Mac vs. PC III: Mac Slaughtered Again
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We also ran benchmarks on the system with hyperthreading turned off, to see what performance hit the system took without its new speed enhancer. On all the benchmarks, there was a reduction in speed without the hyperthreading which varied greatly depending on the operation (see table below).

Results in minutes: seconds, winner in boldface type

Hyperthreading ON

Hyperthreading OFF

1. After Effects: Simple Animation :07 :08
2. After Effects: Video Composite :54 :58
3. After Effects: Data Project 2:05 2:32
4. After Effects: Gambler :29 :29
5. After Effects: Source Shapes 4:14 4:59
6. After Effects: Virtual Set 4:24 5:49
1. Photoshop: Layer styles & transformation 4.5 4.8
2. Photoshop: Filter Effects 35.1 35.9
3. Photoshop: Manipulations and adjustments 3.4 3.6

Digital Media Net talked with Dell Precision Workstation product manager David Methven about this latest box, and some of the decisions that went into its making. First, we wanted to know why Dell didnít go with DDR memory instead of the Rambus variety (RDRAM). "We expect some of our PC competitors to go with a newer, dual-channel DDR chipset, but we still feel that RDRAM, especially in a single-processor workstation, provides better overall performance," Methven said. He also thought the addition of the new PC 1066 memory will result in a significant performance boost, but echoed our findings that it depends on which application you're using, what file sizes you're working with and what else you're doing with your computer at the same time. "If you're doing very large files in Photoshop, you should see an appreciable benefit," Methven said. "You'll see roughly a 30% difference in raw numbers. As the file sizes in Photoshop increase, we pull further and further away from the dual G4 1.25," he added.
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There's more than just raw speed boosts with hyperthreading as well. Methven explains that the benefit of the new technology is sometimes "qualitative and not as quantitative. So what we saw with that was you don't drop frames, but it may take a little bit longer for your background task to complete. So there's a tradeoff there." But Methven believes users will be quite happy with the extra "virtual chip" in their systems. "I think most people would prefer the more responsive capability that hyperthreading provides. So there's two primary areas of benefit, multitasking and then multithreading."

Dell engineers showed us how easy it is to toggle on and off the hyperthreading feature in the BIOS setup of the machine. But then that raises the question, if hyperthreading is so nice, why on earth would somebody want to turn it off? "If you're running Windows 2000, it's not recommended," Methven said. "You can turn it on, but generally, you'll get better performance if you're using XP. There is some overhead associated with multiprocessing, and there are some operations in some applications, the current version of Solidworks, for example, where we've see slight performance degradation. There are some Photoshop operations, at least in our internal testing, where we saw some slight degradation. On the whole, it's provided a benefit." Dell intends to show its users just how useful hyperthreading would be for their usage patterns, too. "One of the things that we're also doing in addition to providing the choice to turn it on or not, we have a workstation tool we're modifying that will show a recommendation for hyperthreading -- whether or not the customer should configure their machine with it turned on or not," added Methven.

Multiprocessor support is not the same thing as hyperthreading, but the two concepts are similar. Methven explains it this way: "Certainly you're going to get the best performance from two discrete processors. So we look at it as a good/better/best situation. One processor with hyperthreading is better than a single processor. Two discrete processors are better, and two discrete processors with hyperthreading are best."

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