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Desktop vs Server CPU

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February 1, 2011 8:41:39 AM

what's the difference between a desktop & server CPU? If one is looking out for a HiDef gaming & Media PC, would a server process hold any advantage over desktop one? What is it that different in terms of functionality? Life expectancy, upgrade issues? Motherboard constraints?
I am trying to approach it from a performance/price/feature point of view. Not socket number, ect.

Does anyone use a server cpu for such a platform? If not really... why?

More about : desktop server cpu

a b à CPUs
February 1, 2011 11:41:12 AM

A server CPU has more error checking and would run games slower because of it. It would also cost more and (typically) require a server motherboard which would not be optimized for pushing pixels.
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a b à CPUs
February 2, 2011 3:05:06 AM

^ LOL wut?

Workstation graphics cards have more precision than consumer/gaming graphics cards. Server CPUs / chipsets support things like ECC, but that doesn't make them slower.


For a HTPC / Gaming computer, just use a regular processor. Server processors support features that you'll never use or need.
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February 2, 2011 3:42:50 AM

ohshaq said:
what's the difference between a desktop & server CPU? If one is looking out for a HiDef gaming & Media PC, would a server process hold any advantage over desktop one? What is it that different in terms of functionality? Life expectancy, upgrade issues? Motherboard constraints?
I am trying to approach it from a performance/price/feature point of view. Not socket number, ect.

Does anyone use a server cpu for such a platform? If not really... why?


A bit of a history lesson but here goes.
Lots of people used socket 939 server chips in desktop mobos. They worked fine with non ECC ram.
Server chips are made on the same wafers as desktop chips. They are generally bined higher, and may get a different pinout.
I'm not sure if the current opterons will fit on desktop boards, but they probably do. They tend to make great overclockers, but at today's prices, they are not good value. (IMNSHO)
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a c 99 à CPUs
February 5, 2011 1:36:11 AM

ohshaq said:
what's the difference between a desktop & server CPU? If one is looking out for a HiDef gaming & Media PC, would a server process hold any advantage over desktop one? What is it that different in terms of functionality? Life expectancy, upgrade issues? Motherboard constraints?
I am trying to approach it from a performance/price/feature point of view. Not socket number, ect.


The differences between desktop and server CPUs:

1. Lifespan and duty cycle. Server CPUs are rated to run for longer periods of time at 100% sustained loads, whereas desktop parts are rated for less (although they will often run darn near forever.) I know AMD rates their Opterons for 5 years at 100% load 24/7 versus three years for the desktop chips.

2. Price. A server chip that is essentially identical to a desktop chip will cost somewhat more.

3. The ability to handle server-type platform features like error-correcting memory (although all of AMD's desktop CPUs with the possible exception of the Semprons have ECC support as well) and registered memory.

4. Some server chips can be run in multiple-CPU setups, whereas all desktop CPUs have been strictly single-CPU-only setups for quite a few years. They have this ability either through additional I/O links that desktop CPUs lack or have disabled.

5. Server CPUs frequently use different sockets than desktop CPUs. Server CPUs running in two-CPU setups sometimes use different sockets than desktop and server CPUs for four-CPU and higher servers always use different sockets than desktop.

6. Server CPUs frequently have more cores than desktop CPUs, since server workloads are much more multithreaded than most desktop workloads. AMD sells 8 and 12-core server CPUs and Intel sells 8-core server CPUs, while none of them sell more than 6-core CPUs for desktops.

Server motherboards are considerably different from desktop motherboards. Server motherboards are built for reliability and stability, not for flashiness. They use generic green PCBs with simple, unadorned heatsinks and have absolutely no overclocking options whatsoever. They almost all have a rudimentary onboard graphics chip that hangs off the PCI or PCIe bus rather than sitting in the northbridge. They also have serial ports, PS/2 ports, generally have at least two gigabit Ethernet ports, rarely have onboard sound, and frequently have only a couple of USB ports. They also frequently have many more RAM slots than desktop boards, multiple CPU sockets, SAS controllers, and are often larger than desktop boards. Oh, and they also cost quite a bit more than a desktop board that is otherwise similar.

Quote:
Does anyone use a server cpu for such a platform? If not really... why?


My desktop has two Opteron server CPUs on a dual-processor motherboard. I got it because I do a lot of work with video and code compilation that loves a lot of cores. The two 8-core Opterons I have are considerably faster than even a $1000 Core i7 980X in just about every decently multithreaded task there is, but they cost about half the price of an i7 980X. I also greatly value stability and don't give a crap about overclocking and how flashy a board is, (it sits in a case with no window), so a server platform was a perfect fit for me. Oh, and I run Linux and any server hardware is basically assumed to be running that OS, so compatibility is a given.

mi1ez said:
A server CPU has more error checking and would run games slower because of it. It would also cost more and (typically) require a server motherboard which would not be optimized for pushing pixels.


Error-correcting RAM has at most a couple percent overhead compared to non-ECC RAM. It does cost a little more since you need nine memory chips per side rather than eight with non-ECC RAM, but the cost difference is pretty slight. Registered memory must be what you are thinking of as registered memory is notably slower than unbuffered memory and it does usually cost a lot more. All registered memory sold today is ECC but not all ECC memory is registered. I have unbuffered ECC memory in my unit and it performs very similarly to typical unbuffered non-ECC desktop DDR3-1333.

endyen said:
A bit of a history lesson but here goes.
Lots of people used socket 939 server chips in desktop mobos. They worked fine with non ECC ram.
Server chips are made on the same wafers as desktop chips. They are generally bined higher, and may get a different pinout.
I'm not sure if the current opterons will fit on desktop boards, but they probably do. They tend to make great overclockers, but at today's prices, they are not good value. (IMNSHO)


- Lots of people used Socket 939 Opterons in desktop motherboards since the Opterons overclocked better than the Athlon 64/A64 X2 chips. All of AMD's Athlon 64 and later CPUs support ECC memory, with the possible exception of Semprons. Anyway, ECC can be disabled or ignored, so putting unbuffered ECC memory in a system that does not support ECC memory will work; ECC will just be ignored. The 939 chips did not support registered memory, and putting registered memory that the Opteron 200s and 800s took in a 939 board would result in the board failing to boot.

- Server chips share wafers with desktop chips up until a certain point in the wafer manufacture. There are a lot of steps in taking a wafer and making a finished chip and I was told at some point the wafer goes down a "server line" or a "desktop line." That could be early in the fab process if the server chip has wildly different features from the desktop chip or it could be finished wafers going to be binned and sorted down different lines. Some server CPUs use an entirely different die than desktop CPUs and thus are made from entirely different wafers, such as the Nehalem-EX's enormous 8-core die.

- The newest Opterons do not fit in desktop motherboards and cannot be overclocked on any existing motherboards. The 4- and 6-core Opteron 4100s use Socket C32 (LGA1207) and the 8- and 12-core Opteron 6100s use Socket G34 (LGA1944). The last Opterons that fit in desktop motherboards were the Opteron 1381, 1385, and 1389 "Suzuka" Opterons, which are analogous to the AM3 Phenom II X4s.
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February 24, 2011 7:57:00 PM

ohshaq said:
what's the difference between a desktop & server CPU? If one is looking out for a HiDef gaming & Media PC, would a server process hold any advantage over desktop one? What is it that different in terms of functionality? Life expectancy, upgrade issues? Motherboard constraints?
I am trying to approach it from a performance/price/feature point of view. Not socket number, ect.

Does anyone use a server cpu for such a platform? If not really... why?


I am running an opteron on my gamer using a desktop motherboard. No issues at the moment and don't really expect any. It's a quad core 2.6, with 6gigs of DDR3 RAM. Still looking at Video cards(ATI) with an 26"LCD TV/Monitor. Don't run heavy games on it, just the city and house building stuff. Will build my workstation somewhat like what was mentioned below, using a dual 6 plex and about 12gigs of RAM. Mite as well give it something to work with...Oh and they will be opterons on a workstation MOBO by ASUS.
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February 24, 2011 10:50:55 PM

ohshaq said:
what's the difference between a desktop & server CPU? If one is looking out for a HiDef gaming & Media PC, would a server process hold any advantage over desktop one? What is it that different in terms of functionality? Life expectancy, upgrade issues? Motherboard constraints?
I am trying to approach it from a performance/price/feature point of view. Not socket number, ect.

Does anyone use a server cpu for such a platform? If not really... why?


Server CPUs are designed to work in multiple CPU configurations. That is you have server motherboards that have sockets for 2 or more CPUs so if one CPU isn't enough you can add a second one of the same type to increase CPU power. Desktop CPUs can only work in single CPU configurations.

The above is the key difference between current generation desktop and server CPUs. ECC RAM is not that big a deal unless your doing critical financial transactions where errors can lead to big losses. For most of us desktop CPUs are more than enough.
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a c 99 à CPUs
February 24, 2011 11:39:47 PM

Quote:
spot the Opteron
http://ppbm5.com/index.html


There are two Opterons here, a dual 6128 setup and a dual 2431 setup. If you are trying to say something about their performance, realize that those chips are competing against a bunch of frequently highly overclocked Intel CPUs in a benchmark that is moderately but not extremely well-threaded but much more optimized for Intel CPUs than AMD CPUs.

abdussamad said:
Server CPUs are designed to work in multiple CPU configurations. That is you have server motherboards that have sockets for 2 or more CPUs so if one CPU isn't enough you can add a second one of the same type to increase CPU power. Desktop CPUs can only work in single CPU configurations.


Desktop CPUs can only work in one socket, but there are plenty of server motherboards that have only one socket, and some server CPUs cannot be used in multiple-CPU motherboards either- the Xeon 3400, 3500, and 3600 series come to mind.

Quote:
The above is the key difference between current generation desktop and server CPUs. ECC RAM is not that big a deal unless your doing critical financial transactions where errors can lead to big losses. For most of us desktop CPUs are more than enough.


Or if you want your machine to be more stable under long-term operation, particularly if you have a lot of RAM and use it. If you shut it off every night, ECC may not benefit you much. If your machine is a media PC or something of that nature that needs to be reliable and is left on 24/7, you might want ECC RAM.

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no. A workstation card are not geared for games and perform poor in it. The top quadro card that costs around 7000usd have the same specs as the Gtx 470 if I'm not mistaken.


IIRC the workstation cards based on the same die as a desktop card will play games fairly similarly. The big difference besides the price tag is that the workstation card's drivers are much, much better optimized for professional programs like CAD that use OpenGL.

Quote:
Workstation or server cpus like Xeons support Ecc memory and can be installed on a single socket or dual socket mobo.
They're almost the same as the I7 line but the I7 9xx cpus can't be installed on a dual socket mobo.
There's one Xeon cpu the W5680 which has the same specs as the 980x is a workstation server but can only be installed on a single socket motherboard.


The W3680 is the analog to the i7-980X. There is no W5680; the X5680 is a dual-socket-capable CPU.

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The main reason the above and I7 9xx series can't run in a dual socket mobo is due to the reason that they have only one QPI BUS where the Xeons got 2.
Further more the Xeons also actually include a couple more features often needed in business environments and not available on the i7 desktop processor. -

extensions to Intel’s Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O - closed loop thermal throttling, and open loop thermal throttling.

Note that workstation cpus ain't geared for gaming and there's only one mobo that you have a option to overclock the cpus that's the EVGA SR2.


The LGA1366 Core i7s and the Xeon 3500/3600 and 5500/5600 units use the same set of dies and actually have the second QPI bus controller in the silicon, if I am not mistaken. Intel just disables the second QPI bus in Core i7s and Xeon 3000s to get people to ante up considerably more money for the equivalent Xeon 5000 series CPU if they want the "privilege" of running a dual-CPU setup, and ponying up a LOT more money to be able to use four CPUs on one board. Both AMD and Intel used to do this, and Intel still does. AMD has since moved to using different sockets for the single-socket-only desktop chips (AM3), dual-socket server (C32), and quad-socket server (G34) and removed the vast majority of the price premium in buying dual-CPU and quad-CPU capable parts compared to what they used to charge and what Intel still charges.

Also, you can certainly play games with a workstation/server CPU. Current workstation/server CPUs that a mere mortal can afford (Xeon 5500/5600 series, Opteron 4100/6100 series- basically everything except for the Xeon 7500 series) can use the same unbuffered, non-ECC DDR3 RAM as desktops. Their gaming performance is identical to a desktop CPU with the same clock speed, core count, cache size, and turbo modes. They either just cost a lot more (Xeon 5000s) or have lower top-bin clock speeds (Opteron 4100s) to keep within a midrange TDP. The quad-CPU Xeon 7500 and Opteron 6100 parts wouldn't be as good of a performer as most desktop CPUs because of their laptop CPU-like clock speeds, but they do okay enough when hooked to a decent GPU.
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February 28, 2011 4:40:48 PM

Best answer selected by ohshaq.
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February 5, 2013 4:09:34 PM

OK, so I have a question. I have an abundance of SAS drives (Maxtor Atlas 10K V 73GB 3Gbps Serial Attached SCSI ( SAS ) Hard Drive 8J073S0), and I have a brand New LGA 775 Q9550 (Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz LGA 775 ).

I play games, video/photo edit and I like the idea of using the SAS drives in a RAID for performance and redundancy too. This would just be for my regular programs. I have a nice NAS 2TB setup already for storage. What would anyone recommend? I would like to use the Q9550, with 5 SAS drives on a Motherboard with SAS or maybe use a SAS controller for the drives? I have the drives and CPU, why not use them? Plus I have a huge Mountain MOD UFO case, plenty of room/fans. What Motherboard or combo with a controller?

I also have 3 NEW SSD's, considering those as well due to speed (just worried a bit about lifespan).
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