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FutureProofing

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February 1, 2010 2:14:19 AM

I've recently been putting a lot of thought into a new system build as my current system has already been pretty much upgraded as much as I can. One of the biggest debates seems to focus on going P55 socket 1156 vs X58 socket 1366. When putting together a system the biggest things to consider are always what is it going to be used for, your budget, and of course "futureproofing". When thinking about what futureproofing actually means and how it applies there's a lot of different views and different things discussed but always seems to me to lack the big picture. So I am going to attempt to discuss this and welcome any feedback, agreements, disagreements, etc. as a lot of this is theory and my own thoughts and not necessarily fact.

When I think of "futureproofing" I think of a system that will be able to do what I want it to do into the future. That being said, future really should be defined for a given amount of time that is going to vary widely for people.

Arguably the easiest discussion to resolve is what is the system for. If you only want a computer to surf the web and email, USB3, triple channel memory and a hex core processor is unnecessary. You'd be quite future proof with the system you are reading this on now. If you have a system for work, use CPU intensive programs and cost is no concern, then X58 is probably the way to go as hexcore processors come out, which is likely going to be the next top the benchmarks. We could go on but I think you get my point on this one.

Now to discuss things further I'm going to go into P55 vs X58 as an example. Budget is less straight forward than it first seems. There's little disagreement that right now P55 is a better "Bang for Buck" compared to X58. However, when people debate many argue about the differences like triple channel vs dual channel memory, Bandwith for PCI express cards, USB3, SATA 6GB. For now it would seem, the advantages that X58 gives is fairly low in these respects, but that's partly a limitation of the other components. So I think the time frame really needs to be considered. If you are looking just to futureproof for the next 2 years. I think it's unlikely a Core i5 system now without USB3/SATA6GB, with either PCIe x16 or x8/x8 is going to be obsolete in 2 years and say unable to run the latest games in 2012. Now you might not be able to run max settings, but heck, how many people out there have a system that run Crysis max and that's been out for how long? So the next thing to consider is if we start talking further out, like 3-4 years then what? Let's suppose Intel stops making new processors for P55/1156 so you'd have to replace the MOBO and CPU to upgrade, while the X58 still has some upgrades. I think odds are the new CPU/MOBO will be more powerful than upgrading the X58 but X58 upgrading will probably be cheaper than the new CPU/MOBO. That being said, you'd have to factor in you saved more money now that'd you'd in theory could spend later. And of course if you wait long enough, both P55 and X58 will be obsolete.

So with the cost savings, do you spend it now? Save it for later? Or get better components elsewhere? In my humble opinion, I think that's component dependent. Let's use HD and GPU's as examples. For HD I would argue if you have enough data storage for your needs for say the next year, you'd probably be well served with a SSD now for a boot drive if HD is an area you want to improve. And in a year or two you can upgrade as cost should come down. But do you need SATA 6GB? Well probably not this year as current drives don't even really need that kind of bandwith yet. But on the other hand, MOBO's from Asus and Gigabyte are like $20 more for USB3 and SATA6gb so probably well worth it. What about GPU's then? Well that adds a little different scenario. Unlike if you bought a 40GB SSD as a boot drive that in a couple of years you probably won't have much use for anymore and would be better served just replacing it outright, GPU's are a bit different. With SLI and XFire to consider, right now X58's x16/x16 slots don't have a big benefit over P55 and X8/x8 for say a 5870. But will it in a year or two if Fermi or the next gen cards need x16 bandwith? Possibly. But then will it be more cost will it be more cost effecive to say Xfire a 5870 which should be cheaper than or just be replacing it outright as well with a next gen card at x16? And if the 5870 for your gaming or graphics needs last you long enough, you might not need to replace it until the next time you change the MOBO anyways.

If anyone's made it this far, I'm impressed and flattered at the same time but as this is getting too lengthy I'll wrap things up. In summary, if you are looking for a "FutureProof" system you really have to decide what you are futureproofing against and for what kind of timeframe. Now all of this would be a lot easier if we knew what technology was going to come out and when and the prices so we could just easily plan accordingly.

And if anyone's wondering what I would recommend? I think the easy answer is to build the best bang for your buck system that is not at the end of its technology cycle under your current budget that does what you need it to do now and splurge/gamble on future technologies that haven't completely been implemented yet that you think might benefit you before you might do a big overhaul of your system.

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February 1, 2010 3:33:01 AM

1) It's impossible because nobody can read the future.

2) I think it's more likely that future new LGA1366 CPUs will require a new board compared to LGA 1156.

3) As PCI-E cards become more advanced and demand more bandwidth, it is only logical that as time goes on the advantage of two 16x PCI-E slots vs two 8x PCI-E slots will become more evident.

4) If you're worried about stuff being able to work with your build in the future buy high quality parts (especially the PSU), and a motherboard from an AIB that has a good record of updating the BIOS to ensure compatibility even after the board is no longer made, ie ASRock and ASUS.
February 2, 2010 5:07:07 AM

megamanx00 said:
1) It's impossible because nobody can read the future.

2) I think it's more likely that future new LGA1366 CPUs will require a new board compared to LGA 1156.

3) As PCI-E cards become more advanced and demand more bandwidth, it is only logical that as time goes on the advantage of two 16x PCI-E slots vs two 8x PCI-E slots will become more evident.

4) If you're worried about stuff being able to work with your build in the future buy high quality parts (especially the PSU), and a motherboard from an AIB that has a good record of updating the BIOS to ensure compatibility even after the board is no longer made, ie ASRock and ASUS.



1) Agreed

2) Agreed. That is also why I think it's somewhat silly to suggest getting a 1366 board just because the first hexcore processor is going to come out for it unless you are planning to spend over $1000 for it. Although if you have that kind of budget, I guess you probably don't care anyways.

3) Agreed as well. That being said, my guess is by the time you need two 16x slots vs either 1 16x slot or two 8x PCI-E slots you probably could just upgrade your P55 board/CPU combo.

4) I think in general, you should always buy high quality parts unless you are just so budget strapped. And if you are, I think you need to be more patient for the deals that come out. I just don't think in general if you are budget limited it's worth the investment on top of the line parts because usually the cost to performance ratio gets worse and worse as you get up to the top parts.
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