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Another, "which cpu is best"; but with specific considerations

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May 29, 2011 1:39:31 AM

Okay, I got put in charge of a project my company is competing in. All of our national branches is setting up for a distributed "number crunching contest". Basically it is to advertise out company name by ranking high as we can get.

Each branch has been given a budget of $1200.00 to deign a system, and I'd really like my machine to be number one in the company. Now, I'm not asking anyone to deign a system for me, I got that covered. I've just been reading some mixed reviews, and would like some advice from other experts.

The basic process of the data to compute falls into two categories:

1) computing a single unique token as many times as possible, as fast as possible
2) computing a unique token, and comparing the results to dozens of individual predefined values, as fast as possible.

Stamina is important too! The machine must be going for one week at 100% CPU power. I plan on overclocking a slight bit, to squeeze every last CPU cycle. No worries, I've got cooling covered, since it will be in an environmentally controlled network operations center with dozens of critical boxes, and I'm experienced with overclocking cpu's and gpu's with reliable results.

One other consideration: Yes, I plan on taking advantage of the ability to use Cuda H.W. acceleration, as defined in the rules of the contest. Keep in mind, scores are given for CPU cycles as well as total CPU and GPU cycles. So, while Cuda acceleration is going to be big, I need to squeeze as many CPU cycles as possible. So just buying a dirt cheap CPU and spending the entire budget on the fastest Fermi GPU wouldn't help much. Just for the record, I'm overclocking SLI'd GTX 460'ss or GX2's (depnding on what ebay has to offer). I'm not asking for anyone to recommend a GPU.

Here are the candidate CPU's:
1) i5 2500 Sandy bridge - quad core
2) AMD 3.6 GHZ Phenom 4 Black Edition - quad core
3) Q9550 12MB L2 cache - quad core

I threw the Q9550 in the mix because I feel it would really take advantage of the 12MB cache when testing a computed token against the predefined results. Other than that pure, fast CPU cycles is what I need.

P.S. this is running on Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. So the O/S has been designed for optimization with multiple cores. Some of the operations in the distributed client application have been optimized for multi-core CPU's, but generically. So, an AMD six core, or i7 optimization is only built into the O/S. And I do not want to get an i7.

Oh, almost forgot; yes, I've considered an i7, but feel since the distributed agent is not optimized for multi-threaded cores, I'd be better off spending around $200.00 on the CPU, to put the money saved into GPU cycles.

TIA, for all recommendations, and advice! :) 

More about : cpu specific considerations

a b à CPUs
May 29, 2011 1:43:23 AM

i5 2500K
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a b à CPUs
May 29, 2011 2:38:44 AM

Not a regular 2500 but the 2500K model (for overclocking).

It will be able to out compete any of those other CPUs mentioned in terms of IPC (Integer Per Clock) and IPC appears to be what you're going for (more work per clock cycle per core).

I would pair it with the lowest Latency memory you can find (with a clock speed matching of exceeding that of your BCLK). Memory reads and writes would be important for such a project and the lower the access times the quicker the reads and writes.

Perhaps equipping the system with an SSD (in order to increase the speeds and reduce the latency of reads and writes being performed on the storage device).
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a b à CPUs
May 29, 2011 3:03:04 AM

you should go for the i5 2500k.
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May 29, 2011 3:04:32 AM

The Sandy Bridge architechyure is the most functional. ElMoIsEviL is right about memory too.
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May 29, 2011 3:41:12 AM

Just throwing this out there. Would a 6-core AMD beat the i5-2500k in this specific situation? I'm just wondering if having more cores would be more helpful than the added speed of sandybridge. I'm assuming any of the 6-core i7's are out of the price range.
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May 29, 2011 4:29:36 AM

Okay thanks guys! I've purchased some stuff and will mark ElMoIsEviL's answer as the best.

Just to satisfy curiosity I'll list what I went with:
i5 Sandy Bridge 2500K

BioStar BIOSTAR TP67XE (B3) -- I've read this board constantly gets really good overclocks with the 2500K

Antec Lanboy Air Case -- I kinda splurged on a case that is laid out well and provides max cooling -- if the machine overheats/crashes it disqualifies me.

Gskill Ripjaw Mem modules 4GB -- I really do not think adding another 4 gigs would help much. To be sure I'm gonna optimize Windows 7 settings for performance, disabling Aero and only running essentially applications and services. I did some testing on my gaming rig, taking out 4GB. Running similar operations, there was no difference between 4GB and 8GB. CAS Latency on these was rated @ 6, the lowest I could find, at an affordable price.

EDIT:
I really hope the distributed client application doesn't have poor memory management. Considering this, I might try to squeeze in another 4GB.


Got a ZALMAN CNPS9500 CPU heatsink. It's a pain to install and puts little cuts on hands and fingers from the fins, but cools very well. I've got one on my gaming rig....

With graphics, I'm still contemplating. I'm looking at a single GTX 470 with over 400 Cuda Cores, but the heat issues are scaring me! I decided not to go with a used, ebay gfx card, since I don't know what kind of stress the previous owner has put on it. And again, reliability is important.

EDIT: I decided to go with two MSI N460GTX Hawk Talon Attack GeForce GTX 460. It has superior cooling to the other 460's and is cost efficient. Even though the 470 is loads faster, it uses way too much power, making it hot enough to light a smoke (I've read reports of the 470 fermi hitting 94c playing games)


I've got a Patriot Inferno SSD, which I'm gonna use for the project. It has a Sandforce processor and reaches read/write speeds in excess of 250MB/ps.

thanx for all the great feedback!
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May 29, 2011 4:45:34 AM

Best answer selected by rdc363.
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May 31, 2011 12:55:16 PM

Please let us know your satisfaction with the build and competition results.
Thanks and regards Walter
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a b à CPUs
May 31, 2011 1:23:47 PM

This topic has been closed by Mousemonkey
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