Why I am a bad person
This is the part of the review where I explain why I benchmarked what I did, the way I did, and in such obvious violation of the Sacred Creed of Geeks Everywhere.
First, I tried to test the CPUs in such way as to show their benefits and limitations. To do so, I used the brand-spanking-new Windows XP x64 Edition operating system and a number of 64-bit applications. WinXP x64 is NUMA awarethat is, it comprehends the need to put data into the memory attached to the CPU modifying that data. By nature, Opteron systems require a NUMA-aware OS in order to perform at their best. Also, AMD says that the WinXP x64 scheduler is especially well tuned for dual-core processors.
Obviously, 64-bit applications are the future of dual-core processors. All of the CPUs that I tested, including the moldy old Opterons, newer Xeons, and brand-new dual-core processors from AMD and Intel, are 64-bit capable. I also tried to make use of multithreaded applications where possible, although some programs aren't threaded and some types of tasks simply don't lend themselves to multithreading. The end result is that nine of our 15 test applications are multithreaded, and of those nine, five are 64-bit binaries.
I understand that multitasking has been cited as one of the key areas where dual-core processors will benefit the end user, and I certainly don't disagree entirely. The full-fat, Atkins-approved creamy smoothness that comes with a multiprocessor system will be a boon in desktop systems and in low-end, single-processor workstations, and I have extolled its virtues at length in the past. However, most workstation-class systems are already multiprocessor boxes. Not only that, but we are living right now in what I'd call the Multitasking Moment, as we transition from one CPU core to two. Once dual-core processors become more common, multitasking smoothness will no longer be a big issue. The more relevant question as we move to two, four, eight, and more CPU cores per system will be about the benefits of thread-level parallelism to outright performance, and that is the question I've attempted to address in my testing.
I also have not made any attempt at server-class testing in this review. I would have loved to do it, but it would be a new enterprise for us around here, and we had our hands full in doing the testing we did. I would also like to apologize for the workstation purists for not ponying up the cash for high-end Quadro or FireGL graphics cards for our test systems. Truth be told, I would have loved to use them, but the dual Xeon rig soaked up our budget for this review. And that's without us paying through the nose for registered DDR2-400 DIMMs for that rig. I am, as I said, a bad person.
I am also probably a bad person for focusing primarily on DCC and scientific computing instead of CAD/CAM applications that are generally not multithreaded. Even worse, I threw in a few game benchmarks at the end of the review. Please, whatever you do, don't tell your boss about those.
Cool stuff to watch for in the results
There are a number of intriguing matchups in our benchmark results. Let me outline a few of them, so you know what to watch for.
Evil people who wish to observe possible desktop processor performance matchups should note that the Opteron 175 is essentially identical to the Athlon 64 X2 4400+.
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