March 14, 2006 2:01 PM PST

Early tests give advantage to Intel's Conroe

Intel's Conroe desktop processor outperformed Advanced Micro Devices' FX-60 in tests last week, but AMD supporters are conceding nothing until systems appear in the wild.

Independent hardware reviewers at this month's Intel Developer Forum were given a chance to compare PCs based on Conroe against PCs based on AMD's FX-60 processor, its most powerful chip for desktop PCs. But the tests were done on PCs set up by Intel and run by reviewers from popular hardware sites such as AnandTech, Hexus.net and The Tech Report. They showed Conroe outperforming AMD's chip by about 20 percent, which was in line with claims made by Intel before and during IDF.

However, given the nature of the testing, it's too early to anoint chips based on Intel's new Core microarchitecture as the new kings of the motherboard, according to AMD fans and analysts.

The reviewers noted that they didn't detect any obvious bias toward Intel's chips. AMD supporters, however, flocked to message boards to point out that Intel's testing used an outdated BIOS that held back AMD's performance by a small degree and used an older motherboard. They also said Intel's test was unable to predict how AMD's chips would perform once the company adds support for faster DDR2 memory in the second half of the year.

Rahul Sood, chief technology officer of high-end PC maker VoodooPC, weighed in on his blog with suggestions for a more equitable comparison. However, when AnandTech reran its tests incorporating some of those suggestions, Conroe's overall advantage was still around 20 percent.

Benchmarks for individual applications--mostly games--were primarily used in the comparison during these tests. But until Intel's chips are are introduced later this year, it's impossible to say with certainty exactly how much of an advantage the company's chips will deliver, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Conroe appears to have outdone anything AMD will have available this year, but it's a question of how much, McCarron said. With faster memory and a likely move to faster clock speeds in the second half of the year, AMD's chips will be capable of better performance than the FX-60. But the new chips probably won't outdo Conroe based on the relatively minor changes AMD is making to its design this year, he said.

AMD's current advantage stems from its decision to integrate the memory controller and use Hypertransport buses on its AMD64 chips unveiled in 2003, McCarron said. This was a major step forward in performance, similar to the major step Intel is now taking with its Core microarchitecture, he said.

"That is a one-time gain when you make that architectural transition. Once that's done, you're back to the usual, getting performance through clock rate and cache size," McCarron said. "But at some point (AMD) will revise their architecture, too."

Systems based on Conroe are expected to launch later this year, and all the reviewers have pledged to publish updated results based on systems they've built and configured themselves.

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17 comments

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What an opportunity for a troll contest....
Intel is perfectly justified in building their PC for testing Intel
processors, particularly if AMD processors are not
interchangeable with Intel processors - which I think is true -
memory management and all that.

I'm sure that AMD builds their own PC's to test AMD processors.

So, people, cut the BS and make your claims based upon
recognized and accepted third party benchmarks. Self
promoting in-house technical claims are not worth the effort to
repeat.

Maybe we can get an actual performance comparison rather than
a noise contest.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i don't quite agree
i think the bias is not that intel built the unit, but that intel put the conroe on an newer MB and what-not, while the mb used for the AMD was an older model. the two MB used need to have as similar specs as possible and if the RAM used is optimized for one, it should be adjusted to the approprately optimized settings for the other, rather than optimized for intel and using the same intel settings on the AMD. of course one will out perform the other if one it set to do well and the other is just tossed in there. i'm not explicitly saying that's how it was done, but that's the bias i think people use when they excercize caution regarding intel's stats.
Posted by RayGentry (20 comments )
Link Flag
Curious....
... for all the furor the Intel/AMD processorcontest seems to
arouse, it just maybe most irrelevant. As claimed by another
poster, 98% of the PC buyers don't care which processor they buy.
If so, that makes all the competition just a matter of price to the
OEM's, nothing else.

Curious, indeed.....
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
You can buy an Athlon 64 FX-60 today.
I don't blame the skeptics for not handing over the performance crown just yet.

You can surf to TigerDirect or whatever and buy an FX-60 today but the Conroe is not out till later in the year.

With that said the IDC AMD system was not running the latest and greatest MB and BIOS, but the Intel system was 5-5-5-15 memory timings instead of 4-4-4-15 which gave it a slight disadvantage.

So the benchmark itself ended up being a pretty fair comparison.

Anandtech posted updated results here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://anandtech.com/tradeshows/showdoc.aspx?i=2716&#38;p=6" target="_newWindow">http://anandtech.com/tradeshows/showdoc.aspx?i=2716&#38;p=6</a>

By launch I am sure AMD will have closed in the lead some, but also notice that Intel did better with games but AMD still took media encoding. (and many benchmarks are just not listed)

By launch deciding which is the "better" may just depend on the types of applications you use.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you misunderstood..
the bench markes. For media encoding, shorter bars are better. Looks like..for now conroe has overall better benchmarks. And just for the record, I am not a fan of either processor maker (though I personally think AMD chips are better value for the money you pay ;-).)
Posted by indrakanti (90 comments )
Link Flag
Conroe outperforms by more than 20%
in many benchmarks. The article is very conservative in saying 20%.
Posted by amd_ace (3 comments )
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Price/performance is what matters
What matters to the vast majority of users isn't the speed of the processor, but the processor's price/performance ratio. After years of only buying Intel-inside products, I switched this year to an AMD Sempron laptop that's priced about 20-30% less than a comparable Intel-inside product -- and am extremely happy with my decision. I haven't noticed any significant performance penalty, and I often run several applications simultaneously.
Posted by trecooldc (2 comments )
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Only 20% , *BIG YAWN*
And of course 20 degree celsius hotter. Intel, go back to the drawing board.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
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Umm read the reviews again
The conroe tested was clocked at 2.67ghz compared to the FX60 at 2.8ghz (overclocked)

Not only did the conroe beat it performance wise but the conroe was cooler and only using 65watts of power compared to the FX60 at over a 100watts.

The conroe 3.3ghz is supposed to be a 85watt CPU...and I would bet alot faster.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
20% is 1/5th, that's not trivial
But it would be more informative if someone ran a benchmark of the *current* best Intel chip vs the new one. That's the figure I'd like to see.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Look, Intel will catch up
Look, I am an AMD fan all the way, but guess what, everyone knew that Intel would catch up, for a while they didn't do so well on their chips, and they are JUST now starting to get back onto the playing field.

But it doesn't matter, how many people do you know with $1000 CPU's, just because you have THE fastest chip doesn't make you the king of the world.

Heck, just buy "the cell" and win over everyone, might cost $15000, but hey, who is counting.

The point is, perhaps intel now edges out AMD by perhaps 5% (which is large in the CPU market) for one chip. I am assuming this is later, after AMD gets their chips on the market too. HOWEVER, AMD kicks butt in benchmarks for their midrange processors. 80% of their duel cores still outpreform Dells of the same price, and the Athlon 64 is by far the best chip for your money. Show me a $120 Dell chip that can do anything close to the 64. That is how AMD works, its all about power per dollar, and AMD is the firm winner.

I'll give Intel some credit, they didn't just do nothing, their gains will come later, they built up their manufacturing process, when they make their chips, currently they are about 6 months ahead of AMD, in terms of 65 nano chips and the such.

One last point, AMD is not making major changes this year, it is the major changes that give you the large boost in preformance, just wait. Intel will sell you a chip before its even designed, AMD is very quite, who knows what they have up their sleave, new memory, but preformance wise, no instant payoff, give it 8 months. So we don't know where AMD is going.

Quad core, yeah, but other then that, where is AMD heading? Who knows?
Posted by jzsaxpc (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Of course it outperforms the current AMD CPUs
Conroe is basically the Pentium 5. It would be rediculous for Intel or AMD to come out with a brand new chip architecture that didn't outperform the previous chips.

This just goes to show how GOOD competition is!

What am I getting at? When intel pushed out the pentium 4 the performance gain compared to the pentium 3 was an embarrasement and I believe that the early pentium 4s were slower then the P3s.

But this time around AMD is actually in the game and everyone views them as a big player. It really doesn't surprise me that Intel actually got off their butts and put in some decent work into their new chip architecture before pushing out the door. They couldn't afford to push out something new and it NOT have a big perform increase.

From the previews I read about the new AM2 socket, the change to DDR2 isn't supposed to show that much of a performance increase due to the slow timings on DDR2 (Which is why they've waited for DDR2 @ 800Mhz).

Like others have said, what will be really interesting to see is the comparison between performance and price! This new chip may give a 20% increase in performance over AMDs fastest chip, but is that their low-end Conroe or one that's going to cost us $1000+.

What I would like to see is Intel be smart and actually take advantage of the situation and turn the tables on AMD by offering this 20%+ increase cpu at a nice low price, since low price high performance has been AMDs strategy in the past.

Hopefully with both Intel &#38; AMD going to smaller processes and the CPUs going to be 20%+ faster then current CPUs things will heat up quick and the money they are saving from the smaller processes are actually PASSED ON TO THE CUSTOMER!

My 2 cents...and then some. ;)
Posted by Bryan Bartlett (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I guess...
Intel would continue to take the lead. However this would in no way affect the market share of AMD significantly. In fact I expect it to continue it's increase in marketshare based on current trends. Mainly due to the prices maintained by AMD. However other players such as VIA which supply mobos with builtin processors may loose in the pricing v/s performance...
Posted by thedevilbegone (139 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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