The Linux Build: Part For Penguins (Part 2)

11/19/2012 9:05:22 AM


So, in light of all this, it can be difficult to know how different situations, and when you throw in an operating system that doesn’t always have the most reliable driver sets, things can get even more confusing. We’ve taken a triumvirate of different processors to see how they cope with the vagaries of Linux:

·         AMD APU A8-3850 3.0GHz (cores: 4, cache: 4x1MB level 2) $118.5

·         AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3300Mhz (cores: 6, cache: 6x 512KB level 2,6MB level 3) $150

·         Intel i5-2500K 3.6 GHz (cores: 4, cache: 2x 32KB level 1,256KB level 2,6MB level 3) $243

Description: Description: Description: • AMD APU A8-3850 3.0GHz

AMD APU A8-3850 3.0GHz

We’re running all of them at their native clock speeds. You can always overclock later through the BIOS, but for now we need to make sure the setup is as stable as we can get. Later on when you’re full of Linux love but craving a little more speed, you can dive into the BIOS and start messing around with clock speeds and multipliers as much as you like.

We can see that the Intel processor out-performed the AMD ones in almost every area. This isn’t surprising, as it costs twice as much as the cheapest one, but also shows Intel’s Linux drivers are strong enough to keep the same large gap it manages with its processing tech through Windows. In a few areas – the Apache static page test for example it performed twice as well. The Sandy Bridge CPU almost always outperformed the Phenom II X6 despite having two fewer cores and only slightly faster clock speed. The only significant exceptions to this were the John the Ripper password cracking test and some of the GraphicsMagic tests. These are highly parallel benchmarks, which take full advantage of the higher thread-count in the Phenom II X6.

Description: Description: Description: • AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3300Mhz

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3300Mhz

Not all of the speed differences here are down to the CPU though. The different boards have different hardware on them, despite both running similar technologies. The differences in the way the storage drives operated were pronounced. This resulted in dramatically faster read speeds for files under 2GB, though there was no difference in files above this size. Write speeds were roughly even across the different setups too. The choice of CPUs available today is probably more complex than it has ever been. There has been growth in simpler, low-power CPUs, complex processors, highly parallelized graphics chips and clusters. More than ever, the question isn’t “which is the best processor?”, but “What is the right solution for the task?” Answering this question requires knowledge of both what chips are on the market, what they cost and how these chips perform at different tasks.

Description: Description: Description: • Intel i5-2500K 3.6 GHz

Intel i5-2500K 3.6 GHz

The high-end Intel cores are the most powerful for everyday tasks, but speed comes at a price. The extra cores in the X6 proved enough to match, and sometimes outperform the i5 in the GraphicsMagic benchmarks, which simulate image manipulation, while leaving a significant chunk of cash in your wallet. Unless you use KDE with every widget and effect though, the X4 is more than capable of performing most day-to-day computing tasks.

How multiple cores affect performance?

We can see how adjusting the number of cores affects performance by using VirtualBox to simulate different CPUs. We can allocate a number of cores from the host to a guest, and therefore see how the system will perform with an arbitrary number of cores. Here you can see how the system performed in the benchmarks with between one and three cores.

The performance difference from increasing the number of cores varied depending on the task. In several cases, increasing the number of cores slowed the execution due to the overheads of scheduling processes across several cores. In other cases we saw a roughly linear improvement as we increased the available processing units. It’s worth noting that we performed these tests sequentially. Had we performed more than one at a time, we’d expect the results to favour the multi-core approach more strongly.

When selecting a CPU, it’s worth considering how many intensive tasks you’ll be running at once. For server use, check whether the services you use can take advantage of the number of cores in the CPUs you’re considering. Tasks that perform well on multi-core machines often do even better on graphics cards using CUDA or OpenCL.

Computational performance

SciMark v2

Iterations per second: higher is better

Monte Carlo

·         1 cores: 260

·         2 cores: 240

·         3 cores:250

Spare Matrix Multiply

·         1 cores: 480

·         2 cores: 460

·         3 cores: 430

Computational performance

Jack the Ripper

Checks per second (millions): higher is better

·         1 cores: 1.9

·         2 cores: 3

·         3 cores: 4.4

64-bit vs. 32-bit processors

Even if you have a 64-bit processor, you may not be taking advantage of the 64-bit features of the CPU. To keep backwards compatibility, 64-bit processors were designed to run 32-bit code. Here, we’ve run the set of benchmarks using a 64-bit processor running both 32-and 64-bit versions of Linux to see how this affects performance. 64-bit generally runs faster, but for general day-to-day computing, you’re unlikely to notice much difference. If you’re crunching numbers though, the longer word length will speed things up.

I/O performance


KB/S: higher is better

Disk write

·         32-Bit: 0.3

·         64-bit: 0.3

Disk read:

·         32-Bit: 2.4

·         64-bit: 3.6

Computational performance

John the Ripper

·         Index score: check per second (millions)

·         32-Bit: 2

·         64-bit: 4.5

Computational performance

SciMark v2: MFLOPS: higher is better

Monte Carlo

·         32-Bit: 130

·         64-bit: 250

Spare Matrix Multiply

·         32-Bit: 560

·         64-bit: 590


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