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Willus.com's 2002 Win32 Compiler Benchmarks:

1. Overview

First published January 30, 2002; last updated Dec 29, 2011 [see update section below].

[Be sure to also check out my latest 2011 benchmarks.]

I've written a lot of programs (mostly in C) to do numerical computations and simulations, and ever since I had to wait for one to finish, I've been interested in faster computers and faster compilers. As a graduate student, I grew to appreciate the availability of free software, particularly the GNU C compiler, a superb product that is the result of nearly 20 years of software community work. My first 32-bit PC compiler was DJ Delorie's port of GNU C to the MS-DOS environment, and it was very nice to be able to compile code for a flat, 32-bit environment.

Since that time, almost ten years ago, I have migrated primarily to a Win32 environment, and there are now several available Win32 C/C++ compilers (some of which also compile FORTRAN), many of them being free. Because of my interest in the topic, I've tried to outline them on my Win32 C/C++ Compilers web page, and now, for the first time, I've finally done a set of benchmarks to try to give some sense of comparison between the different compilers.

Updates and Other Links

I am certainly not the first to benchmark compilers. There are numerous other excellent reviews, including a Win32 Fortran Compiler Comparison, and The Great Computer Language Shootout. You can no doubt find many others using google.com. There is also a G4 spec2K discussion thread with some relevance to compiler performance on Google Groups.

[Update 6/02:] Thanks to "Justus" for this link to a page on Intel C++ vs. Gnu C.

[Update 8/02:] In their July 2002 issue, HP World Magazine compared gcc 2.95, gcc 3.04, Intel's Win32 compiler (Windows 2000 Server), and Intel's Linux compiler (SuSE Linux 8.0) on a 600 MHz Pentium III HP Vectra PC. Scores (bigger=faster): gcc 2.95 scored 89, gcc 3.04 scored 100, Intel Win32 scored 136, and Intel Linux scored 162. The benchmark is called the "OBLcpu benchmark 2.0," which, I guess, is HP World's standard suite of C++ CPU benchmark programs.

[See 10/02 update on summary page for comments on the -ffast-math flag and MinGW 2.0 performance.]

[Update 12/02:] I missed this article until now, but in July, Dean Kent at Real World Technologies did a compiler comparison involving Borland, Delphi, Metrowerks, and Microsoft.

[Update 2/03:] Here's a great link comparing Intel C++ v7.0 to gcc 3.2.1 from coyotegulch.com. Note that the comparison is in Linux, not Win32. There's also a long discussion thread about compiler performance here at developers.slashdot.org.

[Update 9/03:] AMD has published the first SPEC CFP2000 benchmark that I am aware of where they use the -ffast-math flag with gcc (and they got a very good score). This means that -ffast-math is a legitimate SPEC compiler option.

[Update 10/03:] See my MinGW/Gnu C Tips page for some in-line x87 math routines (sincos, pow, exp, and atan2) which boost the performance of the MinGW/Gnu C compilers on i386 architectures.

[Update 2/04:] Added results for 3.06 GHz Xeon with 1 MB cache and Athlon 64 3000+ (laptop).

[Update 3/04:] Added results for Athlon 64 3200+ (desktop).

[Update 6/04:] Scott Robert Ladd at coyotegulch.com is keeping up his compiler comparisons between gcc and Intel (unlike me!). This time he does gcc v3.4 and the yet to be released v3.5 (since renamed to v4.0)!

[Update 7/04:] Since I've read that Intel is betting a big part of their future on the Pentium-M core (or something like it), I added results for a 900 MHz Pentium-M (my wife's Panasonic Toughbook W2 laptop). This required a whole new category of processor since a Pentium-M is sort of between a P-III and a P4 (it supports SSE-2 and has a 400 MHz FSB). See the 1/05 update below, also.

[Update 8/04:] Added results for a 3.6 GHz Xeon (90 nm Nacona core w/EM64T) with 1 MB cache.

[Update 9/04:] Scott Robert Ladd is at it again, testing GCC 4.0 against Intel 8.1.

[Update 1/05:] I was able to add results from a 2 GHz Pentium-M (with 2 MB L2 cache) to my benchmarks. Intel seems well justified in focusing their efforts on bringing this chip to the desktop world to replace the Netburst architecture. It is definitely on par with a 3.6 GHz Pentium-4 and an Athlon64 3200+. In fact, using the best scores on my five benchmarks for each processor, averaged and normalized to the 3.6 GHz Xeon (higher is slower), the results were 1.0 for the Xeon, 1.01 for the Pentium-M, and 1.15 for the Athlon64 3200+. I would not have guessed that the Pentium-M would perform so well. I can only guess that Intel doesn't trumpet the performance more loudly because they don't want to hurt their Pentium-4 sales.

[Update 5/05:] Scott Robert Ladd published a GCC 4.0 Review.

[Update 6/06:] Principled Technologies did a nice Intel v9 vs. Gcc 4.1.1 comparison on Linux using SPEC CPU2000. Intel's performance is about 20% better.

[Update 11/06:] If you haven't viewed the GCC benchmarks page, it's worth a look. There are loads of plots of SPEC performance on a daily basis, and there are some tantalizing jumps in the 32-bit performance on Athlon systems of late (specfp2k). There are also comparisons to Intel 7.1 and PGI.

[Update 3/07:] I checked through my comments section on the summary page for the first time in over a year and had to disable the posting mechanism because of spammers. I'll try to get the original comments back up soon.

[Update 9/07:] I just found the Daresbury Laboratory distributed computing site, which has several excellent benchmark results, including a 2005 comparison between Pathscale, Intel, PGI, and GCC compilers for the AMD64 platform.

[Update 1/10:] I just ran some quick MinGW gcc benchmarks on Windows 7.

[Update 11/11:] I just added some new results to my MinGW gcc benchmarks page.

[Update 12/11:] I posted my new 2011 compiler benchmarks.

Caveat Emptor!

The usual benchmark caveat goes something like this: these are only benchmarks, and as such may not represent the results you will actually get if you compare these compilers yourself. There is probably a different code that could be devised which would score best on each different compiler. But I did try to take advantage of honest-to-goodness simulations that I actually use (and mostly that I or my colleagues actually wrote the code for). Also, I'm a reasonable programmer (I know what it means to "vectorize" C programs for a Cray), but I don't pretend to be an expert on writing super-fast, super-efficient code. Mostly I try to write code as elegantly as possible without doing anything that will result in an obvious performance penalty. Several mathematical routines in these simulations were taken from Numerical Recipes in C, though the Numerical Recipes routines typically don't account for most of the CPU time used.

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This page last modified
Thursday, 29-Dec-2011 09:25:00 MST