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New PC: Intel Q9550 or AMD Phenom II 955 BE

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August 31, 2009 5:42:34 PM

I was leaning towards making the switch back to Intel from AMD but after reading some comments from pcper forum I may have dismissed AMD to early. Maybe the heat issues I've experienced from past processors are just that... in the past.

I did a bit of research this weekend to see how the Phenom II's stack up against Intel. They appear to consitantly beat Core2 Quad lineup from Intel and although they don't stack up against i7 there were a couple categories where they were compariable.

Now I still find DDR3 a bit pricey but when I factored all of the major components of my potential upgrade I would be able to build an Intel Q9550 & AMD Phenom II 955 BE for roughly the same price (under $500 Cdn).

Which system would you go with and why?

Intel Core2 Quad Q9550 2.83Ghz (~3.4 OC'd)
OCZ Vendetta 2
Gigabyte EP45-UD3R LGA775
G.SKILL F2-8500CL5D-4GBPK PC2-8500 4GB 2X2GB DDR2-1066 CL5-5-5-15

AMD Phenom II 955 BE 3.2Ghz (~3.6 OC'd)
OCZ Vendetta 2
Gigabyte MA790XT-UD4P AM3 DDR3
Corsair XMS3 DHX TW3X4G1600C9DHX 4GB 2X2GB PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 CL9-9-9-24

Your insights are much appreciated.
August 31, 2009 5:59:47 PM

well its hard decision...i think the bit thats gona make up ur mind its the memory... if u want faster but lower CL or slower but faster CL... for me both systems are nice... :)  Throw a coin :p 
a b à CPUs
August 31, 2009 6:05:59 PM

the worst cpu u can trow your money at this time is any 775 socket cpu. should compare i5 vs phenom II. anyway, I would stick with the 955. DDR3 isn't expencive anymore, its price went down quite a lot. if u add that 790XT beast of a board, u got yourself a rig to be proud off.
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August 31, 2009 6:11:07 PM

I would go with the AMD setup, simply because LGA 775 is dead, there really is nowhere to go if you have a Q9550, whereas with the AMD build there will be new CPU's coming out for the AM3 platform that you could upgrade to.
August 31, 2009 6:28:07 PM

I should also add my main uses will be causual gaming, video editing/encoding (not professionaly), and your regular day to day stuff.
August 31, 2009 9:19:04 PM

Buy them both. I have a Q9550 and an i7 920 setup. I thought about getting a Phenom X4 965 just for kicks, but I hate AMD at the moment because their processors suck and ATI video cards suck.
a b à CPUs
August 31, 2009 9:27:54 PM

The 955 BE is just a better cpu. Not by much, but it's better. There is no reason at all to buy a dead end Q9550 setup now.

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/default.aspx?p=88&p2=50

If you check that link you'll find the 955 BE wins about 2/3rds of the benches. Again...there is not much to choose between them but there is certainly no reason not to go AMD in this case.
a b à CPUs
August 31, 2009 9:43:43 PM

Wait for i5 release, which is coming SOON. See how they stack up and if you chose AMD anyways the prices will have likely dropped for the Phenoms once they full release in the US.
August 31, 2009 9:52:12 PM

masterasia said:
Buy them both. I have a Q9550 and an i7 920 setup. I thought about getting a Phenom X4 965 just for kicks, but I hate AMD at the moment because their processors suck and ATI video cards suck.


I really don't have a use for that many PC's as I already have two (Main PC & HTPC).

Oh and there are those things called bills that get paid before I spend money on multiple PCs. Like Mortgage, property tax, utilities, insurance, etc. I found out about these when I moved out of my parents house, someday you will too. ;) 
a b à CPUs
August 31, 2009 10:22:42 PM

The upgrade path is a significant consideration.

Also, your anticipated uses should also factor in heavily.

For my office, the CPU specs do not matter nearly as much
as the number and type of expansion slots, e.g. PCI-E 1.0 v. 2.0 .

Chiefly, in 6-9 months, SSDs will be coming out with support for SATA/6G
and perhaps also SAS/6G.

Seagate's Savvio 15K.2 supports SAS 2.0 6.0Gbps right now,
but the raw data rate directly under the read/write heads is
the real limiting factor on all rotating hard drives presently, and
that maximum hovers right around 150-160 MB/second --
even for 15,000 rpm rotating platters that use
perpendicular magnetic recording.


At the moment, there are very few P55 motherboards that have
fixed the SATA/6G problem that was confirmed with the Marvell
SATA/6G controller, but this problem is sure to be only temporary.

See the block diagrams here for the latest ASUS solution:

http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=769

So, if you want to take advantage of SSDs with a SATA/6G interface,
-- which is the visible future about to become an industry standard --
you should wait for P55 motherboards to mature with this technology.

-or-

Be sure to get enough PCI-E 2.0 slots with x8 PCI-E lanes
to support high-speed RAID controllers with SAS/6G
and/or SATA/6G support e.g. we're looking at Intel's
newest RAID controller models RS2BL080 and RS2BL040
(aka "Big Laurel 8" and "Big Laurel 4" respectively).

An x8 PCI-E 2.0 slot has the same bandwidth as an x16 PCI-E 1.0 slot.


p.s. See also the very recent reviews & benchmarks at THG here:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sas-6gb-hdd,2392.ht...

... and at AnandTech here:

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3631

Final Words

We’ve become complacent. In today’s world of netbooks and nettops where performance is cast aside, we’ve let far too much slide. The bar of acceptability is too low. A good SSD is the anti-netbook, it is the most believable proof that PCs aren’t fast enough today. We don’t need good enough, we need orders of magnitude of performance improvement. And that's exactly what a good SSD can deliver today.

[And, then imagine what a good SATA/6G SSD can deliver in the coming 6-9 months! MRFS]

The performance improvement isn't limited to high end machines. In fact, some of the most perceivable differences in performance are on lower end machines, netbooks and nettops. The combination of a slow CPU and a slow hard drive is horrendous; the SSD allows you to at least alleviate some of the bottleneck in these slower machines. And today we actually have affordable options that make sense to even put in a netbook.

A year ago the market was full of worthless SSDs being sold at a premium. Today, we have two real contenders for the throne: Intel and Indilinx.

[end quote]


MRFS
September 1, 2009 1:24:26 AM

All depend on the price you are willing to invest. AMD is the best buy under 150$, but after that I may lean toward intel offerings.

It also depend if you want to invest in a Core i7. If you do it for gaming purpose, you need at least 2 GTX260 or 2 4870 to see a difference. Even there I don't find the difference good enough to invest more in a motherboard and in triple channel memory. IMO, a i7 is a money pit, you only get one if money is not a matter for you.
September 1, 2009 1:28:22 AM

masterasia said:
Buy them both. I have a Q9550 and an i7 920 setup. I thought about getting a Phenom X4 965 just for kicks, but I hate AMD at the moment because their processors suck and ATI video cards suck.


Just a question... I bought 2 4850 OC for 165$... what Nvidia alternative can do the same for this price...

Don't search because there isn't. My setup is stronger than a GTX285.
a b à CPUs
September 1, 2009 2:03:44 AM

> It also depend if you want to invest in a Core i7.


What about the Lynnfield CPU + P55 chipset?

http://www.pcworld.com/article/165723/intels_lynnfield_...


The P55 motherboards I've been seeing discussed
on the Internet all have 4 x DIMM slots.

Here's an early benchmark of Lynnfield overclocked:

http://www.hardocp.com/article/2009/08/25/intel_core_i5...


If I were DylanFromCanada, I'd be comparing the
Q9550/P45 system with a Lynnfield/P55 system
before making any final decisions.


MRFS
a c 96 à CPUs
a b À AMD
September 1, 2009 6:41:17 PM

DylanFromCanada said:
I should also add my main uses will be causual gaming, video editing/encoding (not professionaly), and your regular day to day stuff.



Phenom 720BE w/ 785g AM3 mobo. Put the extra cash in your wallet or put an extra $20 toward the Phenom 810 (if you have to have a guaranteed quad) and still save $70. Lookee at the 810 on stock volts:



I like the Gigabyte you selected but don't think 'casual' gaming needs a Crossfire board. If you want extra gaming power put that extra $70 (or $90) toward a new video card ....

Or maybe put the cash toward Sony Vegas Movie Studio Premium 9b. It flies on AMD procs.

September 2, 2009 3:14:54 AM

MRFS - I'm not exactly an early adopter (bleeding edge) of new PC technology. Would you now consider SSD mainstream? I'm still waiting for prices to come down and the technology to mature.

wisecracker - I agree that I don't need Crossfire but I had a tough time finding a compariable board (non crossfire), maybe I was just missing the non crossfire version of this M/B. Found it for the Intel setup just not AMD. My current M/B is SLI and I still to this day only use the single PCEe-16 slot.

Does the 2nd PCIe-16 on MA790XT have potential use other than a 2nd graphics card?
a b à CPUs
September 2, 2009 3:51:57 AM

> Would you now consider SSD mainstream?

No, if by "mainstream" you mean mid-range PCs
that cost less than ~$800 with everything installed and
fully tested, including all system and application software.

Yes, if one's time is very valuable, as in the case of professionals
doing complex design work, extensive video editing and such.


SSD technology is maturing rapidly, but the prices
are definitely higher for far less storage, per GB.

There has always been a storage/processing trade-off
in the IT industry, going back many decades.

The development that is causing me to wait for
better SSDs is the wider availability of a 6G interface
e.g. in RAID controllers, in integrated SATA ports,
and in the SSDs themselves.


But, your question is a good one, depending on
what you mean exactly by "mainstream".


It's clear that rotating hard drives are seeing
enormous capacity increases, without a
corresponding increase in the raw data rate
directly under the read/write heads.

The latter rate appears to be reaching a practical
maximum presently of about 150-160 MB/second
e.g. on 15,000 rpm enterprise SAS HDDs;
thus, the SAS/3G and SATA/3G interface speed
retains plenty of bandwidth for those drives
(3.0 Gbps/10 bits per byte = 300 MB/second:
serial protocol is 1 start bit + 8 data bits + 1 stop bit).

Right now, SSDs are already surpassing rotating platters on a
number of very important metrics e.g. access times and READs,
and I predict they will only widen that gap as soon as the 6G
interface becomes a de facto industry standard.

That development will, hopefully, cause a corresponding
drop in the retail prices of SSDs with the slower 3G interface.


For a long time I have been convinced that a
hybrid storage philosophy is the best overall
approach: slow/large HDDs for backups & archives +
fast/small HDDs for key performance needs
like browser caches, pagefile.sys and other
frequently used files.

On our production workstations, we have
moved all of our browser caches to ramdisks,
except for CHROME which does not (yet)
permit re-locating its temporary file cache.


MRFS
a c 96 à CPUs
a b À AMD
September 2, 2009 1:59:09 PM

DylanFromCanada said:
MRFS - I'm not exactly an early adopter (bleeding edge) of new PC technology. Would you now consider SSD mainstream? I'm still waiting for prices to come down and the technology to mature.

wisecracker - I agree that I don't need Crossfire but I had a tough time finding a compariable board (non crossfire), maybe I was just missing the non crossfire version of this M/B. Found it for the Intel setup just not AMD. My current M/B is SLI and I still to this day only use the single PCEe-16 slot.

Does the 2nd PCIe-16 on MA790XT have potential use other than a 2nd graphics card?



Don't trust me on this (heh heh) ...

I think some folks have been complaining that the second PCIe x16 slot on a Gigabyte board (can't recall the model and it may not have even been Gigabyte) could only be used for graphics. IIRC they may be some threads at AT about it.

It's the Internet. People complain when they don't know their arse from a hole in the ground. Sometimes their complaints are legitimate - sometimes they aren't. An email to Gigabyte would answer that question (one would think).



Quote:
Would you now consider SSD mainstream?


Mainstream expensive. If Intel ever gets their sheet together prices will drop quickly by the end of the year.

September 17, 2009 7:28:05 PM

Thank you for all the comments/suggestions.

After all that I decided to go with the Intel i5 750 and it managed to fit under my target budget by $3. Aftermarket cooling not included.


  • Gigabyte P55-UD4P ATX LGA1156
  • Intel i5 750 Quad 2.66 MHz
  • G.Skill F3-12800CL7D-4GBRH Ripjaws DDR3-1600 4GB


  • I'm holding off on heatsink/cooling (Noctua NH-U12P SE2?) until more LGA1156 options start showing up. I will also be in the hunt for a new case (Antec 900?) around that time. My current case only has 80mm fans, I guess I could modify it.

    So after a consecutive streak of AMD systems I've switched back to Intel. I believe the last Intel system I had was Pentium II 266 MHz (Slot 1 style, long rectrangular ones).

    I'm not a total traitor as my HTPC is still an AMD. Right?
    !