Buy the Numbers - 01 Mar 1996

RISC platforms are difficult to test because consumers expect performance numbers that are directly comparable to well-known Intel benchmarks. I can offer those (see graphs A through D), but they do not bear out the high-end capabilities of machines based on non-Intel CPUs (i.e., the Alpha, PowerPC, and MIPS processors), which use fundamentally different architectures tuned for specific applications, such as 3D graphics, CAD, and video editing.

The Alpha processor shows clear superiority with floating-point calculations, which you find in abundance in graphics software. I designed a few new tests to complement the BAPCo SYSmark benchmarks that the Windows NT Magazine Lab uses, so I can measure and show the performance benefits of an Alpha. Graph E shows the timed results of test scripts running Elastic Reality (from Avid Technology), and Pro/JR. (a limited edition of Pro/Engineer from Parametric Technology), compared to run times on a standard 100-MHz Pentium.

The Elastic Reality script renders a morph between the faces of Ulysses S. Grant and George Washington, which is then saved to a video (.AVI) file (see "Elastic Reality" on page 72). The Pro/JR. script automates the exact design, layout, and rendering of a microscope.

All tests shown here (includ-ing the BAPCo benchmarks) are compared to a system that offers a low-priced alternative as a graphics workstation: a standard Intel board with a 100-MHz Pentium processor, 32MB of RAM, a 2MB Diamond Stealth 64 PCI video card, 1GB hard disk, 4X CD-ROM drive, and a 3Com Etherlink III for a total system cost of approximately $2950. The SYSmark rating is based on a suite of common office-automation packages, such as Microsoft Word and Texim Project, running operations similar to those of an ordinary user. The actual results are computed relative to a 486DX2/50 baseline system running Windows NT Workstation 3.51 (with 16MB of RAM) and are presented on a linear scale where a machine that rates a 200 is twice as fast as a system that rates a 100.

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