In the recent past, we have heard a lot about the upcoming next-gen processors. The hottest happening in the arena of next-gen processors is the move towards 45nm technology. There are even talks that probably the Quad cores will become a potential force in the desktop market in the near future (to get a better idea about these discussions, read the story “Breaking the Barrier of Cores”, Page 30, PCQ Jan).
In this article, we will take all these discussions further, and tell you about the two latest Quad Core desktop processors-Phenom and Penryn from AMD and Intel respectively. While AMD's Phenom is based on the 60 nm technology, Intel's Penryn is based on 45 nm.
We tested and grilled both processors with a whole slew of benchmarks, and
witnessed the best performance that we have ever received from any desktop
processor till date. But, before revealing the details and verdicts of our
tests, let us briefly take you through the new things that these processors have
Phenom actually hit the markets a little later than its scheduled time, but considering the performance the wait was actually worth it. Phenom has the current K10 architecture, in which the cores communicate on die rather than on the package for better performance. It enables simultaneous 32-bit and 64-bit computing, and comes with a DDR2 memory controller. This implies much better memory bandwidth and performance for the end user. Other than the L2 cache, it also comes with L3 cache which is shared by the 4 cores, which reduces the total time taken for accessing data, and hence improves the overall response time and performance. Other than being a Quad Core processor, Phenom also features the new FX790 chipset, which supports Hyper Transport 3.0 technology and PCI-E 2.0. The PCI-E enhances the graphics bandwidth to provide improved graphics performance.
|Intel's Penryn performed better in our graphic intensive tests compared to AMD's Phenom|
Intel Penryn (QX 9650)
This is the first Quad core processor that Intel launched for desktops and is based on 45nm technology. It basically has two dual-core CPUs paired on a single silicon package, with shared bus interface running at 1333 MHz. Each die has up to 6 MB of L2 cache, which results in greater performance.
Penryn comes with an additional instruction set SSE4, which will improve the performance of multimedia applications and technical computing. Smaller die has its own advantages, and Penryn being based on the 45nm technology gains an edge over Phenom both in performance as well as technology. The recent chipset from Intel has support for both DDR2 and DDR3. Though there aren't too many applications that could be used for stressing all four cores to their optimum levels, still the entry of Quad Core running at 3 GHz in the desktop regime argues well for any workstation class user or gaming enthusiasts.
How we Tested
We ran 10 different tests on the CPUs, and each test served some specific purpose. While for testing graphics performance, we used 3D Mark 2006, PC Mark 2005 was the synthetic application benchmark that we used. For stressing these processors to their optimum level, we ran a series of tests, which included POV Ray, Cine Bench, CPU Bench, Metabench, and SiSoft Sandra. We even played fast paced games such as Crysis and Company of Heroes for checking gaming capabilities. Finally we ended our testing with Business Winstone 2002. This test was to check how well these processors can handle business application load.
The SetupFor Phenom
Asus motherboard (M3A32-MVP Deluxe), 1 GB RAM (2x Corsair 512 MB DIMM, 800 MHz), 120 GB Seagate Baracuda HDD, Sony DVD drive, 850 MHz Cooler mate cooling solutions, ATI 2900XT, ATI 790GX Chipset, and Windows XP.
Gigabyte motherboard (GA-X38-D55), 1 GB RAM (2x Corsair 512 MB DIMM, 800 MHz), 120 GB of Baracuda HDD, Sony DVD ROM, 850 MHz Cooler mate power supply, NVIDIA 8800GTX, and Windows XP.
Test scores of both Phenom and Penryn did surprise us.
Especially the score in PCMark05 test. Never before did any processor performed so much better to achieve a score beyond 7000 PCMarks. Penryn scored 7869, while the Phenom lagged behind with a score of 6500 plus.
In CPU bench, when we checked the CPU's response while handling millions of floating point operations in one second, Phenom performed better. However, while handling integer operations. performance of Penryn was better. Phenom scored 603.44 MFlops against Penryn's 482.75 in floating point operations. But, when it comes to Integer operations, the Penryn scored over AMD's Phenom by 196 MIPS.
|The scores in PCMark tests that we ran on both Phenom and Penryn simply speak for their performance|
Penryn was also a better performer in SiSoftware Sandra Lite XII Processor Arithmetic test. Penryn again was a winner when we checked the multi-core efficiency of both processors. It scored 13.32 GB/s in Inter Core Bandwidth test, whereas Phenom just managed 3.36 GB/s.
In Core Latency tests, Penryn was a better performer. In the Metabench, by scoring a cumulative total of 4961 against Phenom's 4306, Penryn again overshadowed Phenom. Basically, the Metabench benchmark consists of 54 test modules that perform various computational intensive tasks, stress the processor, and hence check the overall performance.
When it came to scores in rendering with 1 CPU and X CPUs in Cine bench 10, Penryn gained an edge again, though it lost out in the Open GL test. We suspect that this is because AMD's 790X graphic chipset has got an edge over Intel's chipset.
In the POV Ray test, Intel's Penryn took 3.56 seconds to render 196608 pixels with an average of 55188.21 pps (pixel per second), whereas AMD's Phenom took nearly the same time, 3.89 seconds to be precise for rendering the same number of pixels with an average of 50533.78 pps, which is negligible. The application performance of both processors was close with Penryn scoring 44 BW and Phenom scoring 42 BW.
One of the prime reasons for the entry of Quad Core at the desktop is to facilitate gamers with processors capable of delivering faster and better performance. So, we decided to test both processors for gaming performance too.
In 3D Mark06 Penryn scored 12775 compared to Phenom's score of 10434. It was alarming to see their scores in Crysis; Penryn scored 51.5 fps whereas Phenom was found wanting at 39 fps. Even in 'Company Of Heroes' Penryn scored 123.5 fps at max setting, though Phenom could only manage a score of 105.2 fps.
After looking at the results, there is no denying that Penryn performed better compared to the Phenom, but then this could be attributed to their chipsets too. The fact that 8800GTX card is better than the 2900XT card is well known, and this probably could be one of the reasons for Penryn's better performance.
We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of ATI's 3000 series card next month, so that we can test the combination of AMD's Phenom with the 790X chipset on a 3000 series card. This is collectively referred to as the 'SPIDER'. It'll be interesting to see whether the SPIDER is able to crawl right on top.
For the time being, all we can conclude is that Penryn surely exhibited excellent performance in all tests and emerged as the clear winner. Though, one should not forget that Intel's processor runs at a faster clock speed than AMD's offering. Some of the CPU benchmark scores clearly indicate this and could be an important reason for Phenom's lower scores.
So while the key differentiator between processors of the past was clock speed, modern day CPUs fight it out over manufacturing process (45 or 65 nm), clock speeds, and even the number of cores. It's an interesting situation indeed, and makes the playing field much more interesting to watch. So, let's see.
Bottom Line: Penryn outperformed the awaited Phenom, and we eagerly await AMD's next chipset to see if it will be able to make any difference