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Graphics Intel Hardware Build

Intel's Superchilled Test Rig 147

Barence writes "Last week, PC Pro issued a challenge to see whose PC could render a 3D graphics benchmark in the shortest time. The competition was won by an entrant with a rather unfair advantage: Intel. The processor giant's superchilled rig is overclocked to nearly 5GHz. As PC Pro explains: 'The rig itself uses phase-change cooling: in other words it's attached to a chuffing great freezer, which I believe is the big box on the right of the photo. That yellow meter with the readout is showing the temperature of its output: yes, that's minus 40 degrees Celcius.'"
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Intel's Superchilled Test Rig

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  • by PmanAce ( 1679902 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:00PM (#33170254) Homepage
    Judging from that photo, we are still in the infancy of computing. The Millenium Falcon looks like that everywhere!
  • No problem. I've got an environmental test chamber which I can use to bring the entire system to -40C. Had it at -75C last week; but, I don't think it could reach that temp with the heat load of a PC. Wonder what numbers I'd get.
    • Re:-40C (Score:5, Informative)

      by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:10PM (#33170324)
      -40C is also -40F ... so -40 it is
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        then one might make the mistake of -40k

        • Re:-40C (Score:5, Interesting)

          by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:52PM (#33170620)
          Negative Kelvin [wikipedia.org] is actually possible...
          • by arose ( 644256 )
            But 'k' isn't it.
          • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

            Sort of.

          • that's change in energy/temperature, not stable temperature it's running at. It's like I have a 5 litres of water and I take out 2 litres and say the change is -2 litres of water. That's not how much I have though.
            • No, it's actually negative temperature. It can occur in systems that have a limit to their possible entropy (number of configurations), where high temperature (simplified: disorder) leads to an equal population of states.

              An example would be excited vs. unexcited states of atoms in a lasing medium - a finite number of states with a finite number of configurations means a finite maximum entropy. If one were to heat it towards infinite temperature, the states would become equally populated (maximum possible

      • by McGiraf ( 196030 )

        -40k ?

    • How cool can it get the CPU though? Afaict the CPU usually runs quite a bit hotter than the surrounding air.

      Also I wonder how the rest of the PC would survive those temperatures.

      • And therein lies the problem. I did the post kind of tongue-in-cheek. I do thermal tests of instrumentation boards all the time. The system would be at -40 and the board might survive; but, some capacitors on the board might stop functioning. The processor is an interesting problem: Since I'm not directly cooling the cpu I'd have to use an air cooler which brings it's own problems. Without re-plumbing the chamber to supply a cold head, the cpu temp would probably be 30 or 40 degrees above the chamber
  • Correction (Score:5, Funny)

    by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:12PM (#33170338) Homepage

    That yellow meter with the readout is showing the temperature of its output: yes, that's minus 40 degrees celcius.

    Correction, it's minus 40 degrees fahrenheit.


  • Any AMD stats for comparison?
    • Sorry; AMD can't afford a freezer.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Threni ( 635302 )

        According to one of the comments (about AMD winning $1B+ from Intel) they can afford a fairly substantial freezer...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by TheEyes ( 1686556 )

          I'm aware; I've actually invested in some 2012 call options on AMD stock. Even as-is they should be worth $10 a share. If Bobcat can make them competitive in the ultraportable market (Android on ARM is going to eat Intel's lunch in the netbook-level arena; x86's crufty instruction set can't compete at that low level), and/or Bulldozer makes them competitive in the mid- to high-end desktop market, that should go up to $13-15, easy. It is a hell of a gamble, though; they're still almost a full processor node

          • Riiight. Just like the x86's "crufty" instruction set couldn't compete in the scientific computing/HPC domain. Oh, wait... I think you'll find Moorestown already proves you wrong, and Medfield will prove you completely wrong. ARM is (and will be for a long time) dominant in the low end embedded market in terms of power/performance, but it's being threatened from above as the Atom chips get more and more integrated.
            • I do remember the days when they said x86 couldn't compete with the RISC chips (alpha/mips/etc..)

              The reality is that (A) all processors offer instruction forms that are rarely used, and (B) complex instruction sets increase code density as long as the common ones are short. (C) extensive amounts of registers arent all that useful in most circumstances because most long term data has to be written back to memory anyways.

              The read/modify/write instructions are often the best instructions to use these days
    • Re:AMD (Score:4, Informative)

      by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @12:38AM (#33171690)

      Here is what AMD was doing last year with liquid helium, which would put the temp at about 5 degrees Kelvin (about -450 degrees Fahrenheit) and running at 7 giga-hertz

      Here is an AMD news blurb
      http://eon.businesswire.com/portal/site/eon/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20091105006606&newsLang=en [businesswire.com]

      And a nifty video
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6Hf6d404QY&f=22 [youtube.com]

      • by Tim C ( 15259 )

        It's a minor nit-pick I know, but with a background in Physics I can't help myself - it's not "degrees Kelvin", it's just "Kelvin",.

    • IIRC some 'clever' people once used up 150l of liquid Helium to run an AMD Phenom II at something ridiculous like 6.5GHz.
  • by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @08:21PM (#33170400) Journal
  • Big advantage? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leachlife4 ( 638543 )

    Phase change cooling is not really that extreme of a cooling system for benchmarking... go to Quakecon you will see quite a few people with it.
    LN2 (or even better liquid He) on the other hand could be considered an unfair advantage.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no a really big advantage would be putting the entire rig in a satalite sat in the earths shadow out in the void with a massive superconductor heat sink spreading the heat across 2 or 3 kilometers for really low temps and just beaming the results back via a micro wave trasmiter powerful enough to melt the icecaps... at least that how the borg would do it....

    • I think they just meant unfair in that it was Intel doing it. First that means they can put whatever funds they like to the challenge. A normal user has limits but Intel could spend an effectively unlimited amount if they so chose. Second they can pick the processor. Maybe this is just a random EE of the shelf, or maybe he tested a bunch and found the best. Intel does make them, after all. Finally Intel's engineers probalby know about the limits and how to reach them better than anyone else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mat128 ( 735121 )

        If you read TFA (but this is /.), it says he used a retail processor. He was also limited to a single-socket solution, which means no multi-sockets server boards.

    • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      Liquid helium's not better. Your primary problem at that point is not how low of a temperature you can achieve, but maintaining the temperature while the object you're cooling is producing such large amounts of heat. Liquid nitrogen has a better heat capacity than liquid helium (and is enormously cheaper), so it's going to work better.

    • by 15Bit ( 940730 )
      I'm not sure i'd class Liq He as an advantage. Having worked with it i'd call it a pain in the arse, and totally unsuitable for computer cooling. Low heat capacity and insanely low temp mean it has to be transported and stored in large, very well insulated containers, so it lacks the easy mobility of liq N2. Transferring liq He from one container to another also requires some skill if you don't want to evaporate the whole lot during transfer.

      Oh, did i mention it gives you splendid burns too.
  • it will be the happening place for gamers.

    • Assuming it has air... Otherwise, why not in an interstellar void, or even better, intergalactic. Bring on the massiveo heatsinks please, we have a lot of radiating to do.
      • Available energy would also be a concern. Diddly squat for solar and I don't really see there being either local fuel or oxidizers.

    • by tangent ( 3677 )
      Sure, but the ping time is a real bitch.
  • Psh, only 29sec here (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fry-kun ( 619632 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:07PM (#33170724)

    on a 2x6core server at work ;)

    [xxxx@xxxx smallpt]$ time ./smallpt 100
    Rendering (100 spp) 100.00%
    real 0m29.127s
    user 5m41.044s
    sys 0m0.093s

    P.S. and compiling didn't take me hours, either, since I'm on Linux

    • He must have forgotten to turn on optimization (or the MS compiler is *that* bad at optimizing). Even my lowly 2.5Ghz Core2 Duo T9300 renders this in 2m10s on Linux. Core for core, that makes my 2.5 year old laptop chip nearly twice as fast as his i7 980X.

    • If you RTFA you'll see they intentionally limited the Intel guy to 1 socket. What fun would it be if he ran it on an 8-way server in the lab that you couldn't even buy in real life?

  • by fontkick ( 788075 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:08PM (#33170728)

    Insane voltage... the 980 is rated up to 1.375V. I'm happy with a i7-860 @ 3.6 GHz running on 1.2V.

    Intel's made upgrading much more fun considering you can get a 30-40% CPU speed increase in about 10 minutes of research and bios tweaking. Next fall there will be 8-core/16-threads on the desktop. I am loving Intel these days.

  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @09:09PM (#33170738) Homepage

    For extra effect, they should put Debian 6.0 "Squeeze" there; also recently frozen.

  • So let me understand this. They cool the thing down an average winter temperature in half of Canada, and it's a big deal?

    Already I see thousands of gamers running cables out their bedroom windows and leaving their rigs in the snowbank outside.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shados ( 741919 )

      It doesn't get to -40C very frequently in most of the populated (well, more than small villages anyway) regions of canada :). -35 happens, but its far from an average, unless you live all the way north in the middle of nowhere or in the territories.

  • by Sack ( 660286 )
    Imagine a Beowulf cluster of those!
  • by sherpajohn ( 113531 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @10:19PM (#33171096) Homepage

    I am more interested a a FPU (food processing unit) than a CPU - how long to render Natalie Portman in hot grits?

  • Dudes, don't visit the north of Canada in the middle of winter!

  • by tomz16 ( 992375 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:21PM (#33171352)

    There is something seriously wrong with the optimizations in his windows binary...

    Ran in 36 seconds on a 4 x 8224 SE AMD opteron IBM x-server running linux (8 total cores at 3.2GHz)


    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by illumin8 ( 148082 )

      Why would you assume that? The engineer from Intel was limited to using a single socket system. I could argue that there is something seriously wrong with your Linux compiled binary since you have 4x as many sockets and ran less than twice as fast.

      • by tomz16 ( 992375 )

        Why would you assume that? The engineer from Intel was limited to using a single socket system. I could argue that there is something seriously wrong with your Linux compiled binary since you have 4x as many sockets and ran less than twice as fast.

        and I could argue that you are flat out wrong
        - Intel has 6 cores on the latest architecture running at 5Ghz
        - I had 8 cores that are now 1 generation old, running at 3.2GHz, with slower memory (and cores are a little slower clock-for-clock than the i7)

        but most importantly :
        - most posts from similar hardware show that the people using a linux binary are *several times* faster on identical hardware

        It's pretty clear that the author SERIOUSLY messed up the compilation on windows (also betrayed by the fact that

        • I have replicated your result, 252 seconds in windows, ubuntu VM with access to 4 cores gives the following for Phenom II X4 965 @3.4: sean@sean-ubuntu-2:~/Desktop/smallpt$ time ./smallpt 100 Rendering (100 spp) 100.00% real 1m22.444s user 5m22.656s sys 0m1.688s And yes the images are the same. I agree that windows optimizations are messed up. AMD users fret not.
        • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 )

          It's pretty clear that the author SERIOUSLY messed up the compilation on windows (also betrayed by the fact that it took him several hours of futzing with visual studio in order to get it to work)

          I'm not sure that it is all that clear. My initial though was that the PC Pro author didn't port the Unix code properly. But there are issues reported with the code on AIX, and I am running into performance issues on SPARC/Solaris with the source code AS IS compiled with both GCC (4.3.2) and Sun Studio. It may be that something about the smallpt source code is preventing the Microsoft compiler from fully optimizing the code. Or the problem may lie with the OpenMP implementations on these platforms. On

  • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:29PM (#33171378) Homepage Journal
    The posts from users running Linux on the forum are showing times that are 4-5x faster than those posting benchmarks from Windows. What's going on there?
    • Differences in compilers? I'm also curious.

    • The posts from users running Linux on the forum are showing times that are 4-5x faster than those posting benchmarks from Windows. What's going on there?

      If you RTFA you'll see the Intel engineer was asked by his coworkers that challenged him to do this benchmark using only a single socket system. What you have are Linux geeks with 2 way or 4 way servers that want to start a dick measuring contest.

      I would say a 5 ghz. overclock is pretty damn impressive. If someone wants to put up a benchmark from Linux on

    • Task Manager, Right-click process, set priority to realtime?

      Just a guess.

      Maybe there's some way to do it on the command-line too. Either that, or the Express version of the compiler doesn't optimize as well. Maybe they built a debug version.

  • Of who can blow up a rack of PCs into the smallest size pieces.

    And having the US military unexpectedly enter into the contest, using a tactical nuke to blow up the rack, for their entry in the contest

    You know... for PR... to bolster recruitment rates.


    Same difference... AMD could probably best Intel, if they spent more money on a rig of their own. I think it kind of defeats the point to have large corporations with massive resources the average high-end user could barely dream of seeing in pers

    • It's not as though they're competing for a prize here. It's just a friendly competition. You're free to ignore their result and focus on the rest if you like.

      Personally, I find this kind of thing interesting as far as seeing what's possible, even if it's not exactly practical.

  • I can hardly think at all at that temperature, let alone faster.

  • I tried to compile and run this on OS X (SL, 10.6.4, gcc 4.2.1). I downloaded the .tar.gz from http://kevinbeason.com/smallpt/ [kevinbeason.com], and ran make (which runs g++ with compile flags of -O3 -fopenmp...). It compiled fine. Running it gives a Bus Error though.. any ideas?

    • by JimR ( 101182 )

      One of the comments on the smallpt page recommends adding the following line:

      if (depth > 100) return obj.e;

      after line 55 in the code to prevent a stack overflow.

      It seems to do the trick for me.

      • by JimR ( 101182 )

        And FWIW compiling with:

        g++-fsf-4.4 smallpt.cpp -o smallpt -O3 -fopenmp -ffast-math -m64 -march=native -ftree-parallelize-loops=8 -funroll-all-loops

        gives a runtime for smallpt 100 of 2m31s for my MacBook ("Early 2008" model).

  • by hvdh ( 1447205 ) on Saturday August 07, 2010 @06:49AM (#33172456)

    I had a 30 minute look at the source code. It's clearly optimized for shortness, not for speed.
    There are some obvious performance no-gos, see lines 44-45, using a double variable as a loop counter.
    Performance depends to a good extent on the erand48 implementation and whether OpenMP knows that erand48 is MT-safe.

  • And yet, this system still couldn't run StarCraft II without melting the graphics card...
  • Cheating on a benchmark test given is NOT cool, no matter what the temperature of the machine.
  • very thoughtful of them to choose -40 degrees, so those favoring Celsius AND Fahrenheit will understand.
  • ... Swedish motherfucker, do you speak it? It's Celsius(https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Anders_Celsius), not Celcius.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.