AMD vs. Intel CPU for MPEG-1/-2 encoding

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Rob Gardiner, Feb 14, 2003.

  1. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Hi everybody,

    I am in the process of putting together a video workstation at the office where I work. The main task of this machine will be encoding 25-minute long DV files (captured via firewire) into MPEG-1 (for XVCD) and eventually MPEG-2 (for DVD). We will be using TMPGEnc for encoding.

    The considerations are as follows:
    (1) The machine must be STABLE and never crash
    (2) We'd like to keep costs reasonable
    (3) The best performance for a reasonable price would be preferred

    I understand the Intel chipset is the most stable for Intel CPUs and the NFORCE2 is the preferred choice for AMD. Is one chipset more stable than the other? We would be willing to pay more for Intel if the result is a more stable machine, but if the AMD/NFORCE2 combo is reliable, we would be thrilled to save some money.

    I have my eye on the MSI K7N2-L motherboard and AMD Athlon XP2700+ CPU. Cost at directron.com is $106 for the MB and $259 for the CPU. Is there an Intel solution that would be (1) more stable, or (2) faster, for not much more $$$?

    Also some more questions:

    For MPEG encoding, does the RAM speed matter? DDR400 seems to be standard on the Nforce MBs but the Intel MBs come in 266, 333, 400, etc.

    How much RAM would you guys recommend?

    Is there a dual-processor solution I should consider for this workstation?

    Many thanks




    EDIT: thought I shoud add a few things:

    I looked at AMD vs. Intel performance benchmarks at tomshardware.com. The fastest Athlon in the benchmark was the 2600+. It encoded a test clip to MPEG-2 in 70.254 seconds. The highest rated non-overclocked Intel was the 2.8ghz P4 which did the same clip in 61.659 seconds. Only a 13% increase in speed for an extra $140. Doesn't seem worth it.

    Also I realize that a truly stable machine requires an adequate power supply like a nice big Fortron, and I know how to calculate my power needs. Also I realize that quality, name-brand RAM will be necessary for a stable machine, as well as adequate cooling.
     
  2. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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    For DV encoding Pentiums have always benched higher than Athlons. I think the extra $100-$150 is worth it in the end when you do a lot of encoding. Those extra minutes really add up when processing batch files. As for stability, don't forget the video in this article.
     
  3. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Stupid question - Have you considered a Mac? From what I understand they pretty much rule on the digital video side, and if that's all this machine will be doing, then I'd recommend a Mac over any type of PC.

    If however, the computer will be doing lots of other stuff as well then a PC can work. I've had really good experience making VideoCDs from DV captures on my Athlon XP 2000+ machine. I've only been doing it for a few days though.
     
  4. JeremyFr

    JeremyFr Supporting Actor

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    I run AVID DV Express on my workstation at home which is currently a P4 1.6 with 256 of 2100 ram, and it runs great, non intel board but when I bought mine the ECS board I got was better than the intel boards out at that point. I've not had a single coding issue with mpeg2 dvd quality or doing VCD stuff so I'd recommend the P4.
     
  5. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Odd issue, not entirely unconnected:

    I run two machines, a P3 600 on 440BX and a Duron 1.3 on a VIA chipset board.

    With every application and operating system the Intel system is faster and smoother - except video encoding. When I run MPEG or DivX encoding (usually with Flask or TNPGEnc) I get probably 70% increase in frame rate with the Duron system. If I encoded MP3s with Lame, it's about the same.

    Weird.
     
  6. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    the latest intel cpus, the 3.06 and up, have hyperthreading on them which basically makes one processor act like two (works wonders on multithreaded applications and when running multiple programs). if you get a good sse2 optimized program, the intel cpus will burn any AMD processor in mpeg encoding.

    I know the 3.06 is quite expensive but it is a very high performer. ram you claim to already know about so I won't add anything as far as that.

    hope that helps some.
     
  7. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the replies, everybody.

    Philip,

    To make a long story short, I have considered putting a Mac in the office solely for video but the man who signs the checks around here won't go for it.

    Rob M G,

    On the RAM issue, I know all about the importance of name brand vs. generic RAM, but I could use some advice on QUANTITY and SPEED that I would need. i.e. will DDR400 give me a great performance increase over 333 or 266 for MPEG encoding? And how much RAM is recommended, 512, 1 GB? At what point will I stop seeing benefits of more RAM?


    Overall I think my main question is this: Can the AMD/NFORCE setup described above be absolutely stable? (assuming proper software setup, etc.) If there is a possibility that the machine will crash or stutter often, we'll happily go with Intel. But if we can depend on the AMD being totally stable, we'll sacrifice a little performance in order to save $$$.

    Many thanks to everyone for the quick and informative replies.
     
  8. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    oh sure:

    if your doing anything with large files then more ram is a must. for what your doing I would suggest 512 at the minimum and 1gig as being the sweet spot.

    if you go the nforce2 route then buying one 512 stick now and buying one 512 stick later (or 2 512sticks now) would be the best since the nforce2 boards can make use of dual channel ram.

    ram speed is tricky, it boils down to whether or not your comfortable with overclocking your cpu. what the cpu? yup, because running your memory out of sync with your cpu has proven to yield worse performance, you'll want to keep the two in sync. AMD cpus up to 2400+ tend to run at 266(ddr133), while the faster ones, like the 2600+, run at 333(166ddr).

    now to the point, if you are willing to overclock your cpu then you'll want the DDR400 memory and what you'll be wanting to do is up the FSB of the cpu to as high as possible hoping to hit 400mhz(200ddr) and lowering your multiplier so that the cpu is stable. e.g. 2400+ is 15x133 (2ghz) but your hoping to run at 10(200). the higher FSB allows for better performance by giving the cpu more bandwidth to operate with.

    if all of that is over your head, or your just plain uncomfortable with the idea then you'll want 333 ram, why not 266? well we want to allow for some upgrading here (all current faster processors are 166 (including AMDs barton chips)), and 333 isn't too much more than 266. and the 333 will run at 266 without problems.

    the AMD solution will be very stable, especially if you use the onboard sound as creative's sounblaster line is notorious for have problems. I currently run an AMD setup and have zero complaints with it.

    if you need clarification or have any other questions ask away.
     
  9. JeremyFr

    JeremyFr Supporting Actor

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    I've noticed that most professional audio & video software almost always call for Intel only Pro-Tools for instance will only run on Intel board,chip and under win98. Avid which I use will not run on anything but an Intel chip.
     
  10. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  11. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    How about this for a source?
    It's anandtech's review of the new Athlon XP 3000+, and it's the MPEG encoding trial. Page forward and back to see other tests. It's a mixed bag with the lower speed Athlons and P4s a toss up, but as they get closer to the top speeds the P4s win, especially the 3.06 w/ HT enabled. The ones that do the poorest are the P4s pre-Northwood. If you don't want to spring the major cash for the HT enabled 3.06 at least get a P4 w/ a 533FSB w/ board to match. If you wait a bit, Q2 and Q3 of this year sees Intel launch the new Springdale & Canterwood chipsets which support dual-channel 400MHz DDR, 8X AGP & Serial ATA. Also starting Q2/3 they will start making 2.53GHz and higher P4s that have HT enabled (currently only the 3.06 has that feature).

    I think using an RDRAM system would also help alleviate the RAM bottleneck if you go with P4. And the two P4/RDRAM systems I've built 18 and 15 months ago (one for my dad and another for my GF) have run rock steady with no probs (used the Intel 850MVL board).

    I run an Athlon 850 w/ ABIT board and can't wait to build a new, Intel based system.
     
  12. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    Sorry, but I do not consider any of those tests to be a real judge of video authoring capabilities. They stuck with Divx, MPEG-4, and Windows Media, all of which are useless for things like DVD or VCD authoring.

    To be a true judge of media authoring, they need to test MULTIPLE applications, like those from Pinnacle, Canopus, and Ulead, using MULTIPLE codecs, like DV, MPEG-2, MPEG-1, and DivX, and MULTIPLE scenarios, like DV->MPEG-2, DV->MPEG-1, MPEG-2->MPEG-1 and so forth.

    NONE of the scenarios that they tested are used in authoring houses like what Rob is talking about. All of those tests are more for the DVD-to-Divx-ripping crowd.

    Now, granted that the numbers still indicate that P4 is slightly better, but that is still not a set of tests that I consider to be accurate judges of video authoring speeds. I would be far more impressed if they provided a wide variety of scenarios, applications, and codecs.
     
  13. Tekara

    Tekara Supporting Actor

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    first off Tomshardware.com is a joke, they lost all of the people that know how to do up a good article, so any references that I hear about them are nixed in my book.

    I don't like rambus either, I would wait and get a dual channel DDR board if you are worried about bandwidth, that will offer more than enough for a hungry p4. even if you don't want to wait p4's will do great, but as is rambus is just way to expensive to be considered viable.

    with AMDs latest cpus pricing in as high as the intels, there really is no clear cut winner as the high end cpus from both float around the same price/performance area nowadays.
     
  14. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Rob M.G.,

    Thank you for the thorough explanation of RAM issues. I can now make an intelligent decision. On the overclocking issue: I have never overclocked before, and I'm not sure it's something the boss would be comfortable with anyway. This might be a project for at home. [​IMG]

    Jeremy,

    I think we can do everything we need with consumer level software like Premiere and free tools like Avisynth, all of which run on AMD (more slowly perhaps). I don't think our office could afford Pro-Tools anyway!

    John,

     
  15. Scott L

    Scott L Producer

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  16. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  17. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I totally agree that for every site & benchmark that favors a P4 you can find a different one that favors the Athlon. A few pionts, though - more for the originator of this thread:

    1. Yes RAMBUS costs more, but if you look at the prices of PC800 RDRAM and high quality DDR (333MHz) the price difference isn't as striking as it was in the past.

    2. I am part of a tweaker community, both at work and online. We have built (collectively) probably 100+ PCs, most AMD based (about 70/30 split). Of course the AMD crowd has had the following advantages: price & tweakability. However Rob has stated he wants complete reliability (granted impossible, but as close to it as he can get) and has given no indication that he wants to tweak or overclock. As such, given my experience, both personal and with colleagues, the highest stability we've found has been the Intel P4 socket 478 platform coupled with an official Intel board (the two I used were the 850MVL w/ Samsung RDRAM). A few friends went this route too. I jsut got email responses from them since my first post in this thread: Between the six PCs built between 12-24 months ago, only one has had a problem, and that was a cheap, crappy power supply that burned out - not a mobo/cpu issue. My own Athlon rig requires regular maintenance and occasionally freezes. Since very few of the AMD builders use an AMD chipset (usually a 3rd party like ASUS, ABIT, EPoX, MSI & Soyo using either a VIA or SiS - and recently nForce from Nvidia - chipset) the reliability has been hit and miss. Some boards (ASUS stands out in my mind) run very stable. Some (ABIT) give you totally agressive BIOS settings and spotty reliability. The reliability jury is still out on nVidia's boards since they are still very new. Since Rob said he wants stability, I will recommend a P4/Official Intel board solution, despite my own rig being Athlon-based.

    3) He asked for best performance for a reasonable price, with performance in bold. I take that as he will err towards performance before discount. Currently the P4s that seem to outperform the Athlons are the highest iteration, which means they are expensive as hell. But clearly HT (Hyperthreading Technology) has shown to have major advantages in the areas he's interested in (as well as overall CPU performance), and the new P4s in Q2/3 will have HT on the speeds that aren't top of the line. Couple that with the move of Intel to release the Springdale & Canterwood chipsets (again, 800MHz FSB to support the upcoming Prescott (90nm) Pentium 4s, HT support, dual channel DDR400, serial ATA & 8X AGP) I would actually cousel waiting until the summer (maybe late summer) before building.

    I know this advice could be construed as "well if you keep waiting there's always going to be a better system so you'll end up never buying one!" Yes technology always changes and waiting is often counterproductive. But I think that both the Pentium and Athlon lines are maturing to the point where they are about to have a pretty big change, and to wait just a few months would be worth it. There is tell of an Athlon64 - but I know much less about that than of the upcoming P4 technology. Myself, I was going to build my new PC now, and am waiting for the summer.
     
  18. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    Thanks Carlo for that detailed rundown on stability issues. The boss was skeptical when I told him about a stable AMD setup, so this just confirms his feeling. May I ask what your line of work is?
     
  19. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast

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    For what it's worth, I've never had anything but trouble from AMD.
     
  20. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Rob, my job directly has me servicing computers in my local work area (which is not tech-industry, we just use PCs). But I'm good friends with the neighboring CS department for a large business school, and so we talk shop all the time. I myself have only built 4 PCs (hopefully 5 when I upgrade later this year!), but all of my friends and coworkers have built considerably more.

    Remember what I've described are generalities. You will of course find people out there who have very stable AMD setups who have never had a problem, and you will find people with Intel based PCs who are suffering (especially prebuilt systems like Compaq, HP, etc. who use lowest bidder parts). But in general, among the tweakers and DIY'ers, people who have recently built PCs using Intel parts have had more success in stability than AMD + 3rd party chipsets, especially Via and SiS. Of course overclockers prefer the AMD platform because of the ability to tweak anything and everything, but that comes at a cost. Even the die-hard AMD lovers here at work would probably recommend an Intel system if you want maximum stability with no regard to overclocking, and if you can afford the 10-20% more it will cost you over a comparable AMD system.

    I am not very opinionated (i.e. pro-AMD, pro-Intel, anti-Microsoft). My motto is simple, I want to build the best, most stable PC I can without breaking the bank. I don't care if it's AMD, Intel, whoever. I have friends who are in one camp or the other and in discussions I've been able to glean the strengths and weaknesses of each side. What I've recommended are my conclusions based on testimony from both sides. I could be right, wrong, whatever, it's my interpretation. And from what you've described you want out of the system, my current recommendation (if you can wait) is to wait until the new Springdale and Canterwood chipsets come out. The 8X AGP will take advantage of the newer graphics cards which you'll be interested in (the new GeForce and ATIs all support 8X AGP). Serial ATA may or may not be a speed increase since you'd have to have a hard drive with that connector to take advantage. But the dual channel DDR400 support will close the gap in performance between 800 RDRAM and DDRAM. And the upcoming Prescott version of the P4 will be accomodated so in the future if you want to upgrade to an 800MHz FSB P4 you can just purchase the processor and plug it in (prolly will require a BIOS update but Intel's are painfree and can be run within Windows rather than having to boot up in DOS and executing a FLASH from a floppy - ick!).

    If you can't wait I'd recommend the Intel 850MVRL mobo (supports PC1066 RDRAM and 533 FSB of the current Northwood P4s, probably a 2.53GHz P4 w/ 533FSB, and at least 512MB of PC1066 non-ECC RDRAM).

    If you were after totally overclockability and saving $$$ I would have recommended an AMD system w/ an nForce chipset.
     

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