Test Drive: Intel Nehalem, Part 2

0011_TestDriveIntelNehalem2_link1.jpgWelcome back to our presentation of how HP’s new Intel Nehalem-based workstations compare to older workstations when rendering from Adobe Creative Suite 4 (CS4). Briefly, in the last installment, I detailed the tests that I performed, and discussed the results for DV and HDV source materials. This time out, I present the results for DVCPRO HD, AVCHD, and Red and share how the Z400 and Z800 performed with Hyper-threaded Technology (HTT) enabled and disabled.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

DVCPRO HD

DVCPRO HD has four times the data rate of either DV or HDV, though it’s an intraframe-only format so it’s easier to process than HDV or AVCHD. In fact, the easiest way to think of DVCPRO HD is as four streams of DV, one for each quadrant.

0011_TestDriveIntelNehalem2_table1.jpg

Table 1. DVCPRO HD results.

Recall that the shorter test was relatively effects-heavy, with an Adobe chroma key effect added via Dynamic Link. On the short project, where throughput was less critical than processing power, the Z800 and xw8600 posted nearly identical scores, with the single-core Z400 significantly behind. Since DVCPRO HD is so bulky, it’s not surprising that the eight-core, 32-bit xw6600 bogged down, much more so than the xw4600 four-core 32-bit workstation. If you’re producing on a 32-bit workstation, don’t forget that Dynamic Link is an option, not a requirement. You may get overall faster results by rendering out your After Effects project first, and importing the result into Premiere Pro, or Encore for that matter.

On the longer project, the Z800 was the perfect combination of throughput and processing speed, rendering in half the time of the xw8600. With only 6GB of RAM, the Z400 really suffered, bested by the xw8600 with 16GB of memory. The bottom line is that if you’re editing DVCPRO HD, 8GB should be the minimum RAM configuration, with 10GB or 12GB a worthwhile investment.

Again, if you’re running a 32-bit workstation with room to expand your RAM, you’ll find upgrading to 64-bit Windows an inexpensive but highly effective upgrade. It's tough to imagine that many DVCPRO HD producers are working on a single- or dual-core system, but if you are, you should have little trouble justifying the upgrade.


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