The Moving Picture: Core Performance

Jan OzerEvent DV by Jan Ozer These days, this is how edit-bay economics shakes out: You can get a dual-processor, 3GHz quad-core Dell Precision 690 for $5,510 or save about $1,700 bucks and get a single-processor, quad-core system for $3,321. Which renders your projects more quickly, the four-core or eight-core system? Is the eight-core PC worth the extra money? To some degree, this is application-dependent; a lot depends on how efficiently a program can divvy up a single task among multiple processors. I just performed a round of benchmark testing with Adobe Production Premium and Sony Vegas on a range of systems, from two to eight cores. Here’s what I learned. First, here’s some background. PCs and Macs are either single-core or multicore, depending on the number of processors they house. We don’t refer to software as "multicore" or "multiprocessor," but rather "multithreaded," which refers to an application’s ability to split work among different processors. A nonmultithreaded application can’t split up the processing load, and thus runs at about the same speed on a one-core or eight-core system. My tests revealed that there are "levels" of multithreading efficiency. That is, some programs, most notably Autodesk’s 3ds Max, are nearly twice as efficient with eight cores as they are with four. Alas, both Sony Vegas 8 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 seemed more efficient running on four cores than eight, as you’ll see in a moment. read more...

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