Who Says You Need Four Cores?

Test Setup

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Processors AMD Athlon X2 4850e @ 2.5 GHz
AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition @ 2.5 GHz
Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 @ 2.53 GHz
Motherboards Gigabyte MA74GM-S2 740G
Intel DG45ID G45
Graphics Integrated Radeon 2100-series
Integrated GMA X4500 HD
Memory 4 GB (2 x 2 GB ) Corsair Dominator DDR2-1066 5-5-5
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1 TB SATA
Power Supply PC Power and Cooling Turbo-Cool 510 ATX
Swipe to scroll horizontally
Adobe Photoshop CS3 Applying six filters on a 96MB TIFF file
WinZIP Eight files, 139 MB
iTunes Audio CD Terminator 2, convert to AAC
PowerDVD 8 Ultra Blu-ray playback, 100 seconds of Casino Royale
TMPG Express 4 Five minutes Terminator 2, encoded with XviD and DivX
Half Life 2 : Episode 2 Timedemo, low settings, 1024x768
World in Conflict In-game benchmark, low detail, 1024x768
3DMark Vantage Entry mode
PCMark Vantage Default run
SiSoft Sandra CPU, multimedia, and memory bandwidth benchmarks

A few notes about our three configurations here.

The AMD-based setups are both driven by Gigabyte’s 740G-based MA74GM-S2. The board supports AHCI, but we are running it in legacy IDE mode as a result of the horrible process involved in getting it to work. Moreover, because the740G southbridge doesn’t support HyperTransport 3.0, the Phenom X4 9850’s HT link is throttled back to 1 GHz. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the integrated Radeon 2100 graphics core does not support DirectX 10, nor does it help accelerate Blu-ray media playback.

Intel’s G45 does feature hardware decode acceleration of Blu-ray, but you need the latest version of either WinDVD or PowerDVD in order to take advantage of the chipset’s video functionality, else the hardware won’t be put to use. We went with the latest build of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD, which successfully recognized the chipset’s acceleration capabilities.

The same version of PowerDVD also identified the 740G’s Avivo engine and turned it on. However, when Blu-ray content is being played back, the acceleration is non-functional since 740G cannot do H.264.

Another interesting point was that the 740G/Athlon X2 4850e combination seemed to do a lot of memory frequency throttling. With Cool’n’Quiet enabled, the processor would slow to 1 GHz, while the memory bus would drop to 200 MHz (DDR2-400). At full speed, the core would accelerate to 2.5 GHz and the memory would top out at about 350 MHz (DDR2-700ish), never quite getting up to 400 MHz. We thought that maybe a bug in CPU-z was the problem, but our memory bandwidth numbers definitely indicate a memory bandwidth issue.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • Well. It seem like virtualisation was left out as consider multi-core is critical for running virtualise application.
  • apache_lives
    waste of time to read, its been known for years that you dont compare clock speeds (in this case, 2.53ghz) - you compare price points! Wheres an Intel Quad? or a lower end Intel like a E4600 etc? and after all that BS, why the cheap AMD board thats "$10 - $15 less" against that expensive ass intel board? pffftttt
  • The_Trutherizer
    I completely don't get the point of the phenom 9850 in this review. Isn't this supposed to be a comparison of budget, workstation systems with dual core CPUs? Why put it in there? If you put a current Intel quad core in for consideration then it's power consumption would be high as well.

    What exactly are you trying to prove here? In any case. Any idiot knows that currently Intel's Dual core is the ideal processor. Currently of course.

    And what the hell were you thinking with the motherboard? A 740G? You even state in your conclusion that the 780G is a more fair comparison to the G45? Of course it is! Why did you even review the 740G then?

    I mean what a conflicting hodge podge of an article!
  • genored
    If you haven't bought a new computer in 6 years don't do a review about your epic fail of picking computer parts. I mean your just embarrassing....
  • rtfm
    If you give a million monkeys a typwriter, one of them will write a T.H article... Seriously, most of the readers of this site are well informed, this king of waffle is no good
  • curryj02
    so quad isn't worth it now... what about in six years. just as Hyper Threading has kept his P4 going so long, going quad will have the same effect. Quad doesn't scale now, but in six years? dual core will seem like single core is now - quad core = new dual core. Just my two cents
  • addiktion
    I currently run a Q6600 (3GZ OC) and it has done wonders for me. Take it I do a lot of Adobe Photoshop, gaming, coding, and generally have about 20-30+ windows open at one time which I would consider my "business" & "entertainment" use.

    If you add virtualization into the mix the quad core definitely has saved me. I don't experience any hiccups and now that I've migrated to 64 bit I've noticed a subtle gain in overall computing too.

    I think the highest I've hit on all my cores with extensive testing is 60-70%. This was running a few browser windows + 4 scanning programs at the same time and I did get some slow down due to my hard drive read/write speeds maxing out but nothing from the CPU. Which to me leaves plenty of room for what I actually do.

    Eventually when more software actually catches up to using 4 cores it'll be better utilized I suppose but for the most part I'm happy with it and I think you'll be happy with a dual or quad core.
  • fepple
    Running HL2:EP2 as a benchmark is pretty silly when its only single threaded

    "shocking news! new super car max speed only 30mph in residential areas"
  • monsta
    What a bunch of whiney old ladies you are! LOL
  • jitpublisher
    Nothing surprising, interesting, or useful about this. Am I missing something, was the article incomplete and posted early? Just don't get it.