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(Opteron 248 2.2GHz) versus Armari RX-E (Xeon 3.06GHz) versus Apple
G5 Power Mac Dual-2GHz
system builder Armari created a pair of dual-processor Windows PCs to
take on Apple's dual-2GHz PowerMac. But which is the faster and can
they beat the G5?
Apple and AMD have
rightly been saying for years that processor speed is only one crude
measure of a system's performance, but it's still not something that's
understood, especially by computer buyers.
Design is more important, affecting how well a CPU works in conjunction
with the RAM, graphics card, disk drives and various elements of the
The operating system - its type and the way it's set up - also plays
a big part in performance, as does the coding of programs. Mac and Windows
versions of the same program will have different features and perform
Armari's Win XP PC using AMD Opteron processors took first place in
10 out of the 19 tests. Most times, the Apple dual-CPU Mac trailed both
Windows dual-processor PCs, sometimes by a considerable margin. Yet
the winner and the tail-ender both use 64-bit processors run with 32-bit
operating systems. So is Win XP 32-bit currently, if not inherently,
faster than Mac OS X 10.3?
A major factor, though - certainly when comparing the two Windows boxes
- looks to be memory bandwidth. The Opteron system can handle far more
data per second than the Xeon. But using the raw figures quoted by the
three chip makers (something that can lead to wrong-headed thinking),
you'd presume that the Apple would be way out ahead. Claimed bandwidth
of the G5's IBM CPU is 16GByte in total, 8GByte/sec per processor -
way ahead of the Opteron's 12.8GByte/sec total (6.4GByte/sec per processor).
Hard disk speed may also be at play - or rather, the speed with which
the G5 and Opteron machine can read from disks and write to them. Unlike
Armari, Apple didn't fit a second hard disk, so we tried to create a
more level playing field by adding a S-ATA drive - a Western Digital
250GByte, not the same Maxtor drive used in the Windows PCs. The WD
is certainly no slouch - but may have had a slight effect. Nonetheless,
some of our tests suggest that for sheer speed, a three-drive system
would be best - one for system and programs, one to read from, and another
to write to - making the Mac's limit of two internal drives and absence
of built-in Raiding look even more of a disadvantage.
Of course, all this assumes that it's sensible to even ask whether it's
best to buy a Mac or a Windows PC for video editing. Our view is that
two alternative questions should be posed - what video editing software
and hardware do you want to run, and which computer is likely to run
it best within the chosen budget?
If the software is Apple's highly-rated Final Cut Pro 4 and DVD Studio
Pro, then the debate about relative speeds is a nonsense, as it is if
you can't afford a Mac as fast as the G5. And the same is true if the
programs of choice are Windows-only - of which there is a far wider
range, including options for real-time editing cards that may only run
on specific motherboards/CPU combinations.
Yes, the dual-2GHz G5 PowerMac is the world's coolest PC and also, probably,
the most desirable, which is why it deserves our Innovation award. But,
it's far from being the fastest, even though it is hugely innovative.
Fastest on test here is the Armari-built dual-Opteron - winner of Editor's
Choice award - and we believe that AMD's 64-bit CPUs will extend their
performance lead over their competitors when a 64-bit operating system,
programs and drivers arrive this year. As for the dual-Xeon system,
it's fast, and more affordable than the other two machines - so this
gets the Value award.
Read the full review
in April 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
World's fastest editing PCs
Pinnacle Liquid Edition 5.5
Pinnacle Studio 9
CyberLink PowerDirector 3
Boris Red 3GL
In April's news:
Budget Canopus MPEG suite
8x speed DVD burners
Canopus MPEG hardware
After Effects keyer
FireWire analogue/DV HDD recorder
Ready-made Canopus effects