Quad Shootout: AMD Quad FX Vs. Intel QX6700
Who Wins The Battle Of The Quads?
The high-end CPU wars have been really heating up lately, with the introduction of dual- and now even quad-core CPUs which bring previously unimaginable computing power to the desktop.
We're all familiar with a CPU, it is the computing center of our PC, where all of the instructions are processed so that our computers can do what they do. Naturally, faster is better. Faster CPUs allow our software instructions to be more quickly executed which means less time twiddling your thumbs and more time working... or playing.
Up until last year, the only type of processor that was available for general home and office PCs had a single CPU brain, or core. The faster that brain was able to process, then the faster the PC worked. CPU speed is measured in GigaHertz (GHz) and single-core development seemed to stall at around 3.5 to 3.8 GHz. The technology simply is not available to make a single-core run much faster than these speeds. So the researchers at Intel and AMD, the two leading CPU manufacturers, decided that the best way to keep increasing speeds was to increase the number of cores. That lead to the AMD Athlon 64 X2s Intel Pentium D and later Core 2 Duos.
The Pentium D is best forgotten as it had a vast number of problems, not the least of which is the fact that it uses up so much energy and heats up so much that it can be used as a space heater in the winter. However, the Athlon 64 X2s and the Core 2 Duos are the cream of the dual-core crop right now.
Intel dropped a huge bomb a few months ago with the introduction of the Core 2 Quadro, a QX6700 CPU with two dual-cores on one single CPU. AMD found itself behind the 8-ball with the introduction of its own quad-core (codenamed K10 or Barcelona/Agena) still many months away. So it jerry-rigged a quick and dirty quad-core solution of its own. It introduced a motherboard with two sockets, put a dual-core FX CPU in each socket and called it QuadFX. Presto! Instant quad-core.
Certainly a double dual-core solution is not as efficient and elegant as a single quad-core, but AMD argued that Intel's QX6700 is basically the same thing. The innards of the QX6700 are two dual-core CPUs side by side! Regardless, the fact remains that AMD's solution is two separate pieces of hardware, each residing in its own socket, and Intel has just one. The significance of this fact will soon become obvious.
AMD offers three dual-dual processors for its QuadFX, FX-70, FX-72 and FX-74. Recently, LegitReviews.com conducted a thorough performance comparison between AMD's FX-74 QuadFX and Intel's QX6700 to see who's really king of the world. Keep in mind that the vast majority of software applications available right now are not multi-threaded, thus cannot take advantage of more than one core, let alone two or four. However, if you run something like Adobe Photoshop CS3 on a quad-core, it will blow you off your chair!
The test systems were similarly configured with Windows XP Pro Build 2600 SP2, 2GB RAM and powerful GeForce 8800 GTX SLI video cards. They were run through a barrage of tests to see how they would perform head-to-head. As you can see by the charts, the differences were palpable. In a total of 12 out of 16 tests, the Intel QX6700 trounced the AMD QuadFX-74, in one case outscoring it 288,541 to 122,437. The only test that the QuadFX held its own were in the two ScienceMark tests, one Cinebench and there was one tie.
To add insult to injury, Intel has just introduced a QX6800 which runs at a speed a bit over 10% faster than the QX6700!
Power consumption is a big factor these days. More electrical load adds to the light bill but also generates more heat and requires more complex and costlier cooling solutions to keep the CPU at operating temperatures and away from meltdown. The Intel system used 387W at idle and 573W at high load, while the AMD used 511W at idle and 713W at load. The AMD uses almost as much electricity doing nothing than the Intel does at load. The extra heat generated must certainly be taken into consideration. Furthermore, keep this in mind for your next LAN party: Two AMD QuadFXs on one 15 Amp circuit will likely trip the breaker! Furthermore, very pricy 750W or even 1000W power supplies are required to run the QuadFX.
Whether or not Intel will be able to keep this performance lead all depends on what happens in the rest of this calendar year. Intel has a new quad CPU in the wings codenamed Penryn. It is designed to compete against AMD's K10-Barcelona/Agena, however, the latest buzz on the street has Intel introducing Penryn as early as July 2007 while AMD has just been rumoured to put their K10 quads off until January or even Februrary of 2008. In the fast-moving world of high-end CPUs, this delay could be a near-fatal blow to AMD, a company which has already been damaged by questionable products and cutthroat pricecut policies in the last year or so which have seen some Athlon 64 X2s sold at fire-sale prices well below $100.
Oh, and before anyone accuses me of being a biased and rabid Intel fanboi, allow me to inform you that this story was typed on my personal PC: an AMD Athlon 64 X2!