Dual Core Stress Test: AMD vs. Intel

Lessons Learned From The Dual-Core Stress Test - David Strom

Our week-plus excursion into testing two similar AMD and Intel dual-core systems took a lot of time and energy, and after many replacement parts and false starts we have learned a great deal from the experience. While the comparison isn't completely fair, since the AMD product is a production system and the Intel systems were still early samples, we still got a lot out of the exercise. If you want to review the log entries please read on. Our final results are available here .

Our thanks to all the cooperation and technical support we received from the various vendors, and thanks to you for all of your emails and comments. Here is a summary of our lessons learned.

  1. Make sure your cooler can actually cool the CPU. It sounds so simple, but the variations on coolers, particularly for those that support the various models of Intel's Pentium Extreme CPUs, can be subtle but important. We had problems with using an under-sized cooler for our Pentium 840 EE. Use the largest cooler you can for this processor. The one designed for the 840 EE has a higher 3500 RPM and larger copper core than the ones designed for slower EE models.
  2. Not all DDR2-667 CL5.0 RAM chips work the same in these early pre-release test platforms. We had to replace our OCZ modules with ones from Crucial, because the memory timings of the nForce 4 chipsets for Intel were too fast for our test motherboards.
  3. With our tests so far, it seems that hyperthreading is better than having separate CPUs at distributing and balancing the load on the overall processor(s). We aren't sure if this is due to the design of the memory that we are using, the individual CPU controllers or bus architectures, or something else that we haven't tested. We are investigating this further.
  4. In our Far Cry tests, the AMD system with a single Nvidia graphics card still beat the frame rates posted by the Intel system with dual SLI cards. These tests were conducted with running multiple applications concurrently, with the game running as the foreground task, and your mileage and frame rates may vary from ours.
  5. AMD's dual core systems are more reliable at this point in time, at least when we put the final AMD product up against the pre-release Intel products that we used. We had far more problems with the Intel setup than AMD. Whether this is the nature of the products we tested, the mistakes we made in configuration, the greater tolerance for error when assembling AMD-related support components, or our own comfort factor with AMD equipment, we can't really say. But it is something to keep in mind when you assemble your own dual-core systems.
  6. Be prepared to be at the hairy edge of reliability with Intel dual-core SLI systems for the near term. We realize that our Intel setups are pre-release, but still we had several issues with BIOS updates and other items that reduced overall system reliability. This is certainly something to watch for as the Intel systems get into general release.
  7. All was not rosy with AMD, however: our tests showed that it lagged behind Intel with respect to Divx compression. We still don't have a good answer for the cause of this difference, however. But if you do a lot of videos, stick with Intel for the time being.