Dual-Core Versus Quad-Core: Part 2

Performance: Applications

The current AVG AntiVirus version 8.0.134 has been optimized to take advantage of up to four processing cores, and the optimizations show their effect: AMD’s Phenom 9350e is faster when you want it to search files for viruses. Our set of test data, which consists of a few hundred megabytes of RAR and Zip files, took seven minutes and 25 seconds on the Core 2 Duo E8500, but only five minutes and 53 seconds on the Phenom X4 9350e.

There is no clear winner in Cinema 4D. Obviously, Intel’s dual core 3.16 GHz processor provides almost exactly the same performance as the four core 2.0 GHz AMD quad core. This is a perfect example to show that there are two ways of creating performance: via faster clock speeds or via an increased core count.

Fritz 11 is the latest version of the popular chess tool; we like this program, as it has been heavily optimized to utilize up to eight cores. As a result, AMD’s Phenom X4 9350e at 2.0 GHz is faster than the Core 2 Duo E8500 with half the core count running at 3.16 GHz. However, Intel comes pretty close to the 9350e performance, despite clock speed that is only 58% faster. Clearly, Intel’s core microarchitecture is doing a great job.

WinRAR is the utility to compress and deflate RAR archives. Both the AMD quad core and Intel’s dual core package our set of test files into a RAR archive using maximum compression in almost the same time. The AMD quad core is slightly faster, though.

We decided to add WinZIP 11 to our benchmarking suite. In contrast to WinRAR, the competing file compression tool has not received any optimizations for multi-core processors, so the dual core Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 takes about half the processing time of the Phenom X4. If you scroll up and look at how close the processing time gets in WinRAR, it becomes very obvious that software developers should no longer wait before optimizing for multi-core processors. Most people already purchase dual-core systems, and 2009 will be the year when quad cores finally hit the mainstream.

Adobe’s Photoshop CS3 is thread-optimized, but it only scales well with up to two cores—the four-core Phenom X4 9350e could do much better, if only the software allowed it. Again, Intel wins thanks to SSE4 optimizations by Adobe, and its superior architecture when it comes to performance per clock.