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CPU Buyer's Guide 2.0

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October 5, 2009 5:16:39 AM

Will be upgraded to reflect new releases next weekend!

Edit 1. Added TOC. Removed Core i5 750 from recommended CPUs until the dust clears.
Edit 2. Added appendix recommending LGA-775 and AM2 CPUs.
Edit 3. Recommended Core i3 530, recommended against Clarkdale Core i5s
Edit 4. Recommended 1055T and 1090T, reduced recommendation on i5 750 and i7
Edit 5. Minors changes. Reduced warnings against Socket 1156.
Edit 6. Minor changes, recommended i5 760, clarified i7 recomendations.
May be upgraded again soon to reflect any pricedrops, OCing or reliability results, etc.
Much of this is shamelessly pirated from Turpit's thread.

Credit goes to caamsa, chiadog, endyen, DirtyDrummer, grieve, navvara, Shadow703793, uguv, and Spitfire_x86 for contributing to past versions as well.

This is a very early edition, this will be updated when I have time. No promises for a timeline, though.

Table of Contents
1. Intro

2. Notes
2.0 Getting Help from the Forums and A Note on So-Called Fanboysim
2.1 A Note on Software

3. Multithreading

4. Performance and Value

5. Recommendations
5.0 Intel Sockets
5.1 AMD Sockets.
5.2 CPUs to Avoid
5.3 Recommended CPUs.

Appendix A: Dictionary of CPU Terms
Appendix B: Recommendations for Obsolete Sockets.

Don't forget to run Folding@home on your shiny new CPU! Tom's Hardware Guide is Team 40051.

More about : cpu buyer guide

October 5, 2009 5:21:41 AM

2. Notes

2.0: Getting Info from the Forums and So-Called Fanboyism


Disagreements happen, even on the internet. Right now it is fashionable to label the person disagreeing with you a 'fanboy,' conjuring up an image of a slobbering, unreasonable, immature kid who can't brook criticism to his idol. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this is far from the case.

However, bias also happens, conscious and subconscious. It's easier to root for AMD because they have a better public imagine and less (known) sketchy buisness practices. On the other hand, Intel's PR machine is huge and omnipresent, and people often soak up the PR. Other bias just comes from personal familiarity and past experiences with a product or brand, which may or may not be in line with the norm.

But the truth usually comes out. That's what public forums are for. People aren't afraid to speak their mind, and even consciously biased people don't usually like looking like idiots, so a guy who hates Intel usually just won't recommend anything if no AMD processors meet the needs of a poster. People who post stupid things are usually confronted about it, and reasonable people usually back up their opinions and suggestions with facts. If a back-and-forth debate springs up, you usually can't go wrong with either side. So sift through the material, and generally go with the consensus and ignore people who don't make any suggests or back up thier arguments.

Provide detailed information on what you need, post your questions in the relevent forums, be specific, polite, and thank people. Check your spelling and grammer, d0n't ta1k lk ths, and DON'T insult people and provoke a flame war. But don't be afraid to ask for help if you don't understand or are unsure about something.


2.1: A Note on Software

(By turpit, updated by Smithereen)

Before you can decide which type of processor is best for you, you have to know what it is you are going to use it for. A few examples of uses are:
Web Browsing,
Email
Word processing
Gaming
Graphics rendering
Video editing
Ripping (converting CD tracks to MP3 files, DVDs to MPEG2/4, AVI etc)
Compiling
Compressing

What you can use your computer for depends on which software you have installed. Not all software is created equally, nor does all software ‘load’ the processor equally. It is true that software or ‘programs’ will run faster on a ‘faster’ CPU, but at some point, the processor may exceed the demands of the software.

For example, Email and web browsing don’t place heavy demands on a CPU, and if that’s all you intend to do, there is little point in spending over $1000 on a top of the line quad core processor. A $60 dual-core CPU will be ample, and your money would be better spent on memory (RAM) and a high speed internet connection rather than a faster processor. Conversely, if you are planning on editing video, the faster the processor the better.

Multitasking is simply running multiple applications(software programs) simultaneously. Do you multi task? If you run any modern OS (operating system), then you are already multitasking. Your operating system is running multiple applications and managing them simultaneously, "behind the scenes". Windows XP (both Pro and Home), Windows Vista, and Windows 7 manage the applications automatically and assign an 'affinity' (preference for a core) when the system uses a multicore processor. Affinity can be manually assigned by the user, but is best left to the OS. Running a multicore processor will not automatically improve performance in multitasking. If the tasks you are executing are light, such as MS Solitaire, Word, and a web browser, then you will see no improvement. Heavier tasking on the other hand, which pushes the cores to their limits, will see benefits from a multicore processor. As such, this plays an important role in which processor is best for you.

Windows Vista, and to a lesser extent, Windows XP and 7 are quite CPU intensive. Antivirus, bloatware, etc will all lock up CPU time. As dual-cores are so cheap in this day and age, single-core processors have become unrecommendable in any price segment. With a dual-core, even in singlethreaded applications, one core can handle all of the 'background' tasks, leaving the other core to run you game, play your movie, or compress your file all on it's own. Quadcores are still hugely underutilized, but since high-clocked quads like the Athlon II 640 have also fallen into the mainstream price segment, they can allow a non-'power-user' to extend the operational life of his system without noticeably sacrificing 'performance now'. High-powered quads like the Core i5s, Core i7s and Phenom II X4s still offer the best performance in almost every situation, and thanks to price drops in the Phenom II series, the introduction of the Core i5 and cheaper DDR3 memory, dispite it's moderate performance victories in some situations, the Core 2 Duo line of Wolfdale dual-cores is no longer recommended to anyone.
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October 5, 2009 5:22:36 AM

3. Multithreading
(By turpit)

Another factor to consider concerning software when deciding which CPU to purchase is multithreading. Today, the majority of new desk top CPUs available are multicore, meaning they have more than one core, or processor, on the die. Mores cores can improve processing speed, however, the vast majority of software currently available is single threaded….meaning it can only run on one core. As such, with most software, more cores will not offer a significant advantage.

There are 3 basic types of software multi-threading: Course, Fine and Hybrid

Course multithreading is an instance where a program is specifically written to use multiple cores. It is the most effective type of multithreading, but it is also the most difficult and time consuming to write. It is also the most limited in terms of core scaling. If you have a program written for 2 cores, going from a dual core CPU to a quad core CPU will not provide an appreciable increase in performance. It will add some small increase, as background applications can be run on a third core, but even though you have doubled the cores, it will not ‘double’ the performance. Conversely, if you are using course threaded software optimized for 4 cores, running it on a dual core will limit the speed of the program to ½ its maximum potential.

Fine multithreading is multi threading that uses loops. Any where a repetitive process occurs within a program, which does not have to call for data or provide data during the process, the loop can be assigned to its own core. The number of cores this type of multi threading can use is limited by the number of independent loops within the software, so this software will scale relative to the number of cores better than course multi threading, but it is not as efficient as course multithreading.

Hybrid multithreading is a combination of Course and Fine multi threading.
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October 5, 2009 5:42:01 AM

4. Performance and Value
(by Smithereen)

Performance is a measure of how fast a CPU executes various combination of tasks. This used to be measured largely in clockspeed; Intel classified their processors by their clockspeed, like the Pentium IV 3.0ghz. AMD countered by assigning their processors a PR, or Pentium Rating, their rough (usually a little generous) estimate of the Intel processor they would perform similarly too. Nowadays, many other factors have become more important, such as memory controllers, cache amount and latency, and general architecture refinement. This is often referred to as "performance per clock", which unfortunately cannot be measured. Fortunately, benchmarks and testing can be done to get the feel for how different CPUs perform in different tasks. Many websites, such as Toms Hardware, compile extensive databases of reviews and performance charts. Do not buy the highest-clocked CPU and expect the best performance!

Tom's Hardware Performance Charts

Value describes the relation between how well a CPU performs and how much it costs. The Law of Limiting Returns dictates, truly, that in the 'low-end', performance increases exponentially with cost, and in the 'high-end', cost increases exponentially with performance. The 'sweet spot' for a buyer is where he gets maximum performance for minimum cost. It is very easy to overspend on a processor thinking it will make your computer 'faster', but often, especially for gamers, the money is better spent elseware, usually invested in a quality GPU, or even saved for future upgrades. Moore's Law has remained remarkably accurate in predicting that that amount of transistors able to fit on a certain die size will double every too years. This means that a CPU of similar inflation-adjusted price will be roughly twice as powerful in two years.

Often 'value' includes the 'future-proofness' of the platform. Often you can get an EOL (End-Of-Life) motherboard and CPU for very, very cheep. This will offer usually good performance and excellent value, but remember that you will need to upgrade huge portions of your system to replace the CPU in the future. This is not an issue if you buy a well-performing CPU that will last you more than four years. CPUs almost always don't have compatability issues with future software provided they perform well, unlike video cards, in which DirectX support can be a big issue. If you buy a high-performance quad-core CPU now, you should not have performance issues for three to four years.
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October 5, 2009 6:03:55 AM

5. Recommendations

5.0 Intel Sockets


LGA-775. A very long-lived socket. It has housed CPUs from the Pentium IV era, through the Pentium Ds and into the Core 2s. Unfortunately, having a LGA-775 socket does not guarantee, compatibility with modern Core 2s, you will have check your motherboard manufacturer's website. Most CPU updates broke comparability with old motherboards; even Conroe Core 2 motherboards are often incompatible with Wolfdales. By all means upgrade your CPU, though, Core 2s are very, very solid performers from the low range to the medium high. This socket is currently EOL, not recommended. Uses mainly dual-channel DDR2.

LGA-1156: A brand-new socket built for new Core i5s and i7s. It provides good performance and value; however, the longevity of the socket has been highly questioned. Buy it for cheep performance now, but do not count on future upgradability. Also, since the CPUs hold the PCI-E controller, it is currently impossible to have a 16X-16X SLi or Crossfire array, which will likely bottleneck high-end graphics solutions well before the CPU performance does. At the moment, conditionally recommended for medium-high cost platforms. Uses dual-channel DDR3, restricted to voltage levels below 1.65V

LGA-1366:
A high-performance solution for the most powerful systems. Intel's future Core i9 processors are expected to use this socket. Built for high-end Core i7 systems. Expensive. Recommended for all top-end systems, and mid-end productivity and media editing systems. Uses triple-channel DDR3, requires voltage leves below 1.65V

5.1 AMD Sockets
AM2:
An obsolete AMD socket. Build for Athlon 64 and 64 X2 systems. Still provides adequate performance in low-end systems. Often compatible with up to current AMD processors - check your manufacturer's website before you throw out these boards. Not recommended for new systems, but don't necessarily need replacement either. Uses dual-channel DDR2.

AM2+:
An intermediary between AM2 and AM3. Guaranteed compatibility with *all* production AMD processors. Provides good performance from the low range to the medium high. One of the overall lowest-cost platforms. Offers excellent value. May not continue to be supported far into the future. Recommended under that condition for low- to mid-cost platforms. Uses dual-channel DDR2.

AM3:
AMD's current socket. AMD's future "Bulldozer" CPUs are expected to work with AM3 sockets. Provides good performance and value in low- to medium-high price catagories. Compatible with most production AMD CPUs. CPUs must have a DDR3 memory controller, if they are labeled "AM3", they do. Performs slightly higher than AM2+, but has a slightly higher platform cost. Recommended for low- to medium-high cost platforms. Contrary to what I suggested earlier, this will NOT be compatable with Bulldozer. Do NOT purchase this and expect to upgrade farther than a 1090T.


5.2 CPUs to avoid.


AMD Phenom:
Hot and with poor performance. Not recommendable now as the Athlon II X4 brings the quad-core performance to the ~$100 level, with higher clockspeeds and much less heat. Before availability drops too low, however, the 9950 may be a good choice for boards that do NOT support Athlon or Phenom IIs.


Intel Pentium 4 and D series:
Hot and with poor performance and reliability. Not recommended under any circumstances to anyone with the ability to drop in an e5200 at the very least. If you have a motherboard that can't support anything else, don't put any more money into that system.


Intel e8X00 Series:
The e8400 costs $170, and they go up from there. For reference purposes, the Phenom II 720 costs $120, and the Q8400 costs $170 and they may have lower maximum FPS, but much higher FPS in anything more than dualthreaded, and often higher in dualthreaded applications in a less-than-pristine operating environment. This CPU used to be the "to-have" gaming CPU, but competition from AMD and Intel's own product line make this CPU good for little more than bragging rights.


AMD Phenom II 965 C2 Stepping:
Badly overpriced compared to the Core i5 750 and Phenom II 955. Identical silicon to the 955 does not approach justifying the price premium. That the 955 has an unlocked multiplier that can be upped everytime to make performance idential makes this even more outrageous.


Intel Clarkdale i5 line:
Intel seems to think it's funny, like a clown, running two separate i5 lines. I jest, but at current prices, stay away from the i5 6XX line. If you want dual-core speed, get yourself a much cheaper i3 or Phenom processor, if you want parallel threading, get yourself a much cheaper Phenom II or a cheaper and faster i5 750.

5.3 Recommended CPUs.

Low-End


AMD Athlon II 250:
This CPU is cheap and very fast at stock speeds. For around $60 bucks you can have a CPU that will run almost any game and make for a very snappy operating environment. This CPU runs very "cool 'n' quiet", and runs in a current socket. It overclocks decently, but not like the e5200. Recommended for running at or around stock speeds for a sure thing.

AMD Athlon II 435:
This CPU is cheap and quick, and just over $70. It's fast, it OCs a bit, and isn't very warm. Like the rest of the Athlon II line, it runs in Socket AM3, a modern socket. Recommended for gaming or a compromise between gaming and threaded performance.

Intel Pentium Dual-Core e5200:
This CPU is very cheap as well, also around $70. It performs poorly at stock speed, but is a formidable OCer. Of course, OCing is a tossup, you will need a decent motherboard and cooling that will handle the overclock, and you could always get a bad CPU. But if you don't, and you probably won't, you will get some of the best value available. Recommended only for big overclockers.


AMD Phenom II 555:
This CPU can be had for around $100, and it smokes both the Athlon II and the Pentium Dual-core at stock and OCd. It brings tremendous value to the table, it will run any current game very well, and there is a decent possibility you can unlock disabled cores on a SB710 or 750 motherboard. A good performer at stock and overclocked speeds. NOT recommended for productivity or media editing PCs, this is all about the gaming.



AMD Athlon II X4:
Again, an excellent value low-end quadcore. Can be had for around $100. Outperformed by the Q8400, but cheaper than either that or the Phenom II 720. Not an excellent gaming CPU, it has poor performance-per-clock, but four physical cores allow it to excel in heavily multithreaded applications. Not a great overclocker. Recommended for home and work PCs not used for gaming.


Mid-End.

Intel Core i3 530:
This CPU can be had for around $120. Games tremendously, and OCs quite well, if not with the best reliability. Beats the Phenom II 555 just well enough to justify the price premium. If you need more threaded performance, consider the Phenom II 720 (before it's phased out), or the Athlon II X4, which performs much better in more parallel universes.


AMD Phenom II 720:
This CPU can be had around $120, and performs very well in gaming, and adequately in encoding or productivity tasks. Overclocks generally well, does not unlock consistently. Will run any game, again, not a great productivity unit. Recommended for gaming and all-purpose PCs.



AMD Phenom II 955:
A very solid performer. Can be had for $165, or less with good combo deals. Good overclocker, but can be a bit warm as well. Needs its voltage. Excels in gaming at stock and overclocked, performs well in other areas too. Does not perform at the level of the Core i5 at stock, gains some ground back at higher clocks, but still doesn't consistently win, but it's unit and system cost make it very attractive. Recommended for all medium-end systems. For more performance in this class, look to a Core i5 750 for a little extra dough.


Intel Core i5 750/760:
An excellent performer. The 750 can be had for under $200; but the 760 if it's less than $10 more. Excellent overclocker, tends to need alot of voltage. Only real drawback is platform limitations, and to a lesser extent, platform cost. CPU cost can be misleading; the price for a Core i5 systemis generally higher than that of a Core 2 or Phenom II system. Quad-threaded and under performance is excellent, but loses badly to the Phenom II X6 and Core i7s once more threads are in play, and concerns have been raised about the longevity of the LGA-1156 platform relative to LGA-1366 and AM3 platforms, possibly valid. Limited to 8X-8X SLi and Crossfire, not much of an issue outside of top-end GPU configurations. If these are issues, get an AM3 or LGA-1366. Under these conditions, recommended for mid-high-end PCs. Note: requires memory with voltage of 1.65V or lower. If you plan to OC heavily, make sure your motherboard doesn't use a Foxconn socket.


AMD Phenom II 1055T:
For $200 the cheapest hexa-core processor out now performs admirably for it's price tag. Comepetes with the more expensive i7 860/920 in more multithreaded applications (and shellacks the i5 750 in these cases), but loses quite badly once in less mutithreaded situations. Not a gaming CPU, but a fantastic buy for more productivity-oriented machines. OCing seems good, but I'll update this soon when more results come in. Very strongly recommended for middle-end non-gaming machines.


The High-End.

Intel Core i7 860/920:
Here is the big performance - the fastest CPU architecture on the planet. The 920 Can be had for $280, and with a much noticeably more expensive platform cost than the LGA-1156 and AM3 platforms. This architecture has an outrageous performance lead when clock-for-clock, and OCs very high under the right cooling. Be willing to pay a price premium for a D0 stepping processor, which are the best overclockers. The i7 series provides exceptional SLi and Crossfire performance in gaming, and serve all other quad-cores their lunch. Recommended for well-rounded high-end performance for a premium, and the best gaming performance available. The 860 has some mild SLi/Crossfire scaling issues, as it only supports an 8x8 interface, but on top-end current-gen cards, this is a <10% performance loss, and usually <5%. If you plan on Crossfiring HD5XX0s, or SLiing GTX 480s, maybe go with the LGA-1366 platform. If you plan to OC an 860 heavily, don't buy a motherboard with a Foxconn socket.

AMD Phenom II 1090T: A monster CPU. A blunt-force counter to Intel's superior architecture, this is a very large piece of silicon. For $20-$30 more than the cheaper i7s, the 1090T tends to outperform them in multithreaded apps, but usually loses otherwise. Like other Phenoms IIs, it overclocks well, especially with good cooling. Highly recommended for medium- and high-end productivity machines, but pure gamers would be better served with an high-end quad-core.
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October 5, 2009 6:17:10 AM

Appendix A
6.0 Dictionary of CPU Terms

(By turpit, with revisions by Smithereen)


Terms


Bellow are the definitions of some of the terms, in alphabetical order, that will be used in this guide,


AGP:Accelerated Graphics Port. An obsolete video card slot. Do not buy a motherboard with an AGP slot. If you have an AGP slot, only purchase a new videocard if you are fully aware that you will be paying a 50% premium for it and will likely endure a bottleneck. It is almost certainly not worth putting money into an AGP motherboard.


Benchmark: A test or series of tests to determine how well a CPU performs for comparative purposes. Benchmarks may use either real applications, or synthetic applications.


BIOS: Basic Input Output System. The fundemental firmware (EPROM memory) which coordinates hardware funtions of a computer. The blue screen accessible on startup to change hardware-level settings, such as boot priority and clocks.


Cache: Dedicated memory physically integrated into a CPU die. Like RAM, this memory is used to speed processing by holding critical instructions, data and memory addresses within the CPU itself, where it can be accessed with minimal latency. Cache is not directly comparable between archetectures, but the more the better.


Chipset: The motherboard system chips which controls/regulates communication (data flow) between the hard drives, RAM and CPU etc. Consists of a "North Bridge" and "South Bridge"


Clockspeed: Also known as frequency. The number of cycles per second the CPU can execute. CPU performance nearly directly scales with clockspeed, but is not comparable between architectures. IE, 3.6ghz Core i7 is 50% caster than 2.8ghz Core i7, 3.6ghz Phenom II is 50% faster than 2.8ghz Phenom II, 2.8ghz Core i7 is slightly faster than 3.6ghz Phenom II.
Unit=Hertz (Hz)
1 Hz = 1 cycle per second
1 KiloHertz = 1000 cycles per second
1MegaHertz = 1 million cycles per second
1GigaHertz = 1 billion cycles per second


Core: The actual processing unit


Core Count: The number of processing units (cores) on the die.


CPU: Central Processing Unit. The complete ‘package’ of die, Heat Spreader, contacts, interconnects and PCB. Components are assembled permanently and cannot be changed.


Die: The semi conductor containing the core(s)


DTPC: DeskTop Personal Computer.


Erratum: Plural = Errata. A correction to an error(s). In the case of CPUs an erratum (fix) indicates a flaw exists. ALL current production CPUs contain flaws and errata. Usually, a flaw can/is addressed by Operating System, BIOS or software workarounds. Major flaws are usually permenantly fixed in subsequent steppings. The only erratum buyers should be very concerned about is the TLB Bug in early releases of the Phenom processor.


Firmware: BIOS, operating instruction set, or other programs generally used to control specific hardware devives. Usually stored on the device itself, in flash or EPROM memory.


HSF: Accronym for the Heat Sink, Fan. The CPU cooler assembly. They can be both stock, the system that ships with the CPU, or a aftermarket system, an upgrade to allow quieter operation or overclocking.


IMC: Imbedded Memory Controller. A memory controller which is physically intergrated into the die of the CPU. Currently used in all AMD processors, and the Core i5 and i7 series of Intel processors. Much, much more efficient than the off-die system used in the Core 2, Celeron and Pentium processors.


IPC: Instructions Per Clockcycle...the number of 'instructions' completed(retired) per clock cycle. An obsolete term, still referenced to illustrate that more than one command is being executed per CPU cycle and compare the efficiency of processors. See SIMD.


Latency: The time delay between a request for data and the data's 'delivery'. RAM and cache with lower latency is better.


LGA: Land Grid Array…A type of interface (contacts) used for socket 775 nad 1066


Lithographic Node: Commonly refered to as "node". The die thickness the CPU is manufactured on. Current nodes are 90nm(nano meter), 65nm and 45nm. Smaller nodes allow for better performance and efficiency; however, they don't directly affect performance, only heat produced. Smaller nodes often allow more OC headroom, however. "Die shrink" refers to the process of moving to a smaller node.


Memory:
-RAM: Random Access Memory. Volatile memory (volatile = stored memory dumps when powered off) used (in PCs) to temporarily store data for fast access.
RAM can be currently purchased as DDR2 or DDR3 RAM. DDR3 performs slightly better, but is slightly more expensive. Motherboards can only accept one of DDR2 or DDR3 RAM. AM3, LGA-1366 and LGA-1156 use DDR3, AM2 and AM2+ use DDR2, and LGA-775 uses one or the other. It is recommended to build a new system using DDR3, but don't be concerned about DDR2, it is still plenty fast.
-ROM: Read Only Memory. Fixed, non volitile memory which cannot be altered
-EPROM: Electrically Programable Read Only Memory. Rom memory which can be programed by the user. The type of memory employed by BIOS, and other hardware components for firmware.
-EEPROM:Same as EPROM
-Flash: Same as EPROM
-HDD: Hard Disk Drive. Used to store large amounts of data long term. Much slower than RAM, data needed by a specific prgram will be copied from the HDD to RAM for faster access.


Multi core: A CPU whose die has more than one processing unit (core)


Multithreading: A program or 'application' designed to use more than one core


Multitasking: Running multiple programs or applications simultaneously


NorthBridge: That "chip" of the chipset which controls data flow between the the Front Side Bus, Memory Bus, southbridge, and video (either AGP or PCIe(16)) bus
NOTE: Different generations of chipsets swap handing of the PCIe(non video) between the north and south bridges. The Core i5 processor has it's PCI-E controller integrated.


OEM:: Original Equipment Manufacturer. A "white box" processor, identical to the retail version, but comes in plain packaging, without a HSF, and usually has a shorter (1 year) warranty,


Overclocking: The practice of taking a CPU and adjusting the performance settings, either through the BIOS or software to increase the frequency above the factory rated speed to increase performance…..’free performance’


PCI: Peripheral Component Interconnect. An expansion component interface used for modems, sound cards, etc.


PCI e: Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. An udated version of the PCI expansion component interface. Currently there are 2 prevalent forms. PCIe(16) used primarily for video cards (replacing AGP) and PCIe(1) which is slowly replacing the standard PCI interface


Pins: A type of interface (contacts) used for socket A, 939, AM2, AM2+


Retail Box:Also refered to as Retail Box Processor and "retail". Typically more expensive than the OEM SKU, but usually comes with a factory HSF and 3 year manufactures warrenty.


SSE 2, 3, 4: Streaming SIMD Extensions. See SIMD


SIMD: Single Instruction, Multiple Data. A method of calling/conditioning data simultainiuosly. Anywhere the same fuction is to be performed to mutliple data sets, SIMD (via SSE) allows all of those data sets to be conditioned in parallel (simultainiously) vs in series (one at a time) greatly reducing the time for a CPU to perform functions.


Socket: The receptacle, or physical interface between the motherboard and the CPU


South Bridge: That "chip" of the chipset which controls the frow of data to and from the hard drives, PCI expansion cards, onboard audio(if equipped) USB ports, LAN etc.
NOTE: Different generations of chipsets swap handing of the PCIe(non video) between the north and south bridges


Stepping: The revision 'number' of a CPU. The first character indicates major changes, the second character indcates minor changes. For example, a B2 stepping indicates the second minor revision of the second major revision. A B3 stepping indicates the third minor revision of the second major revision.


Value: Value is generally accepted as being the price to performance ratio of a CPU


Virtualization: NOTE: This is a simplified definition, as virtualization is application dependant. Virtualization is a practice of simulating or emmulating different hardware than actually present in a system. For example, a single quadcore system used in such a manner that it emulates multiple singlecore systems. This is mainly an issue for server processors, but improves performance of Windows 7's XP Mode.
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October 20, 2009 5:46:41 AM

Appendix B
I have an obsolete socket, what should I buy?

Just because I don't recommend buying a new motherboard of a certain socket type doesn't mean I recommend replacing them.

Wolfdale and derivatives An LGA-755 can give high performance - it just has a limited future upgrade path, and CPUs usually cost a little bit more than the equivalent AM3 processors.
Low End:
e5200.
Explained above.

e7400. Can be had for about $120. Sits between the 550 and 250 in terms of performance. Won't have much trouble with most games, and OCs as well. Recommended as an upgrade for gaming PCs with a usable LGA-775 motherboard supporting 45nm CPUs.

q8200. Can be had for about $150. Performs worse than Athlon II X4, but this is largely because of it's low clocks speed, it can be OC'd to gain some ground back. Recommended as an upgrade for productivity PCs with a usable LA-775 motherboard.

q9400. Can be had for about $190. Performs about on par with the Phenom II 955. Good performance backed by good overclock-ability. Only misses the recommendation because of it's EOL platform status and overall system cost. Have no qualms about upgrading to this CPU. Do not buy an e8400 or e8500; This CPU will perform as well in all situations, and much, much better in well multithreaded situations.

LGA-775, no Wolfdale/Yorkfield support
Q6XX0 series Perform reasonably well, where availble can be had for around ~$200. Do not pay much more than $220 for one - upgrade to AM3 or LGA-1156 instead.

e6XX0 series Perform reasonably well, where available can be had for around $100-$160. Do not pay more than $120 for one - upgrade to AM3 or LGA-1156 instead.

AM2, no Phenom/Phenom II/Athlon II support
An AM2 socket that does not support dual-phase power (will not support AM2+/AM3 CPUs) can still offer reasonable performance in the low end.

Athlon 64 X2 Series A venerable, very long-lived series. Offers good performance to this day in it's price category. The Windsor variant is a poor OCer, runs hotter and consumes much more power, and typically costs a little more, but performs better at the same frequency than the Brisbane.
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October 21, 2009 6:05:14 AM

Reserved (Thanks randomizer and rockyjohn)
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October 21, 2009 6:24:29 AM

Eh... the software only lets me change the author of the OP (I've been considering requesting an extension of that functionality). The only work around would be deleting all posts before the most recent one after the end of the guide so you can edit that with more info.

EDIT: Or make a new thread of course.
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October 21, 2009 7:48:28 PM

I for one have no objection to deleting my post above and this in if requested by the OP to allow him to improve the thread - or changing the author of my thread and the one above to OP to let him edit to his own purposes - whatever is easiest.

Mod Edit:
rockyjohn's deleted post

Quote:
Fantastic thread.

I especially like that it is so easy to scan and run down to sections of interest. One thought though, the long list of definitions up front my slow down a lot of readers - and maybe keep them from getting to the meat. Within the limitations of the forum, I know it is particularly hard to write something like this for readers with varying levels of knowledge about computers. is it possible to put them on another thread or two and use links back to the main body when the term first appears? I know this might be a lot of work but I think it would improve readability. Part of the complication is that some provide good background information a reader needs to have if they don't know it but others include a lot of detail the new reader does not need and probably does not care about - such as EPROM and North Bridge. If you move it to the end or a separate thread with links, you might replace it with a short narrative describing PC Basics that would provide the information a reader needs to better understand the information that follows on CPU choice.

One area I do question though is the comments about the 1156 socket. First, I think the concern about the future of the socket is stated too strongly. While no one knows the future, it is not unreasonable to guess that Intel has made a strategic marketing decsion to go forward with two product lines - one aimed at mainstream, which has the pc market volume and is targeted to directly compete with AMD, and one aimed at high-end users where there are better margins. That being said, it does not hurt to state that AMD has shown a much strong committment to socket longevity that increases the useful life and upgradability of mobos. Second, I think you should expand the discussion about the limits of SLI and crossfire by explaining that it is limited to the two x8 channels and listing the top end cards that this can still run at full bandwidth so readers can better understand the limits as most readers will likely never reach the limit with one card - at the present time or normal life expectancy of current purchases.

But great thread.
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October 22, 2009 12:06:46 AM

Done and done. I also stuck a quote of your previous post in your latest post, rockyjohn. That way we have the best of both worlds :D 
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October 25, 2009 2:16:13 PM

so what would you buy , i5 system, or q9550?

i will not oc my i5 with ga-p55-ud3l(gigabyte)


anyway i bought i5 :) 

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a c 78 à CPUs
October 25, 2009 8:55:46 PM

Smithereen... I have added this thread to my "Recommend Builds by Usage" thread listed in my signature. Good job on the update and all the information!
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November 2, 2009 10:09:18 PM

Yes this is really well done. I WILL fit this into my guide in a few days as there is a major revision coming.
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November 3, 2009 1:57:46 AM

very good but about pentium ds. pentium d 915 overclocks and runs fairly well its old, but not bad i have one and it runs at 4.0Ghz every day on air it doesn't freze or lock up is the pentium D 915 the only decent one out of the d's?
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a b à CPUs
November 7, 2009 1:57:48 AM

Nice Guide !

I would recommend the Phenom 9950be 125W for an upgrade of the better am2 platforms.


Maxing this board out to it from a 5200 gave new life to my PC for an extra year.
Doesn't overclock to well, my multiplier unlock does not work but putting it at 2730Mhz is fair clock.
It competes well against the AthlonX4 2.8Ghz
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a b à CPUs
November 19, 2009 8:57:06 AM

That's blatant plagiarism. Half that forum layout is a rip of this one, but most importantly you've not given an ounce of credit to the author(s) of this guide.
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a b à CPUs
November 19, 2009 9:28:28 AM

... and it's like it was written by extraterrestrial aliens that think they are using proper English when in reality they are typing gibberish. I see a few threads elsewhere that make some sense, but everything in that CPU section is badly mangled.

Why are these people not speaking in their own language? Or does it all make sense and I have had a stroke?

(Confused? This was written in response to a post that no longer exists.) ;) 
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November 19, 2009 5:09:10 PM

Hmmph. Now that's just insulting. Not only did somebody plagiarize both my work and other's with no credit given, they mangled my already-bad English. If their forum wasn't dead, I'd have half a mind to go and troll the hell out of it.
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a b à CPUs
November 20, 2009 12:06:42 AM

Well they will not be getting more hits from here.
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a b à CPUs
November 20, 2009 6:44:58 PM

Aw, I wanted to see this abomination of the English language and plagiarism :lol: 

Anyway, very nice guide. I think you meant LGA1156 in your bold warning, correct? Also, I see some of the new Gigabyte boards (the A line) appear to have switched from Foxconn to Lotes, though I am not 100% sure of that.
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November 21, 2009 1:03:06 AM

Thank you, I fixed that. Also added an exception where the 9950 'may' be good for some users who can't drop-in a Phenom II.
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December 6, 2009 11:07:49 AM

You mentioned that the i5 boards have been having a lot of problems with the sockets potentially frying the CPU - do you have any more news on that? I was planning on buying a DFI LanParty MI P55-T36 in January. Would you recommend I stayed away from that?
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December 6, 2009 4:20:01 PM

According to the picture on their website, that motherboard appears to use a LOTES socket, not a Foxconn, so it shouldn't be a problem. Dare I ask why you are planning to buy a mini-ATX motherboard?
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December 6, 2009 5:48:54 PM

People on here seem to think it's crazy but I'm planning to build a Mini-ITX gaming rig - thread link here. I've done some research though and it should be possible with those specs (although I may have to reverse the GPU fan and splash out to get the gruntier PSU).
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December 7, 2009 7:07:28 AM

For all benchmarks I've seen in terms of gaming, i5 has performed on an equal level to that of the i7 860. I think it's a bit misleading to claim that i7 860 is 'exceptional' for gaming, while i5 is only 'good'.

Am I wrong?

Edit: Made a mistake, it specifically reads 920 is exceptional for gaming.
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a b à CPUs
December 7, 2009 10:41:54 AM

It does have a slightly faster stock clock and a little better turbo, but as hyperthreading doesn't help in most games the increase is not large (and not worth the price difference, in my opinion) so I agree with you.
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December 14, 2009 7:43:14 AM

Updated to reflect December prices. Phenom II and Core i5 more strongly recommended
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December 15, 2009 2:13:37 PM

I am having trouble disentangling the processor information. For four laptops I have under consideration, the options for each are listed as:

1) AMD Turion™ 64 X2 Dual-Core Mobile Technology Processor ZM82/ZM80/RM70;
2) Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T9400/P8600/P8400/P7350/T6600/T6400/T5900/T5800 : 2.53 GHz - 2 GHz,

3)Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor P8700/P8600/T6600/T5900/T5870 : 2.53 GHz - 2.0 GHz,
Intel® Pentium® Dual Core Processor T4300 : 2.1 GHz
Intel® Celeron® Processor T3100/ T3000 : 1.9 GHz - 1.8 GHz,

4)Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T9600/P8800/P7550/T6600/T5900 : 2.8 GHz - 2.2 GHz,


None of them have the i7 designation or any of the designations listed in your guide. Can you help?

Thanks,

Margaret
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a b à CPUs
December 15, 2009 2:18:29 PM

That is because those are Core 2 Duo chips (and others, but the Core 2's are the best of those), which are still excellent, especially for laptops.
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January 5, 2010 2:27:19 AM

this is exelent. tanx for this guide it helped me alot!!!
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January 7, 2010 5:51:36 AM

Is there any point in comparing Windows Experience Index Scores between CPUs? Personally, I am having a tough time deciding going with a 1366 chipset or 1155. In particular, the i7 860, 920 and i5 750.
I'm not looking for a gaming rig but one that kicks butt in terms of hyperthreading and video editing.
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January 16, 2010 9:41:58 AM

Nice Post !

Yes this is excellent. I WILL fit in to this guide in a some way ...
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January 17, 2010 6:14:12 PM

Newb888 said:
Is there any point in comparing Windows Experience Index Scores between CPUs? Personally, I am having a tough time deciding going with a 1366 chipset or 1155. In particular, the i7 860, 920 and i5 750.
I'm not looking for a gaming rig but one that kicks butt in terms of hyperthreading and video editing.



Is this for a business or something that is going to be used for that all the time?
if thats the case and the extra investment is not a huge deal go 1366 and get the i7. It's the higher platform and will have higher upgrade options down the road.

If your looking to save some money or not use all the time for video editing. I have an asus P7P55D e-pro Motherboard and an i5 750 overcloked to 3.8ghz 4gbddr3 1333 ram and it works great! I can convert a 2hr 33 min avi to dvd format in 45mins!! Encodes video at 380 - 400+ fps


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January 17, 2010 7:38:23 PM

phrostbyte said:
Is this for a business or something that is going to be used for that all the time?
if thats the case and the extra investment is not a huge deal go 1366 and get the i7. It's the higher platform and will have higher upgrade options down the road.

If your looking to save some money or not use all the time for video editing. I have an asus P7P55D e-pro Motherboard and an i5 750 overcloked to 3.8ghz 4gbddr3 1333 ram and it works great! I can convert a 2hr 33 min avi to dvd format in 45mins!! Encodes video at 380 - 400+ fps


It's for home use. But I do want to do video editing. I like the hyperthreading feature in the i7 860 or i7 920.

I'm done with overclocking. Whatever CPU i get, i'll be running at stock speeds. I dont need the hassle to find decent ram and dealing with voltage issues or getting frustrated when my system starts corrupting files or locking up. All those annoyances that OCing can bring.
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January 18, 2010 10:55:15 PM

If you can afford it, I'd go with the 920.
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January 19, 2010 1:45:26 AM

920 for sure, it's only 10 extra dollars right now.
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January 19, 2010 2:53:43 AM

Hello , i m new user. I have actually not a forum addicted but really this a good place to watch and acquire knowledge. I have a more than a 3 year older PC. It's AMD semphron. 1.8 ghz. I m facing some problems during playing games. what should i have to do? Change the processor or there is any other cheaper solution.
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January 19, 2010 1:43:53 PM

cleondann::

probably going to need new ram too, plus new games need direct x11, so upgrade would be nice but i would save some money and build a new pc.
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January 19, 2010 7:14:25 PM

Well, this is just great! First off, very nice thread. Second, too bad I didn't find it before pulling the trigger on my new DAW build.

I spent a over month researching during the holidays. Trying to decide between 1156/860 or 1366/920 for a new build. I received several responses here on Tom's that LGA 1156 would be more likely to stick around than 1366... and, saw numerous reports that the P55/1156 platform was actually benching higher in many cases than it's predecessor x58/1366. My biggest desire was to build a top notch system that would be as... "future proofed"... as possible!!

Sooooo anyway, yesterday I put together my new P55/1156 build. I just installed Win 7 this morning... haven't even loaded any programs yet... and, suddenly I find this thread saying LGA 1366 is more likely to stick around... that 1156's future is questionable!!!

Great!! It's such a nice feeling to have over a months research and decision making... get crashed in one swoop... the very moment I put it together!

I'm sure I'll love my new system, but I was hoping not to have to purchase a new MB for the next several years!

I guess this is just proof that you can't always win em all!

Any comments to ease the rub?

Thanks.

GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD4P LGA 1156 Intel P55 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX
Intel Core i7-860 Lynnfield 2.8GHz LGA 1156 95W [stock cooler]
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
(2) WD Caviar Black 640GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
BFG Tech BFGR79512GTOCE GeForce 7900GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 SLI Support Video Card - Retail (too loud - going to replace)
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
LIAN LI K60B Black CECC Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
LITE-ON Black 24X DVD Writer Black SATA Model iHAS-324-98 - Retail
CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX 450W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
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January 19, 2010 8:57:00 PM

Nice build. Certainly puts the audio editing side of my machine to shame. What sound card do you use?

Remember, we don't know that Socket 1156 will be retired soon, we just know Socket 1366 won't be. Basically, don't sweat it - you're machine is powerful, and if you need more juice, just overclock a little.

What do you do with your machine? Just edit, or record, or synthesize?
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January 20, 2010 3:56:38 PM

Hi. Does the 860 lend itself to OC as well as the 920?

I currently have a little Mackie board [Onyx 820i] w/ 1394 as an AI.
http://www.mackie.com/products/onyx820i/

[Also have a CL Audigy Platinum eX in another [older] system]

I mostly record, edit, transcode and do media burns.

GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD4P; Core i7-860; G.SKILL Ripjaws 4GB; WD Caviar Blacks 640GB; GeForce 7900GT 512MB 256-bit GDDR3; Win7 Home Premium 64-bit; LIAN LI K60B;
LITE-ON iHAS-324-98 [NEC]; LITE-ON iHAS-324-09 [MEDIATEK]; CORSAIR CMPSU-450VX 450W
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January 20, 2010 4:40:49 PM

I believe it does, yes.
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a b à CPUs
January 21, 2010 2:30:21 AM

I hate it when it gets to the end of a page and then won't disappear from my thread box.
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January 23, 2010 8:14:18 AM

Hey everyone, i want a powerful pc mostly used for rendering and 3D graphics i use many softwares like "Maya, 3ds MAX, After Effects, Photoshop..." can anyone help me choose the right graphics card, CPU, RAM.... I was thinking about the NVIDIA 9800 GTX and an i7 920 but i was told that the core 2 quad 9550 is better and its cache is 12m which is better than the i7's 8m..

Thank you in advance
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January 23, 2010 4:55:20 PM

I would not buy the Q9550. The i7 920 has the most powerful CPU architecture on the planet, and OCs about as high as any other quad core. For your needs, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
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January 24, 2010 5:55:17 PM

is there much difference between the i7 920 nd 850
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January 24, 2010 9:31:59 PM

None, except the 920 uses more expensive motherboards, triple-channel memory, supports 16X-16X SLi and Crossfire, and will definitely get hexacores.
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January 25, 2010 5:10:39 PM

k thnx fr the info
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!