help me burn some CPU cycles
March 29, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I just bought a quad-core iMac with 16gb of RAM. What software can I get to push it to its limits?

Games? Graphics?

Sky's the limit here.

Assume that I can install Windows 7 if needed.

Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by dfriedman to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Video games are mostly going to push the GPU. Running Portal at native resolution will certainly do that.

If you want to use CPU cycles, and do some good, how about Folding@home?

RAM... well, just load all normal applications at once. Or, you know, just Photoshop + Illustrator.
posted by supercres at 1:27 PM on March 29, 2011

Not particularly useful, but :(){ :|:& };:.
posted by lantius at 1:35 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dragon Age 2, with the optional Very-High-Res Graphics and all the other options turned the whole way up.
posted by lettuchi at 1:37 PM on March 29, 2011

Photoshop CS 5 will happily gobble up all the memory you give it, and I'm pretty sure it's multi-core optimized...

In terms of CPU support, you really need to find an application that is written to be mutlithreaded. Modern games are almost always mutithreaded, and many of them are optimized for quad core architectures. Crysis 2 would be a good game to throw at it, but a lot of it's performance is also going to be limited by the quality of your graphics card.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:39 PM on March 29, 2011

Build a SMS gateway and give away free SMS messaging. Run the whole thing on this one imac.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2011

Sorry, to be clear - run a free email-SMS gateway.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on March 29, 2011

1) Get a copy of VMWare Fusion.

2) Install a copy of Windows 7 as a virtual machine using VMWare
posted by jchaw at 2:03 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: Something like Maya will chew up all the CPU power you can throw at it when doing a big render.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:12 PM on March 29, 2011

posted by Aquaman at 2:15 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Last night, iStat menu showed Handbrake on my i7 iMac chewing up 100% on all 8 threads while transcoding some video.
posted by jaimev at 2:21 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: I like to test new machines by rendering out a Blender fluid animation (just raise the quality as time marches on). But that's still a bit depressing, because it's never fast enough.
posted by circular at 3:15 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: Any graphical intense games will stress your system, but mostly your GPU. Video rendering is an all-round I/O and CPU stressor as well, but as circular notes you'll never get real time rendering; as fast and powerful as your machine is, you won't feel that way when you push it to its limits and it gives way first on something like that (even though it did everything much faster than any other machine you've owned). What it will excel at is all those things that used to be clunky, now being crazy fast (and god help you if you get solid-state drives in that bad boy).

As a Mac Pro 2008 owner, I can tell you with ~3 years of experience the two best choices I made were to
a) make a Boot Camp partition and install Windows on it for those occasional bouts of gaming, and
b) buy VMWare Fusion!

The thing is, besides being a pretty OS, probably the nicest thing about your new Mac and all its computing horsepower is that with that much memory and CPU, you have one a hell of a virtual machine host.

As you probably know Bootcamp lets you install a native Windows OS to a separate partition, and the first time I ran the Windows System Performance Rating tool on my Mac, it was a thing of beauty to watch every metric pegged at the max (5.9). Flight Simulator ran like a dream; I'd fly around aimlessly, just to check out the scenery and the rendering. Beautiful. Games will absolutely scream on your Mac when run as a bootcamped Windows (provided your video card is similarly high end).

But VMWare Fusion takes that to another level: while you can reboot into Windows when you want to do gaming in particular, the rest of the time you can stay in OS X and still use that Bootcamped Windows as a virtual machine... as well as run multiple other OSes at the same time. For example, right now I have OS X running with a 3x3 "Spaces" layout, and the bottom 3 are all virtual machines: a bootcamped Windows with Office on it, a virtual Win2k3 server I use solely to VPN to work, and an Ubuntu only so I have a passing familiarity with Linux. I also have a bittorrent client, Google Earth, iTunes on their own screens, and am posting this in FF4 on screen 1.

My machine isn't even breaking a sweat, and I feel kind of godlike. That was totally worth the $80 for the convenience and ego boost.
posted by hincandenza at 4:22 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For a bit of old school losing yourself in the mandelbrot set: is pretty amazing on a fast multi core machine.
(It probably seems even better given that I lost many hours of my life waiting for fractint to render on my 386SX, what are those kids doing on my lawn).
posted by samj at 5:05 PM on March 29, 2011

Install MacPorts and compile anything with Activity Monitor's CPU monitor (Cmd+2) visible.

If you want to see some activity:
sudo port install emacs-app # quick, should hit cores
sudo port install gcc44 # should take awhile
sudo port install atlas # used by octave, takes forever

posted by fleeba at 9:37 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: Benchmarking for macs.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:17 PM on March 29, 2011

Best answer: SmallLuxGPU is what many folks (myself included) were using to trigger a video driver bug in the newer MBP. SmallLuxGPU is rendering software that uses OpenCL to use every available cycle from both your CPU and GPU. It's not very exciting to run but it's a good stress test.
posted by chairface at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer:

Burn those CPUs for good!

posted by robabroad at 10:45 AM on March 30, 2011

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