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Benchmark Results: Media/Transcoding Apps

Experiment: Does Intel’s Turbo Boost Trump Overclocking?
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We’ve upgraded our test suite to the latest version of Apple’s iTunes (9.0.2.25), but the program’s behavior remains unchanged. It’s still not optimized for threading, and as a result, Hyper-Threading goes to waste here.

On the other hand, utilization of only one CPU core means Turbo Boost has a fairly profound effect on performance in iTunes. So too does locking each chip’s top speed in at 4 GHz. It’s cool to see theory apply in practice, and that’s what we have here.

Unfortunately, you’ll see that iTunes is the exception in our well-threaded benchmark suite. Let’s move to something a little more parallelized.

MainConcept takes advantage of as many threads as you throw at it. Even still, with Turbo Boost disabled, the Core i5-750 runs at its default 2.66 GHz and the i7-860 is clocked at 2.8 GHz. Although this benchmark is taxing all four cores, operating under its thermal and power ceiling means we still get one bin (133 MHz) of acceleration with Turbo turned on, which is why both CPUs show better numbers with the feature in play.

More so than Turbo Boost, Hyper-Threading gives the Core i7-860 a sizable advantage over the i5-750—proof positive that in well-threaded software, there is a reason to pay a little extra for Hyper-Threading.

Overclocking minimizes the different between the two CPUs, though. At 4 GHz, both shave off significant time off of the stock settings. Of course, the Core i5 sees most of the benefit, since it wasn’t already getting a sizable speed-up via Hyper-Threading.

We compound the results here by mixing a well-threaded DivX codec with a less-optimized Xvid codec.

As expected Xvid sees no benefit (and, in fact, runs a bit slower) with Hyper-Threading enabled on the Core i7-860 versus Intel’s i5-750. Turbo Boost does help speed things up on both CPUs, though.

Interestingly, DivX doesn’t seem to get anything out of Hyper-Threading either, suggesting its limit is four threads. In this case, the Core i7-860 is a tad faster. And both processors get major speed-ups from overclocking—enough so that it’s clear manual overclocking is the best way to improve the performance of threaded apps that don’t get much benefit from Turbo Boost.

HandBrake is new to our test suite. It’s an open source title, freely available, that’s able to take advantage of threading. In our test, we’re converting the first .vob file on The Last Samurai into an .mp4.

Because it’s threaded, Turbo Boost has little effect here. But again, it’s interesting to see that Hyper-Threading doesn’t make as much of an impact as it did in, say, SiSoftware’s Sandra or 3DMark Vantage’s CPU suite. The real way to fly is using manual overclocking—there’s a huge performance improvement to be had by upping the clocks on both of our tested CPUs.

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    curnel_D , December 29, 2009 5:47 AM
    Great article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.
  • 21 Hide
    apache_lives , December 29, 2009 5:40 AM
    i play GTAIV online alot - your e8400 gets left in the dust there sorry PhantomTrooper, and theres no adverse effects having spare cores for future use with newer games etc
  • 18 Hide
    dfusco , December 29, 2009 9:36 AM
    I would like to see how a minor OC with Turbo enabled would stack up.
Other Comments
  • 2 Hide
    phantomtrooper , December 29, 2009 5:19 AM
    No one needs a Core i7 for gaming. I'm still using a e8400 with a gtx275 and I run everything fine at 1080p, even Crysis.
  • 21 Hide
    apache_lives , December 29, 2009 5:40 AM
    i play GTAIV online alot - your e8400 gets left in the dust there sorry PhantomTrooper, and theres no adverse effects having spare cores for future use with newer games etc
  • 1 Hide
    dtemple , December 29, 2009 5:42 AM
    I second that, PhantomTrooper. I'm on a slightly lower end spec PC than you're using (Athlon 7750 with Radeon HD4830) and with it hooked up to my 1366x768 TV through VGA, everything I play maxes without lag. Mind you, I don't play any titles that are extremely demanding, but I'm playing 2008 and 2009 titles maxed out, on a $60 CPU and an $80 video card.
  • 23 Hide
    curnel_D , December 29, 2009 5:47 AM
    Great article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.
  • 16 Hide
    cangelini , December 29, 2009 5:53 AM
    Yeah, you guys are going to get a kick out of the upcoming Clarksdale story. It's amazing how badly a Core 2 Duo E8500 gets killed by a Phenom II X4 or Core 2 Quad in some of these more optimized titles.

    Curnel--sorry about the ad. I also find it pretty annoying to play automatically every time I open a page for proofing. I'll ask about it.
  • 0 Hide
    jj463rd , December 29, 2009 6:04 AM

    Nice article.I agree about the annoying video ads that Curnel_D mentioned earlier.
  • 0 Hide
    HansVonOhain , December 29, 2009 6:15 AM
    Curnel_DGreat article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.


    Thanks Chris for your courtesy.
  • -4 Hide
    descendency , December 29, 2009 6:46 AM
    Curnel_DGreat article. On another note, the useless Mass Effect 2 ad blaring it's stupid music in my ears at every new page is really starting to piss me off.

    I know it's not a viable solution for all, but I never have my sound on... so I didn't even notice the advert (other than seeing it.)
  • 0 Hide
    gilbertfh , December 29, 2009 7:42 AM
    I have been building computers for myself family and friends for years and I remember some of the different ways utilized to speed up your computer (including the turbo button on your computer). This method seems like a viable way to speed up computers of those of us that don't really want to overclock.

    On a side note: Woot!!! I just saw the Mass Effect 2 ad has been removed. It did have the option to mute it but it was removed fast enough I didn't have a chance to check to ensure it saved to all pages. Thanks Tom's.
  • 0 Hide
    gilbertfh , December 29, 2009 7:43 AM
    Nope I was wrong I guess it was random and just didn't come up for a while and the mute does not save :( .
  • 6 Hide
    apache_lives , December 29, 2009 7:52 AM
    AbBlock :) 
  • 10 Hide
    gti88 , December 29, 2009 8:11 AM
    Indeed, Adblock all the way. It's a necessity these days.
  • 0 Hide
    wuzy , December 29, 2009 8:11 AM
    It was quite obviously already the only useful purpose for Turbo Boost is if the chip ran @stock. With it enabled it hinders scaling potential greatly. What I found most useful in this article is it provided more data on which programs benefited from the 'new & improved' Hyper-Threading.
  • 6 Hide
    cannon_foddermn , December 29, 2009 9:25 AM
    Interesting article. What I don't understand is every time a pc website, magazine article, or review refers to the difference in system cost for value consumers vs. high end or performance consumers.

    There is a considerable price overlap for the low to high range for a 1156 i5/i7 system and the low to high range for a 1366 i7 system.

    The system assembled for the testing of the value oriented consumer system in this article with out OS is $1700+ at Newegg! Of course, as Chris Angelini points out in the article, the non chipset specific components (GPU, PSU, SSD and heat sync) were chosen to remove potential bottlenecks to facilitate a reliable review.

    If you add up the current Newegg cost Intel Core i7-860, Intel DP55KG, and CORSAIR DOMINATOR 4GB DDR31600 (PC3 12800) alone it is $653.97 while the Intel Core i7-920, "Tom’s Hardware 2009 Recommended Buy" ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366, and CORSAIR DOMINATOR 6GB DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) total $683.97. The performance gains, better feature set (triple channel memory/3 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots) and future upgrade options (SLI and Crossfire support) of the X58/1336 based system are well worth the extra $30! These prices are not even shopping around for deals on the components, since Microcenter has had the i7 920 for $199.00 since launch and you can save $88.00 and add the saving back into a better GPU or mobo or save the extra money for a real value.

    Don't believe the hype from Intel about the "value" and "enthusiast" product lines. The only difference is Intel's greater profit margin on the stripped down Lynnfield and P55 chips.
  • 18 Hide
    dfusco , December 29, 2009 9:36 AM
    I would like to see how a minor OC with Turbo enabled would stack up.
  • 0 Hide
    Gandalf , December 29, 2009 9:56 AM
    I've got the i7-975 quad core on a DFI LP UT X58-T3eH8 motherboard.
    I'm finding the Turbo feature great. If the CPU workload decreases, the clock rate decreases allowing the system to cool down. There is no messing with RAM voltages. Only turning on the feature in the BIOS. Even I could do that.

    Also, this is a designed feature. You're not trying to run the CPU faster than it was designed to run as is often the case with overclockers and there is no trial and error with possibly burning out your CPU. I love the Turbo feature.
  • 2 Hide
    nicklasd87 , December 29, 2009 10:58 AM
    dfuscoI would like to see how a minor OC with Turbo enabled would stack up.

    I agree, I am currently gunning my i7 920 at 3.2 ghz on stock cooling, and with turbo boost enabled, the clock increases to 3.3ghz when the multiplier increases from 20 to 21. Without turbo boost, I am not able to reach a multiplier of 21 because of the limitations on the processor, and correct me if I'm wrong, but disabling turbo boost also disables speed step, so my processor would always run with a multiplier of 20 instead of scaling back to a multiplier of 12 when it is idle.
  • 1 Hide
    grimjester , December 29, 2009 11:34 AM
    dfuscoI would like to see how a minor OC with Turbo enabled would stack up.

    Same here. It seemed to work well for the $1300 SBM.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 29, 2009 11:48 AM
    Could we see an apples-vs.-apples comparison of load power usage as well please? Such as Prime95 running for 10 minutes on all (virtual) cores, for example.

    I've read a fair few reviews on the socket 1156 processors and they have all pointed to significant overclocking/overvolting absolutely wrecking power statistics with a draw some three _times_ the base model. Sometimes more.
  • 0 Hide
    cyberkuberiah , December 29, 2009 11:50 AM
    this is actually nice , i dont have to overclock my i5 for any game out there ... with powerful single gpu's here , looks like i would be happy without 1366 , sli or CF ... with an easy 3.6 oc when i need it , i think this would last me at least 3 years ... same for any body who has phenom 2 x4 , q9xxx (even q6600) , they're all powerful and can oc well .. the only sad thing's that have happened to gaming this year is radeon's higher than launch prices and delayed fermi .
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