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I7 860 i5 760

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October 28, 2010 2:11:39 PM

I'm planning on putting together a system for mostly finite element analysis work, some CAD and Matlab (plus general office work).

So number crunching ability is basically top priority. I'd need decent graphics performance for the CAD stuff (but I'm not trying to squeeze every last fps out of Crysis) so not planing on blowing 100's on a graphics card. I'm also assuming that it's CPU that is going to be the limiting factor - I'm guessing a SSD won't speed things up much.

I also want decent multitasking performance as I tend to set an FEA job running and then try to continue to do office work on the PC.

Budget constraints have me looking at Socket 1156 processors (rather than 1366). Although an i7-920 system (of you can still find one) is about the same as an i7-860, the higher clock speed of the i7-860 should make it number crunch quicker.

The i5 has 4 cores, so this should give a pretty good FEA performance (for comparison, I'm currently running a Core2Duo E6420). Obviously the i7 has 4 cores and HT - I assume that the HT won't improve the FEA perfomance significantly, as hyperthreading would give you 8 threads, but each thread would only have half the resources compared to if I were running just 4 threads?

Am I right in thinking that the HT on the i7 would allow me to continue working (e.g. office applications) with a big 4-thread FE job running in the background whereas the i5 would "struggle" (though presumably still a world of improvement from my current system which is running 2 thread FE jobs).

An i7 860 system is looking at being around £100 more than an i5-760 system. I've read various processor reviews comparing i5-760, i7-860 and i7-920, and they generally say go for the i5-760 or go for an i7-920. However, from my understanding of the benefits I'd get from each feature, the i7-860 seems to be "right" for my set of applications?

Opinions anyone?

Or stick with the Core2Duo and wait for Sandybridge?

EDIT: The clock speeds of these two processors are the same...

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October 28, 2010 4:02:08 PM

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, I saw these benchmarks, and they seem to suggest that the i5 is mostly very comparable to the i7. The i5 even wins some benchmarks (presumably having HT wastes a tiny bit of system resources if the applications don't use it).

However most of the benchmarks are video creation, rendering, etc, which I don't really do. On the MS excel "monte carlo simulation" (which I guessing is probaly the closest of teh benchmarks to a finite element analysis?) the i7 wins by a fairly significant margin.

Is this likely to be reflected in my application (setting a big number crunching job running and then running office apps in the foreground)?
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October 28, 2010 4:06:45 PM

Well since you're doing CPU intensive work, might be best to wait for the Sandybridge

Also, don't buy an SSD, they will be half the price within a few years without a doubt, you get a little speed performance, that's all really
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October 28, 2010 4:18:46 PM

Hmmm, yes. I suspect you're right that sandybridge will be a decent performance jump. I have no idea how Intel will release it, but I'm guessing it might take a while for it to be available as sensible prices?

FWIW, I'm just seen an i7-860 base system (4GB, 500 hard drive, radeon 5450) for £420, which is now less than £35 more than I was expecting to pay for the i5-760 (which had a GT210).

At this price differential, should the decision be obvious for me?

Thanks for the advice about the SSD - it wan't on the shopping list at the moment, but was on the possibel future upgrade list.
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October 28, 2010 10:26:35 PM

E-mailed to order the i7-860 and got a reply saying the pricing was a mistake - it's just gone up by £80...

So back to the drawing board...
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October 28, 2010 10:47:41 PM

Hey guys, I have a question sort of along these same lines. I am putting together a new PC for my parents. They basically do the 'bread and butter' stuff... web surfing, email, iTunes, light Office use, etc.

I'm trying to decide between the i5 760 and i7 860/870; the last time they bought a new PC was about 7 years ago, so they're definitely not frequent upgraders :)  That being the case, I'm trying to build something for them that will stay current for as long as possible.

I realize that hyperthreading for them wouldn't make much (if any) difference right now, but would it help the PC stay current for a longer period of time? Meaning, do you think that hyperthreading on the i7 will have any impact on basic day-to-day performance in 4-5 years from now?
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October 29, 2010 12:30:39 AM

I'm an engineer and have built and used both I5 750 and I7 860 systems. Each had 4 meg of ram, overclock to about 3.1 GHZ with HT on. I've used each of these for Pspice and mathcad work.

I had a hard time telling the difference between those systems and as I recall the benchmarks I ran indicated the I7 860 was only about 3% quicker.
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November 5, 2010 10:25:25 AM

Thanks for the reply stonebattle. When OC's to the same speed, I'd guess that i5-750 and i7-860 are going to be similar on single threaded performance (or even multi-threaded if you're not trying to run more than 4 threads), as they're both the same architecture? Were you using all the cores for the Pspice/Mathcad apps (I'm not sure if they parallel-threaded?) and if so, how wwas the useability of each system while these apps were running?

To worknman, if you're just putting together a home PC for your parents to surf the web, run office applications, etc, then you really don't need an i5 or i7. If their old computer is too "slow", make a backup of their files, format the HDD, reinstall windows, and any other software that they actually need, and hey presto, it will be as quick as new again. Very worst case you might need more RAM (depending on just how old their current system is). If you really feel the need to upgrade, any i3 will be more than ample - I could still run office apps and some number crunching on a P4 quite happily in my old job.

The only reason I've been looking at high end stuff is because when you're running an analysis that takes 2 days and gloops up your computer to the point of unusability while it does so, then either a faster computer, or better multi-threading become high priorities.

As it turns out, my decision got made by market forces rather than tech details - I got a very good deal on an i7-960 with 6GB of RAM (slightly more than I was looking to paying for an i5-750 system, and slightly less than I had been expecting to pay for an i7-860 system), and took the plunge yesterday.

I'm sure Sandybridge will eventually blow it out of the water, but the early SB releases look to be "mainstream" procesors, and when the upper end SB processors come through I'm sure they'll be at least as expensive as what I've just paid for the 960 at first...
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November 12, 2010 7:43:52 AM

Best answer selected by stulemanski.
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November 12, 2010 8:42:35 AM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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