The CPU market has changed greatly throughout this year of 2005 and Intel’s position is not as superior in every market sector as it had used to be. Yes, the microprocessor giant enjoys the global advantage over AMD as concerns the total quantity of units shipped, but AMD has pressed the rival in the retail sector since individual users react more quickly to the changing market situation. It is a fact that AMD is currently the technological leader and has been such for quite a while already. AMD was the first to propose and implement 64-bit extensions to the classic x86 architecture and in 2005 became the first x86 CPU manufacturer to start shipping dual-core processors.
We’ve always kept our eye on the competition in the desktop CPU market and our numerous test sessions have proved that dual-core CPUs from AMD are more appealing than Intel’s due to a number of reasons. And today we are going to touch upon another subject of great controversy between Intel and AMD – processors for high-performance workstations.
AMD’s share has increased greatly in this market sector, too. The high consumer qualities of the Opteron processor we’ve talked about in our earlier reviews are appreciated by the customers. On the other hand, AMD’s CPUs still account for only about 2% of the performance workstation market, despite the considerable growth of their share that has almost doubled in the past nine months. Intel’s CPUs have the biggest share, 93%, partially because of the market inertia. The remaining 5% is controlled by the suppliers of non-x86 CPUs: Sun, HP and IBM. The x86 architecture is steadily ousting the competing ones, though.
In this review we are going to put up a fight between the basic CPU models for dual-processor workstations with the most popular x86 architecture, i.e. between AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon. The competition between these CPUs may become even tougher, now that AMD and Intel have both implemented dual-core designs in them. The situation is also spiced up by the fact that Intel seems to have lost the previous round where single-core models fought. The Xeon based on the NetBurst architecture proved to be slower than the Opteron in terms of sheer performance in a majority of applications as well as economy, i.e. power consumption and heat dissipation.
The next round may bring some dramatic changes because instead of pushing up the clock rate of their processors, the manufacturers took to parallelism, endowing their products with the ability to distribute the load among several execution cores. The dual-core Intel Xeon processor, unlike the rivaling AMD Opteron, also boasts two virtual cores in each physical one thanks to the well-known Hyper-Threading technology. So while one dual-core Opteron can only work with two execution threads, the Xeon can process four such threads simultaneously. Of course, only two threads are processed with the maximum efficiency, but anyway.
Well, let’s judge Intel’s and AMD’s single- and dual-core processors for performance workstations by their results in benchmarks. The next section is about what products are going to take part in our today’s tests.