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Upgrade options for new workstation

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January 29, 2010 3:08:16 PM

Hi, everyone.

Okay, heres the deal. I have a HP Z600 Workstation. I am not using it as a server! Why did I buy a Z600 instead of a high-end i7 setup then? To be honest, up till a few months ago I knew very little about PCs. I knew enough to not have to take my rig to Bestbuy to have RAM istalled, but nothing really technical. Up untill owning the Z, I never had a PC I really cared to know about. The past few months I've been researching all the things I used to bug my IT friend about in hopes of simply becoming a more knowledgeable user and that sort of snowballed into a slight obsession with the hobby.

Ths Z was purchased back in Dec, so it's mine. There's nothing I can do about it. I love it, don't get me wrong, but I realize now for the money, I could have had a smoking machine having built it myself or at least stated with something cheaper and single socket. As it stands I'm forced into buying ECC RAM and all the other implications of owning a "server" based rig. Not to mention since it's a HP mobo, I'll never be able to  get into any kind of OC stuff as it's not capable in BIOS, ect.
 
My plans for the machine are VFX apps such as Maya, Nuke, Massive, C4D, Shake, and some editing work in Vegas. I realize that going too, too, crazy here isn't going to net me any crazy rendering gains, but a farm is pretty much beyond by capabilites at the moment as well as my budget. I have zero intentions of any PC gaming.

Currently I have the barest bones model.  I'm about start running Win7 64bit and it's time to start upgrading. As you can see from the specs below, I've already made a few upgrades* on my own, but I'm completely confused on where to go CPU wise. My plans from the start were to eventually upgrade to dual Xeon E5520s, but now that Gulftown are on the way I have some questions before I proceed.

So, here come the questions...

First, my specs:

-Single Xeon 2.0 E5504
-*12G Crucial DDR3 1333 ECC Unbuffered (3 X 4GB)
-*Quadro FX 1800
-*2 WD 500 Blacks configured in RAID 0+1 via Intel ICH10

And the rest from HP: http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/quickspecs/13277_div...

-For those that have been around the hobby for a while, is it common practice for price drops on previous generations after new CPUs are launched? In other words will 5500 Xeons drop in price when the 5600s come out in March? Should I wait?

-Should I even bother with the 5500s and go straight to a single mid-range 5600?

-Am I able to run a single top of the line i7 (or i9) in this mobo or is that not possible? I thought both Xeons and i7s were compatible on the same E5520 chipset, but I'm probably mixing up info from too many sources at this point. My head is spinning a bit. Regardless, camps across the interweb seem to be split as to whether or not i7s preform better than dual Xeons in my area of interest, so that's not really the issue. What is relevant is a single high-end i7 and the RAM associated with a single CPU will be drastically cheaper in the end.

I guess any other suggestions and/or advise would be great here as well.

Thanks.
a c 159 à CPUs
a b α HP
January 29, 2010 4:15:57 PM

You've already spent too much money on this pc. I would take a break. If you want better perfomance, I would try selling the board and xeons on craigslist and see if you get any decent offers. It won't cost you anything to try. Then you can find a core i7 board and cpu. I use frys combo deals, which are in store only. The other problem is your ram is ecc, which won't work on some regular boards. As far as upgrading the xeons, I wouldn't do it. You won't gain that much performance.
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January 29, 2010 4:32:29 PM

Not to be rude on the first day out, but that's not the advise I was looking for.  I haven't actually spent anything dedicated specifically to this workstation. HDDs, GPU, and RAM aren't married to this machine. I never purchased any Xeons in addition to what came with the PC. I was simply asking what CPU's and options I had concerning it.

Not sure what you mean about not getting greater performace from the current single Xeon to dual higher end versions with Hyperthreading. In rendering, ect, I would be led to believe that 16 cores>4, no?

I don't see any need to sell the board and CPU. I would simply sell the whole unit the way it came to me. However, again, that wasn't what I was asking. ;) 
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January 29, 2010 4:46:52 PM

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

This is the same as an i7, will give you a 30% increase in performance, and should work well on your board assuming it can handle the 130w vs the 80w on the cpus. As long as your board does not have limitation I do not know about, you could use any 1366 socket processor. Of course, once you go beyond what I listed above the price starts too climb very fast, so I would ignore any faster processors.
The only other thing I might recommend is more hard drive space if you do lots of work with large files and have lots of files stored locally on your computer.
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January 29, 2010 5:05:40 PM

Thanks for the suggestion. I had looked at that CPU when I first started out. It's a bit cheaper than the 5520 and may be comparable on the bench, but aren't they set up for single socket boards? Might as well have the abilty to run a dual CPU configuration if I already have the capabilty to do so, especially at entry to mid-range level choices.

I plan to get more HDDs in the future as well. I'm still rolling with SD footage, so the storage I have now is adequate.
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January 29, 2010 5:46:10 PM

It really depends on your motherboard, and since I don't know the dell specs, I don't know if it can handle 130W cpus. It is worth finding out, though.
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a c 159 à CPUs
a b α HP
January 29, 2010 5:49:32 PM

If you can sell your old xeons, then upgrading is ok; but be aware that you may only gain a 10-20% performance boost overall for spending up to twice as much for a higher end cpu. And gaming doesn't need more than 4 cores to work well. Your board doesn't have overclocking options; server boards are designed for stability. Overclocking would work on a single cpu board. Some asus and gigabyte single cpu boards would overclock your xeon if your ram works with them. My basic point is that your pc will run anything fine without any upgrades; if gaming performance is your goal, then the video card or overclocking a single cpu would give you more bang for the buck.
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January 29, 2010 6:12:02 PM

He stated that he is using this only for video encoding and NOT gaming, so the more total cores/threads the better. As I stated before, if your board will accept the 130W cpus, that would be the way to go and get a quick 30% increase in performance...if you cannot do that I'd just stick with what you have as anything else would be stupid expensive and not gain you much.
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January 29, 2010 6:19:05 PM

Correct, I'm not planning on any gaming whatsoever.

Well, as it stands I only have 4 cores and no hyperthreading, so I might as well upgrade the first CPU with what I had planned initially in the 5520. There isn't much info on this particular mobo as it's custom to the rig itself. Google yeilds little results.

Thanks anyway, guys. I appreciate it.
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January 29, 2010 7:31:58 PM

I missed the fact that your current cpu doesn't have hyperthreading...your actual performance will be more like 50% in most of the apps you'll be working with.
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January 29, 2010 8:11:15 PM

Exactly. And dual quads with hyperthreading (in multithread applications) even more so. That was never under dispute.

I really just gave all that information at the beginning of my post so that I wasn't leaving out crucial information. My real questions are about price drops in past gen CPUs and whether or not a single i7 could be used in place of a single Xeon merely for affordability. Now that you bring up the CPU temps I realize I never took that into consideration. Xeons run a lot cooler (60-95w) compared to i7 at 130. This would also have an impact on my cooling setup.

Again, I realize that i7s are generally considered better as far as raw performace goes (they are both Nehalems and very similar) and at much lower prices than xeons, but I chose this configuration for a specific task, stability, and the abilty to run higher amounts of RAM.
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