Dual Core Stress Test: AMD vs. Intel

Stress Test: Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Vs. Pentium 840 EE

A couple of days ago, we brought our stress test to an end. It was the longest endurance test that our lab has ever seen; for 18 days, two systems ran under a full load, and the demands we put on them continually changed. These two fastest desktop systems from AMD and Intel faced off, armed with the components that make bleeding-edge technology possible.

The reactions from THG readers have been overwhelming: we have been getting several hundred emails per day about our stress test, which was updated live. Now that the test is over, we will summarize the important facts and shed light on questions about overall performance, stability, power consumption and costs.

Overall Performance

Before we draw our conclusions about the overall performance of the two systems, let's go over once more how the stress test progressed during the 18 days.

At first, we used two platforms from AMD and Intel, both with an SLI configuration based on NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI chipset. Later, we had to replace the motherboard in the Intel system with one based on the Intel 955X chipset, which also meant that SLI operation was no longer possible. In order to make the test fair, we also removed the SLI configuration from the AMD system. We were then able to get results from both systems after 14 days of operation with four applications running simultaneously.

When multiple applications are running, the clear conclusion is that the Intel Pentium 840 Extreme Edition is superior to the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+. This result attained by Intel's dual-core processor is particularly attributable to hyperthreading (HT) - the division of the two cores into four virtual CPU units. This was underscored by the fact that when the HT function was turned off, the tables turned and the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ surpassed its rival. Here, it is impossible to speak in terms of percentages, precisely because of the different load distributions.

We got a different picture, however, when we ran single applications on each system. Here, the AMD system performed distinctly better (by just about 30% on average) compared to the Intel system.

Thus, when making a purchasing decision, the question to ask is whether or not multiple applications will be running simultaneously. If the answer is yes, then the Intel Pentium 840 EE is your first choice. Otherwise, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ will give you much better performance for single applications.