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Dual Processors

January 3rd, 2006 · 3 Comments

Gisele got a new computer for Christmas, with a “Dual Processor” CPU. The technical details: It’s an Intel 820, which runs at 2.8 GHz. She has 1Gig of Dual DDR2 RAM, and a fast SATA hard drive.

I did some playing around with it to see if I could tell any difference between her computer and mine, which is a 2.6 GHz (single CPU) with similar RAM and hard drive. Both computers are running Windows 2000. Of course, hers has a newly installed OS, while mine has accumulated stuff for two or three years, so it’s not a completely fair test, but anyway…

The dual CPUs are supposed to divide the work between the processors, with (as I understand it) one focussing on whatever you have in the foreground, while the other handles the background tasks. If the foreground program is written to take advantage of the dual processors, then that program can also see performance improvements, but not many programs are so written.

I did a couple of qualitative tests:

1) Just running single applications, I didn’t notice much difference. Opening and running Firefox or Open Office seemed to take about as long on either computer.

2) You know how during startup, while the system is putting icons on the tray, loading the virus scanner, etc, you can click on the start button or an application and it pretends to acknowledge you, but it takes a long time for anything to come up. With Gisele’s computer it seemed to respond much more quickly, while the booting continued in the background.

3) I started the virus scanner doing a full system scan in the background, then ran various programs in the foreground (Firefox, Open Office). I couldn’t even tell the virus scan was running. Everything was fast and responsive. On my computer the foreground slows down perceptibly while scanning for viruses.

Next year Intel is coming out with new versions of the dual processor CPUs, which are supposed to share memory better and therefore perform even better. Quad processors are due out soon after that, but Windows 2000 can’t handle a quad (or more) processor and I’m loathe to install an activation-required OS from Microsoft. However, along with these multi-processor CPUs, there will be new software for running multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single computer, so that might be the time to start phasing in Linux. I’ve tried VMWare on my current computer, but the background OS just takes up too much of the CPU and slows down the foreground OS too much. But with dual processors, that shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll see!

Tags: Computers, Tech & Science

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Donna // Jan 3, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    Wow, sounds like a fantastic processor made by a fantastic company.

  • 2 Richard // Jan 4, 2006 at 9:20 am

    I keep wondering what the future holds. I am anxious to know what kind of applications are going to be developed to take advantage of the increases in power of personal computers. Most of us have far more power than we can use in the simple applications we use. How much power does it take to run e-mail and a web browser?

    Of course, there are some power users who need such performance for gaming and multimedia applications. High performance processors and systems are also needed for server work, but I am talking about simple home users.

    Since the advent of the PC we have continued to find ways to use the increased power available so I expect such applications will be developed. I look forward to learing what they will be.

  • 3 Don // Jan 4, 2006 at 9:34 am

    When I recently upgrade my machine I looked at the dual processor option and decided I didn’t need it(at the time). My main use of Windows is either running Counter Strike:Source or making maps for CS:S. I use my Linux box for pretty much everything else.

    I’ve since realized it would have been nice to have the dual setup and here’s why. When I’m making a map every so often I need to complie it and then check it out in the actual game. Compiling is very CPU intensive, in fact I can’t do anything else while that’s happening. I believe the dual would allow me to do something else, like run the game. I have also had problems trying to run the game with the map editor open. It just doesn’t like to do that and I’ve got 1.25 GB of memory and a AMD 3200+ CPU.

    Now what I do is use my other Windows computer to run the game and then go back to the editing machine to make changes/compile. It works but it would be nice to not have to do that.