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Our Premiere Pro workload comes from Adobe’s Creative Suite launch. It’s a professional-grade trailer for a new TV series, and we’ve seen it take anywhere from under a minute to over an hour to render. Generally, the difference is attributable to hardware support for the Mercury Playback Engine, enabled exclusively through Nvidia’s CUDA. So, I picked a FirePro card for all of our testing, allowing a closer look at CPU performance without GPU interference.
The results are compelling. You can use a single Core i7-3960X for this task, but it takes more than two times longer to render than a pair of Xeon E5-2687Ws. Even the Xeon 5500s get destroyed—and those were supposed to be the most significant server processors in history according to Pat Gelsinger back in 2009.
Of course, context is critical. Check out all of the processors we tested on page seven of Intel Core i7-3930K And Core i7-3820: Sandy Bridge-E, Cheaper. If you’re using a desktop card like Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580, even a Phenom II X6 1100T can get this job finished in half the time of two pricey Xeon E5s. I’m no fan of locking out the competition, but when there’s money on the line, professionals working in CS5 simply owe it themselves to use a CUDA-enabled card.
The results in our After Effects rendering test don’t look anything like Premiere Pro. The Core i7-3960X—twelve threads with access to 32 GB of memory—fares best. The Nehalem- and Westmere-based architectures, with 16 and 24 threads, respectively, and 48 GB of memory roughly match each other. The Xeon E5s fall somewhere in between.
The scores in Photoshop get us back to the performance picture we’d expect. Though the Xeon 5600s and 5500s yield fairly similar results, they both outperform a Core i7-3960X. In turn, Intel’s new Xeon E5-2687Ws make quick work of previous-generation dual-socket platforms.