The Benefits of SMP Systems

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The Benefits of SMP Systems
Last Updated: 04 Dec 2002

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Before you get that dual-proc system, be advised that not
every desktop OS is SMP-capable. The following desktop
OSes do not have support for multi-processors:

• 16-bit Windows (Win3.x/WFW3/x)
• Windows 9x (95/98/98SE/ME)
• Windows XP Home
• MacOS (through 9.x)

If you're going to get an SMP system, do yourself a favor
and run an SMP-capable OS such as NT/2000/XP Pro or Linux
or BeOS.  Among the BSDs, FreeBSD supports multiple CPUs,
but not OpenBSD.

An SMP config is most beneficial if you run lots of apps
simultaneously, or process lots of data. Even if you don't
do these things, you can benefit from having an extra CPU.
Normally, the OS itself has to share CPU time with all
other running apps, with a noticable impact on the user
interface (UI). In an SMP config, however, the OS can
get "dedicated" time on one of the CPUs, while the apps
can get time from the other CPU.  This is true even if
your apps are not specifically designed to be SMP-capable.

Apps that are properly multithreaded, and don't use code
that would force CPU affinity (DirectX is still somewhat
singlethreaded), are great candidates for an SMP config.

Not everyone *needs* an SMP system, but they are much
cheaper to attain these days (especially AMD-based
systems) and are useful for folks who do lots of number
crunching or graphics processing.






• Windows 2000 and XP handle SMP much better than NT4

• With the release of HyperThreading, you can get
  even better performance from SMP systems, although
  it's most useful under heavy load.

• The AnandTech reviews show the true usefulness of
  SMP and further illustrate the clock speed alone
  doth not a processor make.