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best CPU for a dedicated homebuilt workstation?

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August 16, 2006 5:03:01 PM

hi - i've been getting overwhelmed looking at various CPU and motherboard combinations and I desperately need some expert input!

I want to build a dedicated CAD workstation to run Autodesk Inventor, nothing else.

My initial search led me to Intel Xeon 5080 with an Intel or Tyan motherboard running Intel's 5000X chipset.

Now I'm confussed - is Intel's Core2 a better CPU for this app?

Also, is there an equivalent AMD CPU/motherboard combo which is as good or better than Intel's?

The other component I'm having difficulty with is the graphics. Do I really need a £700+ OpenGL card or can I get away with a lower price card.

Remember this workstation is dedicated to a single app - CAD!!!

I would really welcome your ideas on ideal specs for such a system so I can go away and research some more with better knowledge.

Thanks guys
August 16, 2006 8:06:57 PM

Intel Xeon Woodcrest, or you could get a new Mac Pro!
a b à CPUs
August 16, 2006 8:28:39 PM

In all honesty, you can run this software on most any modern processor, just that you would get the maximum performance possible from a processor and architecture that maximizes throughput for the entire system. It all depends on how much you are willing to spend on performance up front to prevent you from having to wait on your machine once you start working.

No, you don't have to buy a dedicated workstation-level graphics card (like ATI FireGL or NVidia Quadro), but you also have to be aware that while the hardware is essentially the same as consumer level cards, the drivers are a different matter. You are paying for the knowledge and expertise that goes into driver development that is precisely dedicated to you as a professional user. As a matter of fact, ATI is known to have purposely hobbled their OpenGL drivers for their consumer level cards to prevent having to compete with themselves at the professional level. I'm not sure if NVidia does this also, but I wouldn't be surprised.
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August 16, 2006 8:39:56 PM

Why spend $900 on the Xeon 5080 when you can spend under 400 on the core 2 duo that outperforms the 5080. I run solidworks all day long on a 2.8 p4, so you can get a cheap processor and it will run just fine. I would spend the savings on a Nvidia quadro, but that is just me. A 6800GT supports openGL programs and would be adequate in performance, but as was already posted the drivers for the quadro are so much better for CAD applications that it really is worth the money. I use solidworks everyday and I love the various quadro cards that I have had in my different systems. I have never ran solidworks on a 6800GT, but i have heard that it works. One other recommendation is make sure to get plenty of RAM. 1GB is fine but as always 2GB is better.
August 16, 2006 9:01:14 PM

Consider that it is easy to "SoftMod" a (relatively) innexpensive video card into a CAD workhorse, since everything is done at the driver level, no physical modification is needed.

Radeon 9x00 to FireGL Z1/X1

GeForce 6800 to Quadro400

Unfortunately, I didn't came up with any info on the "moddeability"(sp?) of GeForce 7x00 and Radeon X1x00 to the corresponding Quadro and FireGL models.
August 17, 2006 10:15:13 AM

Quote:
Consider that it is easy to "SoftMod" a (relatively) innexpensive video card into a CAD workhorse, since everything is done at the driver level, no physical modification is needed.



..do you mean that I can "get" the drivers for the more expensive card to bring the performance back up to the higher price card?

i.e. make a £150 Radeon 9800 Pro perform like £700 FireGL 7300?
August 17, 2006 12:27:06 PM

Yes, it means that you can get the 6800 to run as a Quadro 4000, but some quick googling shows that there are sometimes problems. Here is a link that has some pretty useful information. I know for a fact that there are some capacitor differences, but it doesn't seem to make much of a problem. I don't have a 6800 lying around anymore or i would take some pictures to show the differences. Anyways, if you try to upgrade the 6800 let us know how it turns out.

http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=172822
August 17, 2006 1:02:36 PM

found some pics online. there are 2 more capacitors on the quadro than on the 6800 on the end where you plug it in.



August 17, 2006 2:24:46 PM

MacPro w/ Windows XP. Homebuilt won't save you much.

The use RivaTuner or just download the Quadro FX drivers (add your consumer card to the setup INF) and install drivers(done this before).

Google - for detailed instructions.
August 17, 2006 2:58:43 PM

Here's my 2 cents...

I have NO experience in the server/workstation hardware space, but from what I've read and some thinking here's what I'd do in your situation.

Save yourself some money by getting a C2D, but don't mess around with consumer graphics cards if you need reliability. No one seems to be able to guarantee 100% reliability. Personally I would pay some extra to make sure it works.

The only reason I would go with the more expensive Xeon and server board is if you need ECC or buffered memory.

EDIT: I suppose there could be other reasons that you'd go with the Xeon/server board, but I don't know what they'd be. As far as I can tell they really only provide ECC/buffered support and maybe PCI-X(64bit cards), on-board SCSI.
August 17, 2006 3:44:23 PM

Quote:
As a matter of fact, ATI is known to have purposely hobbled their OpenGL drivers for their consumer level cards to prevent having to compete with themselves at the professional level. I'm not sure if NVidia does this also, but I wouldn't be surprised.
I think Nvidia does too. The workstation card I have at work, a V3100 which is basically an X300 had a significant fraction of the performance of my 7800GT in Cinebench 9.5.

-mcg
August 17, 2006 4:00:05 PM

Wow - thank you so much for all your valuable replies; I've learnt so much in the last 48 hours!

I'm starting to crystalise the spec:-

AMD Opteron Dual Core (280) £450 - (I know my app is 34bit but I need this thing to last three years so the £200 extra over an Opteron 252 is I think it's worth paying for future 64 bit apps)

Tyan K8WE - the recomended workstation motherboard £210

Nvidia GeForce 6800Ultra £200 (soft modded to Quadro 4500 spec if I can manage to, saving £600!)

2Gb+ of RAM

Samsung 970P LCD monitor £270

with disk, case, coolers etc I think I can achieve my aim of a high performance workstation for around £1300.


(my current PC is a Celeron running win98 - you see my problem...)
August 17, 2006 4:59:35 PM

Quote:
Consider that it is easy to "SoftMod" a (relatively) innexpensive video card into a CAD workhorse, since everything is done at the driver level, no physical modification is needed.



..do you mean that I can "get" the drivers for the more expensive card to bring the performance back up to the higher price card?

i.e. make a £150 Radeon 9800 Pro perform like £700 FireGL 7300?

In fact, its more like turning a Radeon 9800 Pro into a FireGL X1 which is just a notch over the FireGL 5100 (as far as theorical pixel and vertex throughput is concerned).

The NV40 to NV40GL softmod will work just the same way, as long as your 6800 GPU feature at least 12 pixel pipes, 6 vertex units and 325/500 GPU/MEM, you'll end up with a full fledged Quadro 4000 (or better if your card feature 16 pixel pipes and faster GPU/MEM).

The "problem" that horstmann mentionned is that not all 6800 are created equal, especially if you look at PCIe 6800's, some are based on the NV41 (native PCIe) or NV45 (NV40 with a PCIe bridge chip), some other variants are possible as well. Keep in mind that this only concerns the number of native pixel pipes, vertex units and GPU/MEM clocks, for example, one less vertex unit will only result in a slightly slower SoftQuadro 4000, making it a "Lite" model if you will.

@ horstmann :

Good observation on those capacitors, that's exactly how and why enthusiasts like Unwinder (the mind behind RivaTuner, an elaborate overclocking and modding/tuning tool) discovered that they could mod/unlock a card without having to physically alter the card by bypassing the hardware detection done by the driver which more or less check for the presence of those components.

@ kitchenshark :

Since the softmod is done at the driver level, you can expect the same kind of reliability that you would get out of a full fledged Quadro/FireGL, obviously, doing so is not officially supported by the manufacturer and therefore can't be guarenteed by the enthusiasts involved in documenting the said softmod, they're doing this out of their own time and basically sharing their discoveries for free, don't be ungrateful...
August 17, 2006 5:14:07 PM

Sorry if I sounded like I was putting down the enthusiasts doing the mods. I've had a lot of mods go sour though, I live a cursed life. A recent example, a 100mhz increase in core clock (2.0 to 2.1Ghz) on my 3200+ corrupted my entire OS...

For me, to have the peace of mind of something that will actually work is worth extra money.

Was only speaking from my personal experiences and anyone can take or leave my opinion as it is.
August 17, 2006 5:14:22 PM

If your looking at the Opty and Tyan board I'd wait for the new processor/socket/mobo combination. This could allow a better upgrade path in the future.
August 17, 2006 7:34:43 PM

Quote:
In fact, its more like turning a Radeon 9800 Pro into a FireGL X1 which is just a notch over the FireGL 5100 (as far as theorical pixel and vertex throughput is concerned).


I think the chip and card in the fireGL X1 is the same as in a 9700PRO. I actually have the X1 (bought off of EBAY brand new for $25). I don't know if the chip is still the same on the 9800 or not. Thanks for all the info. You really have some good knowledge.
August 17, 2006 9:26:01 PM

Quote:
I'm starting to crystalise the spec:-

AMD Opteron Dual Core (280) £450 - (I know my app is 34bit but I need this thing to last three years so the £200 extra over an Opteron 252 is I think it's worth paying for future 64 bit apps)

Tyan K8WE - the recomended workstation motherboard £210
If I was building a workstation right now I’d be in a quandary.

Socket 940 - a mature platform, the motherboards and RAM are inexpensive, the CPUs are expensive compared to Woodcrest, the platform is not upgradeable to quad cores and the performance lags that of Woodcrest.

Socket F – released this week so availability might be some way away, CPUs still expensive, RAM & motherboards also likely to be expensive, current CPUs are 90nm so more power hungry and hotter than Woodcrest, should have a good upgrade path to quad cores and 65nm next year.

Woodcrest – the platform has only been out a while and the CPUs very recently, availability of CPUs is patchy and worse for motherboards, CPUs are a bargain, motherboards and RAM are expensive, performance is excellent, upgradeability to quad cores in typical Intel style is uncertain, although it is possible with the right board revision (allegedly).

I’d really want to explore Woodcrest if I was building today, but in case you aren’t already aware, note that building a workstation system has many hidden pitfalls that aren’t applicable to desktop systems. Do some research on sites like 2cpu.com
August 19, 2006 10:11:44 AM

Thanks again for all your insightful replies. My research leads me to think that the Opteron 280 is a good CPU for my app (AutoCAD Inventor) and future needs and the Tyan K8WE a good mobo (not sure if Tiger or Thunder should be used yet - still looking into this) but before I commit I'm still a little confused by the comparison of the Opteron 280 to Intel's Core 2 Duo E6700. Intel do not place this CPU on their list pf workstation recommended CPU's.

One other question I have; The Kyan mobo can accommodate two CPU's. Under what circumstances might I wish to install a second CPU's. Can I install another at a later date? I read about "matched pairs", should I be concerned about this.

PS - Would you recommend I stick to boxed CPU's rather than buy oem's off of eBay etc? I intend to use a case with integrated water-cooling.
August 19, 2006 2:44:17 PM

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August 19, 2006 2:45:42 PM

Quote:
MacPro w/ Windows XP. Homebuilt won't save you much.



I've just looked at their new MacPro - very impressed and I've always wanted Apple!

I can install Boor Camp & XP Pro - so maybe......
August 21, 2006 9:39:33 AM

Quote:
One other question I have; The Kyan mobo can accommodate two CPU's. Under what circumstances might I wish to install a second CPU's. Can I install another at a later date? I read about "matched pairs", should I be concerned about this.
If you don’t intend using a second CPU then why pay the additional money for a dual processor board and Registered RAM!!!

If you want a single CPU system then I suggest a C2D or an AM2 system. In both cases, make sure that you buy a motherboard that will support quad cores down the line if that interests you. The new Opteron single CPU series use AM2 also, so a workstation board with one of those may be more up your street. It should have EEC support and be quad core upgradeable.
C2D still offers the best performance, the lowest price and the coolest running out of all the current dual-core chips though. I have an E6400 @ 2.9GHz at stock voltage, running at 24C above ambient at full load, using a Scythe Ninja with a Nexus 120mm fan at 620 RPM (silent).
August 21, 2006 9:38:39 PM

OK - final spec is nailed down:-

conforming to my original machine purpose: AutoDesk Inventor only.

CPU: 1 x AMD Opteron 252 a 2.6 Mhz single core 940 socket
Inventor uses practically no multi-threading therefore dual core CPU's offer no advantage and nor do two CPU's and outperforms dual core CPU's in this app. The 252 has three Hyper Transport buses connecting to the chipset, this distinguishes it from an Athlon which has one making it a good workstation CPU.
cost:$400/£250

Motherboard: Tyan K8WE (S2895). It is a workstation class board and readily upgradable to two CPU's. It has a graphics bus that allows use of high-performance graphics cards and is in fact the most advanced one of all NVIDIA nForce Professional based products recommended by AMD.
cost:$400/£210

GPU: Nvidia 6800 which I hope to soft mod to perform like a ($1,500) Quadro 4500 as outlined above.
cost:$150/£68

RAM: 2Mb DDR2
cost:$200/£110

HDD: 1 x WD Caviar SE16 250Gb
cost:$100/£53

PSU: Hiper TypeR 580W (may change to a fanless PSU yet)
cost:$100/£70

Case: Still looking for a decent case with integrated watercooling.
cost:$350/$180

Monitor: Sony SDM-P234/B - a 23" LCD monitor which costs £820 in the UK so I'm ordering from the US and hoping the autosensing power supply works!
cost:$750/£395

bringing to a total for major components ......
$2450/£1289

This is about as powerfully fast system for my app as I can devise. Only substituting an Opteron 254 will make it perform better. I can't see how anything from Intel can give me more.

Now, the alternative route:
A shiny new MacPro...
Two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon
2GB (4 x 512MB)
250GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT 256MB (single-link DVI/dual-link DVI)
Apple Cinema HD Display (23" flat panel)
One 16x SuperDrive
Both Bluetooth 2.0+EDR and AirPort Extreme
Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse - U.S. English
Mac OS X - U.S. English
$3877/£2040 (£2321 bought in UK)

The MacPro won't run Inventor any faster and cost £700-£1000 more. But it's a Mac :¬)

Thanks again for your input and advice, I really value it and I've learnt a lot in a week.
August 21, 2006 10:20:20 PM

Quote:
OK - final spec is nailed down:-

conforming to my original machine purpose: AutoDesk Inventor only.
CPU: 1 x AMD Opteron 252 a 2.6 Mhz single core 940 socket
Inventor uses practically no multi-threading therefore dual core CPU's offer no advantage and nor do two CPU's and outperforms dual core CPU's in this app. The 252 has three Hyper Transport buses connecting to the chipset, this distinguishes it from an Athlon which has one making it a good workstation CPU.
cost:$400/£250.
There isn’t a penalty for using a dual-core CPU in applications that can only use a single core; this assumes all other things are equal.
Having three HT links in a single CPU workstation system will give you no benefits.
Remember that you will need Registered RAM to go with that setup and not standard RAM.
A C2D will kill any Opteron or Athlon 64 in just about any application.
You can get workstation boards for C2D that support EEC RAM, such as the Asus P5W DH Deluxe.
I recently ran an E6400 at 2.9GHz at stock voltage in this very board and the system was tested thoroughly for stability and ran at low temps and silently.
You seem to have your mind set on an Opteron system which is fine; I just want you to be as fully informed as possible before you build that system. :) 
August 21, 2006 10:24:05 PM

I'm puzzled by your choice of CPU. Opteron 252 is a single core CPU that is supposed to be used in a pair on a dual socket motherboard. Not future proof. You may add another 252 in the future? I don't know if you'll find one of these around. Socket 940 is beeing replaced with Socket F DDR2 capable. It's really not a smart move. You guys say Inventor is not dual core aware but maybe next versions will. Already Unigraphics has the geometry kernel multicore aware.

If you're talking Inventor only and not CATIA, Pro/E or UGS, it seems that Autodesk are moving towards DirectX. I think, but I'm not 100% sure, the latest version of Inventor can already use DirectX calls as an alternative. Then...Do you really want a server/workstation class CPU/motherboard/ECC/Registered memory? It's very pricy. Especially that you already compromised on the graphics card. The only thing that is different is the ECC/Registered memory. I use CATIA on my home built workstation (Athlon64 X2 4600+, 4GB Corsair RAM and ATI Radeon X850 Pro). It works very well, stable as a rock.

I suggest getting either a Core2 Duo 6400 with a Intel 965 chipset motherboard or a AMD X2 4600 socket AM2 and Nforce5 motherboard. They are future proof platforms that will accept quad core CPUs and you'll be fine. For video card, NVidia cards have better performance for OpenGL apps, but it seems latest ATI Catalyst 6.8 drivers improved the OpenGL performace. Again, Inventor it's ok with DirectX cards.
August 21, 2006 10:30:03 PM

Quote:
MacPro w/ Windows XP. Homebuilt won't save you much.



I've just looked at their new MacPro - very impressed and I've always wanted Apple!

I can install Boor Camp & XP Pro - so maybe......

And you can upgrade to dual quad cores!!! Or so they say (Anandtech promised an article showing how). Drive installation is simple and cord free. I know that Apple is offering Raid, but I don't know if it is software only, or if the controller includes raid. Even if software, there are a lot of cores available to make it work.

I think 8 cores with a quadro video card would make one sweet workstation. The problem is, will you really be able to resist adding more apps to it? I think not...
August 21, 2006 11:10:18 PM

Quote:
I'm puzzled by your choice of CPU. Opteron 252 is a single core CPU that is supposed to be used in a pair on a dual socket motherboard. Not future proof. You may add another 252 in the future?

I suggest getting either a Core2 Duo 6400 with a Intel 965 chipset motherboard or a AMD X2 4600 socket AM2 and Nforce5 motherboard. They are future proof platforms that will accept quad core CPUs and you'll be fine. For video card, NVidia cards have better performance for OpenGL apps, but it seems latest ATI Catalyst 6.8 drivers improved the OpenGL performace. Again, Inventor it's ok with DirectX cards.


You are correct - if Autodesk (or any other app i may use) do at some point address multi threading then this mobo gives me the opportunity to add two appropriate CPU's. At this point one 252 is as good as two and a dual core of the same speed cost $850 each.

Here is an informative article in which systems built with single and dual cores were tested with Xeons and Opterons.
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/opteron-xe...

The 3 Hyper Transport buses (as I understand it) allows more data to flow to the chipset and a second CPU if fitted. Surely this is superior to one?

Re. the C2D, I simply haven't been able to find any comparative data on this CPU used for my app and for that reason I'm not looking at it. As far as I can tell, the same applies as it's a dual core and Inventor isn't optimised for this kind of CPU.

From what I can gather, the only circumstances were two CPU's might be useful is in rendering or when running other apps simultaneously.

As for that MacPro - I think you are right, they know how to tempt me damn them!
August 21, 2006 11:49:29 PM

Interesting reasoning. I don't see you easily finding anothet Socket 940 252 CPU a year or so from now. Even now single core Opterons are hard to find. As a matter of fact AMD does not manufacture single core Opterons anymore. And furthermore, soon they'll stop manufacturing Socket 940 opterons alltogether, so even the dual core ones like 275 or 285 will be hard to find. So if you'll want to upgrade you'll probably have to buy 2 Opterons 285 or so if you'll find them. I don't know if the motherboard will let you have a single core 252 in one socket and a dual core 285 in another socket. That's actually an interesting question more knowledgeable persons may be able to answer.

Instead of wasting money, buy a socket 939 motherboard and a cheap $100 single core Athlon64 4000+ and you'll be fine, then if you want to upgrade just replace the single core with a dual core Athlon64 or Opteron socket 939 later. They'll probably be more available and cheaper. Still they are a dying breed. The only differece between Opterons and Athlon64 is the ability to use registered memory. Do you really need it?

About C2D...I'm an AMD fan and I don't like Intel. However, currently Intel have a performace edge and C2D 6400 has an outstanding value. They easily beat Athlon64/Opteron. There should be outhere some tests with Woodcrest Xeon 51xx versus Opteron. The link you have is versus old style Netburst based Xeons. Those were bad.

If you don't like Intel, future proof yourself by getting a socket AM2 motherboard and in a year there will be K8L cpus out.

It just seems to me you're spending a LOT OF MONEY for something that is not future proof. And you can probably get a system that is in within 5% of the performance of your system at a fraction of the cost. It's your choice anyway, I just think you're planing to build a rig that is very expensive and not future proof. So, I strongly suggest altering your plans by going either expensive and future proof or much cheaper and within 5% performance (and not future proof) if you really like single core CPUs. My 2 cents.
August 22, 2006 12:42:11 AM

Just as lav pointed out, there is no reason to go for a two socket workstation motherboard, such a purchase only make sense if you absolutely need the processing power of four cores (as in two dual core CPU).

The best way to go would be to use a good consumer level motherboard along with a mid-ranged dual core CPU (don't worry, you'll find a use for the 2nd core, thrust me) and a decent amount of RAM, a RAID-1 array is worth serious consideration as well.

BTW, forget about cases with integrated watercooling, those are overpriced heaps of crap that perform no better than air cooling. Beside, unless you are going to overclock, watercooling is just a frivolous gadget.
August 22, 2006 12:57:26 AM

I would second/third/fourth what many have responded to you...

Given your requirements you would already be putting yourself behind the power curve by disregarding the current consumer level boards.

There are a few reasons for this.

First... You are looking at building a WS with NO internal backup.... A single WD 160 will not cut it for what you are doing and if this is your WORK this is really not a good Idea.

Second... You are looking at buying a vid card that is multiple generations behind what is also currently available... A 6800 modded or not will be outdated soon... The soft mod is a good idea for those that already own these cards but to buy one to do this is probably not the best idea unless you have an upgrade path planned and probably soon...

Third... The C2D (although not spec'd on your specific app) has more than beaten the class of processor you are looking at, "clearly" in NEARLY ALL APPS. Please read further on the newly updated CPU charts.

Forth... The Apple MacPro has dual Woodcrest CPUs a workstation style case, capability for raid, capability for a lower (current generation) video card that would be of greater use/life span.

So to sum it up.... You are planning on building a Graphics workstation with:

Substandard video (it will work but for how long, upgrade planning essential)

Substandard Disk subsystem... Fault tolerance (as Sid suggested) is a must on a "work" workstation.

Substandard CPU.... This is not nearly a match for even the NON-Workstation class cpus available.

Sorry not wanting to be demeaning here but many have given you solid information and you have seemed to totally dismiss it.

I would re-read this thread from start to finish and take some more things into consideration.
August 22, 2006 9:49:01 AM

Quote:
Interesting reasoning. I don't see you easily finding anothet Socket 940 252 CPU a year or so from now. Even now single core Opterons are hard to find. As a matter of fact AMD does not manufacture single core Opterons anymore. And furthermore, soon they'll stop manufacturing Socket 940 opterons alltogether, so even the dual core ones like 275 or 285 will be hard to find. So if you'll want to upgrade you'll probably have to buy 2 Opterons 285 or so if you'll find them. I don't know if the motherboard will let you have a single core 252 in one socket and a dual core 285 in another socket. That's actually an interesting question more knowledgeable persons may be able to answer.

I had no idea that Opterons were at the end of their life. I thought that in a year or so, if I did want to upgrade I'd go for i.e. two Opteron 280's/285's when hopefully the price would have dropped. Now you are telling me they won't be available? What does AMD intend to replace them with?

Also, I thought the 940 socket WAS the latest. What will supercede this then?

The bios in the TYAN board does allow for one CPU.


Instead of wasting money, buy a socket 939 motherboard and a cheap $100 single core Athlon64 4000+ and you'll be fine, then if you want to upgrade just replace the single core with a dual core Athlon64 or Opteron socket 939 later. They'll probably be more available and cheaper. Still they are a dying breed. The only differece between Opterons and Athlon64 is the ability to use registered memory. Do you really need it?

What about the three Hyper Transport buses? I thought that was the main difference between the two. Also the large & fast L2 cache

About C2D...I'm an AMD fan and I don't like Intel. However, currently Intel have a performace edge and C2D 6400 has an outstanding value. They easily beat Athlon64/Opteron. There should be outhere some tests with Woodcrest Xeon 51xx versus Opteron. The link you have is versus old style Netburst based Xeons. Those were bad.

I know those Xeons have been superceded by now but I contend that my main point still holds on single v duals - Inventor will not exploit a dual. Nevertheless, I take your point that if a C2D outperforms a single Opteron and is cheaper and more future proof then I ought to at least look at it.

If you don't like Intel, future proof yourself by getting a socket AM2 motherboard and in a year there will be K8L cpus out.

K8L - are these replacing Opterons?

It just seems to me you're spending a LOT OF MONEY for something that is not future proof. And you can probably get a system that is in within 5% of the performance of your system at a fraction of the cost. It's your choice anyway, I just think you're planing to build a rig that is very expensive and not future proof. So, I strongly suggest altering your plans by going either expensive and future proof or much cheaper and within 5% performance (and not future proof) if you really like single core CPUs. My 2 cents.


I definitely don't want to spend lots of money (any money!) which is why I stuck rigorously to the CPU requirements of the app (Inventor) and nothing more but with the option of upgrading at a later date. This logically led me to employing a single core CPU and a motherboard designed for workstations. The fact remains that Inventor simply will not run faster on a dual core CPU. I could buy a used Dell with Pentium 4's and have a useable system but I'm aiming higher. Remember, I am looking for the BEST CPU for the app.

I think the value of these forums is that you guys know considerably more than I do and its this kind of advice I was looking for. The consensus seems to be that Opterons, and the 940 socket has been displaced by the new C2D and currently is the more future proof option even though Inventor will not exploit it's capabilities.
August 22, 2006 3:28:44 PM

Socket 940 Opterons are at the end of their life not Opterons. AMD is replacing socket 940 with socket F. They actually did it on 18th, last week. I don't know if you can buy socket F Opterons yet. The difference between 940 and socket F Opterons is the new memory controller that can handle DDR2 memory. So, if you really want Opteron wait for a couple of weeks until you can get a socket F one.

K8L is the next architecture refresh of the current K8 AMD architecture. They will be available in about a year, in both server/wks variants (socket F) and regular versions (socket AM2). Is supposed to be better: double the number of FPU units, native quad core, 65 nm etc. I personally think it will be better than Intel Core architecture CPUs. But is a long way away, and currently Intel Core based CPUs are 20% faster on a clock-by-clock basis versus AMD K8 based Opterons and Athlon64s.

Hypertransport (HT) links are available only in the Opteron 2xx and 8xx series. The links are for communictation between CPUs. AMD cpus communicate between them using the dedicated HT bus which is more efficient then communicating through front side bus (FSB) as in the Intel's case. Only CPUs intended for multi-socket motherboards have HT links on the CPU. These are Socket 940 Opteron 2xx and 8xx, or the socket F 22xx and 82xx Opterons. The higher the series the more HT links so they communicate with more CPUs. AMD 4x4 consumer platform will probably have Athlon64 FX CPUs modified to include HT links, because they are suppoded to be used in pairs on the motherboard.

And yes... One difference between the Opterons and Athlon64 is the larger cache, although this wasn't always like that. You could buy Athlon64s with the same amount of cache as Opteron. However K8 architecture due to the fact it has the integrated memory controller is not bandwidth starved so it can handle a smaller cache. The problem is it needs memory with tight timmings. This is one of the reason AMD waited so long to introduce DDR2 based sockets like AM2 and socket F. They waited until DDR2 with tighter timmings became more mainstream. So, you don't loose much with half the cache, for the same CPU speed, about 3..4%.

The differences between Athlon64 and Opteron are the presence of HT links but only in Opterons 2xx and 8xx series not in 1xx series, the fact that the integrated memory controller can deal with registered memory (better for reliability worse for pure performace) and the fact that they are sort of "hand picked"...that's why Socket 939 Opteron 1xx series are so popular with gamers...the overclock much better than Athlon64s.

So one of the questions you need to answer is do you really need registered memory. Yes, registerd ECC RAM is more reliable and the professional workstations of the guys at Boeing and Airbus has them, but again they probably have HP workstations not built from the scratch like you. My honest opinion is you'll be better off with a consumer level CPU/motherboard combos. More reliability is good for harddisk...that's why you need at least a mirror RAID 1 combo. Plus if you shop around right...certain motherboards can handle some ECC ram. I don't know much though. And don't forget...you are using Inventor not Catia/UGS. Inventor is marketed more broadly and does not "require" uber-hardware like the others (which is bullshit anyway). That's why they are ok with DirectX cards. Are you designing nuclear submarines in you home? :)  Do you need that much of a performance?

So...in the world of consumer CPUs, C2D is the performance king. No question about it. On price/performance AMD is going pretty good, but this week C2D 6400 is the price/performance king. But strictly price/performace and not future proof would be a single core Socket 939 Athlon 4000+ and a cheap $50 socket 939 motherboard. That combo is about $180.

Don't reject dual cores just because Inventor does not make use of it. Are you planning to put Vista on it? Because if you do...dual core is a must. With that much shit running in the background... Then it seems that the new video drivers will be optimized for dual core.

I hope this helps.
August 22, 2006 6:55:39 PM

Thanks for that, yes it does help and thanks for taking the time also.

In reading deeper into the new MacPro specs it's apparent that they will release a Mac with C2D soon and maybe drop the price of the MacPro when Intel's 4 core CPU is ready. As I like OSX I may defer until the end of the year. At that time their new OS (Leopard) will be out and that will allow me to run Inventor on it.

After reviewing all your advice I think the answer to my original question at this point in time would be to go for (an) E6600 ($370) on (an) ASUS P5WDG2 WS Pro which is a workstation board. It seems to be very ameniable to OCing and for Inventor, clock speed is the only way to increase performance. Otherwise it would be two Xeon's but that's a MacPro!

Costwise there is very little in it and it brings me in the region of what I think a new Mac with C2D will price at so.....

My nuclear submarine can wait a few more months yet.

Thanks again for all you time and input - I've learnt a lot.
August 22, 2006 8:07:40 PM

Well...Inventor is a Windows app so it won't run on Mac OSX, you have to use boot camp to boot Windows on your MAC. Not a very attractive proposition. I'll think twice about it.

If you really want a MAC, you can get a MacPro NOW that has the new Woodcrest Xeon CPUs - these are the new Intel Core architecture CPUs, the server/wks equivalent of the C2D. You'll end up having 2 CPUs with 2 cores each. They are very pricy and any upgrade in memory, RAID hardisks and video card comes at a premium. Then you have to use boot camp to run Windows XP.

If you don't like the price you can get an iMac that has the C2D CPU. Pricy, no RAID hardisks capability, expensive RAM and crappy video cards.

Asus P5WDG2 WS...If you get it make sure you get the Professional version, this is the only one that supports C2D. Intel 975X chipset is not the "native" C2D chipset. I would stay away from them. The right chipset for C2D is Intel 965.

It seems that you're confused about Intel Core CPUs. As with AMD Athlon64/Opteron CPUs, Intel has the consumer version of the CPU called Core 2 Duo and the server/wks version called Xeon 51xx series. The codenames are Conroe and Woodcrest respectively. They are all based on the new Intel Core architecture. The fact the Woodcrests are still called Xeons and you may have have run into bad benchmarks versus Opterons confused you.

It seems you want to get a workstation level motherboard/CPU. I don't know why. Inventor is not that picky about hardware. It actually doesn't need workstation class hardware. It's ok with a DirectX gaming card which are much cheaper that OpenGL professional ones. You don't really need a Woodcrest Xeon. A C2D E6600 at $370 has an outstanding performance.

If you want to overclock, registered/ECC ram is not good. If you want to overclock get a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 for about $150. It has all the features you need.
a b à CPUs
August 22, 2006 10:34:13 PM

Actually, it would be interesting to see if anyone would be wiling to take this anywhere. Cedega (and WINE in general) has been very successful remapping DX functionality to OpenGL in Linux with surprising throughput (when it works, that is). I would think a direct OpenGL to OpenGL API call would be even easier to implement successfully. With sandbox environments like Parallels Workstation already running Windows in OS X (and VMWare due to be out anytime soon), it would be interesting to see if any geniuses are able to implement cross-platform OpenGL hardware abstraction, or if Apple is already in the process of doing just this.

This would make a whole library of applications become available in the Mac OS without requiring a platform recompile or sacrificing compatibility with the rest of your office environment. It would also provide incentive for Mac-unfriendly companies (like Autodesk) to actually make decent ports once they realize just how big the appeal is for Apple's current workstation hardware.

I don't know. Maybe it's a brainfart. Maybe it's just the Taco Bellyache I had for lunch.
August 23, 2006 9:52:00 AM

Quote:
Well...Inventor is a Windows app so it won't run on Mac OSX, you have to use boot camp to boot Windows on your MAC. Not a very attractive proposition. I'll think twice about it.

If you really want a MAC, you can get a MacPro NOW that has the new Woodcrest Xeon CPUs - these are the new Intel Core architecture CPUs, the server/wks equivalent of the C2D. You'll end up having 2 CPUs with 2 cores each. They are very pricy and any upgrade in memory, RAID hardisks and video card comes at a premium. Then you have to use boot camp to run Windows XP.

If you don't like the price you can get an iMac that has the C2D CPU. Pricy, no RAID hardisks capability, expensive RAM and crappy video cards.

Asus P5WDG2 WS...If you get it make sure you get the Professional version, this is the only one that supports C2D. Intel 975X chipset is not the "native" C2D chipset. I would stay away from them. The right chipset for C2D is Intel 965.

It seems that you're confused about Intel Core CPUs. As with AMD Athlon64/Opteron CPUs, Intel has the consumer version of the CPU called Core 2 Duo and the server/wks version called Xeon 51xx series. The codenames are Conroe and Woodcrest respectively. They are all based on the new Intel Core architecture. The fact the Woodcrests are still called Xeons and you may have have run into bad benchmarks versus Opterons confused you.

It seems you want to get a workstation level motherboard/CPU. I don't know why. Inventor is not that picky about hardware. It actually doesn't need workstation class hardware. It's ok with a DirectX gaming card which are much cheaper that OpenGL professional ones. You don't really need a Woodcrest Xeon. A C2D E6600 at $370 has an outstanding performance.

If you want to overclock, registered/ECC ram is not good. If you want to overclock get a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 for about $150. It has all the features you need.


I was confused about the C2D/Xeon & Athlon/Opteron nomenclature. The makers really don't help in explaining the difference/similarities, in fact for newcomers like me it seems they set out deliberately to confuse. Anyway's I got it now.

In costing a w/s out I'm going to have to make this machine last to justify the cost so I added some kind of flexibility in running other apps. besides Inventor and then future proof it a little so there has been some "mission creep".

Inventor is the only windows app I would be using so I'm content using bootcamp and OSX on a MacPro if not paying £2k! If I spent the extra £1k on a MacPro at least that machine would last me almost ten years! (my current PC has lasted me six!).

The main performace features I want to exploit in a CPU/mobo is the clock speed which Inventor responds to, the graphics bandwidth and the 3D visualisation with the GPU but I will look at that Gigabyte board too.

The biggest surprise I had in this exercise is finding the hardware has for the most part, far outpaced the software. Where are all the 64 bit & multi threading apps?
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