if there's a little error on the game benchmarks page... the graph for Supreme Commander and the text don't seem to agree.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 6:38 AM
    little nit @ second last paragraph:

    "are all examples showing that a 2.0 GHz quad core can certainly beat a sophisticated 3.16 GHz quad core"

    should be 3.16 GHz dual core.
  • 2 Hide
    Legless Ethiopian , September 4, 2008 6:57 AM
    The mainconcept analysis is wrong as well. Says the e8500 wins when it doesn't.
  • -7 Hide
    apache_lives , September 4, 2008 7:26 AM
    nachowarrior cut the AMD true quad core BS - 4 cores total wether it be attached or not, the performance speaks for its self, plus intel was smarter not to make one huge processor etc - same as ATi's 4870 x2 - you should know that fanboy.

    If you want to get technical lets compare Intel nehalem quad - no competition ;) 

    Sloppy editing alright - its making AMD look good! :o  LOL
  • 2 Hide
    Pukas71 , September 4, 2008 7:32 AM
    Good idea, but the article is such a mess. Never seen anything like that on Toms. It needs editing, and needs it now. Shame.
  • 1 Hide
    xx12amanxx , September 4, 2008 7:36 AM
    I still can not concieve why they are comparing a 3.0+ dual core to a 2.0ghz quad?

    What is the real point of this article?
  • 19 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 7:46 AM
    one thing that the authors forget that a typical use for a computer isn't just decompressing, surfing or gaming. The typical use is decompressing AND surfing AND using a resource hog like Skype AT THE SAME TIME! Oh, did I hear BitTorrent or multiple YouTube flash videos? How about them fancy Flash Ads, about 3 of them in every one of those 20-30 open tabs in the browser? Why don't you compare a quad core and a dual core in such an environment for general performance and responsiveness?
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 7:47 AM
    Maybe in Windows the time of the Quad core or even the Duo core hasn't arrived yet, but in Linux the multicore processors have been supported for a lot longer and I wouldn't be surprised if you find many more apps in Linux that are natively multithreaded. How about rerunning your comparison in Linux and see who's the winner there where neither processor has the advantage. Both are well supported in Linux where as many of the tests in Windows lopsidedly tainted toward Intel products. In other words, try a scenario where the processors are treated equally by the testing software.
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , September 4, 2008 8:08 AM
    Thanks for the analysis catches, guys. They should have been, but weren't, caught during layout. I've adjusted the text to correctly reflect the benchmark results. Take care!
  • 2 Hide
    Mante , September 4, 2008 8:12 AM
    I don't know why, but i would like to see an amd x2 @ 3.0 ghz running around those task.... It's cheaper and im really happy with it. Nice Article.
  • 1 Hide
    ravenware , September 4, 2008 8:34 AM
    Quote:
    Intel’s fastest dual core processor.


    It appears that the author is referring to the e8500 in the above statement, this would be incorrect considering the e8600 has newer stepping and a higher clock rate.

    Quote:
    Supreme Commander shows the same results: it runs much faster on the Intel dual core than it does on AMD’s quad core. Since the performance difference is 80%, the clock speed difference alone isn’t enough to account for the tremendous difference.


    The chart shows otherwise, something maybe awry with the report.

    Quote:
    AMD Phenom X4 e9350


    Should be AMD Phenom X4 9350e , "e" is misplaced.

    Anyway, I would have liked to see what a Phenom 9950 and q6600 would have shown given the fact that their with in the same price point and would have shown the difference in efficiency and power.


  • 2 Hide
    amdfangirl , September 4, 2008 11:38 AM
    nachowarriorgood work on getting the benchmarks out. but a better comparison would be amd quad vs amd dual. due to the fact that amd has the only real quad core. I think most if not all of us know that most apps aren't ready to scale well up to a full quad proc. keep in mind that amd has four ACTUAL cores on their procs, not two logiced out to four as intel does. Get programs that are fully optimized to run on four acutal cores, the benchmarks will change quite a bit. I honestly don't recommend a quad core to anyone for the price at this point in time unless they plan on keeping their computer upwards of at least 4 years due to the fact that software takes too long to catch up to hardware. Multi core scaling on the software side just isn't there yet. Look to amd's dual core offerings for a good price/performance ratio at this point in time. but none the less... it's good to have some charts at this current point in time. thanks for the time put on the benchies... i'll click a sponsor or something. :-p


    Sure it would, but the point of this article is to compare relatively similar costing processors with similar TDPs as a quad vs dual. Plus given how AMD is losing in the performance race clock for clock it emphasis on quad-core beating dual in some applications.

    If it was AMD beating AMD everyone would be "so what?". Since it was (in some cases) AMD beating Intel, most go wow. The they compared the clockspeeds and wow. That really puts pressure on quad-core's performance. Great Work guys!=)
  • 3 Hide
    mitch074 , September 4, 2008 11:44 AM
    I have done some tests on my K8 X2. Moreover, I've taken some interest in Xvid development.
    - current Xvid code isn't multithreaded: it is purely single core! In fact, when I encode two videos in parallel, I get almost no speed impact from the second encoding upon the first. If you want to try a multithreaded Xvid encoder, you must compile the 1.2 CVS version.
    - I bet this benchmark uses Koepi's build of Xvid 1.1.3; as far as I know, he builds it against the Pentium Pro instruction set.
    - I compared Koepi's build compressing some video under Windows (32-bit) and one built directly on my K8, in Linux 64-bit + SSE2 compressing the same video: encoding speed went up by a factor of 2.5.
    - ever since most Xvid developers were hired by Miro to work on Miro's MPEG4 codec, Xvid development slowed down. Many developers got interested in x264 instead.

    In short, using Xvid to compare AMD and Intel processors isn't as good as it used to be. Either that, or since Xvid is one of the few very CPU-intensive benchmarks out there, you should try and build it yourselves for each platform - just to be sure. It would also be interesting to benchmark current CVS build, to see how it scales with more cores.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 11:59 AM
    agree with REappear. for hardcore multitaskers, like myself, the quad is clearly a winner. a couple of msn/skype windows AND 10+tabs AND running torrent AND playing Supreme Commander -its my favorite:) - on a 20x20+ map with 4-6 players does the performance hit. in this case, 2g of memory (supcom eats up between 1.3 and 1.8) and 2g of ram isn't enough anymore.

    and there is a low TDP quadcore from intel, my q6600, doing 9x266@1.008 :D . its a wicked thing to see a q6600 reaching only 43C on a prime test.

    AMD should put much more cache on their chips, in most of the benchs this is the reason why their CPU is so slow. oh, and efficient doesn't mean it should be this slow too.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 12:00 PM
    2g of memory and 2 cores... sry
  • 0 Hide
    sgtbaker420 , September 4, 2008 12:15 PM
    "One fact remains clear above all: our comparison has shown that the time for quad core processors just hasn’t arrived yet."

    Uhh...duh.
  • 1 Hide
    arkadi , September 4, 2008 12:26 PM
    I think it is appropriate to run mixed benchmark with multiple tests at the same time. The outcome can be surprising. Working on quad systems fells different than on dual core,quads much more responsive if you run multiple tasks at the same time.
  • 2 Hide
    badboy4dee , September 4, 2008 1:23 PM
    Good article and outcome as expected but I must agree when conducting tests we need to run multiple apps in conjunction for a true everyday experience. I would be interested in seeing how 2xquad cores fair on some NLE video editing apps like Premier & Vegas. Can we have some test ran on Linux? .... Please? Linux is becoming more and more popular to people so this would be refreshing to see. Don't worry bout the typo's we all make mistakes, it's no big deal. No worries, Keep on ROCKn THG!!

    The Silent Majority
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 4, 2008 1:38 PM
    I agree with REapper, a multi-tasking benchmark will shed much more light on real-world user concerns. I also wonder what the interest of power efficiency in desktop cores is? I know everyone wants to be green, but for most desktop users that I know, heat and power aren't that big of an issue.
    When it comes to multi-cpu workstations and clusters, heat IS a issue.
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