Earlier this week Intel had said that it expects the performance impact security updates designed to protect a computer against the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities to be minimal on devices with recent Intel processors, but more noticeable on systems with older chips.
Now the company is sharing some numbers. We still don’t have any details about the performance impact on systems with chips that are more than a few years old, and Microsoft is only providing details for a few of its recent chips. But the company’s internal testing shows less than a 10-percent performance decline for at least some systems with 6th, 7th, and 8th-gen Core processors.
The company ran SYSmark 2014 SE, PCMark 10, 3DMark Sky Diver, and WebXPRT 2015 on systems with multiple configurations including models with Core i7-8700K (desktop), Core i7-8650U (mobile), Core i7-7920HQ (mobile), and Core i7-6700K (desktop) chips.
As expected, the performance impact of the security update varies depending on the workload.
Most computers scored at least 10 percent lower in the SYSMark 2014 SE responsiveness test, although oddly a Core i7-6700K model with Windows 7 and a hard drive actually saw a slight performance increase in that test, along with a few others.
For other tests, such as the 3DMark Sky Diver graphics benchmark, most systems Intel tested saw no difference in before and after scores at all.
Keep in mind that Intel is under pressure to show that the update will have a minimal impact on performance since the company doesn’t have any PC and server chips to sell that aren’t affected by the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities at a hardware level. So software and microcode updates that change the way existing CPUs work (and which may slow down some operations) are the only way to go for now… and if Intel wants to keep selling its latest processors, the company needs to convince customers that they’re just as usable after the security patches as they were before.
So while there’s no reason to doubt the benchmarks posted by Intel, it’s interesting to note that the company has only shown results for a handful of chips so far and hasn’t posted actual benchmark numbers, just the percentage of the performance impact.
It’s also interesting to note that Microsoft says computers that are more than a few years old suffer the most from recent security updates… and Intel hasn’t shared any benchmarks for chips released before 2015.
I suspect we’ll see plenty of third-party benchmarks in the coming months that paint a more clear picture of the performance impact on Intel-powered computers, as well as the impact on those that use chips from rival AMD.