Sunday, January 14, 2007

Impressions and some "benchmarks"

After putting the system together my first impulse was to open task manager and see what was going on behind the scenes, and I was stunned.

I think I've seen my system exceed 50% utilization twice. Not for lack of trying mind you. I loaded up Warcraft III, Flight Sim X, FEAR and found that they were all CPU bound to one CPU, I came to realize that the other cores and chips just don't help at all, at least not right now. I mean, I already knew this, single threaded games won't use more processors - but seeing everything in action really drove the point home.

If you are buying a system for gaming, keep this one point in mind - your games will only run as fast as your fastest core. Half Life is slated to get some multi-threading goodness sometime this year, but coding (i know) multi-threaded applications is difficult and frequently slows the development process. There are a host of issues that need to be dealt with when developing with threads. It also increases bug hunting time. So while it would be "nice", many houses that have single threaded developers probably aren't going to be adding a ton of "risk" to their project plans any time soon just so that we can use all of these crazy cores. The good news is that the PS3 is inherently mutli-threaded and will allow game developers a chance to get their feet wet with threads and concurrent process streams.

The impression here is that 4 cores is too many for 99.99999999999999% of the people out there. The bandwidth available on this system is staggering. I found that when I was installing software I would start two, sometimes three "long running" installs. Or I might run the updater and do an install browse the web etc. etc. There would be basically no slowdown. Nothing seems to take very long, and things like searching my Outlook inbox doesn't put a dent in system performance. All the while I'm free to go from site to site, recompile code, and run queries. If you want a gaming rig I think that two cores might be a better number, it will give the OS and other tasks an area to work while the other core is maxed out. Also, the Intel chips are highly overclockable.

What was a little surprising is that I'm using way more ram, because I can run more programs. In hindsight it makes sense, though when I put this system together I looked at my previous RAM usage and settled on 2 GB, thinking 4 GB might be excessive. I was wrong. Running Visual Studio 2005 really eats a lot of ram, add in SQL Server Management Studio, a few browsers, Outlook, EVE or WCIII and iTunes and you have 1.5 GB easy. I'm also using x64 for my development tools which increases RAM usage as well. The bottom line is that if you have a lot of applications open, go for the 4GB you'll probably need it when Vista is out.

Disk IO is phenomenal. I'm never waiting on the disk. Well I am, but not nearly as much as other machines. This has less to do with the chips and more to do with the drives. If you are building a high end machine like this, get the faster disks. You'll find that they are still fast three years later. It's really the only "investment" that won't get thrown away.

I don't know what's going on in my machine. At the moment, I have no way to monitor temps across the system. I've tried a number of different packages and I've found that they either hang the system or report wierd numbers. This is actively preventing me from tweaking it anymore than I already have. Though at the moment I'm running it in "stock" mode.

From a graphics perspective it eats up the highest settings. In some cases such as EVE, I've found that it actually renders a little better at higher settings. Everything just looks great though. I'm pretty sure that has more to do with the 8800.

Lack of cooling options. Most coolers are not designed to deal with multiple cpus. While I'm sure it would help, I'm going to hold off until a decent 8800 cooler is available. I've also been thinking about desinging a cooling rig for this type of setup that is quiter than a fan based solution.

Installation benchmarks

Windows XP64 - 26 Minutes
Patch to current - 16 Minutes (DSL 6.0 Mb)
Full Office Install (From ISO) - 1 Minute 30 Seconds
Full Visual Studio 2005 Team Architect Install (DVD ISO ~ 3.5GB of data) - 12 Minutes 24 Seconds
SQL Server Tools - 2 Minutes 30 Seconds

Those are the extent of the heafty installs. Those of you who have done the VS.NET install can appreciate how fast that really is.

Drive benchmarks (using h2benchw)

I was interested to see if there was any gain or loss in performance by using the MediaShield controller. I was also interested to see the difference between a single disk and the RAID 0. I found that there was no signficant different between the RAID and non-RAID connected drive. The RAID adds a pretty heafty read boost, though I was expecting a little more.

Write tests were not conducted primarily because it took too much time.

Single Raptor no RAID
Sustained transfer rate (block size: 128 sectors):
Reading: average 71966.5, min 27578.4, max 85309.5 [KByte/s]
Random access read: average 8.13, min 2.52, max 20.64 [ms]
Random access read (<504 index =" 28.9">
Single Raptor RAID connected (also system disk)
Sustained transfer rate (block size: 128 sectors):
Reading: average 71351.8, min 16714.1, max 85308.2 [KByte/s]
Random access read: average 8.10, min 2.24, max 19.86 [ms]
Random access read (<504 index =" 28.8">

RAID 0 Striping (system disk)
Sustained transfer rate (block size: 128 sectors):
Reading: average 99133.7, min 55080.4, max 111992.1 [KByte/s]
Random access read: average 8.14, min 0.05, max 14.84 [ms]
Random access read (<504 index =" 31.7">

I'm going to expand on this a little more but here is some preliminary stuff:

Warcraft III
Highest settings, 1600x1200, don't have a framerate, but it's fast, very fast.
30% CPU Use

EVE Online
Resolution: 1920x1200
100 FPS in station, 27-32 FPS Outside (You've never seen EVE like this)
Antialias: 16xQ
AA Transparency: Supersample
Anisotropic: 16x
Vertical Sync: On
25% CPU

EVE seems like it might use more than one thread. I'll post some new EVE pics soon, they are unbelievable.

1 comment:

Wise lnvestor said...

Hi, I though the ps3 was excellent system up until I read this article.

Xbox 360 vs. Sony's PlayStation 3

What is opinion about PS3's performance wise?