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Benchmark Results: Rendering

Intel Xeon E5-2600: Doing Damage With Two Eight-Core CPUs
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Although I generally don’t use the Cinebench OpenGL-based graphics test, it’s nice that the benchmark’s CPU component is able to utilize up to 64 threads.

The roughly 2000-object scene with somewhere around 300 000 polygons renders very quickly on a pair of Xeon E5-2687W processors, which execute 32 threads concurrently. The Xeon X5680s are quite a ways behind. A single Core i7-3960X almost manages to catch the two Xeon W5580s—a testament to its higher clock rates and more efficient Sandy Bridge architecture.

CPU Utilization during SolidWorksCPU Utilization during SolidWorks

Our SolidWorks PhotoView 360 workload caught me off guard. This render fully taxed each configuration we threw at it, regardless of core count or memory. And while the Xeon E5s finish first, their improvement over two Xeon X5680s is almost negligible.

The Xeon W5580s trail a ways back, and are actually beaten by a single Core i7-3960X. Based on past reviews, we know SolidWorks responds well to overclocking, but that’s simply not in the cards for these CPUs.

CPU Utilization during 3ds MaxCPU Utilization during 3ds Max

Autodesk’s 3ds Max also taxes available compute resources. However, it demonstrates significant gains shifting from Xeon 5500 to 5600 and finally to E5, as we might expect. The Core i7-3960X almost manages to catch the two Xeon 5500s—again, a testament to the per-clock advantages of Sandy Bridge compared to the Nehalem architecture.

Although iray really delivers the best performance when it’s able to exploit GPU resources, our benchmark is limited to CPU-based rendering. Here, scaling is nothing short of amazing. A single Core i7-3960 at 3.3 GHz gets the job done in just over 10 minutes. Meanwhile, two eight-core Xeon E5-2687Ws at 3.1 GHz finish in about four and a half minutes. The 5600s and 5500s are in-between.

CPU Utilization during BlenderCPU Utilization during Blender

Introduced in Blender 2.61, the cycles render engine is ray tracing-based with support for interactive rendering, a new shading node system, new texture workflow, and of course GPU acceleration. Our cycles-based test sticks to processor-based rendering for now, and will evolve moving forward to include OpenCL testing.

Unfortunately, although they’re consistent, the results from the cycles engine aren’t very easy to break down. CPU utilization is always much higher using the new renderer compared to the old tile-based one, and yet the Xeon 5600s manage to outmaneuver the Xeon E5s. Core i7-3960X bests two Xeon 5500s, but again, it’s not clear why.

Our older Blender rendering test, configured to use the default 4x4 tile setting, tended to leave cores underutilized as it finished (you can see this by watching Windows’ task manager—busy time drops off very gradually). Reader Greg Wereszko let us know that we could potentially get significant gains by breaking the scene up more granularly using more tiles, keeping processor cores active as the test winds down. A 10x10 setting does, in fact, yield measurable improvements, though utilization never hits 100%, even at the start of the test when all cores should be active.

Vue is used to create, animate, and render 3D environments. Our custom scene fully taxes even the 32-thread dual Xeon E5 configuration.

As a result, performance improves significantly as you move from the 12-thread Core i7, to the 16-thread Xeon 5500s, to the 24-thread 5600s, and finally the new Xeons.

Because this workload takes a while, and yields a consistent 100% utilization, we’re using Vue 8 for our power analysis, too.

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Top Comments
  • 19 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 4:54 PM
    dalethepcmanNo gaming benchmarks? I know this is a high workstation / mid server build, but you know some of the boutiques will make a gaming rig out of any platform. Just out of curiosity, I would have liked to see 2x7970 or 2x580 and a few gaming benchmarks thrown in.

    I'd be really surprised to see these in gaming machines, even in the high end boutiques. That's a $2k processor they reviewed, and basically all it offers over the $1k SB-E chip (for gamers) is an extra pair of cores, which games can't make use of.
  • 18 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 5:24 PM
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Anandtech benched those next to the new Xeons. Went about as well as Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5553/the-xeon-e52600-dual-sandybridge-for-servers/6
  • 14 Hide
    cangelini , March 6, 2012 5:25 PM
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Mentioned on the test page--I've invited them to send hardware and they haven't moved on it yet.
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    CaedenV , March 6, 2012 4:36 PM
    My brain cannot comprehend what CS5 would look like with this combined with a 1TB R4 drive, and the GTX680 version of the Quatro would look like... and I am sure my wallet cannot!

    Great article! I was not expecting my mind to be blown away today, and it was :) 
  • 19 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 4:54 PM
    dalethepcmanNo gaming benchmarks? I know this is a high workstation / mid server build, but you know some of the boutiques will make a gaming rig out of any platform. Just out of curiosity, I would have liked to see 2x7970 or 2x580 and a few gaming benchmarks thrown in.

    I'd be really surprised to see these in gaming machines, even in the high end boutiques. That's a $2k processor they reviewed, and basically all it offers over the $1k SB-E chip (for gamers) is an extra pair of cores, which games can't make use of.
  • 9 Hide
    nforce4max , March 6, 2012 5:07 PM
    I must say DROOL :o 

  • 14 Hide
    esrever , March 6, 2012 5:19 PM
    why aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.
  • 0 Hide
    reclusiveorc , March 6, 2012 5:19 PM
    I wonder how fast TempEncode would chew thru transcoding avi/wmv files to mp3/mp4
  • 18 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 5:24 PM
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Anandtech benched those next to the new Xeons. Went about as well as Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5553/the-xeon-e52600-dual-sandybridge-for-servers/6
  • 14 Hide
    cangelini , March 6, 2012 5:25 PM
    esreverwhy aren't AMD cpus tested too? I wouldn't mind seeing how 2x interlagos stacks up.

    Mentioned on the test page--I've invited them to send hardware and they haven't moved on it yet.
  • 10 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 5:32 PM
    cangeliniMentioned on the test page--I've invited them to send hardware and they haven't moved on it yet.

    I would guess that's because Interlagos is garbage compared to the new Xeons and they know it. I don't think they're terribly eager for the front page of Tom's Hardware to show the low end Xeon's beating the best Interlagos has to offer.
  • 9 Hide
    cangelini , March 6, 2012 5:47 PM
    willardI would guess that's because Interlagos is garbage compared to the new Xeons and they know it. I don't think they're terribly eager for the front page of Tom's Hardware to show the low end Xeon's beating the best Interlagos has to offer.

    Not really my place to speculate--only to point out that I similarly wanted to see AMD hardware included and explain why it isn't there :) 
  • 5 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 5:48 PM
    jtt283What, or who, was the target? Are there military applications for this weapon?Sorry, vote me down all you like, but the title was just silly.

    No, the title is a fairly common phrase in American English.

    "Now that I've got X, I can really do some damage" would probably be the way I hear it used most often.
  • 6 Hide
    willard , March 6, 2012 5:49 PM
    cangeliniNot really my place to speculate--only to point out that I similarly wanted to see AMD hardware included and explain why it isn't there

    Yeah, I understand that you're in a sensitive position. But being a lowly commenter, I'm free to speculate all I want!

    Muahahahaha!
  • 6 Hide
    cangelini , March 6, 2012 5:52 PM
    willardYeah, I understand that you're in a sensitive position. But being a lowly commenter, I'm free to speculate all I want!Muahahahaha!

    Precisely ;-)
  • 1 Hide
    wiyosaya , March 6, 2012 6:08 PM
    Interesting results.

    In my opinion, the SolidWorks test is also one of those not representative of typical SolidWorks tasks. PhotoView only renders realistic images of a SolidWorks model. Personally, I think the Specviewperf SolidWorks test would be significantly more representative of average SolidWorks use.

    Although I really hate to draw this comparison, PhotoView is more like using Power Point to organize a display of images created in Photoshop. In this comparison, most of the grunt work is done by Photoshop rather than Power Point, as is most of the grunt work done in SolidWorks then rendered in PhotoView. Performance differences revealed by the Specviewperf test are more informative, IMHO. See these.
  • 0 Hide
    juan83 , March 6, 2012 6:08 PM
    great review.. i wonder myself how long we 'll have to wait to see 8 cores and 16 threads on desktop segment as a default pc.. (or less than 400 dolars)

    we have to wait to long for that..
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 6, 2012 6:37 PM
    I would love one of those with a pair of FireGL cards and a mix of SCSI and SSD drives. I'm sure a dual core version of all of that will run me close to $8K though. Consider though how much Sun SPARC stations and SGI Workstations costed a decade or so ago? Workstations that were not nearly as capable went 20-25k. A dual core E5-2687 with FireGL cards and SSD drives is the fastest workstation you could put together on any platform and you can do it for far less than the 25k from years ago. Absolutely crazy to think about it in those terms.
  • 3 Hide
    EXT64 , March 6, 2012 6:52 PM
    I think you need to run some folding at home on that. I can't imagine what it would get in PPD, considering how well the old Intel 6 cores (Gulftown) do.
  • 1 Hide
    jaquith , March 6, 2012 7:11 PM
    Great article and thanks! 16-cores/32-threads is nice! :) 

    Reading this however, all I can do is think how PO'ed I am at Intel not enabling the 7th & 8th cores on the SB-E i7-3960X and i7-3930K.
  • 5 Hide
    cangelini , March 6, 2012 7:14 PM
    jaquithGreat article and thanks! 16-cores/32-threads is nice! Reading this however, all I can do is think how PO'ed I am at Intel not enabling the 7th & 8th cores on the SB-E i7-3960X and i7-3930K.

    I'm going to drop these into X79 and compare the numbers to see how power is affected. Maybe get a little overclocking out of them, just to check ;-)
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