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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [12.01.07]
Manufactured by: AMD, Intel


The Real World Rules!

While it's great to use software like PCMark and SYSMark to get an idea of how a PC performs in various scenarios (and they are getting even better, benchmarking within real-world applications), but nothing beats doing the tests yourself to see exactly where each CPU model excels and falls behind in performance.

The one thing our readers are most interested in, after gaming, is probably video and audio transcoding. After all, who wants to keep music on annoying discs? The same can often be said for video, as today's huge hard drives allow us to store a lot of movies.

Audio Encoding

For our audio encoding tests, we use the latest version of dBpoweramp Music Converter (at this time, R12.3). This program has the slickest interface I've seen for an audio converter, as it integrates into the Windows Explorer shell (right click > convert to). It also supports a ton of codecs, although we're only going to look at the two main ones - MP3 and WMA.

Both codecs were run in Constant Bit Rate, converting an entire CD to 128 kbps. The CD is stored as an uncompressed WAV file.

These single-threaded tests rely heavily on clock-speed, so results are quite even. It is interesting to see the Core 2 Duo's vary so wildly, even when there is just a 333 MHz clock speed difference between them. The Quad Core doesn't manage so well here, since these tests are single-threaded.

Video Encoding

As usual, we are converting a portion of Groundhog Day DVD to MPEG-4 Part 2 using VirtualDub. The codecs we're using are DivX, which is multithreaded and getting better with every version, and XviD, which the scene still prefers for some reason.

I am going to look into something a little more up to date for our next review, using HDTV source material and a more modern MPEG-4 AVC codec. Since DivX and XviD are so widely used, I'll probably keep this as an SD video transcoding scenario.

This time Core 2 Duo flexes its muscle, performing quite a bit faster than its X2 counterparts. If this small portion of a movie is 82 seconds faster on a single pass low bitrate, imagine how much faster it would be for a whole movie with multiple passes (and advanced motion search, something we'll be looking at in a future CPU review). Also note how the Q6600 is the fastest CPU in this test, even though it's not the fastest in terms of clock speed.

XviD shows its age here, taking more than twice as long to complete the same scene at the same bitrate as DivX 6.6. Also, Core 2 Duo loses its speed advantage over the X2, since the application is possibly not optimized very well for either CPU (we're using the Koepi binary here).


We like to include an archiving benchmark, since after all, who doesn't use archives on their machine? WinRar features an integrated benchmark utility, but note that the results themselves are not real-world in that it measures decompression/compression throughput directly. Other factors will make differences between systems less pronounced, but this does a good job of singling out CPU performance.

WinRar is also multithreaded, so the quad-core Q6600 benefits here.

Next Page: (3D Rendering; Power Consumption; Conclusion)