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And I had hyperthreading, which was popular at the time...
March 1, 2010 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Grandpa laces up his skates: How would a single core, 3.8 GHz Pentium 4 670 from 2005 compete against the latest offerings of AMD and Intel? How about a 2007 quad-core, the 2.4 GHz Core 2 Quad 6600? The Tech Report finds out in a Huge 14-way Roundout, including a price-performance evaluation (2nd perspective). For the release of AMD's new midrange DirectX 11 graphic card, the somewhat disappointing ATI Radeon HD 5830, they've done Something Similar, this time pitting older cards, including a Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX from 2006, against the newcomer and today's top performers. (aggravation warning: hardware review sites love their multi-page layouts)
posted by Monday, stony Monday (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
aggravation warning: hardware review sites love their multi-page layouts

Autopagerize is a Greasemonkey script that fixes that.
posted by signalnine at 8:05 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this something you need to have a computer to understand?
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:10 PM on March 1, 2010


Ohhh my god, this stuff is what I do at work all day, and I don't understand it there either.

I'm sure this is a fine FPP. I'm just in the wrong line of work.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:20 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmph. My old Apple II had a 1 megawhoozis thingie and 16 killablob mammaries.

It played "Little Breakout" just fine. I still have the Apple cassette, with the mimeographed label. Included "HIRES Graphics Demo," too.

Get off my lawn.
posted by drhydro at 8:20 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although I could have called the improved power consumption without looking, the actual increase in real performance somewhat surprises me...

The CPUs chosen as the "grandpas" here count as more-or-less then end of the line for the CPU clock race, just before multicore hit the mainstream. I would have honestly expected fairly similar performance, at least in the single-threaded benchmarks.

Good to see they've actually made some decent improvements beyond shifting the marketing metric of choice!


Jumpin Jack Flash : Is this something you need to have a computer to understand?

Nope, just keep lickin' them wires. Say, how does a SYN taste, anyway? ;)
posted by pla at 8:23 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


For me the takeaway is that you can play the most demanding games on the market at maximum pretties and a reasonable framerate for not very much money at all, these days.

I've got a Athlon II 250 and a 9800GT (=maybe $USD100?) and it's totally sufficient.

This makes me smile happily. The Hardware Wars are over.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:34 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good timing! If I may hijack the thread for a moment, I'm looking for a new machine for number-crunching. Thinking of Opteron 2439 (2 processors, 6 cores, 2.8 GHz) or Opteron 2393 (2 processors, 6 cores, 3.1 GHz). Anyone know where I can find floating-point benchmarks? It's been a long time since I've bought a workstation.
posted by lukemeister at 8:50 PM on March 1, 2010


After subsisting on laptops for a decade, I'm looking at buying a desktop and though it sounds extremely appealing to assemble from components like in the old days, the thought of spending all that money and being left with an ugly, noisy, clunky case and more computing power than I ever would need puts me ill at ease. These plots got me excited again and I was checking out components at NewEgg, but after adding a motherboard there was this tiny, noiseless, power-sipping $200 terminal waiting for me from window shopping a week ago. I can throw Linux on there, hook it up to a 24" monitor, and be in heaven. Oh how things have changed. A $600+ beast or a $200 terminal that's still more local CPU than I need?

These plots are perfect if you're buying something big for the server room or a toy for games. However, I think I may have bought my final heavy-duty desktop processor in 1999, and it was only a Celeron 266 overclocked to 400 MHz by putting a bit of tape over one of the pins. I'm not sure if I should ashamed or proud of that.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:00 PM on March 1, 2010


According to the Anandtech review, the 670 was around $850 when it was released. It was running neck and neck with AMD's comparably priced 2.4 and 2.6 GHz processors. An Athlon 64 3800+ would have run you $373 at its release in May 2005, and it would not have been much slower.

If you look at TR's system guide, for the first two (Nov. 2005 and May 2006), they recommended only AMD processors. From August 2006 on, the higher-end system where (IIRC) all Intel, all the time, with AMD getting the budget spot, but not always.

At work I recently moved from an ancient Athon XP 2200+ with 1 gig of RAM to a Core 2 Duo E6750 with 3 gigs... it's night and day (but also over 5 years between processors).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:04 PM on March 1, 2010


After 8 years with a Pentium III 800, I built myself a computer with a Core i5-750 in an Antec Sonata case. The case is indeed large, and it's not quite as silent as I'd like, but I'm fairly satisfied (it's also a gaming machine). But strangely, I'm typing this on my HP mini 311, an 11.6" netbook with an atom N270.

I sort of hated it at first, because with windows XP it was almost unusably slow. But since I've put Ubuntu on it, it's been a very usable machine. It's a bit loud though.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:12 PM on March 1, 2010


One of these super machines will be great for all the things I imagine I will do on it one day, like editing home movies recorded on the video camera I have yet to buy, so I can show them to people who will be legitimately interested in the trees we were staring at because if you look really closely there's a koala way up in the top of that one. No, over there. Yeah, yeah, that little smudge of grey. I guess it was sleeping. Amazing, right? Know what else is cool? Fractals! Also fuck computers.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:21 PM on March 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'd love to see some sort of overall system fastitude measure for current i7 etc systems, back at least to 486-33s. Especially if the list also included X-MPs or Y-MPs and cell phones.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:32 PM on March 1, 2010


It'd be interesting to run HPL (the thing they use for the rankings of the TOP500 supercomputers) on everything, indeed.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:45 PM on March 1, 2010


According to "specs," my G1 pocket telephone is four times faster than my first Thinkpad (from 1995). SO HOW COME I ALREADY NEED A FASTER POCKET TELEPHONE?
posted by damehex at 9:45 PM on March 1, 2010


According to "specs," my G1 pocket telephone is four times faster than my first Thinkpad (from 1995). SO HOW COME I ALREADY NEED A FASTER POCKET TELEPHONE?

The serious answer is waffle about architectural differences and stuff.

The snide answer is, "Duh. Java."
posted by rodgerd at 10:17 PM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


SO HOW COME I ALREADY NEED A FASTER POCKET TELEPHONE?

Or Nathan Myhrvold's answer which is that Software Is A Gas, it will always expand until it requires most of the resources of the platform it is on, thus driving the need for a better platform.
posted by memebake at 11:09 PM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"My computer runs spyware faster than your computer!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 PM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


For folks who like this sort of thing there is a good article over at Tom's Hardware about where GPUs are headed in the next 10 years. It has a bit on the decline in the sales of dedicated sound cards. To quote it:
The percentage of total computational power required for audio processing is negligible and when it comes to quality itself; most sound cards are good enough. Though there is a small market for ASIO-capable professional recording devices, the facts speak for themselves. Sales of Creative Labs sound cards in 2008 were 12% lower than those in 2007, sales in 2007 were 22% lower than those in 2006, sales in 2006 were 12% lower than 2005, sales in 2005 were 18% lower than 2004, sales in 2004 were 14% lower than those in 2003, sales in 2003 were 34% lower than 2002, and sales in 2002 were 30% lower than 2001, which itself was 2% lower than 2000.

Do the math and you realize that from 2000 to 2007, the sound card market collapsed by 80% over seven years. The recent stock market crash? That was only a 53% drop during the worst of it, and a 25% drop at current values.
While the drop off on high end GPUs surely won't be as severe something like that might be happening. It seems like many games are written to run on PCs and consoles in mind and that this means not pushing the PC as much. Upgrading a video card every year or two now seems to be a pretty rare thing rather than a fairly common one as it was maybe 5-10 years back.
posted by sien at 2:26 AM on March 2, 2010


>Software Is A Gas, it will always expand until it requires most of the resources of the platform it is on, thus driving the need for a better platform.

I remember when the HAL in NT 3.5 was being discussed. It ran like a dog in 8Mb, paging to disk all day, but the answer was to spend thousands of man hours making it more efficient, or just waiting till RAM was cheap.
At the time I made a snide remark, but I can now see the truth in it, even though I wish windows was less bloated.
posted by bystander at 3:15 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny thing I saw while downloading Mass Effect 2:

Fixed video hitching and crashes related to single core machines
* Single core users may experience short periods of black screen that may last up a few seconds between level loads, cinematic transitions or movies
* In rare cases, some single core users may notice dialog lines in certain conversations may be delayed up to a few seconds

posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:55 AM on March 2, 2010


> Or Nathan Myhrvold's answer which is that Software Is A Gas, it will always expand until it requires most of the resources of the platform it is on, thus driving the need for a better platform.

A bit of context. This is Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft. A company infamous for its software bloat and vaporware. Also for generating FUD, which I've always pictured as noxious gases.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 5:09 AM on March 2, 2010


Hmm, most people have been saying good things about AMD's high end cards, maybe the low-end cards aren't that exciting?

Good timing! If I may hijack the thread for a moment, I'm looking for a new machine for number-crunching. Thinking of Opteron 2439 (2 processors, 6 cores, 2.8 GHz) or Opteron 2393 (2 processors, 6 cores, 3.1 GHz). Anyone know where I can find floating-point benchmarks? It's been a long time since I've bought a workstation.

If you get 8000 series chips you put 'em on one of these pack 16 or even 24 cores on a single board. But if you really want massive floating point, go with a monster GPU, like a Tesla card with 500 double precision Gflops. The current ones manage 933 single precision GFlops (but only 78 or so double precision)

In theory the AMD/Ati cards are even faster, but the scientific computing drivers are not as mature, and most apps are written in CDUA, rather then OpenCL.

Obviously that's not too relevant if you're software isn't GPU optimized.
posted by delmoi at 5:28 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The snide answer is, "Duh. Java."

Ugh. First of all Android phones don't run Java, they run the Dalvik Virtual Machine, which isn't even bytecode compatible with Java. It's designed to be very memory efficient, but it doesn't have any of the optimizations that Sun's JVM does, like just in time compiling.

ALSO you actually can write native code libraries for android, using the Android NDK (N = Native).

This "Java is slow" crap is like a decade out of date.
posted by delmoi at 5:34 AM on March 2, 2010


I'll suggest a corollary to Software Is A Gas: any speed gains on a corporate computer will be offset by new desktop agents to "protect" users.
posted by djb at 5:57 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do the math and you realize that from 2000 to 2007, the sound card market collapsed by 80% over seven years. The recent stock market crash? That was only a 53% drop during the worst of it, and a 25% drop at current values.

It's important to remember that Creative did a great deal to lose customers during this period, from destroying Aureal in court, to buggy driver support, to punishing users for not upgrading, and on, and on. I said in 2003 that I would never buy another Creative product again, and I wasn't the only one.

I still hope they die a miserable death.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:00 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This Quote: Or Nathan Myhrvold's answer which is that Software Is A Gas, it will always expand until it requires most of the resources of the platform it is on

This is straight out of computer lib from 1973. And i think Nelson was quoting someone else. So is this a case of he can't even come up with his own original quote?

i think nelson put it like "no matter how much the hardware boys improve things, the software boys will piss it away." But it has been a long time since i read C-Lib.

typed on an old computer that meets my needs.
posted by marienbad at 6:02 AM on March 2, 2010


The other problem with the sound card analogy is that desktop GPUs are, in a lot of ways more powerful then the CPUs they augment. But it does make sense that we'll see GPU functionality and CPU functionality gradually merge into a single die.

Intel's Larrabee GPU was just going to be like 20 old-school Pentium chips stuck on one die and running at 2ghz. But they gave up on it for some reason. Some people have been speculating that they'll buy Nvidia.
posted by delmoi at 7:15 AM on March 2, 2010


Oh, never mind, actually Larrabee was actually just delayed and will be released for scientific computing, which will be awesome.
posted by delmoi at 7:25 AM on March 2, 2010


... A company infamous for its software bloat and vaporware. Also for generating FUD, which I've always pictured as noxious gases.

Ah, interesting. I had always pictured it as mud. The kind that sucks a gumboot right off your foot.
posted by stp123 at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2010


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "It's important to remember that Creative did a great deal to lose customers during this period, from destroying Aureal in court, to buggy driver support, to punishing users for not upgrading, and on, and on. I said in 2003 that I would never buy another Creative product again, and I wasn't the only one."

Yeah, Creative did a lot to collapse the market themselves. My last sound card (last bought and last to be ever bought) had unbelievably poor driver support and caused more crashes than any other hardware I've ever owned. Their forums (at the time) were filled with complaints that went largely unanswered.
posted by graventy at 8:05 AM on March 2, 2010


Hmm. I've always pictured FUD as a person actually making the statements. Usually a fat, whiny nerd, come to think of it.
posted by delmoi at 8:05 AM on March 2, 2010


Yeah, Creative did a lot to collapse the market themselves. My last sound card (last bought and last to be ever bought) had unbelievably poor driver support and caused more crashes than any other hardware I've ever owned. Their forums (at the time) were filled with complaints that went largely unanswered.

Well, that's the kind of thing that happens when you're panicking. You rush a new product out the door without hoping that having a "hit" will somehow save you.

I think there was actually even a problem with the cards actually dumping noise onto the PCI bus and destabilizing people's machines.
posted by delmoi at 8:08 AM on March 2, 2010


Ah, it wasn't loading for me earlier. It's really interesting to see "task energy" in kilojoules. I've never thought about CPU usage being used that way. Heh.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on March 2, 2010


Llama-Lime, I agree with you. Just this morning I replaced my wife's old Dell GX240 tower with one of those $200 Atom box (both running Ubuntu). Works great, and I like the less noise/power. Only downside is she can no longer rip CDs, not having a CD drive, but we can still use my machine for that.
posted by fings at 9:44 AM on March 2, 2010


Just a somewhat offtopic comment -

I rip CD's perfectly well using my Aspire One netbook (UNR karmic) with an external DVD drive I picked up cheap on clearance.
posted by Samizdata at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2010


I found what I needed at spec.org. Using GPUs for number-crunching will have to wait until the next time. Thanks, delmoi.
posted by lukemeister at 2:00 PM on March 2, 2010


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