# What CPU should I buy?

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#### m85476585

##### Well-Known Member
I know this is might not be the right forum for this, but I need some help buying a CPU.

Right now my desktop has a Pentium 4 3GHz, and it's too slow. I have a new P45 motherboard, so I can get basically any current LGA775 CPU with no compatibility problems.

I was set on the Pentium E5300 until just now. It is a Wolfdale, so it is essentially the same as most of the current Core 2 Duos. At just $65, it's a steal, and it can be overclocked to well over 3ghz. I was about to buy it when I noticed that it doesn't have SSE4.1 (instructions optimized for multimedia and HD stuff. It doesn't have VT-x (virtualization instructions) either, but at$65 that's OK.

Intel makes it a pain to figure out what has SSE4.1 and what doesn't, but it looks like all Core 2 Duos and Core 2 Quads have SSE4.1. That means the cheapest processor with SSE4.1 on Newegg is the Core 2 Duo E7400. At $110 it's quite a bit more expensive than the E5300, and it still doesn't support VT-x. If I'm going to pay$110, I think I want VT-x so I can use XP mode in Windows 7, and maybe get some improvement in VMWare.

The cheapest processor with SSE4.1 and VT-x looks like the E7600 and $150. Only problem is, that's getting really close to the Core 2 Quad Q8400 at$170 which has VT-x and SSE4.1 and is quad core.

There are a few more expensive than the Q8400, like the Q9400 with an extra 2mb of L2 cache or the Q9550 with an extra 8mb of L2, but I don't think L2 will matter too much. Also, I am largely ignoring clock speeds because all of these chips will be overclockable. So if there is a 2.5GHz and a 2.6GHz with the same specs, I will pick the cheaper one and OC it. It's things like VT-x, SSE4, and quad-core that can't be added with overclocking

So my question is, do I really need any of these features? As far as I can tell, SSE4.1 will enable up to 40% more speed in applications optimized for it (like video encoding, mostly), but I couldn't find a list of applications that take advantage of it, or how much faster it is in ones that do (like Adobe Premiere Pro). VT-x is required for XP mode in Windows 7, but VMWare doesn't need it. It would be nice to use XP mode if it works well, but I can't test it on the RC since I don' have a VT-x processor. Reviews seem to be mixed, and I can't tell if it would be any better than running VMWare for all my XP needs. Finally, quad-core would be nice, but I don't think I do anything that would take advantage of it right now. Most video encoders I have seen just do the video on one core and the audio on another core, leaving up to 70% of the audio core idle. I don't know if they have really improved recently since I am not keeping track.

Most video work does not need the video card at all. There are some GPU-accelerated video encoders emerging which I am going to look into, but most video encoders just use the CPU. I am hoping I can find a GPU-accelerated encoder that meets my needs (see below). I am probably going to get an ATI 4830-based card since that works with Stream Technology (what ATI/AMD calls their GPGPU platform), and it will be fast enough to play most games on good enough settings. I found one for about $90 that looks good. For me the biggest problem with video stuff is getting all the video formats and software to work well together. I have an EyeTV Hybrid USB HDTV tuner, which is a rebranded Hauppauge tuner that comes with Mac software. The tuner puts out MPEG2, which sounds great because it should in theory be able to go direct to DVD. Unfortunately, the mac software hides the MPEG2 video in a container file. I can get it out manually without too much work, but I have not found any DVD burning software that works on a mac that will take that particular file and put it on a DVD without reencoding. Also, I think there is something funny about the video that comes out, like it might be a Transport Stream (TS) file that is hard to work with. I don't want to reencode because it takes time and MPEG2 is lossy. There is apparently a way to go directly from the EyeTV software to Roxio Toast to DVD without reencoding, but I haven't tried that yet. The best solution I found was accepting the fact that I would have to reencode once and export from EyeTV to a massive (20+gb) DV file then put that into the software of my choice, probably iDVD. Since going to DV is lossless, that's OK, but a bit annoying. From there it will have to go back to MPEG2, but there's not much I can do about that. I am trying to put our home movies on DVD. Maybe since they are on VHS the quality is already so bad that I shouldn't worry about an extra lossy encoding or two, but I don't want to have to redo it. If the VCR breaks, I don't want to have to buy a new one to save them again. This is already the second time I am converting them because the first time my video capture device was terrible and always had audio syncing issues. I was able to get acceptable recordings, but now that I have a new tuner, I want them to be as good as possible. Disk space is also a lot cheaper than it was in 2003 or whenever I first converted them, so I will be able to save a digital copy in case the DVDs degrade over time or are lost or damaged. Last edited: #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/ati-avivo-hd/Pages/ati-avivo-hd.aspx It sounds like exactly what I want. "You can convert videos to H.264 and MPEG-2 formats up to 19x faster than when using a just CPU, and full 1080p files can be converted to H.264 and MPEG-2 up to 1.8x faster than real-time." "built-in DVD up-conversion to HD resolution and beyond." I noticed in the fine print they used an Intel Core 2 Duo, which is odd since AMD makes CPUs. I guess in a way they are admitting theirs are not as good. #### bobkrech ##### Well-Known Member .... I noticed in the fine print they used an Intel Core 2 Duo, which is odd since AMD makes CPUs. I guess in a way they are admitting theirs are not as good. Not exactly. What they said was "This (performance) may vary depending on your system configuration and video formats. Using an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 3.16 GHz based PC, AMD was able to achieve GPU accelerated transcoding speeds up to 19x faster using Cyberlink PowerDirector than when using the same CPU alone with MainConcept encoder in Adobe Premiere CS3. Using the same system, full 1080p files were converted 1.8x faster than real-time. AVT is only available with ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series graphics cards." AMD performed this test using an AMD ATI Avivo technology based Radeon HD 4800 Series graphics card installed in a PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 CPU (which would be a common CPU in a graphics computer). The AMD ATI graphics card's hardware, not the computer's CPU, does the conversion. Purpose built hardware devices are always faster than a software conversion. NVIDIA has taken their video processor cores and packaged them into a 2-slot TFLOP supercomputer speed C1060 processing unit or for number crunching application for a mere$1300.

NVIDIA Tesla C1060 Computing Processor
The NVIDIA Tesla C1060 transforms a workstation into a high-performance computer that can dramatically outperform a small cluster. This gives technical professionals a dedicated computing resource at their desk-side that is much faster and more energy-efficient than a shared cluster in the data center. The Tesla C1060 is based on the massively parallel, many-core Tesla processor, which is coupled with the standard CUDA C programming environment to simplify many-core programming. The Tesla C1060 allows you to keep pace with the increasing demands of the toughest computing challenges including drug research, oil and gas exploration, and computational finance and its many-core architecture meets the computational demands of applications whose complexity has outstripped the CPUs ability to solve them. This NVIDIA HPC Computing Processor uses the only C language environment that unlocks the many-core processing power of GPUs to solve the worlds most computationally-intensive challenges. Capable of 933 GFLOPs/s of processing performance puts it near the performance of small supercomputers and 4 GB of GDDR3 memory onboard gives you a total bandwidth of 102 GB/s.

#### terryg

##### Well-Known Member
I would read the reviews before I considered the drive that you linked to. Seagate's quality control has gone down the tubes recently and I wonder If they are going to survive in the long term. Quite a shame as I used to be a long term Seagate fan.

#### m85476585

##### Well-Known Member
It doesn't sound that bad. Once they get past the beginning of the bathtub curve, they should be fine. I agree that Seagate's quality has been going downhill since they bought Maxtor, tough. That was a huge mistake since Maxtor was always known for making bad drives.

Another option is a pair of Samsung Spinpoint F1's. I have one in an external enclosure, and it's great. I get 110Mb/s average, and over 130mb/s peak with eSATA. The drive is really heavy, and it vibrates the whole desk when it is running. It takes a few seconds to start up (i assume because of the weight), and it sounds really cool doing so because you can hear it slowly spinning up. (My desktop has vibration-isolating mounts, so they won't cause any problems in there). Too bad the RAID class version of it costs $150 instead of$85.
That's funny, I just noticed the RAID class F1 comes with a free 500gb Seagate drive similar to the one I linked to (but with worse reviews).

I still don't know which CPU to get! Yesterday I was leaning towards the Q8400, but now I am thinking I should just get a video card and the E5200, and see how well video encoding on the GPU works. I just spent a bunch of money on this monitor, and I don't want to almost tahat much again on parts.

#### bobkrech

##### Well-Known Member
Matt

The recommended 4800 series ATI video cards are similar to the NVIDIA TFLOP processors I mentioned earlier and have up to 800 graphics processor cores and deliver nearly a TFLOP in processing speed.

A quick review of retail sources of graphics cards indicates that a $219 graphics card probably does the trick. It's more important to have memory than speed and the 4850 with 2G outperforms the 4870 with 1 G, however a 4870 with 2G .... SAPPHIRE 100270SR Radeon HD 4850 X2 2GB 512-bit (256-bit x 2) GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail Original Price:$249.99 You Save: $30.00 =$219.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...ards-_-Sapphire+Technology+Limited-_-14102809

SAPPHIRE 100251SR Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB 512-bit (256-bit x 2) GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - Retail Original Price: $379.99 You Save:$20.00 = $359.99 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produ...ards-_-Sapphire+Technology+Limited-_-14102768 Since I noticed that you also use Mathlab, you should be aware that MathLab has a hook to use NVIDIA video cards, in addition to the devices I mentioned earlier. We use MatLab with an NVIDIA graphics card and get at least a factor of 10 enhancement in number crunching performance. If NVIDIA made a similar product to the above Radeon cards, it might be a better match because of the potential dual use. Bob #### cjl ##### Well-Known Member Umm, they do: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130475 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130480 http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130504 As for Seagate's quality control, it has nothing to do with them buying maxtor (believe me). It was an issue with a major code change they implemented starting with the 7200.11 series drives. The 7200.12 are quite a bit better, though they haven't been out long enough to tell if they are up to the standards that the old 7200.10s were. #### InFlight ##### Well-Known Member This is really my second computer to run any Windows only stuff (my main computer right now is my Mac laptop), but the things I would be doing on the desktop would benefit from some extra speed. Right now I know I will use it for video editing/encoding, Matlab, and gaming as a minimum, while I will probably still do web browsing/email/etc on my Mac. First.... What video editing software are you using? Does it use a lot of RAM? IS it CPU intensive? How does it read/write to the hard drive (write chucks to a temp file or buffer it in RAM)? What is slow... CPU or read and writing to the hard drive? More details about the video editing software please... just buying parts to solve your issue is crazy. I troubleshoot PC issues for a living. :neener: . #### InFlight ##### Well-Known Member And shame on the other posters for not asking these questions and just dolling out suggestions... As Trump would say (and my boss)... you're fired! . #### cjl ##### Well-Known Member Well, typically the programs he mentioned are fairly CPU sensitive, and like multicore. Because of that, generic suggestions can be made without too much additional info. Actually, it's kind of a shame that the motherboard is not changeable - I have an Intel Core i7 (965 OCed to 4.2GHz), and it's more than double the speed of my friend's Q9550 @ 3.7GHz in most MATLAB tasks (I suspect memory bandwidth is to blame). Since the motherboard is an LGA775 though, that eliminates i7 from consideration. #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member First.... What video editing software are you using? Does it use a lot of RAM? IS it CPU intensive? How does it read/write to the hard drive (write chucks to a temp file or buffer it in RAM)? What is slow... CPU or read and writing to the hard drive? More details about the video editing software please... just buying parts to solve your issue is crazy. I troubleshoot PC issues for a living. :neener: . I haven't done any video editing on this in a few years. I think all I have is Adobe Premiere Elements 4. I really only need to do a few things: • Put videos onto DVD with minimal editing • Edit commercials out of recorded TV • Save everything in a space-efficient format like h.264 If anyone knows of good and affordable software that will do al that, I am open to suggestions. I never used Premiere Elements extensively, but I suspect it will be god enough. I don't know too much about how Premiere Elements uses resources, but I know h.264 encoding is severely CPU-limited on my old P4. Converting an hour of SD video takes 8-10 hours, compared to 3-4 hours on the Core 2 Duo in my laptop, if I am remembering the numbers right. I have 4gb of DDR2 800, and it is overclockable at least a little. I could probably get it to 1066 if I increase the latency to 5. I don't think encoding is too drive-intensive, but shuffling big files around is. That should be less of a problem in my desktop than my laptop since I can add more internal disks easily. Faster drives is the next project, like I said. I know that even during normal use (like starting up Firefox) the P4 will go up to 100% for some time, so it is definitely a bottleneck at some times. After upgrading the CPU and GPU, I know the hard drive will be the biggest bottleneck (even now it is limiting a lot of times), but HD technology hasn't changed as drastically as CPU/GPU technology has in the time since I bought my last disk (320gb, up to 60mb/s), so that might not be as big of a speed boost. Well, typically the programs he mentioned are fairly CPU sensitive, and like multicore. Because of that, generic suggestions can be made without too much additional info. Actually, it's kind of a shame that the motherboard is not changeable - I have an Intel Core i7 (965 OCed to 4.2GHz), and it's more than double the speed of my friend's Q9550 @ 3.7GHz in most MATLAB tasks (I suspect memory bandwidth is to blame). Since the motherboard is an LGA775 though, that eliminates i7 from consideration. If I had known that, I might have spent the extra money when I replaced my dead motherboard to get an i7 system. At the time, it just didn't seem to make sense, and I didn't have as much spare cash as I have now. I could ebay the MB (~$80), along with the CPU ($30?) and RAM (~$30?), but then I would have to buy a new Mb for $240, a new CPU for$280, and new RAM for $120. Assuming I sell the CPU either way and the other option is to upgrade to a Q8400, the i7 setup would cost me an extra$360. I still don't think it's worth it. Sure, that would give me room to upgrade in the future when new i7s come out, but by then all the other components (RAM and MB). Also, the i7 is meant to be high-end, with i5 and i3 being middle and low-end, so chances are a new i7 will still be quite expensive in the future. I think there are several different sockets planned too (bad idea!) that would make it impossible to put an i5 in an i7 board.

Do you know if Matlab benefits a lot from the L2 cache? If it's using a lot of memory (which it does!), I assume it would. The Q8400 only had 4mb of L2, while the Q9400 has 6mb and the 9550 has 12mb. On average, the diference between the 8400 and the 9400 is 6% according to Tom's hardware, but Matlab isn't exactly average.

I looked into Matlab on Nvidia cards, and it doesn't seem well-integrated. As far as I can tell, there are only some functions that are accelerated, and you have to compile some kind of MEX file. There is also a $100 add-on made by AccelerEyes that simplifies it a little. I will read about it some more, but I don't know if it would be worth the effort. Nvidia makes graphics cards that will do all the GPGPU stuff too, but I prefer AMD cards because I think they are a better value for the money. #### cjl ##### Well-Known Member I'm not sure about L2 cache benefits for MATLAB - I'd guess that they exist, but as for how significant they are, I wouldn't have a clue. The main data points I have are from systems different enough that it is difficult to point at a specific cause (though I don't know of anything that could account for the massive speed difference between my i7 and my friend's Q9550 aside from either memory latency or bandwidth). #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member Microcenter has the Q9550 on sale for$170, and it is normally $220 on Newegg. A the same price as the Q8400, that sounds like a good deal to me. Only problem is the nearest Microcenter is 4 hours away, and the deal is in-store only. It's been this price since June, though, so I'll probably wait until I am back at school only 45 minutes from a Microcenter. If the price goes up, I'm sure it will go on sale again. #### cls ##### Well-Known Member personally I do not think i7 performance for the cost is good enough, 2nd tier stuff is good enough for ordinary mortals. same with SSD. same with Raptors vs. any other disk options. next year, maybe not true any more... #### cjl ##### Well-Known Member It all depends on what you are doing. As I said, in MATLAB, there is a much larger speed boost going from a standard quad to an i7, but in other apps, there is significantly less benefit. It all depends on how much time you spend on your computer, and how critical it is that your computer is able to churn through anything you need it to do as quickly as possible. I'm more in agreement with you with SSDs though - I have a Velociraptor, and it is more than good enough for me. The SSD is still a bit to pricy IMHO (I believe you can get a good 80GB SSD for a bit more than I paid for my 300GB Velociraptor, and I need the extra space). Of course, if I were building a computer right now, that$170 Q9550 would be pretty tempting - that's a heck of a deal for what used to be a $350 CPU. Last edited: #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member Wow, they have the i7 920 for just$200. It's $280 on Newegg! I might need to get a few and ebay them! The nearest Atlanta store has 66 of them in stock. It says only one per customer, but if I can make$40 each on them, it would almost be with driving up there a few times (assuming they stay that price).
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0302727

I decided on the Q9550 if I can get it for that price. I know a guy in Atlanta who might be able to pick one up for me, so I'll call him tomorrow. If not, does anyone here live near a Microcenter and mind shipping one to me?

The Q6600 was about $850 when it came out a few years ago, so$170 for something a little better is not bad at all.

#### DanFrank

Wow, they have the i7 920 for just $200. If I were you, I would ask your friend to get me the I7 CPU and buy a compatible motherboard; something with an Intel X58 chipset. The performance increase will be quite a bit over the Q9550. A lot has to do with the architecture of the I7 CPUs; no more front side bus bottlenecks. I have a Q6700 for my home computer and an I7 920 that I use for a lot of video rendering / editing and the I7 is such a big jump in performance. It is even faster if you use a 64-bit OS.Truely awesome. Bite the bullet and get the I7 system. There will be a BIG performance difference in CPU intensive work like video rendering. One more thing... I don't know if you are into overclocking, but the 920 can EASILY do 3.0 - 3.3 Ghz if you have a decent aftermarket air cooler. It doesn't even get that much hotter than stock speeds. Very easy to do also; just up the clock frequency from 133 to 150 or 166. Even at 2.66 Ghz, the I7 will out-perform the Q9550 big time. Daniel Last edited: #### cjl ##### Well-Known Member Oh, you can go a lot higher than that even. The new (D0 stepping) 920s will quite easily go to 3.6GHz, and almost all of them can hit 4.0 with a decent aftermarket cooler and a bit of work. Of course, the Q9550 is no slouch either, and can get to 3.6GHz or more without too much effort as well, so both overclock quite nicely. As for the 920's performance advantage, it is significant, but primarily on things that are either memory limited or highly threaded. Any single threaded tasks will be less likely to benefit from the newer CPU, aside from a pure clockspeed advantage when overclocked. #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member If I had known about the i7 deal back when my old MB died, and if I had enough extra money, I would have gone with an i7 system. The Q9550 will be good enough for a few years, and by then the next new thing will be out. 32mm i7s (or whatever they might call them) should be out in 2010, but the affordable ones ($200-300) will be i5s with socket LGA-1156. If the Wikipedia article is right and there are no LGA1366 chips for much less than $1000, that will really hurt i7 early adopters that want to upgrade for a reasonable price. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Nehalem_(microarchitecture)#32_nm_.22Westmere.22 #### DMcCauley ##### Well-Known Member And shame on the other posters for not asking these questions and just dolling out suggestions... As Trump would say (and my boss)... you're fired! . Shame on me? I'm not getting paid. Be happy your getting suggestions especially considering this is a rocketry forum and no one here is getting paid for advice. If you want "better" answers or insight into the issue, then post on a video forum or computer forum where thats all they talk about. Last edited: #### m85476585 ##### Well-Known Member Just an update on this, I installed my Q9550, and it's great! The guy who bought it for me happened to buy it on tax free weekend, so that saved me an extra$12. I already overclocked it to 3.4GHz, and I haven't seen it go much over 60C at full load. According to the motherboard's power meter program, it is using about 66 watts, while the P4 used 90-120 watts depending on how much I overclocked it. I'm sure it will go higher, but I haven't tried to push it yet.

I ordered an ATI 4650 512MB for a video card because it was on sale for $45. I just didn't think it would be worth the money to get a$100 card like the 4850 of 4770 because I really don't do much gaming, and I don't know how well video encoding will work. The old video card was an ATI x300 128mb, which would barely run Vista/Win 7, and I don't think it even had HDCP (though I could be wrong). The new one has HDMI out with audio, and it will be good enough for older games. I'll probably wait for a DX11 card before I upgrade again, and I won't upgrade for a while unless some great game I want to play comes out or video encoding works well but is not fast enough.

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#### m85476585

##### Well-Known Member
I've been using the video card for a while now, and the GPGPU features are a big disappointment.

Video upscaling requires certain DVD playback software and doesn't work as well as software upscaling. It is not intuitive to enable, and there is basically no indication that it is working.

The Video Converter does not work well at all. It is a separate download that was hard to find on ATI's website, and it can only be accessed in CCC basic mode. The input formats are extremely limited, and there are very few options for output formats. There are a few profiles like ipod, h.264 720p, and others, and each one just has a quality slider. A quick test didn't yeild very good quality for the bitrate I chose, so this encoder is probably not as good as software encoding.

Overall, the card is not to bad. I needed something that works with Vista/Win7, has HDCP, and will do some gaming, and the HDMI output with audio is nice. The biggest problem is the fan noise. It usually runs at 12-24%, and it is by far the loudest thing in my computer. It makes a high-pitched whine that is easily heard over everything else and reflects off the wall behind my computer. The fan can be manually set from 20%-100%, and at 100% it sounds like an airplane taking off! I might replace the fan with a big passive cooler like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835186016
According to reviews it works with the 4800 series, so it should be fine for my 4650.