A couple of years ago computers with more than one CPU were high-end workstations and servers with a price tag far beyond what any customer would be willing to spend on a computer; today a dual CPU system is affordable and clearly starting to gain in popularity. This popularity and the rise of dual CPU systems in the consumer market can be attributed to a number of factors; one of them is the success of the dual Celeron a few years ago; when dual Intel Celerons were very popular and caused for heated discussion because Celerons werenít officially validated to work in a SMP system. Nevertheless these dual Celerons offered performance on par with more expensive dual Pentium III systems. Secondly, with the success of the AMD Athlon, AMD quickly realized that they too needed a SMP capable chipset to be able to compete in the workstation and server markets. As a result the AMD 760 MP was the first AMD SMP chipset meant to claim part of the SMP market that before had exclusively been Intelís. Shortly after the introduction it became clear that the consumer market welcomed the 760 MP with lots of enthusiasm and many people upgraded from the aging Pentium III architecture.
Fig 1. A typical SMP configuration, in this case the Hardware Analysis webserver which uses two 1.266 GHz Pentium IIIs and runs on the Linux OS with SMP kernel.
The 760 MP also found its way into many workstation and server systems were it performed admirably and on par, or better than, Intelís Pentium III Xeon systems. An AMD SMP system with 266MHz DDR SDRAM and two Athlon MP CPUs proved to be the better performing, and cheaper, solution for many customers as the Intel SMP systems were often priced much higher. However with the arrival of the new Xeon, based on the Pentium 4 architecture, the dual AMD Athlon has been met with formidable competition as it is pitted against an architecture that has higher clockspeeds, more memory bandwidth and a number of other performance enhancing features. In the next few pages weíll be looking at the performance of the new Xeon platform in comparison to AMDís SMP solution, and a two single CPU systems based on AMDís Athlon and Intelís Pentium 4, weíll be trying to answer the question whether a dual CPU system is something that is worth the higher price-tag for the typical user and whether the AMD and Intel SMP systems offer a good price/performance ratio.
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