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Q9400S & Q8200S: Intel’s 65W Quad-Cores
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by Rob Williams on February 9, 2009 in Intel Processors

The benefits of a low-TDP processor are obvious, but a usual downside is also obvious: low clock speeds. Intel’s changing that thinking with their Core 2 Quad “S” series, which includes the Q9550S, Q9400S and also the Q8200S. Compared to their non-”S” variants, they draw less power and run cooler, all while retaining the performance they’ve become known for.

Multi-Media: Adobe Lightroom, TMPGEnc Xpress

Photo manipulation benchmarks are more relevant than ever, given the proliferation of high-end digital photography hardware. For this benchmark, we test the system’s handling of RAW photo data using Adobe Lightroom, an excellent RAW photo editor and organizer that’s easy to use and looks fantastic.

For our testing, we take 100 RAW files (in Nikon’s .NEF file format) which have a 10-megapixel resolution, and export them as JPEG files in 1000×669 resolution, similar to most of the photos we use here on the website. Such a result could also be easily distributed online or saved as a low-resolution backup. This test involves not only scaling of the image itself, but encoding in a different image format. The test is timed indirectly using a stopwatch, and times are accurate to within +/- 0.25 seconds.

Although I wouldn’t have otherwise imagined it, Lightroom can actually take advantage of more than 6MB of L2 Cache, which is seen by comparing the Q9450 to our Q9400′s. All three chips run with the same clock speed, but the extra Cache of the Q9450 helped it pull ahead by a fairly noticeable 7.5 seconds. That’s quite considerable given we are only doing a modest scenario here, which takes only ~2 minutes total.

With our Q8200, we can begin to see where the lower clock speed can cause bottlenecks. Here, the E8400 actually performed quite closely to the Q8200, which I wouldn’t have expected. Although Lightroom takes advantage of Multi-Core processors, it doesn’t to the extent that the 3D rendering applications on the previous page do. However, part of this could also be a storage bottleneck, given how fast each one of these freshly-created files are saved to the disk.

TMPGEnc Xpress 4.5

When it comes to video transcoding, one of the best offerings on the market is TMPGEnc Xpress. Although a bit pricey, the software offers an incredible amount of flexibility and customization, not to mention superb format support. From the get go, you can output to DivX, DVD, Video-CD, Super Video-CD, HDV, QuickTime, MPEG, and more. It even goes as far as to include support for Blu-ray video!

There are a few reasons why we choose to use TMPGEnc for our tests. The first relates to the reasons laid out above. The sheer ease of use and flexibility is appreciated. Beyond that, the application does us a huge favor by tracking the encoding time, so that we can actually look away while an encode is taking place and not be afraid that we’ll miss the final encoding time. Believe it or not, not all transcoding applications work like this.

For our test, we take a 0.99GB high-quality DivX H.264 AVI video of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay with stereo audio and transcode it to the same resolution of 720p (1280×720), but lower the bitrate in order to attain a modest filesize. Since the QX9770 we are using for testing supports the SSE4 instruction set, we enable it in the DivX control panel, which improves both the encoding time and quality.

Like Lightroom, this is another test where we can see that faster frequencies will sometimes make a larger difference than more cores. Unlike Lightroom though, I would have expected to see the Q8200S perform quite a bit better than say, the E8400, but it really didn’t. That was only with the high-definition test, though. Where the mobile test is concerned, Quad-Core processors clean house.