Multitasking: Gaming while transcoding video
A number of readers over the years have suggested that some sort of real-time multitasking test would be a nice benchmark for multi-core CPUs. That goal has proven to be rather elusive, but we think our new game testing methods may allow us to pull it off. What we did is play some Skyrim, with a 60-second tour around Whiterun, using the same settings in our earlier gaming test. In the background, we had Windows Live Movie Maker transcoding a video from MPEG2 to H.264, just like in our stand-alone video encoding test. Here's a look at the quality of our Skyrim experience while encoding.
Overall, these processors handle the dual workloads quite well. As with x264, encoding in Windows Live Movie Maker appears to be a two-pass deal, with the number of threads rising later in the process. We kicked off a new encoding job before starting each test run, so we never got to the later, more heavily threaded encoding workload during our Skyrim runs. With the exception of the A8-3850, all of these processors support at least six simultaneous threads, so they didn't seem to be too burdened by what we were asking them to do.
We're curious to add some lower-end chips to the mix, including the Hyper-Threading-deficient quad-core Core i5 parts that look to be good deals, like the 2500K and its Ivy-based analog, the 3570K. We're interested to see if the lack of Hyper-Threading hinders multitasking smoothness. Among the processors we've tested, we can't help but notice that the Core i7-3960X, with six cores and 12 threads, fares best. Still, the quad-core 3770K isn't far off its pace.