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System Performance Comparisons, 2005

By  Sean Reifschneider Date November 27, 2005

I've been testing out a variety of hardware over the last several weeks. This includes a dual Opteron 2GHz, dual Xeon 3.2GHz, Dual-core Pentium D 3.0GHz, and a single P4 3GHz. There are plenty of places that run systems through various benchmarks. You find a lot of speculation about the power consumption and head on the Opterons. However, I was surprised by the amount of heat put out by the Opteron system as a whole.

So, I decided to take some measurements of these systems to see how they compared from the power and heat standpoint.

The measurements were taken using an inductive power meter on the input to the power-supply. Temperature values were taken using a temperature probe hooked up to my multi-meter, testing at the main air outlet on the system, the power-supply fan output, and the directly at the CPU heat-sink, in the center of the down-wind side of the air-flow.

I've also run a simple benchmark on system performance to get a rough idea of how the system performs. For this I downloaded the kernel source, did "make oldconfig" and used the default answer to all questions, and then did "time make -j 5 modules bzImage".

Performance Benchmark

ProcessorElapsed time
Dual Xeon 3.2GHz8m43.371s (Fastest)
Dual Opteron 246 (2.0GHz)9m0.341s
Pentium D 3.0GHz12m9.387
Pentium 4 3.0GHz22m48.522s (Slowest)

Power Consumption

ProcessorAt Idle100% Utilized
Dual Xeon 3.2GHz1.4 Amps (Highest)2.4 Amps (Highest)
Dual Opteron 246 (2.0GHz)1.2 Amps2.1 Amps
Pentium D 3.0GHz0.9 Amps1.5 Amps
Pentium 4 3.0GHz0.7 Amps (Lowest)1.2 Amps (Lowest)

Temperature at Idle

Dual Xeon 3.2GHz95 degrees F (Highest)101 degrees F94 degrees F
Dual Opteron 246 (2.0GHz)81 degrees F107 degrees F (Highest)Unknown
Pentium D 3.0GHzUnknown99 degrees F86 degrees F (Lowest)
Pentium 4 3.0GHz80 degrees F (Lowest)90 degrees F (Lowest)100 degrees F (Highest)

Temperature at 100%

Dual Xeon 3.2GHz110 degrees F (Highest)106 degrees F117 degrees F (Highest)
Dual Opteron 246 (2.0GHz)97 degrees F119 degrees F (Highest)Unknown
Pentium D 3.0GHz88 degrees F99 degrees F104 degrees F (Lowest)
Pentium 4 3.0GHz86 degrees F (Lowest)90 degrees F (Lowest)115 degrees F


People have recently been speaking about the Intel dual-core CPUs using excessive amounts of power. However, compared to the dual-CPU systems, the Pentium D is quite reasonable. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the dual-core Xeons.

Despite what everyone says about the performance of Opterons and their low power-consumption, they performed similarly and were within 15% on power consumption. While the Opteron system was cool as far as the system goes, the power-supply generated vast amounts of heat.

While the cost of the Opteron CPUs may be slightly less than the Xeon, but the cost of the whole systems seem to be slightly the opposite. The big issue with the Opterons is limited selection of hardware options. The Xeon hardware is quite prevalent, with many choices available.

The Pentium D has a lot of bang for the buck. The dual-CPU systems give better than 2x performance of the single CPU, with solid 2x more power consumption and therefore a likely doubling in the power dissipation. The Pentium D is nearly double the performance but with only 20% more power consumption.

Pretty much all of the current crop of CPUs are 64-bit capable. While the Opteron has a 32-bit mode for running software, I found CentOS 4.2 had serious driver issues when running in 32-bit mode on the Opterons. I also had driver issues with the Opteron system in 64-bit mode as well. Fedora Core 4 seemed to do a bit better with the hardware, probably because of newer driver versions.

The Intel-based systems, with EM64T, all seem to run with no problems on CentOS 4.2, in 32-bit mode.

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