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Today's Best CPUs Compared... To a Pentium 4

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the wait-for-meeee dept.

Intel 354

Dr. Damage writes "How do current $74 CPUs compare to the $133 ones? To exclusive $1K Extreme Editions? Interesting questions, but what if you took a five-year-old Pentium 4 at 3.8GHz and pitted it against today's CPUs in a slew of games and other applications? The results are eye-opening." Note that this voluminous comparison is presented over 18 pages with no single-page view in sight.

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I've got your Pentium 4, right here (-1, Troll)

Fanboy Fantasies (917592) | more than 4 years ago | (#31166972)


*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/INSERT\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)_GERBIL|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_HERE_/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) If you want replies to your comments sent to you, consider logging in or creating an account.

mod parent up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167446)

all hail gnaa

P4 pride (3, Funny)

dushkin (965522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31166982)

I'm at work, where I have a P4 winXP machine.

AND I'M PROUD OF IT.

Re:P4 pride (2, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167030)

I bought 5 surplus P4 machines with 512mb ram and 40gb HDDs for my community center's library. They have *CRT* monitors. Beat that!

Re:P4 pride (3, Funny)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167076)

My gaming setup used to be two computers (pentium4 and a q9450) both hooked up to dual-input FW9012 and P260 trinitron CRTs. That was two computers both running at 3500x1200 and putting a combined weight of about 300lbs on my desk.

We almost didn't need to heat the apartment in winter.

Re:P4 pride (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167318)

How much money did they pay you? Does your library get free electricity?

P3 Pride! (4, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167380)

I still have a P3 working at home - it's a Dell Dimension XPS T450 from about 1998. It came originally with Windows 98, and over the years it has received extra RAM, new graphics, and so forth, so it now boasts 384MB RAM and an ATI Rage Pro, as well as a 20GB disk.

Actually, it's really in semi-retirement, as it's a bit slow for modern applications, but it is still on our LAN and occasionally roused from its grave^Wslumber. At one time, it had Win2000, which it could run OK, but it was a little sluggish running Office2000. Nowadays, it dual boots between Ubuntu/Gnome and PCLinuxOS/KDE, which are about as responsive as Win2000 was. It's fine for most web browsing, IRC, file viewing (graphics, PDF, PS, etc.), text editing, and suchlike. It can handle Gimp and Inkscape once the files being edited aren't too big, and can even run LaTeX well enough, but it sucks rocks trying to run OpenOffice.

Re:P3 Pride! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167552)

My 2nd PC was a P75 Packard Bell. I continuously upgraded it and it has become a P4 2.8Ghz w/3GB DDR and a 512MB AGP Radeon 3850. It plays Fallout 3 just fine, but my Core 2 laptop kicks its ass with a GeForce 9600.

Re:P3 Pride! (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167678)

My parents server is a P-III 800MHz with 768Meg RAM. It used to be my desktop 10 years ago. When I bought it it only had 128Meg RAM. It does run OpenBSD, though.... It's really overkill for what it does: load averages: 0.17, 0.16, 0.18

Re:P3 Pride! (1)

dcam (615646) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167680)

Until very recently I had a number of dell P3 ~900MHz desktops that ran quite happily. I still have one, currently running debian and acting as my fileserver. Been running for ~4 years with no issues. Shortly to be replaced with a VM running on a dedicated VM host.

Re:P3 Pride! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167792)

Had to be done, P2!: :)

roulette:~# uptime
  15:11:08 up 1219 days, 1:51, 17 users, load average: 0.00, 0.00, 0.00
roulette:~# cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 6
model : 5
model name : Pentium II (Deschutes)
stepping : 2
cpu MHz : 400.967
cache size : 512 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 2
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 mmx fxsr
bogomips : 790.52
 
roulette:~# df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda1 73G 17G 53G 24% /
tmpfs 125M 0 125M 0% /dev/shm
roulette:~#

Re:P4 pride (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167084)

Almost all our boxes at work are p4. But now I would like to move some of them into some sort of virtual infrastructure rather than upgrade them all.

Re:P4 pride (1)

ZeRu (1486391) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167140)

You have my compassion.

Re:P4 pride (1)

old_kennyp (949607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167288)

Currently typing this on a P4 3GHz machine with 1.5Gb ram. running Ubuntu. I regularly use a P3 Mobile laptop (Dell C400) with XP, recently upgraded it to 512Mb ram & 20Gb hdd. Also have a PII 266 under my desk which runs my Mail / Web server. I think it has 384Mb ram but a 200Mb Hdd. runs Debian Ken

Re:P4 pride (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167308)

AthlonXP (of the slower kind - 1700+ / 1.46 GHz) is fine too...as long as one chooses properly written software and keeps the machine clean; having few times more RAM and faster HDD than was common back then also helps greatly. I rarely see a typical, home machine which is more snappy, even though they have few times more processing power - but are almost universally held down by bloat, until quite recently by small RAM and, still, by slow HDDs in case of ever more popular laptops.

Too bad the test didn't include, say, P3 Tualatin 1.4 GHz. Even in times of P4 they were very competitive with much higher clocked Netburst processors. And now...Netburst is long forgotten, software is optimised for C2D-like architectures; which are descendants of Tualatin - I'm curious if it has become even more competitive. ;)

Re:P4 pride (1)

muckracer (1204794) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167352)

> I'm at work, where I have a P4 winXP machine.
> AND I'M PROUD OF IT.

Well, there is no need to be ashamed of the P4 part...

Re:P4 pride (1)

dushkin (965522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167438)

Our ERP program doesn't run on anything else :(

Re:P4 pride (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167486)

I just upgraded my home computer from a 3ghz p4 northwood to a 3ghz p4 prescott on a slightly-newer motherboard. I have to say, the difference is more than I expected. beforehand, I got fairly serious lag whenever a page opened, say, 5 youtube videos or other flash objects at once. now it handles that much with relative ease.

in a few years time, maybe I'll even upgrade to one of those pentium-D's I've heard so much about.

Games don't use multiple cores? (3, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31166996)

From the article:

For about the same price as the Core i3-530, the Athlon II X4 635 offers four cores that perform better in applications that rely heavily on multiple threads, such as video encoding, 3D rendering, and Folding@Home. In other uses, such as video games and image processing, these two CPUs perform almost identically. The Athlon II X4 635 leads slightly in overall performance and, as we established on the previous page, in terms of performance value. If that's all you care about when choosing a processor, then your decision has been made.

How can game engines not take advantage of multiple cores? I had no idea this was the case, and find it very surprising given that the PS3 has 7 cores to work with. Are games so lazily programmed that they don't take advantage of that either?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1, Informative)

seifried (12921) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167028)

How can game engines not take advantage of multiple cores?

Because not everyone has multiple cores so PC games have to go for some version of the lowest common denominator whereas a console game has a known platform to work with that is standardized.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (4, Informative)

dwater (72834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167214)

OpenGL Performer managed to enable applications to run on different platforms, from single CPU, single GPU, all the way up to hundreds of CPUs and upto (IIRC) 16 GPUs, without any changes.

OK, so the developers of OpenGL Performer were clever and motivated, but it certainly proves that it isn't a technical limitation and (IMO) invalidates your assertion that they "have to go for some version of the lowest common denominator".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenGL_Performer [wikipedia.org]

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167334)

Um, yes ... except Performer was developed on SGI machines which were always multi-CPU (for all of Performer's history anyway). It's got nothing to do with PC gaming.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167384)

Um, yes ... except Performer was developed on SGI machines which were always multi-CPU (for all of Performer's history anyway). It's got nothing to do with PC gaming.

Performer was early 90s, the day of the MIPS R4000 SGI machines which were single CPU (Crimson, Indigo, O2, Indy even...)

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167414)

You beat me too it...of course it was not 'always multi-cpu'.

Furthermore, it is also not true that it has nothing to do with 'PC gaming', since there's nothing to stop the same technology/techniques from being applied to 'PC gaming'.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167636)

IRIS Performer was designed for multiple CPUs because multiple CPUs were *always* available to it (and perfectly normal in the sort of machines where Performer was used).

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167688)

That's not correct. Multiple CPUs were not always available to it...even if it were 'normal' (which I would question too, since, in plain numbers, there were many more uses on the single-CPU desktops than on the multi-CPU systems).

It was designed to make use of multiple CPUs (and graphics pipes) - that's what we're talking about - but it also allowed applications to work just fine on single CPUs. Applications using it ran on any of the IRIX single CPU systems "just fine".

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167510)

Jeez, the pedants are out in force today...

Let me try again: SGI always had multi CPU machines available for running Performer, and Performer was designed to use those CPUs (it was actually designed for 3 CPUs because that was the average CPU to graphics engine ratio in their machines).

Not many image generators would have used their single CPU desktop machines (which were mostly used for coding/CAD).

PC games not using multiple CPUs is completely separate from SGI machines running Performer.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Interesting)

dwater (72834) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167726)

> Jeez, the pedants are out in force today...

Well, if you're wrong, you're wrong. Don't blame us since the bit you got wrong is pivotal to the discussion.

> Let me try again: SGI always had multi CPU machines available for running Performer

Well, I'm sure they[1] did since they made the things. Customers, on the other hand, did not. Heck, there were several games for SGI that ran on single CPU systems just fine.

> PC games not using multiple CPUs is completely separate from SGI machines running Performer

Well, again, that's irrelevant. My point is that, if SGI can do it, then "PC games" can too - ie there's no necessity to always code for the lowest common denomitor.

[1] I say 'they', when I should say 'we' - I worked there and my specialty was Onyx2 and OpenGL Performer and I used it mostly on single CPU systems since otherwise I would have to go into a lab.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167700)

"OpenGL Performer is available for IRIX, Linux, and several versions of Microsoft Windows. Both ANSI C and C++ bindings are available."

So, why can't this be used for PC gaming?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167378)

Because not everyone has multiple cores so PC games have to go for some version of the lowest common denominator

      Which is honestly quite strange, because most games I know require you have the latest uber-$500 graphics card to run properly. I would argue that there is something else involved (eye candy important, multi-core not) in the design process.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167386)

and as any pc os can handle multiple threads even on ONE core, it would not matter, as the games would still work.

and the lowest common denominator for even casual gaming systems is dualcore by now anyways.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Informative)

zaibazu (976612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167036)

The so called 7 Cores are pretty specialized sub units. With the lack of good middleware and development kits at the PS3 release, the platform is just now after years starting to get somewhat used

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Insightful)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167080)

advantages of multiple cores are not so evident when dealing with real-time physics/rendering/etc.
If all your processes must communicate with each other constantly, you lose the benefits of having each process processed by a different core.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (4, Informative)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167454)

Physics is very friendly to multithreading since most computations are done in parallel anyway. N objects interacting with each other would be simulated in a series of steps, and for each step you need to calculate the next attributes taking into account the previous ones of all the objects. Then, you would save this instance and start again. During each step, threads can more or less operate independent to each other.

A very good example of this would be NVidia PhysX.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167526)

Physics benefits massively from multiple cores - why else do you think people use compute clusters for physical simulations etc? For simple parallelisation techniques in molecular dynamics (replicated data strategies etc) the "processes" are communicating after every timestep.

Honestly, who marked this insightful?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Funny)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167102)

Are games so lazily programmed that they don't take advantage of that either?

Obviously it's not exactly easy to make programs that can run either on multiple cpu's or a single one just as well.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167194)

Actually, you just make a multi-threaded program and then set specified threads affinity to available CPUs or run them all on one if only one is available. No real difference here. Setting a thread affinity is one library call. Examining the number of cores and rudimentary thread distribution algorithm would be maybe 200 lines of code.

Obviously, it's very difficult to distribute the load *equally* between cores. You can split AI thread from, physics, data preloaders, networking, input handling, audio, CPU-side gfx, scripting engine etc. But each of them has a different load and you can only roughly estimate it beforehand, so using multiple cores optimally is quite hard. Still, using them to gain the upper hand over single-core is quite easy.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

blacke4dawn (1747492) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167350)

You don't seem to get it. The communication between the different threads can easily overshadow the gain of parallel processing in realtime interactive environments compared to just using a single "thread".

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167364)

That doesn't increase difficulty of writing a game that can run either on one or on multiple cores. It's the same difficulty as running it on multiple cores only, which is obviously higher than running it on one core only.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167642)

Rapid switching among threads on one core can thrash the L1 cache.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167452)

Yeah, you're right, it's all really about having multiple threads in your soft. All these deadlocks, stravations and races blahs are just there to frighten kiddies!

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Zironic (1112127) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167502)

Shouldn't load balancing be the operating systems job?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167114)

Graphics and game-play come first, then if there's time, optimisation. The average person won't play a game if it doesn't look pretty enough, and just about no one will play a game with abhorrent game-play. Now, there are a few developers who know their shit and can manage to put out something that plays like a dream, is pretty, and isn't resource hog. There aren't enough of them to fulfil people's gamelust so people tend to let those who can't perfect the last one off the hook provided they nail the first two.
Sometimes they have the skill to optimise but not the time; a publisher wants to rush something out the door before its ready in the vain hope of being the hit at some big-buying time in the year. ...and then there are those developers who are just plain lazy. Doing things that I, as nothing more than a bumbling script kiddy, could do more elegantly and efficiently. Developers like that should be shot, but what can you do?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167138)

Dwarf fortress?

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Funny)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167208)

Goddamnit Dwarf Fortress. It could really, really use multiple cores to handle physics. A good enemy flooding system based on a dam and an artificial lake will hog the fastest CPU.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167818)

I'd never heard of it until this thread intrigued me. OMG what kind of insanity is that? Rogue meets simcity. I'm itching to download that and play with it a bit, but I have a deadline bearing down on me that would be destroyed. That developer is the most ambitious game design genius I've seen, and I love the concentration on gameplay over graphics.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167264)

At least he's planning on using them in the future. He just has other things to get done first, to get the game into a state worthy of multiple cores.

You can try telling him to do it first, but interrupting Moods often has undesirable consequences, and Toady One is in one hell of a Mood, of one type or another.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

jamesswift (1184223) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167162)

Most games these days do in fact use all available cores.
Game developers have been talking openly for a few years now about how they use lockless data structures in multi-threaded engines.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167224)

Because game simulations are heavily linear (linear in time from frame to frame, and linear in execution in the parts of the engine that make up a frame).

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Informative)

Verunks (1000826) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167332)

How can game engines not take advantage of multiple cores? I had no idea this was the case, and find it very surprising given that the PS3 has 7 cores to work with. Are games so lazily programmed that they don't take advantage of that either?

this was the case a couple of years ago, nowadays all major games(dragon age, mass effect 2, battlefield bad company 2, etc..) uses my dual core at 100%

the frostbite engine(used in bfbc2 and bf1943) is even designed to use up to 16 threads http://repi.blogspot.com/2009/11/parallel-futures-of-game-engine.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167412)

nowadays all major games(dragon age, mass effect 2, battlefield bad company 2, etc..) uses my dual core at 100%

ORLY? 100%, you say? Presumably the games are running SETI@home or similar to eat up cycles while waiting for the GPU or the other core to finish. That's very kind of them.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167496)

No, they are using one core to submit commands/jobs to the GPU, while the GPU twiddles its thumbs. Srsly.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

GigaplexNZ (1233886) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167656)

Na, it's just running an inefficient spinlock while waiting.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

redstar427 (81679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167372)

First, they tested only a few games.
Plus, the video card is far more important with intensive 3D games.

However, some games do take advantage of multiple cores.
I ran Unreal Tournament 3 on a dual quad-core computer, and it used all 8 cores.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Lord Byron Eee PC (1579911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167382)

I don't play a lot of games, but I know for a fact that GTAIV was multi-threaded. And as to why all games aren't multi-threaded, it's because it's hard to do and it's even harder to do right. Video processing and ray-tracing are two areas where multi-threading is a natural choice, but in a game where you've got multiple input and output streams, interacting with several different pieces of hardware, and no tolerance for lags and delays, it is much more difficult.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (5, Interesting)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167390)

Speaking as a PS3 dev, the SPUs are very different to program for than a normal multi-core cpu (and you only get to use five and a half of them anyway, not 7).

On the flip side, everything based on UE3 (which is most big cpu-hungry multi-platform titles these days) is multithreaded to two or three significant threads: Game, rendering, and possibly physics (depending on physics engine used). None of them are SPU threads (though they may use the SPUs for some tasks), so PS3 performance isn't generally as good as the 360's, but in most games it's a non-issue as both platforms go over the 30 fps cap.

On PC, most UE3 games will run best on two cores, with anything above that being unnecessary.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167400)

Are games so lazily programmed that they don't take advantage of that either?

Some games now are multi-threaded.

The problem from perspective of game software is that it has to be near real-time. Synchronizing multiple threads in the time available to render a single frame (e.g. at 25fps that 40ms, or at 40fps - 25ms) is a very tricky task. It is more rewarding to invest into optimizing single-threaded engine, while optimizing multi-threaded variant is quite risky, often with bugs showing up only after the game reaches wide masses.

P.S. Same applied btw to video playback software.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167426)

How can game engines not take advantage of multiple cores?

Several reasons.

  • If your game will run on both single-core and multi-core machines, it might not make sense to optimize for the latter, which would likely make the former slower - and the former is already slower, so you care more about it.
  • Many games care more about responsiveness than throughput. While you can run N threads on N cores, getting full utilization of your resources, games usually have a loop in which input feeds into the logic system, which feeds into the physics system, which feeds into the rendering system, and the loop starts again. To get from input to viewable output in the same frame - responsiveness - you can't split up the tasks into multiple threads and let them complete whenever they can. Multithreading might make sense within tasks (say, physics of physically separate regions), but not between them - rendering needs for physics to completely finish before it starts.

That said, console games usually are multithreaded. Since they know the target hardware, they can plan how to use the cores exactly. The tests in TFA, however, were not run on console games but on PC games, which as mentioned in the first point, tend to be optimized for the single-core case.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167550)

I'd also question how much is really gained by multithreading here. Gaming is not easily broken down into independent problems- AI, rendering, physics all touch the same data structures. My guess is that multi-threading does some speedup, but not a huge amount due to waiting for data locks. The real advantage of multiple cores is being able to run a browser on a 2nd monitor (or alt tab to it) so you can do more than just game on the thing.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167658)

So what if you double-buffer large parts of the state of the game world? Have AI, rendering, and physics all look at one read-only copy of the state, and then have physics produce the next frame's state. Coming up with a consistent way to freeze state in this way also helps with the quicksave code.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167542)

it very surprising given that the PS3 has 7 cores to work with.

Well, firstly you'll remember that just about every discussion of 360 vs. PS3 performance descends into an argument about whether developers are just "lazy" because they don't push half those cores at full power. But secondly, the PS3 really is a weird architecture. Those 7 cores are in addition to a single main CPU core that does most of the work.

Actually, the real question, is why PC programmers aren't making more use of 2-4 cores when the 360 (which a depressingly large number of PC games are ported from) has three symmetric cores doing all the CPU legwork.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (4, Insightful)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167584)

The main reasons:
  • Many problems cannot be parallelized at all. If a problem is sequential in nature, multiple cores cannot solve it faster.
  • Even when a task can be parallelized, this is at times complicated. Many developers lack the skills to implement or even invent efficient parallel algorithms. It's not just about spawing a few additional threads, there are usually complicated interprocess communication problems involved.
  • Since mainstream machines currently may contain everything from 1 to 8 cores (including the virtual ones created by hyperthreading), developing for n cores is always going to involve tradeoffs. The program should still run well on a single core machine.
  • Many game engines in use by studios are not yet updated to take full advantage of multiple cores and it is completely non-trivial or too expensive to change them accordingly.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (2, Insightful)

MrNemesis (587188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167592)

As noted, the PS3 is more of a single core PPC processor plus 6 SSE-on-steroids units. Whilst it's true that parallelism needs to be incorporated into the engine design, the tasks you'd farm out to the SPE's or whatever they're called are very different from what you'd ask core3 to do on your x86 processor.

The CPU in the 360, however, is a genuine triple-core PPC processor.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167684)

Note: This is only my opinion. I have no evidence to back this up.

For the same reason why every channel on TV isn't in HD yet...developers are waiting for the public to catch up with the industry. While most PC games still aren't built from the ground up for multiple cores, they are taking increasing advantage of them. As single core CPUs are phased out (which, except for mobile and extremely-low-budget set ups, they have been), newer games are more and more optimized for it. It's only a matter of time before they are built with multi-core systems in mind. I think 2010 is going to be a big year for improvement in this area, but we won't really see ground-up multi-core designed PC games throughout the industry until 2011.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (1)

dcam (615646) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167706)

Writing multi-threaded code is hard. Writing high performance, non-buggy multi-threaded code is very hard. Of the order of a magnitude harder.

In addition some things are easily parallelised, eg web servers. They have multiple users and each page that is hit represents a single isolated request, so even just one user accessing a site is easily parallelised.

With games you have one user and things need to happen in a sequence. You code to handle the physics of a bullet trajectory must syncronise with the code handling the AI of the enemies and so forth. This makes it rather hard to do.

Re:Games don't use multiple cores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167774)

Game engines such as Unreal Engine 3 are basically a huge pile of legacy code. Think Windows, but without the excuse of being 20 years old. UE3 hardly uses the SPUs at all (except insofar as PhysX can use them, and certain other special-case accelerators). UE3 can use 1-2 cores of main processor quite effectively; beyond that it's simply not architected the right way.

Lazy? Nah, EPIC are just too busy with GoW to care about making their game engine good for the developers who are paying $1.5M+ to use it.

OTOH, PhysX and Havok can both use any number of cores to accelerate their calculations. And lesser-known engines such as Gamebryo have much better support for multicores (heterogeneous and homogeneous).

Conclusion (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167024)

http://techreport.com/articles.x/18448/18 [techreport.com] is the page with the conclusion

Re:Conclusion (5, Informative)

Jazzbunny (1251002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167154)

Just install AutoPager [mozilla.org] and you get the article in one long page. You find performance per dollar at page 17 and other interesting nuggets of information well before that last page conclusion.

TLDR (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167768)

Too Long Didn't Read

Thank you for that link. All I wanted was "the answer", 17 pages of verbiage just to get a 1 paragraph conclusion was just too much

Eye-opening? (5, Insightful)

spge (783687) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167026)

I had a job keeping my eyes open at all, reading that over-long, poorly structured article with no useful conclusion.

Re:Eye-opening? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167072)

The conclusion I made is that liberal arts majors have no business trying to convey technical information. (Jump to the conclusions page to verify that the author was a liberal arts major.)

I wish there were more such scatter charts... (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167062)

especially for gfx cards (the discrepancies between performance and price are enormous) and hard disks (3D, with price, speed and size)

And the answer is... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167066)

Pentium 4 is still fast enough for 97% of the applications.

Re:And the answer is... (4, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167122)

...and the fastest modern CPU is still not fast enough for another 2%.

Hey! (1)

Nomaxxx (1136289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167070)

I still have a P4 you insensitive clod!

Re:Hey! (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167374)

Yeah. In addition to the P4, they should have thrown in a couple of additional historically-significant data points, like the Pentium //, the 486 DX, and the 8088.

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

P4 and MythTV (5, Interesting)

Yeechang Lee (3429) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167100)

I've been using a Pentium 4 3.0GHz-powered box as a MythTV frontend/backend [gossamer-threads.com] for more than four years. It often records four high-definition over-the-air or FireWire MPEG-2 streams while playing back another.

For the first three years I used an Nvidia video card with Xv output to play the recordings at very good quality with 50-70% CPU usage. A year ago I moved to VDPAU [mythtv.org] , which gives me even better playback with under 5% CPU usage, and will do the same with h.264 recordings (generated by the Hauppauge HD-PVR [mythtv.org] , for example). Thanks to VDPAU, there's every possibility I'll be able to use the Pentium 4 box for another four years.

Re:P4 and MythTV (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167716)

I've been using a Pentium 4 3.0GHz-powered box as a MythTV frontend/backend for more than four years.

Yeechang fails to mention that is roughly the sweet spot for a mythtv frontend. I have plenty of experience trying to get slower boxes to do myth, which can be done at some difficulty. One GHz Via C7 or whatever its called, with a semi-supported openchrome driver, now that was a challenge, but it eventually worked.

A P4 roughly 3 Gigs with about a gig of ram is enough that its no effort to set up at all. Just set up a plain old linux box and it'll work even with the plain jane VESA driver. Now you can do all this binary NVIDIA driver and XVmc and VDPAU or whatever for even better performance, but it'll "just work" on a stock plain old linux install.

You can spend more money on an even faster system for myth. But its just money down the drain, unless you're doing something totally exotic with high def, or trying to do more than five things at once like Yeechang, or attempting to do dual simultaneous displays, or trying to run a backend on the frontend machine, etc.

Anandtech 'Bench' compares ALL recent CPUs... (5, Informative)

distantbody (852269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167120)

And its constantly growing. check it out: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/default.aspx?b=2&c=1 [anandtech.com]

Re:Anandtech 'Bench' compares ALL recent CPUs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167300)

It's also interactive.

Dual P3 here. (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167166)

I am typing this on an old Dell Precision which sports two P3 processors.

Running a NetBSD smp kernel.

Re:Dual P3 here. (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167206)

I have an HP Kayak dual-proc workstation at home with two 1GHz PIII's running Ubuntu with 640MB of RDRAM. Great machine. Unfortunately it's not cost-effective to upgrade the memory thanks to Rambus...

Yawn (1)

Fotograf (1515543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167216)

so new CPUs are a bit faster than old tech? Wow...

Re:Yawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167260)

Heheh yeah... I started to read the article thinking "Well the new cpu's are probably about 5 or 6 times as fast... happens every 5 years..." and guess what...

news at 11... *big yawn indeed*

I must seem stone age... (1)

Terminus32 (968892) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167298)

I'm still using my five year old 2.93GHz & 470MB RAM box, running Xubuntu....can't afford much else at the moment! :-(

"...no single-page view in sight" (3, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167306)

There's an easy way to thwart that advertising blackmail for users of Firefox: the AutoPager extension. Antipagination would probably still work for older versions of Firefox.

Re:"...no single-page view in sight" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31167712)

advertising blackmail

"Blackmail"? You do realize that advertising, while perhaps annoying, is the primary driving force behind lots of websites being able to pay their bandwidth and hosting bills. Calling advertising "blackmail" is nonsensical drama.

Oh, I forgot, this is Slashdot, where advertising is treated like leprosy (ignoring the fact that Microsoft advertises on Slashdot).

Where's the P4 vs. Modern CPUs conclusion ? (5, Insightful)

MasJ (594702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167464)

Isn't this what the article summary gets at ? I couldn't find anywhere in the conclusion how the P4 actually compares to present day processors.
I'm not about to read through 17 pages of all of that just to open my eyes.

Oh, and for CPU comparisons, I usually use:
http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php [cpubenchmark.net]

It's quite reliable for my choices. I just need everything to boil down to a number these days. Too much choice out there. Was simpler when you could just look at Ghz and know which is better. Now a P7700 and T8600 (examples I just made up..) could be at the same clock speed, be called Core 2 Duo and have totally different performance numbers. Confusing!

ZX Spectrum (1)

Ralz (1634999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167478)

My ZX Spectrum doesn't handle Crysis very well, its probably because of the 16K memory. Maybe I should get something newer with more memory, 640K ought to be about enough for anybody.

P4 is quite enough...? (2, Interesting)

indre1 (1422435) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167512)

P4 3,2Ghz Northwood @3,6Ghz and a decent graphics card can easilly run Modern Warfare 2 @ 1280x1024 - what else do you need from a processor on a desktop computer?
All these multicores barely give any real advantage to a regular gamer/desktop user at the moment.

Re:P4 is quite enough...? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167788)

All these multicores barely give any real advantage to a regular gamer/desktop user at the moment.

One very significant advantage they provide to people like me is driving a game on my main display while playing back a video on my secondary monitor.

Dragon Age + Aqua Teen Hunger Force = Made of win

something missing.... (5, Interesting)

pjrc (134994) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167518)

Did anyone else notice how the Q9550 and Q9650 are absent from this article?

Probably the last thing Intel wants is these previous generation (and attractively priced) chips appearing in the "overall performance per dollar" chart on "Page 17 - The value proposition". Instead, we get a graph where only the i5 and i7 chips appear to perform well beyond any of the older options, but it's a carefully crafted illusion because the faster (and attractively priced) versions of those older chips weren't tested.

Probably better (1)

Snaller (147050) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167530)

Haven't read TFA but probably better, this dual core crap is slow as hell.

Other factors (4, Insightful)

HalfFlat (121672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167598)

The article makes a strong case for the i3-530 and the i5-750, but unlike the comparable AMD processors, they have no support for ECC.

If you're using a computer just for game playing and email, that's fine. On the other hand, if you are doing anything which requires reliability — both in terms of machine stability and the consistency of results and data — ECC is a must. The premium that Intel charge for what should be a standard feature prices them out of the value computing market.

Mod parent up (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167778)

If you're using a computer just for game playing and email, that's fine. On the other hand, if you are doing anything which requires reliability -- both in terms of machine stability and the consistency of results and data -- ECC is a must. The premium that Intel charge for what should be a standard feature prices them out of the value computing market.

Yep. Basically if you want to do anything reliable and minimize cost, you need AMD. You also have to take care to get the right motherboard - I've only discovered the utility of ECC now and my Gigabyte motherboard doesn't support ECC. I think Asus generally support ECC. You wouldn't happen to know the sorts or reductions in errors running registered memory brings (compared to just ECC)? If you must run registered as well, it's a comparison between Opterons and Xeons.

If you are concerned about data integrity you might also want to look at an operating system that has ZFS - which means OpenSolaris or FreeBSD, and running mirrored or RAIDZ.

More interesting question: Pentium M vs Atom etc? (1)

RichiH (749257) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167630)

I have a X31 (see http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X31 [thinkwiki.org] ) and I am thinking about upgrading to a X100e, X200, X201/X210 -- but I am not sure how my trusty X31 compares to current low-end hardware.

Hard requirements:

* At _least_ 3-4 hours of run time with normal workload (KDE4, konsole, half a dozen ssh sessions, no flash)
* TrackPoint - I hate touchpads
* sturdy - those things are there to be used, not pampered. I don't abuse them needlessly, but I will not go out of my way to make sure the purty purty thing does not get a scratch, either.

My old work computer (1, Interesting)

British (51765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167670)

I'm still using a HP zd7000, a P4 laptop from several years ago as my main PC. The battery has long since died, but it's still perfect for general use with the docking station.

I've considered plunking down $300 for a modern laptop, but it never seemed to be an issue. This laptop is still "good enough".

Love to see a true comparison (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 4 years ago | (#31167732)

I remember all the PC World/PC Magazine/Computer Shopper articles on the Pentium, P-II, P-III and the numbers they threw out. The numbers made sense, given a baseline of a 100 MHz Pentium or even a 66 MHz DX/2.

I would like to see the exact same tests run with these chips. The software may be old - Word 2.0/Photoshop 4.0 - but it should still work.
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