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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.11.08]
Manufactured by: 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), 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, R13). 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 plethora of codecs, although we're only going to look at the three main ones - MP3, Apple Lossless, and WMA.

Both MP3 and WMA were run in Constant Bit Rate, converting an entire CD to 128 kbps. WMA was also run in Lossless mode, along with Apple Lossless. The CD is stored as an uncompressed WAV file.

Wolfdale continues to impress - we are seeing the LAME MP3 128 kbps test get closer and closer to being able to encode an entire CD in under a minute. That is incredible for this single-threaded application. When we first started doing this test, the fastest CPU would take over 2.5 minutes!

Still WMA is much faster at lossy encoding (30 seconds per CD!), and quality is at least as good, so there's little reason to be using MP3 (unless you're using an Ipod I guess).

One thing that is common in our audio compression tests is that AMD chips tend to excel quite a bit - and that is no different here. The X2 6400+ is incredibly beating the E8500 here in our Apple Lossless test! Granted, besides price, that is likely the only time we'll see the X2 beat the Wolfdale Core 2 Duo.

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 to use 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 we're seeing performance going perfectly in line with clock speed, so Wolfdale isn't adding much here. Keep in mind however that DivX does support a function that relies on SSE4 to improve video quality. They even allow it to be run using SSE2, but I don't see the point. Obviously an SSE4 function is going to work better with SSE4. We'll start using it when all the chipsets we test support SSE4.


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.

What is interesting here is that scores have gone up significantly since the last time we tested WinRAR with these exact same processors. Even then, the E8500 leads the pack. Yes, even over the quad-core Q6600.

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