Our New Testing Suite for 2018 and 2019

Spectre and Meltdown Hardened

In order to keep up to date with our testing, we have to update our software every so often to stay relevant. In our updates we typically implement the latest operating system, the latest patches, the latest software revisions, the newest graphics drivers, as well as add new tests or remove old ones. As regular readers will know, our CPU testing revolves an automated test suite, and depending on how the newest software works, the suite either needs to change, be updated, have tests removed, or be rewritten completely. Last time we did a full re-write, it took the best part of a month, including regression testing (testing older processors).

One of the key elements of our testing update for 2018 (and 2019) is the fact that our scripts and systems are designed to be hardened for Spectre and Meltdown. This means making sure that all of our BIOSes are updated with the latest microcode, and all the steps are in place with our operating system with updates. In this case we are using Windows 10 x64 Enterprise 1709 with April security updates which enforces Smeltdown (our combined name) mitigations. Uses might ask why we are not running Windows 10 x64 RS4, the latest major update – this is due to some new features which are giving uneven results. Rather than spend a few weeks learning to disable them, we’re going ahead with RS3 which has been widely used.

Our previous benchmark suite was split into several segments depending on how the test is usually perceived. Our new test suite follows similar lines, and we run the tests based on:

  • Power
  • Memory
  • Office
  • System
  • Render
  • Encoding
  • Web
  • Legacy
  • Integrated Gaming
  • CPU Gaming

Depending on the focus of the review, the order of these benchmarks might change, or some left out of the main review. All of our data will reside in our benchmark database, Bench, for which there is a new ‘CPU 2019’ section for all of our new tests.

Within each section, we will have the following tests:

Power

Our power tests consist of running a substantial workload for every thread in the system, and then probing the power registers on the chip to find out details such as core power, package power, DRAM power, IO power, and per-core power. This all depends on how much information is given by the manufacturer of the chip: sometimes a lot, sometimes not at all.

We are currently running POV-Ray as our main test for Power, as it seems to hit deep into the system and is very consistent. In order to limit the number of cores for power, we use an affinity mask driven from the command line.

Memory

These tests involve disabling all turbo modes in the system, forcing it to run at base frequency, and them implementing both a memory latency checker (Intel’s Memory Latency Checker works equally well for both platforms) and AIDA64 to probe cache bandwidth.

Office

  • Chromium Compile: Windows VC++ Compile of Chrome 56 (same as 2017)
  • PCMark10: Primary data will be the overview results – subtest results will be in Bench
  • 3DMark Physics: We test every physics sub-test for Bench, and report the major ones (new)
  • GeekBench4: By request (new)
  • SYSmark 2018: Recently released by BAPCo, currently automating it into our suite (new, when feasible)

System

  • Application Load: Time to load GIMP 2.10.4 (new)
  • FCAT: Time to process a 90 second ROTR 1440p recording (same as 2017)
  • 3D Particle Movement: Particle distribution test (same as 2017) – we also have AVX2 and AVX512 versions of this, which may be added later
  • Dolphin 5.0: Console emulation test (same as 2017)
  • DigiCortex: Sea Slug Brain simulation (same as 2017)
  • y-Cruncher v0.7.6: Pi calculation with optimized instruction sets for new CPUs (new)
  • Agisoft Photoscan 1.3.3: 2D image to 3D modelling tool (updated)

Render

  • Corona 1.3: Performance renderer for 3dsMax, Cinema4D (same as 2017)
  • Blender 2.79b: Render of bmw27 on CPU (updated to 2.79b)
  • LuxMark v3.1 C++ and OpenCL: Test of different rendering code paths (same as 2017)
  • POV-Ray 3.7.1: Built-in benchmark (updated)
  • CineBench R15: Older Cinema4D test, will likely remain in Bench (same as 2017)

Encoding

  • 7-zip 1805: Built-in benchmark (updated to v1805)
  • WinRAR 5.60b3: Compression test of directory with video and web files (updated to 5.60b3)
  • AES Encryption: In-memory AES performance. Slightly older test. (same as 2017)
  • Handbrake 1.1.0: Logitech C920 1080p60 input file, transcoded into three formats for streaming/storage:
    • 720p60, x264, 6000 kbps CBR, Fast, High Profile
    • 1080p60, x264, 3500 kbps CBR, Faster, Main Profile
    • 1080p60, HEVC, 3500 kbps VBR, Fast, 2-Pass Main Profile

Web

  • WebXPRT3: The latest WebXPRT test (updated)
  • WebXPRT15: Similar to 3, but slightly older. (same as 2017)
  • Speedometer2: Javascript Framework test (new)
  • Google Octane 2.0: Depreciated but popular web test (same as 2017)
  • Mozilla Kraken 1.1: Depreciated but popular web test (same as 2017)

Legacy (same as 2017)

  • 3DPM v1: Older version of 3DPM, very naïve code
  • x264 HD 3.0: Older transcode benchmark
  • Cinebench R11.5 and R10: Representative of different coding methodologies

Linux (when feasible)

When in full swing, we wish to return to running LinuxBench 1.0. This was in our 2016 test, but was ditched in 2017 as it added an extra complication layer to our automation. By popular request, we are going to run it again.

Integrated and CPU Gaming

We have recently automated around a dozen games at four different performance levels. A good number of games will have frame time data, however due to automation complications, some will not. The idea is that we get a good overview of a number of different genres and engines for testing. So far we have the following games automated:

AnandTech CPU Gaming 2019 Game List
Game Genre Release Date API IGP Low Med High
World of Tanks enCore Driving / Action Feb
2018
DX11 768p
Minimum
1080p
Medium
1080p
Ultra
4K
Ultra
Final Fantasy XV JRPG Mar
2018
DX11 720p
Standard
1080p
Standard
4K
Standard
8K
Standard
Shadow of War Action / RPG Sep
2017
DX11 720p
Ultra
1080p
Ultra
4K
High
8K
High
F1 2018 Racing Aug
2018
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Med
4K
High
4K
Ultra
Civilization VI RTS Oct
2016
DX12 1080p
Ultra
4K
Ultra
8K
Ultra
16K
Low
Car Mechanic Simulator '18 Simulation / Racing July
2017
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
Ashes: Classic RTS Mar
2016
DX12 720p
Standard
1080p
Standard
1440p
Standard
4K
Standard
Strange Brigade* FPS Aug
2018
DX12
Vulkan
720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Action Sep
2018
DX12 720p
Low
1080p
Medium
1440p
High
4K
Highest
Grand Theft Auto V Open World Apr
2015
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
High
1440p
Very High
4K
Ultra
Far Cry 5 FPS Mar
2018
DX11 720p
Low
1080p
Normal
1440p
High
4K
Ultra
*Strange Brigade is run in DX12 and Vulkan modes

For our CPU Gaming tests, we will be running on an NVIDIA GTX 1080. For the CPU benchmarks, we use an RX460 as we now have several units for concurrent testing.

In previous years we tested multiple GPUs on a small number of games – this time around, due to a Twitter poll I did which turned out exactly 50:50, we are doing it the other way around: more games, fewer GPUs.

Scale Up vs Scale Out: Benefits of Automation

One comment we get every now and again is that automation isn’t the best way of testing – there’s a higher barrier to entry, and it limits the tests that can be done. From our perspective, despite taking a little while to program properly (and get it right), automation means we can do several things:

  1. Guarantee consistent breaks between tests for cooldown to occur, rather than variable cooldown times based on ‘if I’m looking at the screen’
  2. It allows us to simultaneously test several systems at once. I currently run five systems in my office (limited by the number of 4K monitors, and space) which means we can process more hardware at the same time
  3. We can leave tests to run overnight, very useful for a deadline
  4. With a good enough script, tests can be added very easily

Our benchmark suite collates all the results and spits out data as the tests are running to a central storage platform, which I can probe mid-run to update data as it comes through. This also acts as a mental check in case any of the data might be abnormal.

We do have one major limitation, and that rests on the side of our gaming tests. We are running multiple tests through one Steam account, some of which (like GTA) are online only. As Steam only lets one system play on an account at once, our gaming script probes Steam’s own APIs to determine if we are ‘online’ or not, and to run offline tests until the account is free to be logged in on that system. Depending on the number of games we test that absolutely require online mode, it can be a bit of a bottleneck.

Benchmark Suite Updates

As always, we do take requests. It helps us understand the workloads that everyone is running and plan accordingly.

A side note on software packages: we have had requests for tests on software such as ANSYS, or other professional grade software. The downside of testing this software is licensing and scale. Most of these companies do not particularly care about us running tests, and state it’s not part of their goals. Others, like Agisoft, are more than willing to help. If you are involved in these software packages, the best way to see us benchmark them is to reach out. We have special versions of software for some of our tests, and if we can get something that works, and relevant to the audience, then we shouldn’t have too much difficulty adding it to the suite.

Test Bed and Setup CPU Performance: System Tests
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  • Irata - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    Did some checking and in the US, I found the G5400 on sale for $129.99 at Newegg. The Athlon GE 200 was $ 59.99.

    The Intel CPU (LGA 1151 300 series) that had the same price was the Celeron G4920 - it's a 2C2T CPU (G5400: 2C/4T), has half the L3 cache of the G5400 and runs at 3.2 vs. 3.7 Ghz.

    In Germany, I checked Mindfactory and the Pentium Gold G5400 was available for a more reasonable € 86.37. For around the same price you can get a Ryzen 3 2200G - if you want an iGPU - or if you don?t, you can get a Ryzen 3 1200 for € 10 less.

    So from an actual retail price performance perspective, things look quite different - don't you guys check the store links that are embedded in the article ?

    One last thing - which sane person would combine either the Athlon GE or the Pentium Gold with a GTX 1080 ?
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    "One last thing - which sane person would combine either the Athlon GE or the Pentium Gold with a GTX 1080?"

    No one, but for other Anandtech benchmarks carried out over the course of this year on upcoming CPUs that will also use a 1080, this will mean the results will be comparable and the GPU will not act as a bottleneck at sub-4k resolutions.
    Reply
  • Irata - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    But the article clearly says that "In gaming with a discrete graphics card, for example, if you've invested in something like the GTX 1080, the Intel Pentium will push more frames and higher minimums in practically every test at every resolution."

    I am not saying this is not correct - the G5400 runs @ 3.7 Ghz vs. the Athlon's 3.2 Ghz - but again even mentioning something like this... if you go for either of the two APU, it is because you want / need to spend the minimum money available, so it's definitely not GTX 1080 territory. I could see them mentioning something in the RX 1030 Ti / 1050 / RTX 560 range but even then there are better alternatives.
    Reply
  • sing_electric - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    I don't think that anyone would realistically pair a $55 CPU with a GPU that's worth 10x that (except in oddball cases- like a base that you plan on upgrading), but that they didn't want any of the benchmarks to be GPU-limited. If they used say, a GTX 1030/50 or RX 550/60, some of the benchmarks might have been GPU-limited and would make the AMD and Intel parts look similar in ways they're not.

    A good, but separate idea is to do builds that hit various price points using combinations of AMD and Intel CPUs with/without dGPUs to see where you win. At today's prices, ~$250 is enough for a cheap-ish enclosure/psu ($70), 8GB DDR4 ($55), 256GB SSD ($60) and mobo ($60), so for $300 you'd be comparing these 2 processors with IGP, but for $400+ things get interesting (since you could compare say, the Ryzen 3 and 5 APUs vs. this chip with a dGPU), and $500+ things get a lot more interesting. For $600+, you're in a place where you have a lot of flexibility with creating a system that works for your use case (including more storage, RAM, etc.)
    Reply
  • Irata - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    Very good suggestion actually - the builds at different price points including all needed hardware.

    As for the GPU benchmarks - on one hand I do understand that they don't want a GPU bottleneck, but realistically if buyers in this range do not go for GPU that cost more than 150-200 and they do get identical results, then this is what matters to the buyer.

    That said, I still think that the Pentium Gold would make for good budget gaming PC paired with something like a GTX 1050 Ti *if* it were available at MSRP - would definitely prefer it to the Athlon GE at that price point.

    Funny thing is Ian says "y. The two chips in today’s analysis, the Intel Pentium Gold G5400 and the AMD Athlon 200GE, cost around $60 apiece, which I forked out for personally as I was never expecting to be sampled."

    The question is: When and where ? The Intel CPU shortage has been going on for a few months now, so if he got it right after release, it may have been worth checking prices before writing the article.

    If there is a store that has them in stock for this price, it would be helpful to say which one it is.

    But it's not and it hasn't been so I quite fail to see the point of this article. You either get a much better CPU / APU from AMD for the same price or a much worse (lower clocked 2C/2T Celeron) Intel based CPU
    Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    It would make sense to benchmark on a GTX 1030 (GDDR5) or RX 550 in addition to the 1080 to show what you could expect with more likely hardware, in addition to highlighting the Pentium's superior IPC out of the box.

    We would definitely appreciate that overclocked test suite, that's for certain. I know people will say that the Athlon isn't supposed to be overclocked, but given that a handful of motherboard manufacturers are now offering this - MSI, ASUS and Gigabyte to name three - I feel that it could be a viable alternative if you really need cheap and cheerful.
    Reply
  • ikjadoon - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    This article is about a year-late on MSRP pricing, unfortunately:

    https://camelcamelcamel.com/Intel-Pentium-Desktop-...

    That 14nm supply shortage: by the time prices go back down, Sunny Cove will be out, so where does article fit?

    As hardware gets EOL'd, it raises in price, so these things will be priced even worse.
    Reply
  • sing_electric - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    The way I read that is that Intel has gotten very good at 14nm yields, and no longer has (m)any processors with enough issues that they have to sell them as a G5400, and can instead sell them as faster, higher end parts. Reply
  • ikjadoon - Monday, January 14, 2019 - link

    You missed the key issue. "...instead sell them as faster, higher-end, and *more expensive* parts." They might make more money selling "working chips with disabled features" at $65 than "working chips with all features" at $120.

    Unless Intel is selling a product reliably at $55 to $85, then it's lost sales. These Pentiums are the default in the $250 to $500 office PC space.
    Reply
  • sing_electric - Tuesday, January 15, 2019 - link

    When there's not a shortage, sure, you sell good chips with disabled features, since you'd rather sell a Core i3 than have an i5 unsold, and you'd rather sell a Pentium than have an i3 stuck in channel, but *right now* Intel's capacity-constrained: They can't make enough higher-end parts to meet demand, so it seems like they're really trying to sell every chip as the highest-end version of whatever it is (they're even selling chips with disabled IGP at the high end, presumably because the IGP is faulty). Reply

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