Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

XEON or i7

Last response: in CPUs
Share
May 9, 2011 1:13:30 AM

Hi!

I decided that I need to upgrade my system, the system I use as a workstation (+ general internet related things). A member of this board reminded me that I should take a look at the XEONs, so here I am. :) 

Some things about the system's use and other specifications:
- my work: I'm running around 10 different programs, all constantly reading from a database, in total they take up around 8gb of ram, so I'll need 12gb of ram (later perhaps even more). ECC is really not a must, just a bonus (I have friends doing the same things with non-ECC ram, without any problems; so it really should influence the decision).
- all those programs don't really use the CPU that much, so there's no real need for 2 CPUs.
- I plan to use 2 Vertex 3 SDDs in RAID 1 (if it matters).
- I also plan to use 4 30" LCDs connected to 2 graphic cards (it shouldn't matter, but what do I know).

Now to my questions:
1. When I look at the benchmarks, I notice that i7s seem to outperform the XEONs, which worries me a bit. Are my worries justified?
2. Are there any compatibility problems with XEONs and computer software? (this could be a stupid question ;) )
3. Is there anything else I should worry about?
4. Pros and cons, please.

Thanks!
Regards,
Sporty

More about : xeon

May 9, 2011 1:22:07 AM

Just to add one thing: costs also shouldn't influence the decision as I'm willing to spend IF something provides true benefits!
a c 99 à CPUs
May 9, 2011 2:10:25 AM

sporty8 said:
Hi!

I decided that I need to upgrade my system, the system I use as a workstation (+ general internet related things). A member of this board reminded me that I should take a look at the XEONs, so here I am. :) 

Some things about the system's use and other specifications:
- my work: I'm running around 10 different programs, all constantly reading from a database, in total they take up around 8gb of ram, so I'll need 12gb of ram (later perhaps even more). ECC is really not a must, just a bonus (I have friends doing the same things with non-ECC ram, without any problems; so it really should influence the decision).
- all those programs don't really use the CPU that much, so there's no real need for 2 CPUs.
- I plan to use 2 Vertex 3 SDDs in RAID 1 (if it matters).
- I also plan to use 4 30" LCDs connected to 2 graphic cards (it shouldn't matter, but what do I know).


All right, I think I might be able to help you.

Quote:
Now to my questions:
1. When I look at the benchmarks, I notice that i7s seem to outperform the XEONs, which worries me a bit. Are my worries justified?


It depends on which Xeons you are comparing to which i7s in what programs. Many Xeons are essentially identical to Core i7s except that they support ECC memory. Xeons in LGA1155, LGA1156, or LGA1366 are going to perform similarly to an i7 of the same socket type, core count, and clock speed when paired up with similar memory. The reason some of the single- and dual-processor Xeon results may seem to be slower than i7s is because Xeons on actual server boards can't be overclocked and also the high-capacity registered memory used with some Xeon setups can impact performance to a mild degree. It's not until you get to the high-core-count, low-clocked Xeon MP derivatives (Beckton, Westmere-EX) paired up with the laggy FBD2 memory interface that you get performance that's wildly different from Core i7s. Your usage case doesn't have any benefit from a second CPU. You would get single-socket Xeons to get ECC support, and their performance will be identical to a similarly-clocked i7 with a similar core count, because they are the same chip. Intel just didn't burn the fuses to turn off ECC in the dies that get marked "Xeon" in that case.

Also, you say the CPU isn't getting stressed too much, your program sounds like it's mostly disk-bound anyway, so I really wouldn't worry too much about a small performance difference even if it did exist.

Quote:
2. Are there any compatibility problems with XEONs and computer software? (this could be a stupid question ;) )


Xeons nearly always support the same instructions and have the same capabilities as desktop chips made at the same time, so you wouldn't run into any problems just because the chip is a Xeon instead of a Core 2 or Core i7 or whatever. I've been using Xeons and Opterons in general-use workstations for years and have never encountered any problems with them simply because they weren't technically desktop chips.

Quote:
3. Is there anything else I should worry about?

4. Pros and cons, please.


You are making a workstation to do Real Work (tm) with, so you want it to be very reliable. I'd strongly suggest an ECC-capable setup since memory errors can and do happen, especially if you have a 10 GB+ working set like you do. That means a Xeon as well as a server motherboard that explicitly says it has ECC support. Supermicro, TYAN, Intel, and ASUS are vendors that carry suitable single-socket Xeon boards. Unbuffered ECC RAM is about 10-15% more expensive than standard non-ECC unbuffered desktop RAM and a single-socket Xeon carries around a $20 or so premium over an equivalent i7, so there's not much of a reason to not use ECC RAM. You also want a high-quality power supply and decent case ventilation. That's about all you can do from a hardware standpoint to make it stable; the rest of making a reliable workstation is software. I am guessing you probably have a certain software stack you have to use, so I won't go into that here.
Related resources
Can't find your answer ? Ask !
May 9, 2011 7:06:35 AM

Very useful information, thanks!

Everything is starting to point to XEON & ECC. :)  Also the fact that for the last 5 years or so, I used my current standard desktop like 80% for work, the rest internet & emails. No games, movies etc.

Do you have any tips on the XEON, ECC & board combination? Currently I use i7 940, I would like something at least as fast.
Are Asus WS boards good for XEONs?
a c 99 à CPUs
May 9, 2011 12:09:34 PM

sporty8 said:
Very useful information, thanks!

Everything is starting to point to XEON & ECC. :)  Also the fact that for the last 5 years or so, I used my current standard desktop like 80% for work, the rest internet & emails. No games, movies etc.

Do you have any tips on the XEON, ECC & board combination? Currently I use i7 940, I would like something at least as fast.
Are Asus WS boards good for XEONs?


The ASUS workstation LGA1366 boards (P6T series) do work with the Xeons and do support ECC memory when paired up with a Xeon. The Xeon equivalent to the i7 940 is the Xeon W3540. There are also newer Sandy Bridge-based LGA1155 Xeon boards out there too and the Sandy Bridge E3-1200 Xeons are going to be faster than the i7-940, but they only have 20 lanes of PCIe bandwidth from the CPU and thus only have one PCIe x16 slot. If you have an i7-940 and an ASUS workstation motherboard, just plop a Xeon 3500 or 3600 in there with some ECC RAM and call it a day, or wait for the upcoming LGA2011-based Xeons with more PCIe bandwidth. I guess your other alternative is to go get an ASUS, TYAN, or Supermicro socket AM3 motherboard and put one of the fastest Phenom II X4s or X6s in there and pair it with four 4 GB ECC RAM modules. AMD doesn't support ECC on Semprons but does on all of the rest of their desktop CPUs, but as far as I know only ASUS bothers to turn on the ECC capability in their AMD desktop boards. TYAN and Supermicro make AM3 server boards.
May 9, 2011 10:17:59 PM

Well this whole thing started last week when my current P6T deluxe board couldn't handle 12gb (no problems with 8gb for 2 years, but now I added 4 more since it was running at full capacity). It's an older version (2+ years) and it even says in the manual that it can't run 12gb at some speeds (and there are people all over the internet saying they have problems trying to run 12gb of ram on it).

Anyways, I have to change the board either way, and yeah I'm mostly looking at the P6T WS boards.
I'm also running Vista (yeah, I know; was too lazy to change to 7), so I decided it's time for a completely new system (will transform the current one into "family PC").

As for the Sandy Bridge boards. Interesting, but I think I have to have at least 2 PCIe x16 slots (for my 4 30" LCDs). Are they going to be much faster?
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2011 12:12:38 AM

sporty8 said:
Well this whole thing started last week when my current P6T deluxe board couldn't handle 12gb (no problems with 8gb for 2 years, but now I added 4 more since it was running at full capacity). It's an older version (2+ years) and it even says in the manual that it can't run 12gb at some speeds (and there are people all over the internet saying they have problems trying to run 12gb of ram on it).

Anyways, I have to change the board either way, and yeah I'm mostly looking at the P6T WS boards.
I'm also running Vista (yeah, I know; was too lazy to change to 7), so I decided it's time for a completely new system (will transform the current one into "family PC").

As for the Sandy Bridge boards. Interesting, but I think I have to have at least 2 PCIe x16 slots (for my 4 30" LCDs). Are they going to be much faster?


I had this discussion today. Either Xeon X3470 or i7-875k.

http://ark.intel.com/Compare.aspx?ids=42932,48499,

I would be an idiot not to go with the Xeon.


Russ

P.s. - the price is the same mind you

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

http://www.amazon.com/Intel-i7-875K-2-93GHz-Processor-B...
May 10, 2011 1:24:14 AM

I see these Xeons are much cheaper than I thought (350$). Nice. I was sure I'll have to spend in 4 figures.
What's the difference between these models and the ones that go for around $1000? For example X5650.

Also I see many various XEONs: X****, L****, E****, W****, E3-****. Are they for different uses?
(disregard this ... found a nice post explaining different XEONs)
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2011 2:50:19 AM

sporty8 said:
I see these Xeons are much cheaper than I thought (350$). Nice. I was sure I'll have to spend in 4 figures.
What's the difference between these models and the ones that go for around $1000? For example X5650.

Also I see many various XEONs: X****, L****, E****, W****, E3-****. Are they for different uses?
(disregard this ... found a nice post explaining different XEONs)



The one I gave you the link for is for socket LGA 1156... trust me I was highly surprised when I ran across it on Intels website as I was shooting for the core i7-875k then went to my mobos website and seen they're compatible.

http://www.asrock.com/mb/cpu.asp?Model=P55%20Pro/USB3

http://www.intel.com/products/server/processor/xeonE7/i...

http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=47922&wapkw=(xeon+x5650)

Those Xeons are 6-10 cores and have bigger cache (like 30 mb!) and the fact they're just monsters! That's why they are so much more. If you're not running some corporation they're complete overkill(probably wouldn't even work in an enthusiast board anyway). Honestly, I wasn't even considering them because I was under the impression they were $1000 and up but if you look you can easily see they're not. There's a reason Apple puts them in their Macs... I do some video stuff, gaming, etc so the Xeon would be perfect for me. The Xeons are held to a tighter manufacturing spec so have greater OC'ing potential.

Anyway, hope I gave you some ideas and helped you out.

here's a good board for you

http://www.asrock.com/mb/overview.asp?Model=P55%20Extre...

Russ
May 10, 2011 3:58:48 AM

You definitely helped!
Although now there are just SOOO MANY options, and it's going to be so hard choosing the right one.

Right now I'm thinking about X5650 on a P6X58-E WS board. Since it's for serious work, I'm willing to go to around $1000 for the XEON.

One thing I'm wondering. There's a W3690 costing pretty much the same, but it absolutely destroys the competition: CPUBENCHMARK
What's up with that? The best X56** cost up to $1500. Are there any serious disadvantages with the W3690?
a c 99 à CPUs
May 10, 2011 11:27:36 AM

sporty8 said:
You definitely helped!
Although now there are just SOOO MANY options, and it's going to be so hard choosing the right one.

Right now I'm thinking about X5650 on a P6X58-E WS board. Since it's for serious work, I'm willing to go to around $1000 for the XEON.

One thing I'm wondering. There's a W3690 costing pretty much the same, but it absolutely destroys the competition: CPUBENCHMARK
What's up with that? The best X56** cost up to $1500. Are there any serious disadvantages with the W3690?


The W3690 is the equivalent of the Core i7-990X but with ECC enabled. The Xeon X5650 supports dual-CPU operation (the W3690 does not) and ECC but is clocked at 2.67 GHz versus the 3.47 GHz of the W3690. Since you do not have a dual-socket board and will not be using two CPUs, the W3690 would be a much better choice for you.
a b à CPUs
May 10, 2011 12:01:10 PM

Check the link it should give you some ideas. Apple has got some nice stuff and you got can use it as a beacon of what to do.

http://store.apple.com/us/search?find=xeon&mco=Nzc1MjMw...

That 3690 is a beast. Make sure you get the right combo for it and you'll be fine. Kinda jealous to be honest, wish I had that money to spend lol. That site you linked I use it often. People are such suckers when it comes to the hoopla of i5, i7 etc... the xeons are the way to go. http://novabench.com/cpuchart.php

Anyway, good luck man and have fun!

Russ
May 11, 2011 12:43:12 AM

MU_Engineer said:
The W3690 is the equivalent of the Core i7-990X but with ECC enabled. The Xeon X5650 supports dual-CPU operation (the W3690 does not) and ECC but is clocked at 2.67 GHz versus the 3.47 GHz of the W3690. Since you do not have a dual-socket board and will not be using two CPUs, the W3690 would be a much better choice for you.

I see ... the choice looks clear then. :) 

For a moment I considered the option of getting a dual-socket board and 1 CPU for now (like X5650), to have the ability to upgrade and add another one in the future if there's a need, but I'm quite sure it won't be needed.
The CPU is under serious work only now and then, when I quickly need something, but it's for very short periods ... there's a much bigger & constant stress on the memory and the hard drives.
RussK1 said:
Check the link it should give you some ideas. Apple has got some nice stuff and you got can use it as a beacon of what to do.

http://store.apple.com/us/search?find=xeon&mco=Nzc1MjMw...

That 3690 is a beast. Make sure you get the right combo for it and you'll be fine. Kinda jealous to be honest, wish I had that money to spend lol. That site you linked I use it often. People are such suckers when it comes to the hoopla of i5, i7 etc... the xeons are the way to go. http://novabench.com/cpuchart.php

Anyway, good luck man and have fun!

Russ

Yeah, the more useful information I hear from all you guys, the more I'm in favor of Xeons. Thanks for all the useful tips!

& good luck to you too! Thanks for all the help.

Next stop: finding appropriate board. :) 
a b à CPUs
May 11, 2011 2:07:39 AM

sporty8 said:
I see ... the choice looks clear then. :) 

For a moment I considered the option of getting a dual-socket board and 1 CPU for now (like X5650), to have the ability to upgrade and add another one in the future if there's a need, but I'm quite sure it won't be needed.
The CPU is under serious work only now and then, when I quickly need something, but it's for very short periods ... there's a much bigger & constant stress on the memory and the hard drives.

Yeah, the more useful information I hear from all you guys, the more I'm in favor of Xeons. Thanks for all the useful tips!

& good luck to you too! Thanks for all the help.

Next stop: finding appropriate board. :) 



Call Apple and get some info.

http://store.apple.com/us/product/G0LG0LL/A?mco=MTY3ODQ...

Peace!
October 19, 2011 8:09:17 AM

Xeon with ECC is about 15% slower than non ecc ram with Xeon or i7.

Speed is not the reason to go with Xeon Ecc setup.

non ecc ram will have a soft error 1 in every 6-24 months the way most of us use our computers. This error might but not always end up in a hung program or even a crash. Software has some ability to correct errors for example corrupt data won't be saved to disk without being checked, and refused and resent for.

This is why Intel recommends Xeon/Ecc as a Mission Critical solution. ECC has a 9th chip to keep the parity bit.

Similarly Unregistered memory is faster than Buffered memory. Buffered mem is for higher energy requirements and is useful in really large memory and also slightly slows the memory function as it has what amounts to a wait state as it clears the registers.

I am not an engineer so I cannot explain it better than this. I spend many hours tracing down fact from fiction about ECC, Xeon over non ECC and non Xeon.
a c 99 à CPUs
October 20, 2011 12:07:46 AM

Tony_Scarpelli said:
Xeon with ECC is about 15% slower than non ecc ram with Xeon or i7.

Speed is not the reason to go with Xeon Ecc setup.


Everything I have seen says that ECC adds a very small (0.5-2%) loss in performance compared to the same type of non-ECC RAM. The overhead in ECC memory is in the memory controller performing the error detecting calculations.

Quote:
non ecc ram will have a soft error 1 in every 6-24 months the way most of us use our computers. This error might but not always end up in a hung program or even a crash. Software has some ability to correct errors for example corrupt data won't be saved to disk without being checked, and refused and resent for.

This is why Intel recommends Xeon/Ecc as a Mission Critical solution. ECC has a 9th chip to keep the parity bit.


Memory errors occur when a memory cell that holds active data unintentionally changes the value of the stored bit of data. This can occur because of a defective memory module, RF interference, DIMM age, or background radiation. So if you use a small percentage of your available RAM, you will see fewer errors. If you do not do many r/w operations to your RAM, you will see fewer errors. If you live in a place with lower than normal background radiation, you will see fewer memory errors. Most people have no clue as to how many errors really occur on their systems since systems running non-ECC memory do not detect memory errors. The errors silently occur and may do anything from having no effect at all all the way to causing a BSOD or kernel panic. Just about all servers have ECC memory and servers can log ECC errors. Google did a study of its servers and found that they had 25,000 to 75,000 errors per billion device hours per Mbit of RAM. That works out to one error every 2-5 hours per GB of RAM. Other studies quote anything from figures similar to Google's all the way to one error every 100 years per GB of RAM. Google's data comes from servers that they run at high CPU and memory usage levels, other studies quote other usage figures.

I have several systems that use ECC memory:
1. Workstation- 5 ECC errors in 12 months of operation, has 16 GB of memory. Fairly constant use of about 4 GB of memory. This works out to one error per GB of memory occurring every 3.2 years. Note that the ECC errors all happened when I was running CPU and RAM-intensive applications on the machine.
2. Old file server- no ECC errors recorded in 15 months of operation, had 1 GB of RAM. This system rarely saw any real loads and had a static RAM usage of about 50 MB.
3. Current server- no ECC errors recorded in six months of operation, has a fairly constant use of about 2 GB of its 4 GB of memory. Again, it doesn't have much CPU usage.
4. HTPC- while it uses ECC memory and ECC works, its chipset is bugged (Intel E7520) does not notify the OS when it has an error. One has to look in the BIOS error logs for ECC errors. The last time I checked it, it had no errors in six months of operation using 1 GB of RAM. It uses about 400 MB of RAM. I recently upgraded to 6 GB of RAM (somebody was giving away RAM) and haven't rebooted to check if there are ECC errors logged.

So in my observation, ECC errors do happen but they are not all that common UNLESS you run something CPU and RAM-intensive that needs a lot of RAM. Then you will likely see ECC errors and may want to detect and correct them. Your software likely does not do any error detection and correction apart from crashing if the error causes an overflow or a pointer to reference an invalid address or other problem that causes the program to have a segmentation fault and crash. An error that still results in "valid" data will cause your program to mis-calculate everything from there on out and your result will be screwed up.

Quote:
Similarly Unregistered memory is faster than Buffered memory. Buffered mem is for higher energy requirements and is useful in really large memory and also slightly slows the memory function as it has what amounts to a wait state as it clears the registers.


Assessing the performance difference between registered DIMMs (RDIMMs) and unbuffered DIMMs (UDIMMs) is very difficult as it depends a lot on your computer's setup and your workload. Registered memory delays all read and write commands by one clock cycle compared to unbuffered memory for the first clock cycle of a burst memory operation. Thus big long streaming operations on RDIMMs are essentially the same latency as on UDIMMs, while very random accesses are slower on RDIMMs. RDIMMs also allow for a 1-cycle command rate with multiple DIMMs compared to needing a 2-cycle command rate with two UDIMMs in a channel, which means that both UDIMMs and RDIMMs thus have the same 2-cycle effective command rate with two DIMMs per channel. Also, recognize that you can put a MUCH larger quantity of memory in a system using RDIMMs than UDIMMs because RDIMMs can use many more memory ICs per DIMM than UDIMMs can, plus you can have three RDIMMs per channel compared to two UDIMMs. UDIMMs can have up to two 64-bit ranks per DIMM using 8-bit-wide memory ICs. Current state-of-the-art memory tech is 4 Gbit ICs, so you can have 8 GB per unbuffered module and stick four of them in a dual-channel machine, good for 32 GB. Registered DIMMs can have up to four 64-bit ranks using either 8-bit-wide or 4-bit-wide modules. You could stick 64 four-bit-wide data ICs (or 72 with ECC) on a single module to make a 32 GB module. You can stick up to six of those in a dual-channel machine, good for 192 GB of total RAM. Caching data in RAM is a lot faster than reading it from disk, so having a lot of RAM for disk caching can lead to considerably better performance. However, registered memory usually carries a considerably premium over unbuffered, so you may be able to afford more unbuffered than registered memory.

Oh, and I should probably add a little bit about Fully Buffered DIMMs as well, since "buffered memory" generally refers to FB-DIMMs. FB-DIMMs are a special type of registered DDR2 that was mostly used on Intel's previous-generation Socket 771 Xeons as well as in a few other low-volume servers such as some Sun UltraSPARC units. They are not compatible with any other kind of DDR2 and won't even physically fit in a slot designed for other kinds of DDR2. It's essentially a cross between Rambus's RDRAM and DDR2, with a serial rather than parallel memory interface, very high memory cost, and memory that runs extremely hot. It's also very slow compared to any other kind of DDR2 with extremely high latencies. The appeal of FB-DIMMs were that you could stick 8 DIMMs in a single channel and that it was much easier to route the wires on the motherboard to FB-DIMMs than with conventional DDR2 (or DDR or DDR3 for that matter.) Intel ended up abandoning FB-DIMMs for conventional registered DDR2 for its last LGA771 Xeon chipset (i5100 "San Clemente") and used normal DDR3 in the next generation of servers (Nehalem, Westmere.)

October 20, 2011 1:36:07 AM

The point is that ECC is way over sold. It can only help solve single bit soft errors. Hard errors usually are hardware failure and result in replacement.

I built hundreds of small file servers and very small peer servers and I saw a great deal difference in the real world with what Intel and others were saying.

Still if you read what they say and compare them closely you gather clues to the truth.

Xeon and ECC are for mission critical apps. that is it. If running Qbooks on a peer server with 3 workstations is your use, you probably do not need Xeon, nor ECC.

The old saying holds true, if you cannot dazzle them with brilliance baffle them with bullshit.


The data shown below illustrates the results of an IBM analysis comparing server outages due to memory failures of parity, ECC and Chipkill-equipped servers.
In summary, the following outage rates were identified:
A 32MB parity memory-equipped server received
7 outages per 100 servers over 3 years.
The 1GB ECC memory-equipped server received
9 outages per 100 servers over 3 years.
The 4GB Chipkill-equipped server received
6 outages per 10,000 servers over 3 years.

Large server manufacturers have implemented additional error correcting hardware capabilities with a technology known as Chipkill. Per Dell, "Chipkill correct is the ability of the memory system to withstand a multibit failure within a SDRAM device, including a failure that causes incorrect data on all data bits of the device. These methods rely on the chip set and hardware architecture of the system and cannot be achieved through software upgrades."

Per Dell, "Memory errors are characterized as hard or soft. Hard errors are caused by defects in the silicon or metalization of the SDRAM package, and are usually permanent once they manifest. Soft errors are caused by charged particles or radiation, and are transient. In the past, soft errors were primarily caused by alpha particles, but that failure mode has been mostly eliminated today by strict quality control of the packaging material by SDRAM vendors. Currently the primary source of soft errors in SDRAM is electrical disturbance caused by cosmic rays, which are very high-energy subatomic particles originating in outer space."

January 22, 2012 1:17:22 AM

What I know is that Xeon CPUs are built or great for hosting websites and that i7s are great gaming and video editing processors. I also think that an i7 will be able to do whatever you need to do easily. I know for fact that the i3, i5, and i7 sandy bridge CPUs have integrated video. I am not sure if the Xeon does(however, if you are going to be doing work that require a lot of video, you may just want to buy a separate video card). But if you really need the power, you should buy an i7 Extreme.
January 22, 2012 8:49:01 AM

MU_Engineer said:
All right, I think I might be able to help you.


Quote:
Many Xeons are essentially identical to Core i7s except that they support ECC memory.


Im not a pro, but isn't ECC support depending on the board, rather on the CPU?
a c 99 à CPUs
January 23, 2012 2:04:27 AM

ECC support on CPUs with integrated memory controllers (all newer Intel/AMD CPUs) depends on the CPU as well as the board. No non-Xeon CPU with an IMC supports ECC memory as far as I am aware.
!