An independent Macintosh benchmarking site is claiming that Apple's latest 8-core Mac Pro models will offer little performance increase in the areas where many professionals need it most. And it may very well be right, says one industry analyst.
Benchmarking site Bare Feats recently ran a series of tests comparing the latest 8-core systems running on two Quad-core Intel processors to the older 4-core Mac Pro systems that use two duo-core chips.
The conclusion, said Bare Feats founder Rob Art Morgan, was that while the 8-core Mac showed a steep increase in such computation-heavy tasks as exporting multiple video files at once, the two systems showed little difference in real-world tests of such professional staples as Photoshop CS3 and Aperture.
In those tests, the 8-core system was only able to top the 4-core Mac by 3 per cent in Photoshop and 7 per cent in Aperture, saving users only a few seconds in computing time.
"When you look at a duo quad-core system, you have eight cores. Very few applications have been written in a way that can exploit eight cores," the analyst told vnunet.com.
"It wouldn't surprise me at all to see that most apps can't use much more than four."
Brookwood said that where users will see the benefits of eight cores versus four is the same place where Morgan found the greatest speed discrepancy: multi- tasking.
Users running several processor-intensive tasks at once, such as rendering multiple videos, will see a greater increase. Users hoping to see a large boost in a single application, such as Photoshop, will see much less of an improvement between a 4-core and an 8-core system, said the analyst.
Brookwood explained that no matter how many cores were in use, certain tasks would be limited by Amdahl's Law. The formula states that certain calculations cannot be performed in parallel, and that those sequential calculations will limit the effectiveness of multiple processing cores.
Brookwood said that until the software can catch up, the quad core chips will be a better fit as servers handling multiple operations at once than as workstations that focus on one program.
"The developers have to think long and hard about how to extract more thread-level parallelism out of their applications, and that's not easy to do," he explained.
"Just as programmers were beginning to think they had gotten the hang of [two cores], now suddenly they're being faced with 4 or 8."
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