CPU Tests: Simulation

Simulation and Science have a lot of overlap in the benchmarking world, however for this distinction we’re separating into two segments mostly based on the utility of the resulting data. The benchmarks that fall under Science have a distinct use for the data they output – in our Simulation section, these act more like synthetics but at some level are still trying to simulate a given environment.

DigiCortex v1.35: link

DigiCortex is a pet project for the visualization of neuron and synapse activity in the brain. The software comes with a variety of benchmark modes, and we take the small benchmark which runs a 32k neuron/1.8B synapse simulation, similar to a small slug.

The results on the output are given as a fraction of whether the system can simulate in real-time, so anything above a value of one is suitable for real-time work. The benchmark offers a 'no firing synapse' mode, which in essence detects DRAM and bus speed, however we take the firing mode which adds CPU work with every firing.

The software originally shipped with a benchmark that recorded the first few cycles and output a result. So while fast multi-threaded processors this made the benchmark last less than a few seconds, slow dual-core processors could be running for almost an hour. There is also the issue of DigiCortex starting with a base neuron/synapse map in ‘off mode’, giving a high result in the first few cycles as none of the nodes are currently active. We found that the performance settles down into a steady state after a while (when the model is actively in use), so we asked the author to allow for a ‘warm-up’ phase and for the benchmark to be the average over a second sample time.

For our test, we give the benchmark 20000 cycles to warm up and then take the data over the next 10000 cycles seconds for the test – on a modern processor this takes 30 seconds and 150 seconds respectively. This is then repeated a minimum of 10 times, with the first three results rejected. Results are shown as a multiple of real-time calculation.

(3-1) DigiCortex 1.35 (32k Neuron, 1.8B Synapse)

The wide variation on AMD seems to prefer high-core-count single chiplet processors. Intel is taking a back seat here, as it is also using slower memory.

Dwarf Fortress 0.44.12: Link

Another long standing request for our benchmark suite has been Dwarf Fortress, a popular management/roguelike indie video game, first launched in 2006 and still being regularly updated today, aiming for a Steam launch sometime in the future.

Emulating the ASCII interfaces of old, this title is a rather complex beast, which can generate environments subject to millennia of rule, famous faces, peasants, and key historical figures and events. The further you get into the game, depending on the size of the world, the slower it becomes as it has to simulate more famous people, more world events, and the natural way that humanoid creatures take over an environment. Like some kind of virus.

For our test we’re using DFMark. DFMark is a benchmark built by vorsgren on the Bay12Forums that gives two different modes built on DFHack: world generation and embark. These tests can be configured, but range anywhere from 3 minutes to several hours. After analyzing the test, we ended up going for three different world generation sizes:

  • Small, a 65x65 world with 250 years, 10 civilizations and 4 megabeasts
  • Medium, a 127x127 world with 550 years, 10 civilizations and 4 megabeasts
  • Large, a 257x257 world with 550 years, 40 civilizations and 10 megabeasts

DFMark outputs the time to run any given test, so this is what we use for the output. We loop the small test for as many times possible in 10 minutes, the medium test for as many times in 30 minutes, and the large test for as many times in an hour.

(3-2a) Dwarf Fortress 0.44.12 World Gen 65x65, 250 Yr(3-2b) Dwarf Fortress 0.44.12 World Gen 129x129, 550 Yr(3-2c) Dwarf Fortress 0.44.12 World Gen 257x257, 550 Yr

Dolphin v5.0 Emulation: Link

Many emulators are often bound by single thread CPU performance, and general reports tended to suggest that Haswell provided a significant boost to emulator performance. This benchmark runs a Wii program that ray traces a complex 3D scene inside the Dolphin Wii emulator. Performance on this benchmark is a good proxy of the speed of Dolphin CPU emulation, which is an intensive single core task using most aspects of a CPU. Results are given in seconds, where the Wii itself scores 1051 seconds.

(3-3) Dolphin 5.0 Render Test

CPU Tests: Office and Science CPU Tests: Rendering


View All Comments

  • YB1064 - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Thermals look horrendous! 102 C even when throttled is bad. Even with water, I don't think you will see much improvement. Better have a chiller on hand! Reply
  • GeoffreyA - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    The sun should buy a few million of these fellows. Will help a lot with temperature when sunspots get too cool. Reply
  • at_clucks - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Nooo, as the article puts it, it's "not as bad as it sounds". People just needlessly freak out when they processor FREAKING BOILS WATER on "an open test bed with a chunky copper cooler" and needing 270W at full load. But in reality it's just "more about thermal gradients inside the processor and how easily the thermals can move" so it's all good. I can feel the temps dropping just by reading these comforting words.

    I guess the only thing that can make a current gen Intel CPU look good is another current gen Intel CPU. Here's hoping that they get their act together for the next gen(s) or we'll keep having to read reviews where Intel competes against Intel as the only way to get some praise.
  • at_clucks - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Read the comment above as if there was an edit button to fix all the grammatical... inconsistencies. Reply
  • 1_rick - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    It's no worse than the article itself. Reply
  • Smell This - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    as the article puts it, it's "not as bad as it sounds"

    Sadly, the presentation makes it much worst. Bad enough smoked with the Ryzen 5900x ... there is little to no downward price pressure on an 18-month old AMD 3900x at $499.

    Even worst --- 18 months ago the HEDT Intel 12/24 i9-79xxX was $1,190 and was slobber-knocked by the 3900x . . .
  • GeoffreyA - Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - link

    "Here's hoping that they get their act together"

    Rocket Lake should cover the ground performance-wise, but it's going to be disastrous when it comes to power and heat. Would be nice to see Sunny Cove running on 7 or 5 nm, but I suspect even there, Zen 3 would use less power, owing to its more economical design.
  • powerarmour - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    It's a genuinely horrible CPU compared to the competition, Intel have regressed so much on performance-per-watt that even Apple are stealing their lunch now. Reply
  • shelbystripes - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    It’s embarrassing (for Intel) how easily Apple justified the Intel-to-ARM switch with the M1. Stagnation is a bitch. Reply
  • Operandi - Monday, January 4, 2021 - link

    Part stagnation part major technological fumbles. Intel definitely played it safe on the architectural level but you could argue that was the right call given the state of the market. What is really killing them is the dropped ball on the fabrication front.

    Regardless though Apple's move to their own designs was going to happen even if Intel was stumbling all over the place, that move has been planned for over a decade.

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