Friday, July 31, 2009

Intel Atom vs Intel Core 2 Duo

The goal of this test is to determine the how the low end single core processor measures against a middle range desktop CPU in a test dominated by logical operations and bit-set arithmetics using BitMagic Library. We are trying to check a hypothesis if it is make sense to try building a small compute cluster for distributed data-mining and search system applications based on of Atom processors.

The test systems:

  1. Intel® Atom N270 1.6 GHz - Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook

  2. Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor E8500 (3.16GHz, 6M, 1333MHz FSB) – Dell OptiPlex 960

Conducted test run a mix of BitMagic library performance tests covering various bit-vector operations. All performance results are in seconds, shorter is faster (better).

In our test Core2 seems to be 3.4 times faster than Atom, measured core to core in a single threaded program. Intel Atom N270 is a single core hyper-threaded chip (pretends to be dual core). Running two performance tests in parallel does not offer no benefit for a well optimized program (test just runs 2x times slower). Given this fact Atom seems to be 6.8x slower than Core 2.

Having this numbers we can compare the energy efficiency of both CPUs. Specs for Atom N270 says it runs in the thermal envelope of 2.5W. Core2 Duo claims 65 (26x times difference for Atom).

Based on some i-net reviews the full system power consumption for Atom N270 netbook should be around 42W and the Core 2 on a full throttle is probably running at around 300W (all numbers needs to be confirmed with a socket power meter). System power consumption offers only 7.14x advantage to Atom. It covers the 6.8 performance gap between Core 2 and Atom, but the profit seems not to be high. This is coming from the fact, that power efficiency of current generation of Atom systems is dominated by the chipset and other components. For a small compute cluster power can be reduced by not running the GUI and replacing the HDD with small bootable Flash drive. This applies to both systems.


At this moment Atom does not unfold its full potential as a cluster building block, but the next generation Pineview is going to have integrated memory controller and graphics core (SoC design), it means system performance is going to be down to make Atom clusters more sensible choice.

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