Without a viable 64-bit Windows solution available today, enthusiasts and neophytes alike are looking to Linux for new opportunities. Is Linux mature enough to take advantage of the same technology released to the public only months ago? The answers are more complicated than many of us originally thought, particularly considering the competition.

To get a well-rounded breakdown of where Linux is going, and where it trumps (or fails against) Windows, we took the two largest 64-bit Linux distributions, their 32-bit counterparts, and the Windows XP 64-bit public beta for a test drive. The way that we are running the benchmark is slightly unique; we do not recompile or optimize benchmarks per hardware platform. Our goal is to see which out-of-the-box operating system performs the best with as much support as possible. Thus, we use RPMs and binaries packaged with or compiled for the specific operating system tested.

 Performance Test Configuration
Processor(s): Athlon 64 3500+ Socket 939 (2.2GHz, 512KB Cache)
RAM: 2 x 512MB Mushkin PC3500 Level II
Memory Timings: Default
Hard Drives Seagate 120GB 7200RPM IDE (8Mb buffer)
Video AGP & IDE Bus Master Drivers: Linux NVIDIA Core Logic: 1.0-275
Linux NVIDIA Graphics: 1.0-5332
Windows 64 bit Graphics: 57.30
Windows 64 bit Core Logic: 4.34a
Video Card(s): NVIDIA GeForceFX 5600SE 128MB
Operating System(s): SuSE 9.1 Professional (32/64 bit)
Fedora Core 2 (32/64 bit)
Windows XP SP1 (32/64* bit)
Motherboards: NVIDIA NForce3 250 Reference Board

*Windows XP SP1 64-bit is the February 2004 open beta release.

We attempted to keep our test configuration as close to CPU/Motherboard/Memory Windows test configuration as possible. The only major change that we adopted for this analysis include the change in processor, IDE rather than SATA hard drive, and the NVIDIA GeForceFX video card. We opted for an NVIDIA card over an ATI card for these benchmarks primarily because of 64-bit Linux driver support. We have a Linux video card roundup planned for the future; so, in that article, we can take a better look at where the particular differences lie in video processing.

A Quick Bit about the Operating Systems
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  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    tsadowski: Its actually pretty clean. I wouldnt compare it to Gentoo at all. Thats probably also why it has an RPM repository - so you CAN work with it out of the box.

  • tsadowski - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    I find it interesting that you test Fedora Core 2 and expect it all to just work perfectly. Is Fedora not the bleeding edge code, hack it yourself, hobbyist version of RedHat? Not unlike Gentoo? To expect it to just work "out of the box" without some hacking is foolish at least, and at worst perhaps an intentional attempt to slander Fedora/Redhat? I have played around with Fedora Core 1 and while I wouldn't say that it is the best distro I have ever used. I wouldn't bad mouth it without acknowleging it's hackerish, homebrewish nature either!
  • jspaleta - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    along with the flags, the specific versions that you compiled would be good to know. Actually since its compiled I would be interested to know if you had to install/compile any additional build requirements beyond what is available in Fedora Core as well.

    I would also be interesting if you could rerun the
    lame encoding benchmark against the lame build currently available in the stable x86_64 fc2 rpm.livna.org repo, as a comparison.

  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    #8, 14: lame and mplayer are compiled. I will get the exact flags and details posted soon.

    #8 again: SuSE gives you two options for installing the drivers - manually, as we did or via YAST. I just chmod 0 /usr/X11R6/bin/X, ctrl-alt-backspace and then run the driver. You can also hit F2 during startup and tell it to go into "failsafe" mode.

    #10: Thanks Matt, id like to work closer with MS to get that. I have a feeling Intel's compiler will show up for x86_64 soon, being as nocona is available now.

  • jspaleta - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    I would like to know from where the reviewers
    got fedora binaries for memcoder, mplayer and lame for fedora core. These untilies do NOT come as part of Fedora Core, are not built by the Fedora Core buildsytem, and can be obtained from a number of different repositories. I would personally like to know if different builds of mplayer/mencoder/lame from different locations experience different results.

  • lopri - Tuesday, April 28, 2009 - link


  • Term - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Out-of-the-box the video-drivers for Linux from NVidia have Fast Writes disabled, but you have enabled it right?

    damn good article btw
    // Term
  • Possessed Freak - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    Errors on graphs:

    Why are the key color orders reversed. Shouldn't red/64bit be on top in the key?

    Why does the order of the OS's change seemingly randomly in the graphs? I thought it might deal with performance, but I could not see a relation.

    Regardless, good article.
  • LostInSpace927 - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    I am thinking someone needs to a little research before typing an article.
    "Unfortunately, you can't even try the Personal version of SuSE 9.1 without forking the $90 because the Personal edition does not ship with a x86-64 kernel."
    I downloaded SuSE 9.1 free od charge from www.linuxISO.com.
    All the longer it took me to find this was a few seconds googling.
  • Matthew Daws - Monday, July 12, 2004 - link

    To say that there is no 64-bit compiler for Win64 is slightly untrue: a CPUID.com article uses a beta VC++ 8.0 from the "Microsoft DDK for Windows Server 2003" CD. Sadly, it produces awful code from C++ and cannot optimise less common FPU functions. So, in that sense, there isn't a compiler capable of compiling a whole application: simple benchmarks are possible though (and show 5-35% speed increase, due to more registers mainly).

    Thanks for a good article! --Matt

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