Test Drive: Intel Nehalem, Part 1

0011_TestDriveIntelNehalem1_link1.jpgA few months ago, I ran some Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4) benchmarks on different computers that isolated how CS4 performed with formats ranging from DV to Red. Now that Intel’s Nehalem processor is upon us, those numbers are obsolete, so I’m updating them with results from two Nehalem-based workstations that I’ve been testing. In this installment, I’ll explain the tests and share DV and HDV results; next time, I’ll present the results for AVCHD, DVCPRO HD, and Red.

By way of background, Nehalem is a new CPU from Intel with greatly expanded throughput to and from system memory, and improved performance, primarily through Hyper-threaded Technology (HTT), which appeared on many CPUs prior to the Core 2 Duo line. HP recently launched three Nehalem-based computers: the Z400 (single CPU), Z600 (dual-CPU capable, limited memory and hard disk expandability), and Z800 (dual-CPU capable, max expandability). HP also redesigned the cases for the latter two computers, for cooling, noise reduction, and ease of access. You can see a cute demonstration of the ease of access part, courtesy of my daughter Rose, here and read a review of the Z800 here.

One of the points that HP made quite strongly during the Z-series launch is that most of the workstations currently used for digital content creation are single- or dual-core. I didn’t have this perspective when I reviewed the Z800, so I compared the Z400 and Z800 to two older eight-core systems—one running 32-bit Windows, the other 64-bit Windows. For this article, I wanted to benchmark performance on lower-power systems as well.

While I didn’t have a single-core system with the necessary software around, I did have a Pentium D system, which was the dual-core technology Intel released prior to the Core 2 Duo architecture. Though this computer was as fast as they got back in 2002, adding it to the comparison matrix made me wonder how we got any work done at all back then.

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