What Intel and AMD are Offering

Before we can dive into benchmarks, it is good to see how the vendors position their CPUs. Before we do that, a quick specsheet of the most important AMD and Intel CPUs.

Model Speed (GHz) Max. clock 4 cores busy (GHz) L2 Cache (KB) L3 Cache (MB) Interconnect Bandwidth in One Direction
Intel Xeon X5570 2.93 3.2 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 12.3 GB/s
Intel Xeon X5560 2.80 3.066 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 12.3 GB/s
Intel Xeon X5550 2.66 2.93 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 12.3 GB/s
AMD Opteron 2435 2.6 2.6 6 x 512 KB 6 MB 9.8 GB/s
Intel Xeon E5540 2.53 2.66 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 11.7 GB/s
AMD Opteron 2431 2.4 2.4 6 x 512 KB 6 MB 8.8 GB/s
AMD Opteron 2389 2.9 2.9 4 x 512 KB 6 MB 8.8 GB/s
Intel Xeon E5530 2.4 2.53 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 11.7 GB/s
Intel Xeon E5430 2.66 2.66 2 x 6 MB N/A Via FSB
AMD Opteron 2427 2.2 2.2 6 x 512 KB 6 MB 8.8 GB/s
AMD Opteron 2384 2.6 2.6 6 x 512 KB 6 MB 4 GB/s
Intel Xeon E5520 2.26 2.33 4 x 256 KB 8 MB 11.7 GB/s
Intel Xeon E5506 2.13 2.13 4 x 256 KB 4MB 9.8 GB/s
AMD Opteron 2378 2.4 2.4 4 x 512 KB 6 MB 4 GB/s

What do you get for your money? The six-cores of AMD are shown in “forest green”.

Intel Xeon Model Speed (GHz) / TDP Price AMD Opteron Model Speed (GHz) / TDP - ACP Price
X5570 2.93 / 95W $1386      
X5560 2.80 x 95W $1172      
X5550 2.66 / 95W $958 2435 2.6 / 75-115W $989
E5540 2.53 / 80W $744 2431 2.4 / 75-115W $698
      2389 2.9 / 75-115W $698
E5530 2.4 / 80W $530 2387 2.8 / 75-115W $523
L5520 2.26 / 60W $530 2376 HE 2.3 / 55-79W $575
L5510 2.13 / 60W $423 2374 HE 2.2 / 55-79W $450
E5520 2.26 $373 2427 2.2 / 75-115W $455
E5506 2.13 $266 2382 2.6 / 75-115W $316
E5504 2.00 $224      
E5502 1.86 $188 2378 2.4 / 75-115W $174

AMD has clearly recognized that it can not beat the best Xeon X55xx when it comes to raw performance. The two top models, the X5570 and X5560 stay out of reach. AMD is basically saying that – with the right application – the new six-core Opteron should be able to keep up with equally clocked Xeons X55xx. In case of the 2435, you get lower power consumption as a bonus. Notice also that the best quad-core Opterons have become significantly cheaper. The 2.9 GHz 2389 “Shanghai”, which used to be positioned against the 2.66 GHz X5550 is now competing with the E5540. The 2.9 GHz Shanghai is still no match for the Xeon E5540 2.53 but it is important to look at the complete server price. 32 GB of reg DDR-3 1066 still costs about $1200, whereas 32 GB of DDR-2 800 costs around $850. It is out of the scope of this article, but it is clear that even if the CPUs cost the same, the AMD based server will be less costly. The Xeon X55xx is after all a very new platform.

For those who love stats, the die size and transistor count table:

CPU Transitor Count (Million) Process Die Size Cores
Intel Dunnington (Xeon 74xx) 1900 45 nm 504 mm2 6
Intel Gainestown (Xeon 55xx) 731 45 nm 265 mm2 4
AMD Istanbul (Opteron 24xx) 904 45 nm 346 mm2 6
AMD Shanghai (Opteron >237x) 705 45 nm 263 mm2 4
AMD Barcelona (Opteron 23xx) 463 65 nm 283 mm2 4
Intel Tigerton (Xeon 73xx) 2 x 291 = 582 65 nm 2 x 143 mm2 4
Intel Harpertown (Xeon 54xx) 2 x 410 = 820 45 nm 2 x 107 mm2 4

AMD’s Istanbul is quite a large chip, but not as expensive as “Barcelona” to produce. The champion is the Harpertown when it comes to the lowest production costs.

Istanbul's Improvements Our Benchmark Methods and Choices
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  • solori - Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - link

    I should have said "abundant (cheap) memory."
  • mkruer - Monday, June 1, 2009 - link

    I am disappointed that you did not bench X5550 vs 2435. This is the chip that the Opteron 2435 was designed to go up against, not the X5570 which is clocked 300MHz higher and 40% more expensive. Heaven forbid that you try to include chips at the same price point. That being said other sites that did compare based upon price, and not top of the line, show that the Opteron 2435 is indeed comparable to the X5550 at the same price point and speed. Now if AMD can up the speed of the hex core, then it will be a more direct comparison to the X5570. The X5570 is 50% faster but it is also >50% more in cost.
  • mino - Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - link


    Actually, I have no qualms with comparing the best with the best, but the commentary is mostly out-of-place.
    I guess this was written after 3 days without sleep, but anyway.

    After an excelent vAPUS Mark 1 article I would expect better that old-school style:
    "1000 $ Pentium 4 3.2 EE is clearly (15%) better than $400 Athlon 3200+ so Athlon is clearly a piece of junk. Well maybe for games not so much but generally it is a piece of junk."

    Thank god the numbers tell their own story.
  • JohanAnandtech - Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - link

    It seems that some people like to create the impression that we did not take into account that both CPUs were not at the same pricing.


    [quote]"However, as the Opteron 2435 competes with 2.66 GHz Xeon and not the Xeon 2.93 GHz, this is the first benchmark where “Istanbul” is competitive."[/quote]

    [quote]"The Nehalem-based Xeon moves forward, but does not make a huge jump. Performance of the six-core Opteron was decreased by 2%, which is inside the error margin of this benchmark. It is still an excellent result for the latest Opteron: this results means it will have no trouble competing with the 2.66 Ghz Xeon X5550. "

    [quote]"The new Opteron 2435 at 2.6 GHz was a pleasant surprise on vApus Mark I: it keeps up with more expensive Xeons on ESX 3.5 update 4 while consuming less, and offers a competitive performance/watt and performance/price ratio on vSphere 4. The six-core Opteron is about 11 to 30% slower on vSphere 4 than the 2.93 GHz Xeon X5570 but the overall cost of the Istanbul platform is significantly lower (DDR-2 versus DDR-3) and the 2.6 GHz 2435 consumes less power in a virtualized environment "

    And I have confidence that the vast majority of my readers are intelligent people who can decrease the benchmarks with 8 to 10% to see what a Xeon x5550 would do
  • mino - Thursday, June 4, 2009 - link

    No, I do not like that, nor like to create such an impression.

    The article presents the numbers reasonably well for me. It is just that your (justified) love for Nehalem is glowing through and many, many comments were out of place.
    I believe this was not intentional but cause by your love for the Nehalem platform which is otherwise great.

    All the numbers tell one thing - Istanbull is generally on par with Nehalem clock for clock +- 10% depending on the workload.

    About that glowiong love for Nehalem:
    >>>MCS eFMS 9.2
    "A single 8-thread Xeon X55xx is by far the best choice here."

    Why ? There is no 1*2435 number.
    Based on the numbers published single 2435 will get about 55-58rps which for all practical needs is identical performance to _flagship_ Nehalem.

    >>>3ds Max 2008 32b
    "We are sure that there are probably more efficient render engines out there, but it is simply not a market the AMD six-core should cater to. Nehalem-based Xeons are simply way too powerful for this kind of application. Render engines scale almost perfectly with clockspeed. So if cost is your main concern, consider the Xeon E5520 at 2.26 GHz, the cheapest CPU that still supports HT. We will test this one soon, but we expect it to deliver 67 frames per hour, which is still more than 20% better than any Opteron."

    OK, so first bash(rightfully) the application fo it rigid resource use pattern, than say that for Nehalem is "way too powerfull for this KIND of application" for Opteron to compete with.
    You managed to contradict your own reasoning to promote Nehalem for rendering while the numbers speak about single improperly optimized app.
    Which it is pretty certain SW vendor will take care of in due time. These numbers are just a result of no (affordable) 6-core presence on the market up to now.

    By these 2 comments you took the article balance from "Instanbul is generally about 5% slower per_clock than Nehalem, in certain apps it is on par or better while in other loses about 15%" - which is what the numbers tell - to "Instanbul is good for VMware, forget about it elsewhere".

    Which is about as much bad publicity you could give to the second fastest CPU on the market by_large_margin.

    Fact is, at a given price, Nehalem box is ALMOST IDENTICAL performance-wise to Istanbul box. While both crush everything else on the market by 30+ %.
  • lopri - Monday, June 1, 2009 - link

    Page 2, "..The most recent data is however in CPU’s L2-cache" I think you meant CPU #2?
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, June 1, 2009 - link

    Yes, good catch. Fixed the issue.
  • classy - Monday, June 1, 2009 - link

    I skipped right to the virtualization portions. It is by far becoming the most dominate criteria for most of the IT world. The 6 core opty looks solid there, so it will come down to price. Now with the quickly developing virtual desktop infrastructures, how well a platform does virtualization makes it just two fold more important. Many folks have already virtualized mission critical apps. I know we're doing exchange in the near future. The days of seperate physical servers and desktops are going the way of the dodo bird. Its becoming all about virtualization.
  • genkk - Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - link

    why power consumption not shown here....the bench mark guys in anandtech lost the papers...or they don't want you to see

    any way go to techreport.com where istanbul wins
  • JohanAnandtech - Tuesday, June 2, 2009 - link

    More detailed power consumption numbers will be available in the next review.

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