Pentium D vs Core 2 Duo

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Products: Intel 805 Pentium D, Core 2 Duo E6600

Introduction:

Core 2 Duo is a tremendous step up from the previous generation of CPU's from Intel.  Even Pentium D wasn't a big jump in performance or thermal reduction.  Today we are taking a bit of a look at how the Core 2 Duo compares to the Pentium D in terms of real world performance.  We have tested six real world applications and six games in our quest to gather data.  We have put the brand new Core 2 Duo E6600 at 2.4GHz against the 2.66GHz Pentium D 805.

Although I realize that this is not a fair comparison, I thought it would be interesting to see how much faster the Core 2 Duo really is when compared to a slightly faster clocked Pentium D processor.  If you want to read and find out what all if new with the Core 2 Duo architecture, head on over and read this excellent article at PC Perspective.

Below is a list of specs and features as a comparison between the two processors.

Feature Comparison

The Core 2 Duo has 2MB of L2 cache per core and runs at 1066FSB with a 9x Multiplier.  This clocks the Core 2 Duo E6600 at a mere 2.4GHz.  In comparison the Pentium D 805 has 1MB of L2 Cache per core and runs at a mere 533FSB with a 20x multiplier.  This in turn clocks the Pentium D 805 at 2.66GHz - 266Mhz faster than the E6600.

The Test:

We have rounded up a few benchmarks to compare these two processors to see how much faster the Core 2 Duo is than it's low-budget predecessor.  It would have been a more interesting comparison if we could have taken the E6300 and put it against the 805D in a battle of the low-end dual core CPUs, but we have to make due with what is on hand.  We will put these two processors head to head in application benchmarks as well as gaming benchmarks.  What makes this test different than other benchmarks that we have done before is that all of these are real world tests.  We are not using synthetic benchmark programs.  We are using real-world applications to see how these will perform in day-to-day tasks.  Below is the list of tests that we've done.

Applications:

  • Audio Conversion/Encoding.
  • PhotoShop CS.
  • Server Load (XML Parsing & Loading - Ultima Online).
  • Video Encoding - DivX 6.2
  • Video Encoding - Quicktime
  • File Compression & Decompression.

Games:

  • Age Of Empires 3
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Half-Life 2: Episode 1
  • Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
  • Quake 4
  • Tomb Raider: Legend

 

We'll take a look at the test setup before we head into testing.


Test Setup:

We used a new Intel motherboard for these tests, and while it may not be the fastest board around it is one of the few boards that work with Conroe CPUs.  The board on the bench is the Intel DG965WH board and it features the brand-new G965 chipset.  This chipset features the new Intel GMA X3000 DirectX 10 GPU and has some nifty features in itself.  For the tests in this article we are not using the integrated video, but instead an eVGA 7600GT CO as well as the other hardware listed below.

  • Intel Pentium 805 Smithfield Processor
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 Processor
  • Intel DG965WH Motherboard
  • 2GB 2x1GB Crucial Ballistix PC8000 (DDR2-1000) - Crucial
  • Plextor PX-750A DVDRW Drive - Plextor
  • Seagate 250GB SATA II 7200.9 HDD
  • eVGA 7600GT 256MB
  • Windows XP Professional with all available updates
  • Intel Chipset Drivers 8.0.1.1002
  • ForceWare 91.31 drivers.

Hardware Info:

Thankfully Intel's Core 2 Duo is based on the same Socket as their previous processors.  However, not every board that can fit an LGA775 processor can run a Core 2 Duo.  In fact, there are only a few chipsets that officially support this processor.  One such chipset is the 965 series from Intel.  We were lucky enough to score a motherboard as well as a processor and have had quite a bit of fun with this combination.  Below are pictures of the Conroe Processor and our test bench motherboard.

Core 2 Duo - E6600
 Core 2 Duo - E6600

Intel DG965WH Board
 Intel DG965WH Board

To keep the platform equal between processors, we clocked everything at default speeds and ran our Crucial PC2-8000 at DDR800 with 4-4-4-10 timings.  The DG965WH doesn't support a 1066MHz memory speed, so we chose 800MHz with tighter timings.  Other than changing up the CPU, nothing changed throughout testing.  The performance difference that we will see in a few minutes is directly related to CPU performance, and perhaps a bit better bandwidth management in the memory subsystem on the Core 2 Duo.


 

CPU-Z - Intel Pentium 805D
CPU-Z - Intel Pentium 805D

CPU-Z - Intel Core 2 Duo E6600
CPU-Z - Intel Core 2 Duo E6600

CPU-Z - Crucial PC8000 SPD
CPU-Z - Crucial PC8000 SPD

We'll jump right into the benchmarks on the next page.


Audio Conversion:

We used dBPowerAMP for this test and converted the audio tracks three different ways.  First, we took uncompressed WAV files and converted them to the lossless OGG format, then converted the OGG files to MP3.  Finally we converted the MP3 files back into WAV files.  We recorded the times below.

Audio Conversion
Audio Conversion

PhotoShop CS2:

This next benchmark shows how these two processors handle the task of real world Photoshop usage.  We used the file and set of actions from DriverHeaven.  This benchmark is a little involved to set up because it is a set of PhotoShop tasks that are timed using the built-in timer.  Click the chart below for a full-sized chart to see how these processors scale.

Photoshop Filters
Photoshop Filters

Ultima Online Server Test:

This next test was brought to me by JayMo and was quite interesting to see.  This test is an Ultima Online Server script that parses over 200MB of XML files and loads the Ultima Online server.  This test is purely mathematical and shows how well each CPU can handle raw data.  This server script is generally used on hefty Dual Opteron servers as each server can host 2000+ players.  We'll see how a desktop chip can handle the task.

XML & Server Load
XML & Server Load

In these first few tests, the Core 2 Duo is dominating more than I thought it would.  When it comes to Audio Encoding we see a performance lead anywhere from 52% to 98% over the faster clocked Pentium D.  In Photoshop CS2, we see an average performance lead of 59% on the Core 2 Duo system, and when it comes to XML parsing and server load times, the Pentium D trails by an embarrassing 87%.

We will carry on with our application testing and see if the Pentium D can make up any ground when it comes to video encoding and file compression.


DivX Encoding:

DivX is a very popular codec and many people convert video into DivX for distribution across the web or playback on a DivX certified DVD Player.  We used DivX 6.2.0 and used the included DivX encoder tool to encode our test video.  The video sample is a 2:01 second WMV file that we converted using the Home Theatre Profile.  This test doesn't use any fancy optimizations or adjustments.  This was a simple drag and drop conversion that didn't require any setup or tweaking.  This test shows raw performance on both machines.

Video Encoding - DivX 6.2
Video Encoding - DivX 6.2

Quicktime H.264 Encoding:

We used QuickTime Pro and fired up a similar test using a different video clip.  This clip is a short AVI clip that is 16,491KB and 1:19 long.  It was taken from a digital camera and then dropped into QuickTime Pro for a little high compression H.264 encoding.  This is a very bandwidth friendly format that uses a lot of CPU power to compress quickly.

Video Encoding - Quicktime H.264
Video Encoding - Quicktime H.264

 

File Compression & Extraction:

This test shows how well both CPU's handle file compression and extraction.  Our test file is a 74.4MB Zip file that contains 10,092 files and folders.  It is mostly HTML, XML and MySQL databases so there is a lot of compression possible as these files are basically text files.  When the archive is uncompressed it occupies 398MB.  The compression ratio is a little better than 5.3:1.

File Archive Compression
File Archive Compression

The second series of application tests showed similar results as the first set.  Video encoding is done much more efficiently on the Core 2 Duo compared to the Pentium D.  DivX encoding is done 95% faster on the E6600 and Quicktime H.264 encoding is done an amazing 105% faster!  All this extra performance when run 266MHz slower.  File compression and extraction is a little different however.  Here the Pentium D 805 compresses almost 60% slower, but when it comes to extracting an archive it narrows the gap to a mere 2 seconds - 6%.  This is probably due to hard drive write speed though as our archive contains over 10,000 files.

On the next page we'll take a look at some real world gaming.


Game Benchmarking:

We have started to get performance numbers for game much differently that we have in the past.  We used to use time demos and a lot of synthetic benchmarks to get our performance numbers.  While these do have a place in inter-platform testing, they do leave a great big hole in the CPU performance of a game.  Canned benchmarks don't typically take into account CPU load due to AI and Sound that we experience in real-world game play. 

For our performance numbers in the following game tests we used FRAPS to gather frame rate data, then we charted the CSV files in OpenOffice 2.0.3 to get our chart information.  We ran each of the benchmarks a minimum of three times, averaged the results and charted the averaged numbers.  Some games lend themselves to easy repetition of a map and others are more difficult due to the AI involved.  In a real world scenario, Battlefield 2 was impossible to keep consistent as the AI chose different numbers of bots to travel to the same flag every time we loaded the map.  Below are the games that we felt were repetitive and interesting enough to be included in our head-to-head.

All of the games were ran at 800x600 with medium to low detail so that the graphics system would not be the bottleneck.

Age Of Empires 3:

Age Of Empires is a very CPU intensive game as it requires a lot of cycles to run the AI of the enemy.  I really expected the Core 2 Duo to shine in this benchmark after seeing the way it smoked the Pentium D in previous benchmarks.  I was a little surprised at the results.

Age Of Empires 3
Age Of Empires 3

Call Of Duty 2:

Call of Duty 2 is a very impressive game to play.  It is very immersive as the story plays out well.  The audio and video of this game are very demanding and it can bring most mid-range systems to their knees when playing at larger resolutions.  We kept everything in check at 800x600 so we could see the impact that the CPU has on this game.

Call Of Duty 2
Call Of Duty 2

Half-Life 2: Episode 1:

I've enjoyed the Half-Life series from the beginning and I remember playing the original on a Voodoo 3.  Half-Life 2 has a bit higher requirements, and Half-Life 2: Episode 1 is even more demanding on a system.  We turned down the resolution to 800x600 and left everything else medium to see how the CPU affected this game.  Up until now, CPU has had very little impact overall on gaming performance.

Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Half-Life 2: Episode 1

These first game tests are pretty interesting.  You may have noticed that I included the "mean" scores in the graphs above.  The Core 2 Duo takes the lead in all games but in Age Of Empires 3 and Call of Duty 2, the difference is very minimal.  These games exhibit a 1-2FPS increase on the Conroe CPU, and that even falls within margin of error.  However, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 really like the Core 2 Duo and it comes to life with an impressive jump in performance.  We see our average frame rate in HL2:EP1 increase from 62FPS on the 805D, to an amazing 143FPS on the Core 2 Duo.  All we did was change the CPU for an unbelievable 130% performance increase.  Not bad at all.

We will continue our game testing on the next page.


Oblivion:

We continue our head-to-head with a game that has been making headlines as far as world environments go.  The game of course is Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  This game renders graphics on the fly and trees, grass and other objects are generated real-time as you run though the game.  This is incredibly demanding on both the graphics processor and the CPU.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Quake 4:

We continue our quest as we take a look at Quake 4.  I enjoyed this game much more than Doom3 and have spent quite a few hours in the past fragging on Quake 4 maps.  Quake 4 is locked at 60 FPS, so to let things run loose and wild, we had open the console and fix the tic rate by typing the command " seta com_fixedtic "1" ".  This allowed the game to run at the highest FPS that the system could generate.  The problem with this is that when you run faster processors, the game speeds up and the map run-though is not perfectly consistent.  We ran though many times to get very comparable results as you can see below.

Quake 4
Quake 4

 

Tomb Raider: Legend:

The last game we are taking a look at today is the latest Tomb Raider installment.  This game is a total rework of everything we've previously come to hate about Tomb Raider and it has actually impressed a whole bunch of people.  The truth is this game looks good and runs pretty well on mid-range hardware - until you turn Next-Generation Content on.  For these test we are running default graphics settings with Next Gen off at 800x600.  We'll see how CPU bound this game is as we compare the 805D with the E6600 for the last time in this article.

Tomb Raider: Legend
Tomb Raider: Legend

In this series of game tests, we've really seen the Conroe CPU shine.  Oblivion game play yields a nice 13.5FPS increase which translates to 40% when using a 7600GT.  The difference was even more pronounced in Quake 4 and you could really see and feel a difference in this game.  The 805D managed 46.5FPS average which the E6600 pumped out a 74FPS average - almost 60% faster.  Lastly, we compare TR:Legend and see the trend continue as the E6600 pumps out 32% better performance - an extra 34FPS.

Conclusion:

Yes, the Core 2 Duo E6600 is faster than the Pentium D 805.  Are we surprised by the winner?  Of course not, but the margin of victory was larger in some cases than we had ever expected.  On the other hand, there were some instances where we expected more performance out of Intel's latest architecture.  We saw that even though the Core 2 Duo is clocked slower than the Pentium D 805, the amount of work it can do per clock cycle is much, much higher.  No offence to Intel fan-boys, but it's about time that Intel made a decent chip that wasn't sitting spinning it tires in the mud.  It's great to see the massive performance improvements that are available - not by clocking a processor faster - but by making it work properly at the speed its running.

I'm sure that FSB, better bandwidth management, SSE4 and other optimizations will improve this CPU even more in the future.  Intel is back on top with the Core 2 Duo, and we're just plain happy to have had one to play with.

Core 2 Duo is a top choice here at BCCHardware and if you want to snag one, swing on by our sponsor, MemoryExpress, where you will be able to pick them up very, very soon.