Articles: CPU

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Performance in Applications

Overall, the general purpose and gaming performance of the versatile Bulldozer modifications differing by the number of computational cores proved to be below the desired level set by Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors from the same price range. However, let’s not give up and try to fine situations when the new AMD microarchitecture can really shine.

To test the processors performance during data archiving we resort to WinRAR archiving utility. Using maximum compression rate we archive a folder with multiple files with 1.4 GB total size.

The memory sub-system speed is has serious effect on performance in applications processing large amounts of data, like the archiving tools, for example. FX processors from AMD support DDR3-1866 that is why they managed to get far ahead of their predecessors in WinRAR. However, even the eight-core FX-8150 and FX-8120 can’t catch up with Core i5. Nevertheless, the six- and quad-core Bulldozer processors do pretty well and are faster than the dual-core Sandy Bridge based Core i3 and Pentium CPUs.

We use Apple iTunes utility to test audio transcoding speed. It transcodes the contents of a CD disk into AAC format. Note that the typical peculiarity of this utility is its ability to utilize only a pair of processor cores.

A simple operation like audio transcoding in iTunes is a serious problem for processors with Bulldozer microarchitecture. Irrespective of their price, all of them are completely defeated by Intel competitors as well as Phenom II CPUs.

We measured the performance in Adobe Photoshop using our own benchmark made from Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test that has been creatively modified. It includes typical editing of four 10-megapixel images from a digital photo camera.

AMD FX processors do better than Phenom II in Photoshop. However, they are still unable to fully withstand Sandy Bridge’s competition. Eight-core desktop Bulldozer CPUs work as fast as Core i3, and the six- and quad-core FX-6100 and FX-4100 are about the same as the low-end dual-core Pentium.

Now that the eighth version of the popular scientific Mathematica suite I available, we decided to bring it back as one of our regular benchmarks. We use MathematicaMark8 integrated into this suite to test the systems performance:

There is nothing optimistic for the new AMD CPUs in the diagram. Mathematica 8 is another example of an application in which new FX processors lose to their predecessors. Of course, competing against Sandy Bridge is completely out of the question.

The performance in Adobe Premiere Pro is determined by the time it takes to render a Blu-ray project with a HDV 1080p25 video into H.264 format and apply different special effects to it.

Moving on to the benchmarks dealing with HD video content processing, we expected to finally see decent performance of the new AMD processors. This was pretty much the case. Premiere pro splits the load in parallel threads perfectly and AMD’s multi-core approach finally pays off. FX-8150 runs neck and neck with Core i5-2500, and the junior FX-6100 and FX-4100 compete successfully against Core i3 products. The only disappointment is the FX-8120: its very low clock frequency makes it fall behind even the youngest Core i5 model, while its price is at a higher level.

In order to measure how fast our testing participants can transcode a video into H.264 format we used x264 HD Benchmark 4.0. It works with an original MPEG-2 video recorded in 720p resolution with 4 Mbps bitrate. I have to say that the results of this test are of great practical value, because the x264 codec is also part of numerous popular transcoding utilities, such as HandBrake, MeGUI, VirtualDub, etc.

Transcoding using x264 codec seems to be the ideal application for processors on AMD Bulldozer microarchitecture. Here the eight-core FX-8150 and FX-8120 work significantly faster than Core i5 processors, while FX-6100 and FX-4100 with fewer cores fit perfectly in the gap between Core i5 and Core i3. In other words, the performance of the FX CPUs turns out even better than we have expected, considering their price.

We will test computational performance and rendering speeds in Autodesk 3ds max 2011 using the special SPECapc for 3ds max 2011 benchmark:

3D modeling and rendering, just like HD video processing, are also among the tasks that favor multi-core processors. Nevertheless, the results of the AMD FX processors in 3ds max 2011 are far from optimistic. Eight-core FX CPUs run as fast as Phenom II X6, and their six- and quad-core brothers are not any faster than Phenom II X4. As a result, only the top FX-8150 manages to catch up with contemporary Core i5, while FX-8120 and FX-6100 get defeated by Intel’s quad-core processors. Half of the Bulldozer processor, FX-4100, falls behind Core i3. Overall, it correlates with AMD’s current pricing, but since in many other applications the situation is much worse, we would love to see desktop Bulldozers do better than that here.

Another benchmark measuring the final rendering speed in 3D modeling suites was run in Blender 2.6.

It turned out that 3ds max 2011 was in fact a Bulldozer-friendly application. Things may get much worse if we use other suites for our 3D modeling needs. And even though Blender, just like 3ds max 2011, is quite good at splitting the load into multiple threads, FX-8150 loses to quad-core Core i5, and FX-8120 and FX-6100 yield to the dual-core Core i3.

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