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SHOOTOUT:
Dual Core Pentium
versus
Dual CPU G5

Originally posted August 5th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

I was given an opportunity to play with a Dual Core Pentium-D system. It wasn't the fastest dual core available at 2.8GHz, but I thought it would be interesting to compare it to some high end dual cpu G5 Power Macs running at nearly the same clock speed (2.7GHz and 2.5GHz).

I also had a copy of Windows 64. After scrounging around, I found some 64 bit versions of Windows applications so I could compare the performance to the 32 bit versions running under Windows 64 as well as Windows XP Pro. In the graphs below, I use an abbreviation to indicate whether a particular entry was with the 32 bit or 64 bit version of Windows, as well as the whether the software was 32 bit or 64 bit aware. Here's the graph legend:

LEGEND:
32/32 = Windows XP Pro with 32 bit application or
Mac OS X "Tiger" with 32 bit application
64/32 = Windows 64 with 32 bit application
64/64 = Windows 64 with 64 bit application
PD = Pentium Dual Core (Pentium-D)
MP = Dual Processors
P4 = Pentium 4
X = Xeon
G5 = G5 Power Mac
numbers like "2.8" indicate the processor speed in gigahertz

Cinebench is a multi-processor aware benchmark that simulates typical functions of Maxon's Cinema 4D XL. There is now a 64 bit version for Windows 64 users that goes 23% faster.

Adobe After Effects 6.5 also knows about multi processors, but it is still a 32 bit application.

We weren't able to test the Dual Xeon and Single Core Pentium 4 with the next set of apps, since we no longer have them. Adobe Photoshop CS2, though not a 64 bit app, does make use of up to 4GB of RAM for memory cache under Windows 64. Under Mac OS X "Tiger," you can dedicate up to 3.5GB but we've observed the OS setting aside up to 6.5GB when nothing else is running.

POV-Ray is a Persistence of Vision Raytracer that runs on Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It comes with a built-in benchmark scenario. For the PC, it's available in both 32 bit and 64 bit versions.

There were two apps that only ran under Windows, but we included them anyway. POV-Ray beta 3.7's benchmark is different from 3.6. But unlike version 3.6, there is a 8% advantage if you run the 64 bit version.

Panorama Factory enables you to stitch together multiple photographs into a 360 degree panorama. We took 10 photographs of our lab with our Nikon D70 and used them as our test project. Here you see a 37% advantage by running the 64 bit beta version.

INSIGHTS and COMMENTS
1. The Dual Core Pentium-D 2.8GHz system ran dual processor aware applications like Cinebench and After Effects faster than a Single Core Pentium 4 3.0GHz system -- which proves that dual core really is equivalent to dual processors.

2. Running Windows 64 and 64 bit software will be like having a nitrous oxide injection system under the "hood" of your PC. We saw an 8% to 37% gain over "32/32" and "64/32", depending on what application we ran.

Apple's Mac OS X "Tiger" release is not fully 64 bit but does support many 64 bit features. Any software that uses system math functions gains in speed when you simply upgrade from "Panther" to "Tiger." We observed as much as a 19% gain in the software we tested in a previous article.

3. These Mac vs PC articles are more relevant to Mac users than ever, since Apple has announced plans to switch over to Intel processors during the next two years.

4. The Dual Core Pentium-D system we tested was designed for use as a home entertainment system -- a QUIET system. However, it was noisier than the G5, which has 9 fans. Measured at a distance of 1 ft, the G5 ran at 50 decibels at close range. The Dual Core system registered 53 decibels. Whisper PC replaced the CPU heatsink that came from Intel with a Thermaltake CL-P0030, which made it even noisier. But when they put the original Intel fan on the new heatsink, the system was much quieter, as the heatsink was more efficient and the fan didn't have to always spin up.

5. I was hoping to include a Dual Core AMD system in this article, but XiComputer, who provided the AMD test units in our previous article, turned me down this time. But hope is not lost. Whisper PC has informed me they will have a dual core AMD for me to test soon with dual GeForce 7800s. Oh yeah.

TEST CONFIGURATIONS
Dual Core Pentium-D 2.8GHz
The motherboard is the D945GCZLR. The CPU is the Intel Pentium-D 820 (2.8GHz dual-core with EMT-64, 1MB L2 cache per CPU and 800MHz FSB). Memory runs at 533Mhz. As the opportunity presents itself, we will test dual core Intel and AMD systems with faster core clock speeds and faster frontside buses.

Dual CPU G5 Power Mac 2.7GHz
Features 1.35GHz frontside bus (per processor), 512K L2 cache, and 400MHz memory. (Visit the Power Mac Specification page for details.)

Dual CPU G5 Power Mac 2.5GHz
Features 1.25GHz frontside bus, 512K L2 cache, and 400MHz memory.

RELATED ARTICLES
Anandtech posted a fascinating article comparing the architecture of the G5, Xeon and Opteron. They also compare OS X to Linux.

Apple posted their own "Mac vs PC" page.

Our previous Mac vs PC article includes CPU crunching and 3D Graphics churning.

WHERE TO BUY G5 POWER MACS
The Apple Online Store lets you custom configure your G5 Power Mac. You can do the same if you order from Small Dog Electronics. If you have an Apple Retail Store in your city, it's always worth a visit to see and feel the different models of Power Macs.

For new and refurbished G5 Power Macs, check with Small Dog and Power Max.

Some of you have asked which G5 Power Mac models are most desirable. Whether you buy a new, refurbished or used G5 Power Mac, I recommend getting a model with 8 memory slots, 100/133MHz PCI-X slots, and 600W Power Supply. The table below gives the model number, etc., of these most desirable G5s.

Model Number
clock speed
processors
intro date
M9031LL/A
1.8GHz
single
June 2003
M9032LL/A
2.0GHz
dual
June 2003
M9393LL/A
1.8GHz
dual
November 2003
M9455LL/A
2.0GHz
dual
June 2004
M9457LL/A
2.5GHz
dual
June 2004
M9748LL/A
2.3GHz
dual
April 2005
M9749LL/A
2.7GHz
dual
April 2005

All other models have only 4 memory slots, 33MHz PCI slots, 450W Power Supply, and slower frontside bus speeds. If you can't find the model you want at Apple's Special Deals page, Small Dog's site, or Power Max's site, go to Froogle.com and search on the model number.

WHERE TO BUY WINDOWS PCs
WhisperPC provided the Dual Core Pentium-D test unit. Their specialty is custom, speedy PCs with quiet fans. Their online store isn't quite ready for primed time, but they have been in business for years. Please contact them to see what they can do for you whether you favor Intel or AMD based systems.

WHERE TO BUY WINDOWS PC GRAPHICS CARDS WITH DUAL-LINK DVI
The GeForce 6800 Ultras with Dual-Link DVI are scarce. According to the Apple official discussion group, only the Asus V9999GE and Dell GeForce 6800 GTO will support the 30" Cinema display. I expect the situation to improve if card makers perceive a significant demand for 9 megapixel display support.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist