Lost Planet: Multi-Threaded Gaming Performance
Lost Planet is one of the few games that actually makes use of extra CPU cores. Many games offer multi-threading support, but usually this translates into noticeable gains for dual core processors, but with virtually no impact on quad core or higher platforms. Many next-generation games will be coded from the ground up to support multiple cores, and to give gamers a much-needed boost when using a 2, 4 or even 8-core system.
To demonstrate what kind of performance impact an 8-core system like the Intel Skulltrail is capable of, we've benchmarked Lost Planet (Cave segment) using different settings on the "Concurrent Operations" option, moving from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8, while maintaining the Skulltrail platform and dual QX9775 processors.
The first benchmark run was at 800x600 to ensure that little if any GPU influence was present, and the framerate differences are quite obvious. Moving from 2 concurrent threads to 8, more than doubled the framerates. The big jump is still from 2 threads to 4, but we still see a nice increase when moving up to 8 threads.
We then raised the game resolution to 1024x768, and while there was still a noticeable performance increase at each stage, we start to see some GPU limitations sneak into the equation. This will be true in the real world as well, and heavy-duty graphics will be necessary to make full use of the Skulltrail's multi-threading capabilities.
Total System Power Consumption Testing
The dual-processor Intel Skulltrail platform is certainly a performance marvel, but we're a little bit concerned with its power requirements. Each of the Core 2 Extreme QX9775 processors has a TDP of 150W, and the motherboard itself sports a large cooling fan on the chipset. In order to measure power consumption, we took each of the AMD and Intel reference systems, ran the outlet through a Power Analyzer, and then compiled total system consumption figures (in Watts) for Idle and Load scenarios. In order to keep the systems and results consistent, we used the same configuration for the AMD and Intel processors as listed on the Test Systems page.
The first test measures the total system power usage when the processors are set to power-saving mode. For AMD, this means enabling Cool'n'Quiet, while for Intel we need to activate Enhanced SpeedStep. We are unsure whether the latest Skulltrail BIOS fully enables Intel SpeedStep, so keep in mind the numbers in the first chart could drop slightly upon release.
The power usage test was performed after the operating system has loaded, and all of the various software and hardware components have initialized and we hit a consistent power reading. The Skulltrail's 214W power usage may seem high, but when you take into consideration the dual processors, dual cooling fans and high-end workstation-level motherboard, it's really not that bad, especially compared to the 163W a single-processor Phenom 9900 configuration uses.
The second test changes the operating conditions from Idle to Load, and the SANDRA Multimedia CPU benchmark pushes processor usage to 100%, while ensuring that no extraneous hard drive or peripheral activity artificially ramps up the power consumption rates. The results using SANDRA are also incredibly consistent, with the wattage numbers remaining stable through the entire test.
The Intel Skulltrail ramps up its power usage considerably, and the 360W total is by far the highest in the chart. Given the configuration, this was a bygone conclusion, and it's up to the individual user whether the additional processing capabilities are worth the jump in power requirements.
Please keep in mind that these numbers relate to total system power consumption, of which the CPU is only one part. In evaluations like this, relative placing is sometimes more important than the base numbers, which can change based on the platform and peripheral mix.