Intel is accused of cheating its CPU performance but not by AMD

When optimisation paints a bad picture.

Electrical wiring apparatus.
Background by Jeswin Thomas.

Intel is yet again in the spotlight for bad reasons. This time, Blue Team is accused of manipulating test results by optimising its compilers for specific benchmarks. As a consequence, thousands of previous results have been disqualified.

Lately, Intel hasn’t had a break from bad news. After the hilarious ‘snake oil’ slides against AMD, the brand is once more in trouble. SPEC (Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation) has discovered some specific optimisations in the Intel oneAPI DPC++ compiler.

“The compiler used for this result performed a compilation that specifically improves the performance of the 523.xalancbmk_r / 623.xalancbmk_s benchmarks using a priori knowledge of the SPEC code and dataset to perform a transformation that has narrow applicability”, said SPEC.

The SPEC CPU 2017 benchmark package contains CPU-intensive suites. It’s quite versatile, mainly measuring and comparing compute performance by stressing the processor, memory subsystem, and compiler through 43 benchmarks. SPEC designed these suites to provide a comparative measure of compute-intensive performance across the widest practical range of hardware using workloads developed from real user applications.

Intel’s manipulation apparently focuses on Xeon processors from 2022 and 2023. It’s not surprising, as AMD is giving Intel a hard time with its Epyc and Threadripper CPUs. According to Phoronix, this CPU-specific optimisation could result in a 9% overall SPECint speed uplift and around 4% for the SPECint rate. As a reaction, SPEC has invalidated more than 2,600 results for Intel Xeon chips. SPEC will no longer publish results using this optimisation, however, these results will remain in its database as a historical reference.

While this doesn’t affect third-party reviews like ours, it’s unfortunate to see well-established brands revert to such tactics to claim extra points. This is yet another reason to check multiple reviews while avoiding those made by affiliated sources.