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Avid video-editing build : Core i7 vs Xeon

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March 7, 2011 1:10:33 PM


Hi all,

i'm compiling a build for a dedicated video-editing setup that will run Avid Media Composer.

I covered most components but i'm struggling with the CPU.
I've read alot about the comparing between Intel Core i7 (looking at the 950 @ 3.06 ghz) and the Xeon's (say the 2,4 ghz E5620)

The Xeon's are more expensive and have slower clockspeeds and lower ratings on cpubenchmark.com :

the Xeon E5620 scores a 4625
the Core i7-950 scores a 6325

This seems like a huge advantage for the i7-950 while both these cpu's are similarly priced. I know that in single CPU computing like gaming the core i7 is the way to go.
Multi-core applications and rendering could then be more effective on the Xeon, which is what i'll be needing.

Can anyone enlighten me with some personal experience (or knowledge ;-)) about this matter..?
What about memory / bus speeds in these models?

many thanks,

Niels
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March 7, 2011 2:43:35 PM

I wouldn't bother with the Xeon unless you're planning on building a dual-CPU workstation. Yes, the Xeons are cherry-picked for the most robust silicon, but unless you're going to give it a serious overclock then it's not super important.

The question, really, comes down to the number of cores you're going to use. I come from an Adobe background so I can't have too many cores for Premiere and After Effects, and I think Avid is heavily threaded now too.

So how about this: check if Avid can make use of 6 cores.

If it CAN, then I'd go with a i7 970 and a solid X58 motherboard (probably a mid-range Asus or Gigabyte) and 12GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (no need to push the speed, but tighter timings like CAS 7 do make a smidge of difference). 4GB sticks are at a good price now, so you could even get 24GB without spending a fortune.


If it CAN'T, then skip straight to Sandy Bridge - they absolutely scream, run cool and stomp over everything short of a 6-core. i7 2600 on a solid P67 motherboard (wait until the SATA issue is fully resolved and B3 revision motherboards are back in stock - towards the end of this month) with 16GB RAM.

Even on the stock cooler you can get some great overclocking, so you could even look at the i7 2600K and ramp the speed up.


6-core i7 Gulftown vs 4-core i7 Sandy Bridge
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March 7, 2011 3:11:07 PM

Thanks for that, very helpful !

Looks Avid does support mult-core processing.

Currently i'm leaning towards a i7-950 which is literally half price that of a 970.

About you're pointing out the new sandy bridge : that's the new 2nd gen core i's right? How are they different in terms of cores from the standard core i7-(950 or 970)

Am I correct in that the Sandy bridge CPU's are true psychical quad cores whereas the older is a dual core with hyper threading (4 virtual cores)?

Bit confused about that..



cheers
a b à CPUs
March 7, 2011 3:19:53 PM

The i7 950 (as with all i7s regardless of generation) is a true quad with Hyperthreading, so that's 4 cores/8 threads.

The Sandy Bridge chips are better architecture and built on a smaller process, so they draw less power, run cooler and are better clock-for-clock.

http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/100?vs=287

That's a 950 vs a 2600K

Now yes, the i7 970 is twice the price, but the extra 2 cores will tear through your workload - how much time would you save working with a 6 core/12 thread processor? How long therefore would it take to recoup the extra investment?

That's my rationale, which is why for the new video suite and renderer in the office I went i7 970. All the other eidt suites are old Core 2 Quads, but I chose those over the cheaper Core 2 Duos because the extra cores benefited me.

Whether the new edit suite for work is a Sandy Bridge or a i7 970 remains to be seen.

March 7, 2011 4:24:39 PM

great thanks, will consider the i7 970..

That covers my cpu dilemma i'd say. What would you advice GPU wise..?
Avid officially only certifies nvidia quadro's but I know regular GeForce cards also work. You think it's worth the xtra investment in a quadro? I' ve heard of softmodding a Geforce to make it work like a Quadro..

I'm asking cause the Quadro's are quite pricey too..

I know this is no longer CPU talk but you're advice is much appreciated :) 

cheers
a b à CPUs
March 7, 2011 7:42:05 PM

I didn't know Avid had CUDA acceleration too. No idea about that but I'll look. I use the CUDA acceleration in Premiere CS5 with a GTX460 2GB and it rocks, no need for a Quadro. Had to do the software mod of course.

If Avid can do the same then go with a gaming card, not a Quadro - still do the job, have just as much RAM but a fraction of the cost.
March 7, 2011 10:28:15 PM

Thanks Dadiggle,

I was planning on doing a raid-0 config.. But do you mean using two disks as scratch disks just to render etc. or also to capture and store the digitized media.. ?

For example I was think considering one 90-120 GB OCW SSD for system and programs to get maximum system speed I/O. Then two 1 TB drives in raid-0 for capturing media.

cheers
!