Intel Xeon 5600-Series: Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?

Benchmark Results: CS4 And Introducing Adobe’s CS5 Suite

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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  • one-shot
    Or 24 Logical cores, not really Processors.
  • Zerk
    24 threads, 12 cores.

    A+ Excellent Review.
  • enzo matrix
    one-shotOr 24 Logical CPUs, not really Processors.

    Misleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.
  • Tamz_msc
    I was expecting an even better performance from these CPUs.The performance is still limited by the software you use.
  • shin0bi272
    Enzo MatrixMisleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.

    they could have gone 4x 6 core cpus without HT too.
  • cangelini
    Enzo MatrixMisleading title. I was excited because I assumed intel had finally come out with 12-core server CPUs.


    The Xeon 5600-series tops out with 6 cores and 12 threads, yielding 24 logical processors between two sockets. =)
  • wh3resmycar
    Quote:
    So many cpu's in task manager...do all but 1 go unused running a single threaded app? shame intel had to go this route with more cores instead of making single core with hyper-threading work faster. you should really only need 2 logical cpu's and hyper threading accomplishes it with 1.


    i have a feeling you dont understand what the word "workstation" means.
  • Hyper threading was kind of cool back in the P4 days, but now I don't see the point. Virtually nothing that >people actually use< has any benefit to see from it.. It just makes for cool screenshots imo..

    I guess what this review says is that, if you want performance for stuff you do at home you should pretty much just get a Nehalem i7 6c with some fast ram. The xeons seems to be behind on everything multimedia, much as expected.
  • Otus
    cangeliniThe Xeon 5600-series tops out with 6 cores and 12 threads, yielding 24 logical processors between two sockets. =)

    You should have written "logical processors" or "logical cores" and no one would have argued.
    mheagerNot true. Hyper threading makes it so if one app gets stuck in an endless loop it doesn't suck up all the cpu and freeze the computer.

    The OS can do that even on a single core with no HT. Not to mention the case with many physical cores which non-HT CPUs have nowadays.
  • kokin
    mheagerNot true. Hyper threading makes it so if one app gets stuck in an endless loop it doesn't suck up all the cpu and freeze the computer.

    But why should it get stuck in an endless loop with all that computing power?
  • mindbreaker
    Since when do the chip makers get to choose not to have their chips tested? Is this a news magazine or isn't it? Test those G34 socket AMD Opterons!

    And guys; chess is still one of the best applications to see the potential of a chip with all threads pegged. Crafty has a benchmark if the Fritz one is not using all the threads. Or you can do things more hands on; just see how much time it requires to get StockFish 1.8 to reach depth 30 in the start position. It is free and the #2 engine in the world.
  • jeffunit
    Nice picture of a memory module. Unfortunately, it isn't a picture of the kingston KVR1333D3E9SK3/3G which has ECC, and hence 9 memory chips per side.
  • cangelini
    jeffunitNice picture of a memory module. Unfortunately, it isn't a picture of the kingston KVR1333D3E9SK3/3G which has ECC, and hence 9 memory chips per side.


    Blargh. That's what I get for relying on Kingston's stock photography. Photo of one of my actual modules is in there now.
  • cangelini
    mindbreakerSince when do the chip makers get to choose not to have their chips tested? Is this a news magazine or isn't it? Test those G34 socket AMD Opterons! And guys; chess is still one of the best applications to see the potential of a chip with all threads pegged. Crafty has a benchmark if the Fritz one is not using all the threads. Or you can do things more hands on; just see how much time it requires to get StockFish 1.8 to reach depth 30 in the start position. It is free and the #2 engine in the world.


    Hoping to get AMD in on the next round, for sure!
  • Reynod
    Enjoyed reading this ... thanks Chris.
  • amdfangirl
    It's interesting to see it unable to beat the i7-980X at times.

    Just shows not everything is ready for operation more cores.
  • Marco925
    Quote:
    Can Your PC Use 24 Processors?


    I'm still on dual core... :( so no.
  • wotan31
    I'll bet Windows won't work with this many processors. The crap OS will probably BSOD. Even it boots, Windows is a virtual retard when it comes to thread management - it scales VERY poorly once you go above 4 cpu's. Linux or OSX on the other hand, would definitely benefit from such technology, since both of those have advanced thread management.
  • wotan31
    Tamz_mscI was expecting an even better performance from these CPUs.The performance is still limited by the software you use.

    Correct... if the software you use is Windows. Use a real OS that's based on UNIX and can actually scale properly when you give it serious hardware. Windows is a tinker toy in comparison.
  • scook9
    Pretty epic review :)
  • noob2222
    good review, but one thing that doesn't make sense ... AES ... wouldn't that be more used on a workstation? and they leave it off of the cpu.
  • jay_l_a
    "Gotta love the viscous circle, right?'

    I think you mean Vicious Circle, unless you're talking about walking around in treacle?
  • geok1ng
    AT already compared 12 tread Xeons agains 12 cores Opterons:

    "The bottom line is: is this twelve-core Opteron a good deal? For users waiting to use it in a workstation we have our doubts. You’ll benefit from the extra cores when rendering complex scenes, but in all other scenarios (quick simple rendering, modeling) the higher clocked and higher IPC Xeon X5600 series is simply the better choice.

    Applications based on transactional databases (OLTP and ERP) are also better off with new Xeon. The SAP and our own Oracle Calling Circle benchmark all point in the same direction. Intel has a tangible performance advantage in both benchmarks.

    Data mining applications clearly benefit from having “real” instead of “logical” cores. For datamining, we believe the 12-core Opteron is the clear winner. It offers 20% better performance at 20% lower prices, a good deal if you ask us. Intel’s relatively high prices for its six-core are challenged. The increased competition turns this into a buyers market again.

    And then there is the most important segment: the virtualization market. We estimate that the new Opteron 6174 is about 20% slower than the Xeon 5670 in virtualized servers with very high VM counts. The difference is a lot smaller in the opposite scenario: a virtualized server with a few very heavy VMs. Here the choice is less clear. At this point, we believe both server CPUs consume about the same power, so that does not help either to make up our minds. It will depend on how the OEMs price their servers. The Opteron 6100 series offers up to 24 DIMMs slots, the Xeon is “limited” to 18. In many cases this allows the server buyer to achieve higher amount of memory with lower costs. You can go for 96 GB of memory with affordable 4 GB DIMMs, while the Intel server is limited to 72 GB there. That is a small bonus for the AMD server."

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/2978/amd-s-12-core-magny-cours-opteron-6174-vs-intel-s-6-core-xeon/15

    The funny part is that on the PC market the choice is clearly the 6 cores Phenon for $325, on the server segment the 12 core Opteron is very competite, but on the workstation market things are not so clear, and cost, power envelop and performance must be taken into fine consideration before purchasing.

    This article is not biased towards Intel: it only points convenintly towards one the few market segment that Intel has a product worth mentioning ( the other being extrem low power no compromise taken PC with the i3...
  • jowunger
    Finally, I can buy my SuperComputer at an IT store!