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Intel Dual Core Pentium Processors
by chris

Intel has their "Pentium D" and AMD has their "Dual-core Opteron™" processor. Before dual-core, there were processors equipped with Intel's Hyper-Threading technology or AMD's Hyper-Transport technology. And so the battle continues to heat up both literally and figuratively. After all, packing two fully-functional CPU execution cores into a single package is bound to generate twice the heat of one.

If you go to the AMD or Intel web sites, you should be able to find announcements, press releases, and maybe some benchmark results comparing a dual-core processor to their single-core predecessors. If they do this right, you should see some truly impressive numbers - suggesting that while you won't get twice the performance, you might see 150-180% gain over a single core. Intel describes dual core as an evolution of their Hyper Threading (HT) technology. Hyper Threading must share some of the internal features, while the dual core has two execution cores within one processor.

But many of the benchmarks that have been promoted by system board and video card manufacturers may not test multi-threading or multi-processor systems effectively. To support dual core processors, you must have a motherboard chipset that detects and supports the dual-core processor. Intel introduced two new chipsets to support their dual-core Pentium 4 CPUs. The new 945 or 955 chipsets will detect compatible Celeron, Pentium 4 (Prescott and others), Pentium 4 with Hyper-Thread, and the new dual-core Pentium D processors. Once you have a motherboard that can support the CPUs, then you need an operating system that will detect and support multiple processors, such as Windows NT, 2000, or XP. With the combined support of the hardware and OS, your application must be doing something that creates multiple threads or you would need to be running more than one application at a time to see any benefit from either a Hyper Threading or dual-core CPU.

To do some system performance test comparisons, I assembled a very basic system with a D945I system board, 512 MB of DDR2 RAM, an IDE hard drive, floppy disk drive, optical drives, and an AGP video card. I installed Windows XP Pro and updated the system with Service Pack 2 with all current updates. I then tracked down and installed a variety of benchmark software applications that could be used to generate some comparison numbers with different processors. Some of the programs I used to collect results were 3DMark 2005, MCS Benchmark, Meta Bench, PC Mark 2004, PassMark Performance Test v5, and Whetstone.

I did not obtain identical speed CPUs, but performed each of my tests with a "classic" Pentium 4, a Pentium 4 HT (Hyper Threading) and a Pentium D (dual-core). Because the benchmark programs may or may not support dual-core or hyper-thread multiple processor support, I ran each benchmark by itself, and then again with Windows Media Player running at the same time, playing a series of MP3 files continuously from a USB flash drive. This may not be the most technical or sophisticated approach for testing, but I would expect to see differences in system performance as a result. By looking at the scores for each processor, I would expect to see better performance from a dual-core or Hyper-Thread CPU than the "Classic" P4, even without taking into account the CPU core speed and cache differences.

Benchmark P4 P4 w/mp3 Difference Average
Difference
3DMark 422 398 94% 90%
MCS Benchmark 3300 2146.8 65%
MetaBench 2700 2538 94%
PCMark04 3128 2960 95%
Performance Test 243.3 230.3 95%
Whetstone 1132663 1080059 95%
Benchmark P4HT P4HT w/mp3 Difference Average
Difference
3DMark 452 434 96% 94%
MCS Benchmark 4584.6 3912.4 85%
MetaBench 3237 3101 96%
PCMark04 4154 4001 96%
Performance Test 284.1 271 95%
Whetstone 1358004 1322970 97%
Benchmark P4D P4D w/mp3 Difference Average
Difference
3DMark 451 436 97% 98%
MCS Benchmark 4144.5 3914.1 94%
MetaBench 3066 3059 100%
PCMark04 4770 4666 98%
Performance Test 259.7 254.7 98%
Whetstone 1182383 1176990 100%

As you can see from the test numbers, most of the system benchmarks showed very little degradation from running music in the background except for the MCS Benchmark. But multi-thread had less degradation than single-core, and dual-core shows even less. As your computing demands increase with video recording, running multiple applications simultaneously, or just running a virus scan in the background, faster CPUs help, but not enough. CPUs capable of processing multiple threads simultaneously will probably experience less degradation than a single-core CPU, and multiple-core processors should be even more efficient then multi-thread CPUs. All this assumes that you keep up with the required chipsets and use an operating system that supports multiple processors.

Why should manufacturers stop with dual-core? No reason at all. I can hardly wait to test a Pentium D Extreme Edition (with Dual Core Hyper Threading - it should look like 4 processors!)

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