24 August 2005

The Web

Next generation CPUs

Whenever the time arrives to buy a new computer, the first and most fundamental question that comes to mind is: what will I buy? Will I buy an AMD or an Intel system? Which is the best?
Both are good, both are powerful, and both can keep up the fight between them with relative ease. There is no clear winner. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages in different and contrasting case scenarios. AMD were considered faster and cheaper than Intel, but with a tendency to overheat and blow, while Intel was considered reliable, expensive with adequate performance.
Popular views held that Intel was the superior, thanks mainly to an effective Intel Marketing Campaign that has been in operation for nearly a decade. In fact, there is currently a controversial law suite filed by AMD against Intel since Intel has warned its suppliers that any company that sells AMD products will have its Intel supplies curtailed. AMD states that this goes against all ethical, moral obligations as well as effectively choking competitive marketing.
For years, this mentality and perspective was framed in people’s minds.
But what about this new era of hyper-threading and dual-cores? The age of the super CPUs.

Hyper threading technology
Hyper-threading Technology (HT Technology) is in simpler terms the capability of CPUs (the central processing unit) to run a program in parallel mode. This means that when using hyper-thread, each processor results in increased utilization of the processor’s resources, therefore yielding higher processing output. This practically means that together with the physical CPU, there is another virtual CPU practically bringing into play double the potential power.
INTEL chipsets have proved to be masters of this sphere, and their HT chipsets are second to none. In fact, AMD chipsets have NO Hyper-threading capabilities, being solely customized for single thread performance. So in this area, yes, we can actually say that technically, HT CPUs are singularly faster than AMD chipsets.

Dual-core technology
Dual Core technology is the next logical step in CPU design. Conceptually being very similar to hyper-threading, dual core is essentially the processing of fusing the power of two CPUs into one die.
A dual core processor is exactly what it sounds like. It is in effect two processor cores on one die essentially like having a dual processor system in one processor. Both AMD and Intel have Dual Processor capabilities.
It is also necessary to mention that with the Intel system utilizing dual core, virtual processing (HyperThreading) is also activated so that a total of four CPUs are available (1 x Dual Core (meaning “two” CPUs), with each CPU having a virtual HT CPU). AMD does not have this feature and is based on two physical units. Despite the clock rate of the Athlon 64 X2 4800+ with 2.4 GHz, which is lower than the Intel Pentium 840 EE with 3.2 GHz, the AMD system is able to hold its own.

Testing the two systems
First of all, for this test, an NVIDIA SLI (dual Videocard) main board was used. However, midway through the test, the Intel showed an incompatibility by crashing continually, seemingly having a problem with SLI configurations. Using a Socket 775 main board using an Intel based chipset solved this problem, but this meant that we could not use a dual Videocard system-build. When combined with an Intel based motherboard, system worked efficiently.
When multiple applications (programs) were being run, Intel proved to be vastly superior in speed due to the Hyper-threading capabilities of the CPU. HT capabilities allows faster multi-processing, meaning that the “Dual CPU” allows the system to break down the various applications and split the loads.
However, when benchmarked with a single application, the AMD proved to be vastly faster, specially due to the fact that since AMD has no HT capabilities, the CPU core has been specially designed for single thread functions. Running on single applications, the

Athlon 64 X2 4800+ has up to 30% better performance.
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.
Stability is an important topic for professional-level situations, and there were some surprises in this respect: with the Intel system, three motherboards with the nForce SLI chipset turned out to be problematic. There were several crashes, and in one case the voltage regulator even burned out.
The only thing that could help stabilize the system was to combine the Intel CPU with the Intel chipset, which then of course rules out a SLI graphics configuration. However, in exchange, the user does gain the benefit of stability – this Intel system ran long-term without a problem. The AMD system ran smoothly from the start, which leads to the conclusion that the nForce SLI basis is stable with the AMD platform. The only downside was that after long periods of operation, the AMD machine wouldn't shut down via software.
In the end, we can conclude that the Intel Pentium 840 EE should be used with a motherboard that has the Intel 955X chipset. We do not recommend its use with a board with NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI chipset.
With the AMD platform you've only got one option, which fortunately is stable: to combine the AMD platform with a motherboard based on NVIDIA's nForce4 SLI chipset. The results of the stress test show that the nForce4 SLI chipset for the AMD platform has matured.
At the end of the day, when buying a new system, first take into consideration what role will this new system be configured to use. Will it be used for simple home applications, gaming systems, video editing, or for business use, and primarily as a server role?
So, what to buy when you need a top system for a nice sum? For business use, the Intel system should be the better choice, especially in view of its availability as well as the already existing service from Intel partners and system vendors. However, the Intel system is also an energy gobbler - it consumes up to 30% more power compared to the AMD system. Specially designed Intel based server obviously utilize Intel components, and it is obvious that a server-class computer runs multiple processes and applications simultaneously, a CPU designed for multiple programs will obviously run faster as well as superiorly.
For enthusiasts, the decision should be easy: for individual performance-hungry applications, the Athlon 64 X2 system offers the best performance and is the model of stability as well. The latter was not true for the Intel system. Only motherboards with the Intel chipset ran smoothly without a problem - those based on the nForce4 SLI chipset caused some difficulties. Therefore, this means that gaming systems utilizing two Videocards (for example a dual Geforce 6600 GTi), will not function with the system. Also, since gaming systems only run one single application (ie the game), an AMD system will prove to be vastly superior, increasing the FPS (frames per second), giving you superior advantages against opponents utilizing lesser finely-tuned systems.
Following is a result of several of the tests run on the systems running single applications (common in home users)
• Data compression with WinRAR: AMD system has 29.5% better performance;
• MP3 encoding of the CD: AMD system has 4.7% better performance;
• DivX encoding of the DVD: AMD system has 28.2% better performance;
• 3D game Farcry benchmarking: AMD system has 21.4% better performance.
As clearly demonstrated, the AMD has proven to have faster processing power when running on single mode.
For further results and even more information, please do not hesitate to contact us on: Electronic Solutions Technical Department, St Rocco Street, Zebbug. ZBG03

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