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Intel I7-960, or wait? (want 3-4 year future-proof gaming CPU)

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October 18, 2009 6:14:46 PM

Okay...so with all the new hot games coming out I am finally going to get a new PC. I built my last and current one (a 6.5 year old P4, GeForce FX 64mb video card)...however I am going to go with cyberpowerpc or something similar this time around as total price looks cheaper versus buying everything (and a Windows 7 license) on my own.

My main concern is that I want a CPU that can be future proof for gaming for at least 3-4 years or at least until Doom 4..and I would like to max out Doom 4 on 1080P resolution when it comes out. As for the videocard I could care less..these are easily upgradeable and I plan to upgrade these every few years.

Right now I am eyeing the I7-960...my only question is...am I shooting too high? (should I get something cheaper and upgrade later in 2-3 years)...should I wait for the hex-cores? Will games in 3 years even need hex cores?

thanks
a c 200 à CPUs
October 18, 2009 6:25:54 PM

Get the i7 860 or i7 920, they both perform similarly, and can easily be overclocked beyond the performance level of the 960. The 920 offers triple channel ram and more PCI-E slots allowing for three graphics cards, the 860 offers only 2 16x PCI-E slots which will be reduced to 8x/8x for 2 card SLI or crossfire. The LGA 1156 motherboards that the 860 uses tend to be signficantly cheap. An i7 performs well enough that it will not prove to be a significant bottleneck in any game right now.

The GPUs tend to be the slowest part of gaming performance, if you want something that will be future proof consider the new 5850 or 5870, get a 750 watt PSU so you can add a second one in down the line.
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a c 203 à CPUs
October 18, 2009 6:28:37 PM

crone said:
Will games in 3 years even need hex cores?
3 years from now games will still need to run well on main stream dual core CPU systems. It's where the bulk of the profits from publishing games will come from and developers will not cut off that potential source of income. I think the i7s will do very well over that time period.
Have an idea what the I7-960 will cost?
A better bet would be going with the i7 920 and getting a better video card. A lite touch of overclocking and your i7 920 is running at 3.2Ghz just like the I7-960.
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October 18, 2009 7:04:45 PM

Thanks everyone..my GPU/gaming demands at the moment are pretty low so I do not need to spend much on a video card. I want to play Dragon Age, Oblivion, the next Oblivion (if/when it comes out), Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, etc...nothing like Crysis...

In a few years however my GPU demands will def. increase especially with games like Doom 4. When this time comes I plan to upgrade to a better video card.

The reason I am looking to spend more $$$ on CPU versus GPU is that I am not very comfortable with overclocking and I'd consider upgrading a CPU if I have to but I would rather not. Therefore I am fine with a GPU that only lasts ~2 years but I'd like my CPU to be battle-ready much longer.

About the price..I have no quote how much it would cost standalone as its a new product. however its somewhat expensive (cyberpowerpc will add $290 to your price if you upgrade from the 920 to the 960.
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October 18, 2009 7:08:29 PM

Hmmm.. I just realized that paying $290 to upgrade from a 920 to 960 may not be that smart. I'd probably be better off saving the $290 now and upgrading to a much better CPU in 2-3 years...
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a c 203 à CPUs
October 18, 2009 7:10:45 PM

I think you nailed that analysis.
Even a non-OC'd i7 920 will be a strong performer over the next four years.
And that's plenty of time to learn the easy steps to tweak the clock speeds gently. Speed for free.....if you want it.
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a c 203 à CPUs
October 18, 2009 7:12:13 PM

Can you choose your MB at cyberpowerpc? Some models come with software for the MB that will handle light overclocking duties for you. No need to 'get your hands dirty' unless you want.
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October 18, 2009 7:16:54 PM

Yeah you can choose your motherboard, PSU, everything...its a lot like building your own PC only without getting your hands dirty. I'd actually rather do it myself as I hear they have terrible terrible customer service but their prices are just too good probably because they get their parts wholesale. That and I want a copy of Windows 7 and if I buy that myself that would already be 1/4-1/5 of budget :) 

thanks for the advice
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a c 203 à CPUs
October 18, 2009 7:22:18 PM

Be sure to let us know how things work out.
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October 18, 2009 7:24:11 PM

No point in getting an i7 960. Get an i7 920 or Phenom II 955 and upgrade them in the next two years. Or better yet, upgrade the graphics card in the next two years.
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November 1, 2009 6:29:16 AM

That would be correct if your motherboard allows overclocking, as there are some that do not. Be carefull! Some have said that the 960 chip which has the same speed as the 965 does not have the same bandwidth 640 compared with 480
but remember that the 965 is an extreme chip and the 960 is not. It is also taking time to appear in the supply chain. Intel seem slow in releasing them. Don't forget the 930 will be avaiable sometime soon too.
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November 1, 2009 10:34:34 AM

crone said:
Hmmm.. I just realized that paying $290 to upgrade from a 920 to 960 may not be that smart. I'd probably be better off saving the $290 now and upgrading to a much better CPU in 2-3 years...


That's exactly right in my opinion.

I would rather get i7-860 than i7-920 though. They cost about the same but 860 has a higher base clock and a more aggressive turbo boost. Loosing a memory channel won't hurt you in games. http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/15967/7 Faster CPU will have more impact on performance.

As for crosfire/SLI performance (16x/16x vs 8x/8x):
It won't be a game changer if you are using two single GPU cards. If you are using two dual GPU cards it still probably won't make too much of a difference but 16x/16x will enjoy a small bandwidth benefit. I expect Radeon HD5870x2 boards will be the first boards where 16x crossfire is going to make a difference at highest resolutions and high AA settings. If you are willing to spend the money on a 4 GPU machine then the added cost of 16x/16x probably won't matter anyway and that's what you should get. But with "only" 2 GPUs you won't get burned with a 8x/8x set up.

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/core-i5-lynnfield,review-...
From conclusion: "Core i7 for LGA 1366 does have an advantage in its QPI link to the X58 chipset, which offers high-end graphics cards full x16 PCI Express links. However, current-generation GPUs still deliver compelling performance over the x8 links enabled through P55, P45, and 790GX running in CrossFire mode."

Note though that the comparison is between i7-920 and i5-750, not i7-860. Also note that the "current generation" GPUs in that article are HD4800 series and GT200. Like I said earlier HD5870x2 probably has the power to benefit from larger bandwidth. But single GPU versions won't be crippled.

Here's another test: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/core-i5-gaming,review-316...
Note though that here i7-920 is compared to i7-870 instead of i7-860. But still it shows that 8x/8x bandwith is not going to cripple your PC.
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December 25, 2009 7:18:40 PM

kettu said:
That's exactly right in my opinion.

I would rather get i7-860 than i7-920 though. They cost about the same but 860 has a higher base clock and a more aggressive turbo boost. Loosing a memory channel won't hurt you in games. http://www.techreport.com/articles.x/15967/7 Faster CPU will have more impact on performance.

As for crosfire/SLI performance (16x/16x vs 8x/8x):
It won't be a game changer if you are using two single GPU cards. If you are using two dual GPU cards it still probably won't make too much of a difference but 16x/16x will enjoy a small bandwidth benefit. I expect Radeon HD5870x2 boards will be the first boards where 16x crossfire is going to make a difference at highest resolutions and high AA settings. If you are willing to spend the money on a 4 GPU machine then the added cost of 16x/16x probably won't matter anyway and that's what you should get. But with "only" 2 GPUs you won't get burned with a 8x/8x set up.

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/core-i5-lynnfield,review-...
From conclusion: "Core i7 for LGA 1366 does have an advantage in its QPI link to the X58 chipset, which offers high-end graphics cards full x16 PCI Express links. However, current-generation GPUs still deliver compelling performance over the x8 links enabled through P55, P45, and 790GX running in CrossFire mode."

Note though that the comparison is between i7-920 and i5-750, not i7-860. Also note that the "current generation" GPUs in that article are HD4800 series and GT200. Like I said earlier HD5870x2 probably has the power to benefit from larger bandwidth. But single GPU versions won't be crippled.

Here's another test: http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/core-i5-gaming,review-316...
Note though that here i7-920 is compared to i7-870 instead of i7-860. But still it shows that 8x/8x bandwith is not going to cripple your PC.



This is not a good reason to go for the 860. The 920 performs better at the same clock speeds than the 860. i.e. if both are running at 3.2 ghz the 920 is faster. Also the lga 1156 is a mainstream platform, meaning if later on he wants to purchase a core i9, he will have to replace the motherboard. Where as the lga 1366 will soon have mainstream AND enthusiast offerings. Yes the 860 outperforms the 920 by a small margin if both are left at stock speeds, but not many people are buying these CPUs and not overclocking them. The 920 is platform has also been around for a while longer, which means it's more mature, and the new D0 stepping has offered a lot more improvements in operating voltages, overvoltage, and overclocking. You can't go wrong with tripple channel memory and dedicated 16x PCi-E slots.
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December 25, 2009 9:05:56 PM

^^ Above and with the rehash of the i7s with the 930 at 32nm coming out soon, overclocking is a breeze. And if your scared to overclock, let me tell you this. I have built several computers with asus motherboards. Theres this program called CPU Level up, basically it automatically configures your CPU until it matches the speed of a higher tier one... I have my i7-920 running at 3.2ghz for a while before i OC'd it a tad more to 3.43.

And about the LGA 1156. He wants it to LAST long, meaning 4 years or so and in that space of time, most likely 2 or 3 generations of video cards will come out and who knows how powerful they may be and thats the reason you want a full pci-e 2.0 bandwith.
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March 24, 2010 8:58:14 PM

hunter315 said:
Get the i7 860 or i7 920, they both perform similarly, and can easily be overclocked beyond the performance level of the 960. The 920 offers triple channel ram and more PCI-E slots allowing for three graphics cards, the 860 offers only 2 16x PCI-E slots which will be reduced to 8x/8x for 2 card SLI or crossfire. The LGA 1156 motherboards that the 860 uses tend to be signficantly cheap. An i7 performs well enough that it will not prove to be a significant bottleneck in any game right now.

The GPUs tend to be the slowest part of gaming performance, if you want something that will be future proof consider the new 5850 or 5870, get a 750 watt PSU so you can add a second one in down the line.



you seem to forget that just like how you can overclock the 920 you can overclock the 960, you can overclock the 960 higher than the 920 with less heat. remember that, there are reasons why the 920 is the bargain chip and why the other chips cost more, because the other chips are better, people have to get over that fact. they just are.
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March 24, 2010 10:02:02 PM

There is still NO REASON to buy a 960 over a 920 or 930...theres a reason theres 12 reviews for the 960 on newegg and 2,105 for the 920....290 bucks isnt worth 15% performance gain....if u put in a 960 and I came in at night while u were asleep and swapped it with a 920...YOU'D NEVER HAVE A CLUE...also I'd buy the 930 over the 860 bc when you get a SATA 3(6GBs) hard drive and USB 3.0 it will steal your PCI express lanes and automatically only give you 8x instead of 16x on a P55 motherboard...and if you ever want to have 2 video cards then thats gonna hurt you even worse....the X58 has more lanes and is much more future proof....you could probably get a 5770 or 5830 now...then wait 2 generations and get the most bad ass thing out then....I just dont think the 5850 is a good buy right now until ATI drops the price and IDK if Fermi is gonna make them drop prices very much....I also wouldnt OC whatever CPU you get until you actually need to...you'd be putting an unneeded strain on it...you'd up ur FPS from 100-135....35 frames you'll never know existed
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