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Is the i7 worth getting now or later?

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January 3, 2009 3:25:03 PM

My older computer is almost 4 years old (back when AMD was ruling with the wonderful Athlon 3200+) but it's time for an upgrade. I understand the fastest CPU now is probably the Core i7, but it is also quite new (and somewhat expensive). It's also not very power-efficient. Do you think that future models will be better in terms of heat?

Quite honestly, my gaming monitor only goes to 1280x1024 max resolution, so the CPU isn't really that big of a deal, but I am tempted by the ability to get up to 12GB of RAM on the i7 chipsets. If it wasn't for that, I would probably just go for the Core 2 Quad. And who knows, I might upgrade my monitor in the future...

Also, I'm really new to the CrossFire and SLI technology? Is it worth the extra expense to get extra cards?

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January 3, 2009 3:38:55 PM

I would suggest a Core 2 system. You could build a really nice system with a P45 chipset motherboard, a C2 Quad, and DDR2 and the money you save over the X58, i7 and DDR3 you could use to buy a new monitor. If you want to wait until spring then I might suggest the i7 because by that time there should be a better range of processors as well as mid range chipsets for use with the new chips.

SLI and Crossfire really aren't worth it, especially at your resolution. Go with the single best card you can afford.
January 3, 2009 3:40:25 PM

I'm personally upgrading in Q1 2010 when the 32nm Nehalems (code named westmere) are expected to be released because my current system is good enough and the Westmere chips will likely overclock way better than the current nehalems.

I really don't understand what you plan to do with your computer though. If you are gaming, an E8500 and an HD4850 would be about as much as you need right now. If you are going to be Photoshopping or other such intensive tasks, you might want to consider an i7.

However, if you are gaming in 1280x1024, your CPU is fairly important whereas if you upgrade to a 22+ inch monitor, the weight shifts to your video card (fast). Crossfire and SLI are worthless unless you are buying a large monitor.
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January 3, 2009 3:55:00 PM

kick it around for about a month and see what the Phenom 2's have to offer. it's only a matter of time before we start seeing reviews by some of the more reputable tech sites (not crapping on any small sites but i do not make a habit of trusting obsure resources myself). looks to be a great CPU.
January 3, 2009 4:03:54 PM

I two would suggest waiting on the i7. Either till spring for prices or till Q1 2010 as mentioned. The Westmere is a 6 core/12 thread cpu that will use a 1366 socket, but intel has not confirmed it will be the same 1366 socket as the nehalem. Plus, you wont need 12G of RAM for a while. lol.

If all your doing is gaming, a dual core will be fine. Then later if you need a quad, the intel c2 quads will still be available.

And crossfires works for me. I have a 22" monitor and game at a res of 1680x1050 at all maxed settings. crysis at 30fps. I have 2-3870s. I need 2 cards for the AA. But more recent cards handle AA much better at higher res. I would start with one card; gtx 260, 4870 or better.

For a mid-range gamer i would suggest:
P45 mobo
intel core 2 duo e5200 & good cooler
ati 4870 512
4G pc6400
seagate 7200.11 HDD
a good psu with 650w or more

That will play anything out now. The e5200 has a 12.5 multiplier, so OC to your hearts desire. You will need a good HS&F.

4Ghz makes up for a lot.
January 3, 2009 6:57:58 PM

Thanks for the replies. This is primarily a gaming rig, so I'm not going to skimp on a video card. That being said, I don't plan on upgrading my 19" LCD anytime soon, so SLI/CrossFire probably isn't necessary (though it would be nice to get a mobo that supports it anyway).

I have 3 other hard drives in my older machine I'd like to keep and I'd like to buy a new one on this. Is a RAID array necessary to use 4 HDDs?
January 3, 2009 7:04:31 PM

what kind of a budget do you have? I changed from a q6600 to an i7, did I notice a difference, Hell yeah, but it was a want, not a necessity... your thoughts, a quick example first thing i noticed, i encoded a movie file to a dvd used to tak an hour and 10 min or so on OC'd q6600, took 22 minutes besides burn on this, Everything you open is crazy fast, hyptherthreading is wicked, if you ever had the chance to mess around with one doing little bit of everything you would know what I mean, but again not a necessity... but nice to have, the Huge memory bandwidth shows snappier than anything, Shocked....
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January 3, 2009 7:20:29 PM

> I have 3 other hard drives in my older machine I'd like to keep and I'd like to buy a new one on this. Is a RAID array necessary to use 4 HDDs?


Yes, if you want them to function as a single Windows drive letter in a RAID set.

No, if you cable them separately to your motherboard or expansion card, and configure them with different drive letters. Cf. "JBOD" (just a bunch of disks).

If all 3 are IDE parallel ATA ("PATA"), you need to be aware that almost all modern motherboards have now switched to SATA ports, with at most one native IDE port on the motherboard supporting 2 IDE/PATA devices.

If you pick a motherboard with only 1 x IDE port, then consider buying an inexpensive IDE controller, e.g. Promise still makes those for legacy PCI slots e.g.:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

And, some of those legacy PCI cards also support RAID for PATA drives -- so shop around.


MRFS
January 3, 2009 7:27:36 PM

If you want to game, I'd bypass the Quads all together. A good Core 2 Duo will beat quads in today's gaming environment. Future games may take advantage of quad technology later but I don't see that happening any time soon. So far, everyone's given you pretty solid advice on the parts, my personal preference would be to go with the e5200 to oc and a 4850; it'll provide more than enough power for any game out there, especially on a 19" LCD.

Have you considered maybe going for an external hard drive enclosure and just swapping out the drives you need? I know it can be a little annoying but I find it to be a good way of keeping my system a little cooler and less power hungry.
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January 3, 2009 7:27:48 PM

Lots of excellent advice above about Core i7 v. P45 chipset.

The latter supports 16GB of less expensive DDR2, and the E8400 thru E8600 CPUs are excellent choices.

If Core i7 technology were as mature as the P45 is now, I'd be inclined to pay the premium for Core i7.

Nevertheless, it's generally wiser to remain about 6 months behind the "bleeding edge", in order to give the latest technology an opportunity to mature (read "fix bugs").

For example, the X58 chipsets and BIOS subsystems are only lately being upgraded to support 24GB, but to reach that total amount of RAM requires 4GB DDR3 DIMMs, which are very expensive AND hard to find.

Yes, some of us can use all of that RAM immediately e.g. for ramdisks, but the total cost to reach 16GB of RAM with the P45 chipset is significantly less, because DDR2 is so much less expensive now.


GOOD LUCK!


MRFS
Anonymous
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January 3, 2009 7:56:28 PM

DUDE !!! if you were able to survive till now with a 3200+ .... DONT EVEN THINK ABOUT i7!!!!! :o 

if i were you,
i'd go for a new comp but with amd,
you said you dont want too much heat(intel chipset create a lot of heat compared to amd chipset) so go for a amd

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... 80$ cpu (95% of the population dont need more than that)
and go for a whatever 50$ motherboard am2+
400W psu for about 80$
2gig of ddr2 30$
1tb hd 100$
the suggested video card on tomshardware for 90$ (forget the sli or crossfire.. unless you plan on playing full settings the latest game or crysis or whatever time you have to lose)

total around 450$

then get yourself a 22" lcd (picture quality is worst than your crt but it takes less space and its widescreen!) around 300$
so you will be around 750$
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January 3, 2009 7:57:55 PM

p00p00head said:
If you want to game, I'd bypass the Quads all together. A good Core 2 Duo will beat quads in today's gaming environment. Future games may take advantage of quad technology later but I don't see that happening any time soon.

It's already happened as there are new games that do take advantage of quad core CPU's.
Yes,the older games will perform better with 2 cores.
January 3, 2009 8:05:37 PM

You dont need 12GB of RAM, even 6GB is overkill since 4GB is plenty for anything in a gaming machine. If you are considering this simply for 12GB of RAM then I susgest...dont. Just wait.
January 3, 2009 8:14:28 PM

Why does everyone say, Oh wait to buy the i7... Get a P45/775? It's Old Technology, that will be phasing out... Sure if you build a P45/775 right it will be as fast as the i7, but the price is not that different for a full build.

I just spent a week researching different options for my first build, first gaming rig.

The Price difference between the 2 options is not even $200 for a full system.

I say go for the i7, go with the new technology, software will be made to take advantage of the i7 soon.
January 3, 2009 9:11:23 PM

wick001 said:
Why does everyone say, Oh wait to buy the i7... Get a P45/775? It's Old Technology, that will be phasing out... Sure if you build a P45/775 right it will be as fast as the i7, but the price is not that different for a full build.

I just spent a week researching different options for my first build, first gaming rig.

The Price difference between the 2 options is not even $200 for a full system.

I say go for the i7, go with the new technology, software will be made to take advantage of the i7 soon.



I have been doing extensive research myself and have noticed the exact opposite. I have a pretty solid E8500 build planned here -

http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx...

with monitor included, it comes to a little over $1,500 including rebates and shipping.

In order to piece together an i7 system that would perform equivalently in games, it would cost me $300 - $400 more. Not only is the processor itself more expensive, but a good heatsink is pricey. The motherboard required for the i7 technology is about $150 more and the DDR3 ram is anywhere from $75-$150 more expensive.

A lot of games today seem to be more GPU intensive. If I were a gamer, I would skimp on the i7 and spend the extra money on the a top of the line graphics card (like the 4870x2).

While the i7 will destroy a duo in multitasking/video/image rendering, it will fall short in gaming.
January 3, 2009 9:31:38 PM

I went from an E8400 (@3.6GHz) to a I7 920, 4 gigs DDR3 1333MHz to 6 gigs DDR3 1600MHz. There is a big difference.

I bought a second case and slapped together a system with an HD3870 I had laying around. I sold the E8400 system for $50 less than I paid for my upgrade.

The big misconception that you will find when you look at benchmarking the I7 for games is....... they always show average FPS when minimum is actually just as important. My minimum on Crysis went up from the low to mid 20's to the low to mid 30's . Okay the average has gone up 5-6 FPS whereas the minimum has gone up about 9-10 FPS. Maximums have also gone up by 7-8 FPS
.
With GTA4 I play on high and very high and hit 52FPS on the benchmarking tool. All of this on a 25.5 Samsung @1920x1200. I have yet to overclock the cpu. There is no need to OC the I7 920for today's games.... HD 4870X2 also helps.

If you are on a budget.... go ahead and pick up a E8400-8600 with some DDR2 ram. Invest a little into better cooling and pick a board that overclocks well. Hd 4850-4870 would be my choice..... hd4870x2 if you had a healthy christmas bonus.

If you aren't on a tight budget go for the I7..... and 6 gigs is plenty for now.

As for crossfire... you are better off with buying the best single card that you can afford.

A top of the line system nevers offers the best value for the $. Some of us.... just like the wow factor when we play the latest and greatest games at their maximum settings.

Sound advice offered by all with exception of the Amd build. The amd build will give you the itch to upgrade much sooner than any of the other builds suggested.

Ferrari and fierro both look fast from 200 yards away. Amd is the Fierro by the way.
January 3, 2009 9:44:57 PM

I had an OC'ed Q6600, everyone has, been there done that. THe i7 is DEFINITELY worth it. A cheap 920 will easily OC to 4Ghz and beyond and stomp 90% of all high end C2Q's on AIR!!!

I thought, I'll just drop in a cheap 920 and later when the smaller die faster ones come along I'll drop one of those in and be set. If the 920 can already OC like this I can't imagine the level a shrunk one will reach.
January 3, 2009 9:50:51 PM

Nehalem, Later.
January 3, 2009 10:02:38 PM

Is there really any noticeable difference between DDR3 1333 & 1600 on he i7?
January 3, 2009 10:23:29 PM

Later. Too expensive at the moment. I5 core to come.
January 3, 2009 10:37:12 PM

I keep hearing about intel releasing another new processor? Is this true? If so, where did you get the information, and what will be the specs?
January 3, 2009 10:40:12 PM

Yes the core i5 will be mainstream and its on yet another socket.

A current generation Direct Media Interface (DMI) Interconnect as chipset interface
A 128-bit wide DDR3 memory interface (Dual Channel) instead of triple-channel
Some more machinery from the northbridge migrated to the CPU, such as the PCI-Express root complex
The newer LGA 1160 socket

http://www.techpowerup.com/78383/Preliminary_Tests_on_I...

January 3, 2009 10:52:05 PM

Good info, thanks!

I was able to survive on my old system so long because it's still able to play most games with decent settings at my max resolution of 1280x1024. The system I built was pretty cutting edge when I composed it 3.5 years ago...

My budget is fairly high, actually. I would say $2.5K is the max, but less is always better. The major components I'm willing to spend on are graphics cards, CPU, RAM, and cooling (no liquid). If I ever get more than 2 speakers, I might consider a dedicated sound card, too.

I looked at TH's $2,500 gaming rig, but I don't really agree with the decision to go with 3x GTX 260 cards. I would just go with the fastest card you can get, and you still have extra slots left over for CrossFire in the future. I assume you need identical cards for SLI/CrossFire, though.

I'm probably going to go with the i7, though I don't plan on building ASAP. I know absolutely nothing about the i5, but I assume it's not drastically different from i7 as the i7 was from the C2D and C2Q.

a c 314 à CPUs
January 3, 2009 10:58:02 PM

If you are looking at a higher clocked quad like the Q9550, the i7 will be faster, cooler, and cheaper.

A X58 motherboard will be $200-$300, in the renge of the good X48 motherboards.

DDR3 ram is coming down in price, but expect to pay $100-$200 more there. From the benchmarks I have seen, the i7 is not sensitive to ram speeds. There is very little difference in real(vs. synthetic benchmark) application performance. Slower DDR3 ram should be fine. I think 6gb is the appropriate amount for most users. Currently, you can get 12gb, but with the launch of 4gb sticks, the X58 can support up to 24gb. I am intrigued by this possibility. Vista superfetch will use that ram to cache programs and files. Once loaded, everything can be used faster than even from a SSD.

Intel is always releasing processors, and new spins on current processors. If you wait, you can wait forever for the next best thing.
It is shocking how capable the 920 is, even with only a minimal overclock(which is easy). It is capable of driving even the wildest vga configuration. I don't see myself needing anything new in the cpu arena for quite some time.
January 3, 2009 10:58:20 PM

Buy an Xbox 360 and wait for the Westmere/AMD offerings.


(edit: By then, the multicore games will be more prevalent due to the 360, PS3, and market saturation of Quads.)
January 3, 2009 11:30:55 PM

wick001 said:
Why does everyone say, Oh wait to buy the i7... Get a P45/775? It's Old Technology, that will be phasing out... Sure if you build a P45/775 right it will be as fast as the i7, but the price is not that different for a full build.

I just spent a week researching different options for my first build, first gaming rig.

The Price difference between the 2 options is not even $200 for a full system.

I say go for the i7, go with the new technology, software will be made to take advantage of the i7 soon.

...$200 that would give you more gaming fps if you spent it on better graphics than better CPU

for the last time. (ok maybe not)

If you are building a gaming rig, you will get better performance for your dollar by spending it on GRAPHICS not CPU. Unless you have an extreme graphics setup that is bottlenecked by a Core 2 and needs a Core i7, then fair enough. if you've cashed out for two 4870X2's or three GTX 280's you can obviously afford i7.

Think of these things before you go spending money on an i7 then crying when its slower than a cheaper core 2 system with superior graphics.

January 3, 2009 11:41:33 PM

Don't bother with a dual core this late in the game; you can get a Q6600 for $190 or a Phenom 9550 Black edition for $160 on newegg.
January 4, 2009 2:44:04 AM

To Venom, Anyone buying a I7 will also be buying a Hd4870, GTX 280, 260, or Hd 487x2. I doubt that anyone will build a new I7 rig and keep their old video card.

I had a E8400 @3.6 with 4 gigs ddr3 1333MGh and a hd 4870x2.
I now have I7 920 @stock with 6 gigs 1600 ram and my hd 4870x2

Minimum FPS have increased by close to 40% on Crysis ( Average FPS up by 13%)
GTA4 benchmark FPS increased by 25%.

Memory may have been responsible for part of that.

I7...... don't knock until you try it.
January 4, 2009 2:47:55 AM

that's what im saying. if you upgraded graphics instead of getting i7 you would have seen MORE improvement. a 260 is nowhere near top end.
January 4, 2009 3:26:32 AM

I already had the Hd 4870x2 in my old system. See my earlier post which explains my upgrade.

My point is that no sane person would build a I7 machine without top notch graphics....... Most I7's machines will be running 4870x2's or 280's
January 4, 2009 4:27:38 AM

yes i read it. if you added a 4870 or 4850X2 or another 4870X2 you would have got more FPS than upgrading to the i7..

actually i have seen a few threads with "budget" i7 systems with a 260 or 4870... DO NOT MAKE A BUDGET i7 BUILD!

even a single GTX 280 does not mean you should get an i7. two or three, fair enough as the core 2's would probably bottleneck them.

but the whole idea is to get more FPS right? so you would be better off spending the cash on better graphics than better CPU, right? unless the CPU was stopping the graphics cards from reaching their full potential. ie two 4870X2's or three GTX 280's.
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January 4, 2009 5:03:49 AM

If its a new build, get the i7, unless you are on a really tight budget. I've configured a few i7 systems run with a 4870 and 6GB 1600 DDR3 for around $1700, if you know where to look...
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January 4, 2009 7:08:48 PM

My take is that a cheap i7 920 with 6GB and overclocked would be more futureproof , and you could probably do a drop-in upgrade to Westmere in a year. The GPU upgrade cycle is usually much faster than CPUs, and I think nVidea and AMD will be coming out with newer GPUs this quarter or next anyway.

There was one website that showed an i7 performing much better than expected on multi-GPU setups on certain games where the GPU didn't bottlenect the system. So as GPUs scale upwards it'll be increasingly important to not have the bottleneck shift to the CPU, depending on what gaming resolution and settings you normally use. Unfortunately I don't have the link handy on this computer but I'm sure others do :) .
January 4, 2009 10:55:59 PM

^yeah. no wonder on 800X600 with a GTX 280.
January 4, 2009 11:02:05 PM

ATI 5800 is due out in Q3/Q4.
January 4, 2009 11:03:46 PM

O.O that should be just in time for my next build... see what nVidia can cook up in time though :kaola: 
January 4, 2009 11:05:16 PM

It more than likely wont be the level of step-up as it was from 3800 to 4800. But who knows.
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January 5, 2009 2:12:37 PM

V3NOM said:
^yeah. no wonder on 800X600 with a GTX 280.


Here's the link so the OP can read for himself: Core i7 Multi-GPU SLI Crossfire Game performance review

No 800 x 600 at all on the chart, and it's only when you get to 2560 x 1600 that the i7 drops down to just 30 - 50% better than a dual-core Wolfdale in some of the games with a dual GTX280 setup.

So where's the P2 equivalent multi-GPU test review?
January 5, 2009 2:54:17 PM

fazers_on_stun said:
Here's the link so the OP can read for himself: Core i7 Multi-GPU SLI Crossfire Game performance review

No 800 x 600 at all on the chart, and it's only when you get to 2560 x 1600 that the i7 drops down to just 30 - 50% better than a dual-core Wolfdale in some of the games with a dual GTX280 setup.

So where's the P2 equivalent multi-GPU test review?



This is interesting information indeed, but I still think you might be missing Venom's point. To his credit he is saying that if it came down to a difference of an 8500 and two 4870x2s or two GTX 280's, and an i7 with only one of either card, then the results would be different. In your link, both the i7 and the duo are using the dual card setups. Most of the time, people building i7 machines aren't able to spend $2,500+ on the rig. If they are using it primarily for gaming, then two cards are better than one and a a faster processor. The FPS results may have all been under the e8500 marks in your link had they not had two cards in each test. Also, the test has both CPUs at stock if i'm reading correctly. The E8400-8600 can be overclocked to 4Ghz+ fairly easily. Just my $.02
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January 5, 2009 9:18:55 PM

foolycooly said:
This is interesting information indeed, but I still think you might be missing Venom's point. To his credit he is saying that if it came down to a difference of an 8500 and two 4870x2s or two GTX 280's, and an i7 with only one of either card, then the results would be different. In your link, both the i7 and the duo are using the dual card setups. Most of the time, people building i7 machines aren't able to spend $2,500+ on the rig. If they are using it primarily for gaming, then two cards are better than one and a a faster processor. The FPS results may have all been under the e8500 marks in your link had they not had two cards in each test. Also, the test has both CPUs at stock if i'm reading correctly. The E8400-8600 can be overclocked to 4Ghz+ fairly easily. Just my $.02


Perhaps I did misunderstand his point, but my original point (in my first post) was that as GPUs become increasingly powerful it's important to not have the bottleneck shift to the CPU. Both nVidia and AMD/ATI are releasing more powerful GPUs and/or multi-GPU cards in the next quarter or two, and presumably at similar prices as today's 4870 or 280 if they want to sell many of them :) . And the link in the second post was evidence that, at least for certain games on certain multiple GPU setups, the i7 showed it was not going to bottleneck compared to a E8500. So, FWIW according to the one test, the i7 would seem to be the more 'futureproof' system when those more powerful video cards come out at affordable prices. By that time, presumably the OP will have upgraded his monitor as well to take advantage of those more powerful video cards.

It could be that the P2 will show similar surprises in multi-GPU or more powerful GPU setups, but I'm not aware of any actual multi-GPU test results for now. Hopefully with the NDA lifting this week we'll see some.

February 12, 2009 8:36:54 PM

If you plan on playing at 1280x1024, the $625 SMB PC here on Tom's is a great system (get a better case though). It will absolutely dominate everything at that resolution and probably for several years to come.

I wouldn't think about i7 unless you're playing at 1920x1200+, and are looking to spend $1500+.

As for arguments about i7 vs C2D vs C2Q, checkout some legion hardware articles were different cpu's are compared with a single GPU, example the GTX 295 http://www.legionhardware.com/document.php?id=807
February 13, 2009 9:52:57 AM

It seems like you are buying a PC for the long haul, 3+ years, if your last pc is anything to go by.

In that situation I would deffo suggest buying an i7, over the course of 3 years the $200-$300 premium for an i7 disappears. The C2D's are old even now, how will they compare in 2-3 years?
!