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Benchmark Results: CS4 And Introducing Adobe’s CS5 Suite

Intel Xeon 5600-Series: Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?
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We’ve been running benchmarks based on Adobe’s CS4 suite for a while now—most notably Photoshop CS4 in all of our processor reviews. But graphics professionals use some of the company’s other software tools for more taxing workloads, like video editing and compositing.

Knowing that we needed tests with heavier lifting, we enlisted the help of Jon Carroll, a Tom’s Hardware freelancer and graphics professional in Southern California, to design tests using Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, complementing our threaded Photoshop benchmark.

As you’ll see in the charts below, though, Jon’s CS4-based tests exposed some very interesting results moving from 12 threads to 16 and then to 24. So, I quickly adapted all of Jon’s tests to run in each respective app’s CS5 version to cross-check the results. What we came away with simply blew me away…

After Effects CS4/CS5

As Jon and I discussed the testing, an HP workstation on which he was reviewing wrapped up this After Effect CS4 benchmark in 28 minutes. It shocked me, then, when my 24-thread Xeon X5680-based system took 44 minutes to complete the same metric. I was further floored when the 16-thread Xeon W5580-based box finished faster, and even more so when the 12-thread Core i7-980X system was fastest.

I suspected an issue with memory allocation. After Effects CS4 only has access to 4 GB of system memory—a third of what these Xeon boxes bring to bear. As you add execution resources to AE’s pool, less and less memory is available to each processor, be it logical or physical. The result is a lot more swapping to solid state storage, which is fast, but nowhere near as quick as three channels of DDR3.

When we pick up After Effects CS5, which supports a native 64-bit environment, the app can get its hands on a little more than 9 GB, leaving roughly 3 GB for other applications. What took more than 44 minutes to finish in CS4 drops to a little more than one minute in CS5. Even better, positive scaling is restored—the 24- and 16-thread configurations are separated by three seconds, as are the 16- and 12-thread boxes.

Also, it’s worth noting that in CS4, we got our best results having all cores working on each frame, while in CS5, performance accelerated significantly rendering multiple frames concurrently (an option under Memory and Multiprocessing), so that’s how we benchmarked.

Premiere Pro CS4/CS5

The same challenge faced us in Premiere Pro, though the speed-up in moving from CS4 to CS5 wasn’t as pronounced, nor did we see scaling issues originally in CS4. Nevertheless, a combination of shifting to a 64-bit environment and utilizing Nvidia’s Quadro FX 3800 (taking advantage of the Mercury Playback Engine) drops a 3:40 render (in CS4) down to 19 seconds (in CS5) on the dual-socket Xeon X5680 platform. Rendering the project in Adobe Media Encoder becomes a 2:55 job, down from 7:41 on the same box.

Photoshop CS4/CS5

With a tweaked script, we’re able to use our same Photoshop CS4 workload to test CS5. We had already been using 64-bit software here, so it’s hardly a surprise to see more modest gains in shifting from the older version to Adobe’s latest.

With all of that said, we have a story in the works dedicated to testing Adobe’s newest Creative Suite, where we’ll explore the effects of 64-bit operating environments, the Mercury Playback Engine, and GPU acceleration with Nvidia’s few supported graphics cards. For now, it’s fairly safe to say that professionals with multi-socket, multi-core machines will be well-served by an upgrade to CS5.

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