CPU Benchmarks: Dual-Core Athlon 4800+ vs. Single-Core Sempron 3200+
We know these HTPCs can do the job with the faster dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+ at 2,400 MHz, but will a single-core Sempron 3200+ at 1,800 MHz be able to provide playback?
The short answer seems to be no. This CPU utilization chart looks empty, but the results are there. You can’t see them because they are solid lines at the 100% mark.
What the chart doesn’t show is that the Radeon 3200 demonstrated skipped frames, but the frames per second was MUCH faster and more consistent than the GeForce 8200 could muster. It gives us a little hope, and maybe playback will be possible with some of the less demanding codecs.
Aha! The CPU usage is high on the Radeon 3200, but it’s not at 100%, and playback appears smooth. The GeForce 8200 CPU utilization remains at 100%, however, and playback is a slide show. Let’s see if the VC1 title shows similar results:
It does! Once again, the lowly Sempron 3200+ paired with the Radeon 3200 provides viewable 1080p playback, while the GeForce 8200 is stuttering heavily.
While H264 playback was a no-go on the Sempron 3200+, we did a quick overclocking test and at 2.3 GHz, the single-core Sempron was able to play back all of the Blu-ray disks in our test suite—including the H.264 title—stutter free on the 780G chipset. On a side note, overclocking the Sempron on the GeForce motherboard didn’t provide stutter-free performance.
We’d consider it likely that a cheap Sempron LE-1300 CPU at 2.3 GHz would be able to play back all Blu-ray titles at 1080p resolution with the 780G. However, we don’t think we’d recommend it, and here’s why: on Newegg, the single-core Sempron LE is $40, but the dual-core Athlon X2 BE-2400 is a mere $10 more and will provide smoother performance all-around. For $60, a home theater enthusiast can get an Athlon X2 5200+ at 2.7 GHz that will provide even better performance.
In our opinion, this is one case where it’s worth the $20 for the extra margin of comfort. Of course, if you plan to construct your HTPC and you want a low-power CPU for low heat output, the Athlon X2 4450e at 2.3 GHz is probably a good choice at $60 as it’s rated to use only 45 watts. The point is, this is one area where we don’t think it makes sense to skimp on processing power.