SiSoftware's Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is one of the leading system diagnostic tools available on the market today. The standard edition can be downloaded for personal use and contains 58 modules that provide system information, diagnostics, testing, and benchmarking. Sandra's processor reports provide a good deal of useful information. In this example, the Host Interface section verifies that the Athlon XP 2700+ is operating at a 333MHz front side bus.
The Athlon XP supports most of the enhanced CPU instructions (MMX, SSE, Extended AMD MMX, 3DNow! and Extended 3DNow!) with the exception of SSE2, which is a feature of Intel's Pentium 4 processors.
CPU Arithmetic Performance
Sandra's CPU arithmetic test consists of two synthetic benchmarks that are used to measure performance of the processor (Dhrystone) and floating point processor (Whetstone). Originally developed in 1984 by Reinhold Weicker, the Dhrystone test measures performance associated with integer and string processing. Results are normally reported in Dhrystones per second, which represent the number of times the benchmark program runs in one second, or more specifically, the number of iterations the program loops per second.
The Whetstone test was developed in the 1960's by Brian Wichmann and is named after the town in England where he lived. The benchmark was refined during the 1970's and became the first major synthetic benchmark for processors. Whetstone is a measurement of the execution speed of floating point instructions and functions on scalar and vector data.
Note that the other Athon XP processor results in the following two charts are based on Sandra's comparison feature. SiSoftware routinely conducts in-house benchmarking on various hardware and adds their results to Sandra's database.
Compared to the Athlon XP 1800+ I previously used, the 2700+ shows a 45% increase in the Dhrystone test. The faster integer performance closely mirrors the 42% increase in clock speed, which rose from 1.53GHz to 2.17GHz. The Athlon's strength is in optimizing the amount of work processed per clock cycle and AMD continues to educating consumers by pointing out that relying on clock speed alone isn't the only factor in measuring processor performance.
While doing research on processors, I ran across the following web page that contains a Java enabled Dhrystone benchmark and received a score of 3,443,526 Dhrystones per second. Give it a go to see how your CPU measures up!
CPU Multimedia Performance
The Sandra Multimedia test renders an 860x750 pixel image of a Mandelbrot fractal using 255 iterations per pixel in 32 colors. The test contains two versions - one using integers to simulate floating point numbers and a second using floating point numbers exclusively. Each test makes use of the various instruction sets specific to the Athlon/Athlon XP (3DNow!, 3DNow!/Enhanced) and Pentium 4 (MMX, MMX Enhanced, SSE, SSE2) processors.
Equations used to calculate a Madelbrot set yield some of the most fascinating and complex patterns know to man and appear to calculate an infinite number of points. Further information on fractals, as well as a Java enabled zoom-able fractal generator, can be found at this web page.
In the Whetstone test, Sandra uses Athlon Enhanced MMX and 3DNow! Enhanced in order to achieve an optimal result. To illustrate the importance of these special instruction sets, I ran a Multimedia test with them disabled. This resulted in a sharp decline in the Athlon XP 2700+ scores, which were 3874 in the integer test (68% decrease) and 2993 in the floating point test (77% decrease).
PROCESSOR TEST: PCMARK2002
MadOnion's PCMark2002 gives us a broad measurement of overall system performance by testing CPU, memory, and disk performance individually while generating a composite score for each of these sub-systems. PCMark2002 is free to use and allows your personal benchmark results to be compared to other users via the Online Results Browser. The CPU tests in PCMark2002 are based on common computing tasks.
The overall CPU result of 6536 with the Athlon XP 2700+ was the forth highest PCMark2002 score for all Athlon XP processors at the time of this writing. Keep in mind that PCMark2002 results can be submitted based on heavily overclocked systems in order to achieve an optimal score.
PROCESSOR TEST: QUAKE 3
id Software's Quake 3 has been widely used as a CPU benchmark since the performance of its OpenGL based graphics engine increases accordingly with faster processors. The downside is that Quake 3 also scales in performance, to a lesser degree, based on the capabilities of system memory. When using Quake 3 as a measure of processor performance, it's important that the fastest graphics setting be used in order to eliminate as much reliance on the graphics card as possible. The following is a comparison against my nForce based Athlon XP 1800+ system. Both systems were running a GeForce4 Ti 4600.
At resolutions up to 1024x768, the nForce2 based system with the Athlon XP 2700+ provides a 37% increase in average frame rates. One reason for playing Quake 3 with the fastest graphics setting is for competitive gaming, but I'll take a look at performance under high quality settings in a later section on graphics scaling.