The Fastest Processor for Single Threaded Tasks

In the past we’ve had to make concessions for single-threaded application performance on modern day quad-core processors. For example, $266 will buy you two 3.33GHz cores or four 2.83GHz cores from Intel. I generally recommend going the quad-core option but there’s no getting around the fact that you do give up some performance when an application can’t take advantage of more than two threads.

With the Core i7 Extreme 975 the CPU can run at up to 3.60GHz when only one core is active (3.46GHz if more than one core is active). In my testing I found that the CPU almost always ran at its maximum turbo frequencies.

The graph below shows single-threaded performance in Cinebench R10. Note that while the Core 2 Duo E8600 (3.33GHz) was the top performer in this test for quite some time, the Core i7’s Turbo Mode has ensured that it’s no longer true.

Single Threaded Performance - Cinebench R10
The fastest single-threaded processors are now Intel's quad-core, eight-thread Core i7s

The biggest issue I see with the i7’s Turbo Mode today is that you only get one speed bin improvement (+133MHz) if 2 or more cores are active. The biggest boost (+266MHz) only comes when only a single core is active. Perhaps we’ll have to wait for Lynnfield for that.

The Test

Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
MSI DKA790GX Platinum (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
AMD 790GX
AMD 790FX
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1010 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR2-800 2 x 2GB (4-4-4-12)
G.Skill DDR2-1066 2 x 2GB (5-5-5-15)
Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Index SYSMark 2007 Performance
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  • TA152H - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Just an FYI, it's stated that the new i7 975 is 2.5 faster than Intel's fastest Pentium 4, but you didn't test Intel's fastest Pentium 4. The Pentium EE 965, running at 3.73 was it. It also had better power characteristics, since it was a later revision and, if I remember, correctly, had additional power savings modes enabled (EIST?).

    Also, you can't compare power draw between a 45 nm part and 65 nm and get disgusted. 45nm was a big advance for Intel in lowering power, and it would have been a very significant boost for the Pentium 4. Still, it was a terrible design, so your point is well taken, but it would not have been THAT terrible on 45nm. I think 5 GHz would have been easy, 6 GHz probably would not have been too difficult either. It's a pity we never got to see it, just out of curiousity.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Curiousity? Take the average gain of all CPUs in question and you can come up with a rather accurate line of performance per Mhz. It would take longer to get the CPU performance numbers than to do the actual math.

    6 and 7GHz CPUs come with instability. Thats why we stopped at about 4Ghz and started to work smart instead of hard, like the G4/G5 cpus of old.
    Reply
  • BabaBlackSheep - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    I was just wondering how fast these stock fans for these processors are? The last time I got a new processor (Intel) was 3.5 years ago. It was insanely noisy. Has this changed? Reply
  • TotalLamer - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    As much as I would love to support AMD, reviews like this make it very, very difficult at the moment. Reply
  • stimudent - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    does this Intel processor have 'ethics violations' etched into the die too? Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    Why? Neither processor is even remotely attractive to most people. They're performance is fine, but they are too expensive for what they are, again, for most people. If you're running a business, and faster performing processors helps your workers work faster, the $999 for the 975 is essentially nothing, and well worth it. But, for most people, neither of these processors are relevant.

    AMD makes horrible, badly-designed processors, but, is that so different from Intel IGPs? For a lot of people, and AMD processor with and 790GX is a better platform than an Intel based processor with the G45, and a lot of people only need an IGP.

    I really do not think ATI was a bad purchase for AMD. It's made their platform a lot stronger vis-a-vis Intel. From a processor perspective, I agree, AMD sells trash, but as a platform, it can be very attractive because of ATI.

    Reply
  • regnez - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    No one said AMD processors were trash, except you. You kind of have a back and forth on your own argument: On the one hand, AMD cannot compete on the ultra high-end, on the other, not many people buy ultra high-end equipment.

    However, to say that AMD is releasing trash is just nonsense. Their lower-end processors are decent and compete with Intel reasonably well at given price points. They just don't have anything to match Intel at the top, which is not a big deal to most folks.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    "Most folks" do not read Anandtech. We need to look at the types that visit this site.

    I think that's a huge point.
    Reply
  • Azsen - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    When is Core i7 due on the notebook? I.e. quad core goodness?

    I wish Intel and AMD would focus on releasing better performing and lower power parts for the notebooks rather than desktops. Desktops are old school, the notebook is the way of the future and you can't notice much performance difference for general applications and even the odd game. Sure if you're a hard core gamer or need workstation performance you'd get a desktop as you can throw whatever you like in it, but everything else in between is better off as a notebook.
    Reply
  • RadnorHarkonnen - Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - link

    I7 is already on a notebook.

    My DT PSU is a 750W psu.

    Most laptops carry a 65w AC. People start complaining when they have to carry 6kg plus the 130w (or bigger) power brick. Computers are like cars, if you want performance, it will consume loads of juice.

    Lappy owner wants, batery life, portability and low weight. They hate when lappys got too hot. So you got everything agaisnt performance. Its like asking a Smart/1.4 HDI engines to compete with my 309 GTI or Delta HF Turbo. And keeping the low mpg. Some DT CPUs have a 140W heat dissipation packadge. Most of them are about 65W - 90W. This is just HEAT that the CPU dissiaptes, the value it consumes is higher. Most lappies AC Adap are in the 65W range...

    Most consumers that buy a lappy are ill informed or just don't know what they are buying. Most of them doesn't need that portability, and consider the computer slow soon after they buy it, when they start finding out what it "can't" do. Most time is branding in action or a bad sales monkey.

    Netbooks were the way of the future, until they started getting a 30% of return rate. Netbooks are only good as a seconday computers.

    I am not a hard core gamer. I don't need workstation performance. I do like a decent performance and i do heavy multi-tasking. You can say Microsoft Office is light (for example), and any laptop can do it, but my Ms for various reasons, when some tasks come, she just drops her lappy and come to my DT. Sometimes to apply a filter. that is just one example.

    Laptops/Desktops/Netbooks will never disapear, because they do diferent jobs. You know a laptop/netbook can't handle for very long a intensive (10+ hours daily) tasks. You can't carry a desktop. Well you can, but not everyday.

    Honestly ? I think the normal Laptop will disapear and it will be replaced by the netbook in one tier, and slim CULV/ULV cpus in a higher tier. If you need "some" performance and reliability for that matter, the Desktop is there for you.

    Reply

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