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Question on New Gaming Build (Triple Channel i7-950 vs Dual i5-2500k)

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May 21, 2011 5:54:14 PM

Hello,

I'm building a new computer and have a couple questions about the specifics. I approached two friends and they suggested two different setups for the processor, motherboard, and memory. The have been having a small debate on which is actually the better setup. I asked two more very computer-savvy friends their input and they are split as well.

Here are the setups:
Setup 1 (Frank):
Processor - $289.99 - Intel Core i7-950 Bloomfield 3.06GHz 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor BX80601950
Motherboard - $179.99 - MSI X58 Pro-E LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
Memory - $72.99 - Crucial 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066 (PC3 8500) Triple Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model CT3KIT25664BA1067

Setup 2 (Donald):

Processor - $224.99 - Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52500K
Motherboard - $179.99 - MSI P67A-GD65 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel P67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
Memory - $99.99 - CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model CMZ8GX3M2A1600C8

Here are their arguments:

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Frank:
"I feel like triple channel would surpass the dual channel; even if the processor may be just slightly better... i think the performance would on the ram would more than make up for it..."

Donald:
"ya someone mentiond once that tirple channel doesnt get fully utilzied and it was better to jsut stick w/ dual channel. that's why most sandy bridge motherboards do dual channel instead of triple but i did not confirm this"

Frank:
"triple channel ram that is rated above 1333 doesn't get utilized... (for instance your brother bought ram that is rated at 1600 mhz...) but he is only going to get to use 1333 unless he decides to overclock... which is risky... So since most ram is rated higher than 1333, yes its easy to see how people come upon that conclusion... however... three sticks all running at 1333 are faster than 2 sticks running at say 1600"

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Ali’s Comment’s:
For starters: Donald is right. Your practical gain out of triple channel memory may not offset the cost. I haven't looked at prices in a while to see if they've leveled out, but if you wanna spare some bank, go dual channel.You should go the Donald route in the spec sheet,

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Jackson's Comments:
All I can say is the more memory bandwidth, the better. It's hard to say though, which setup offers more. At first glance, tri chan does. But you have to remember that new processors come with new socket technology that just straight up offers more bandwidth on a lot of stuff. It's impossible to tell without some involved reading.

Donald's right in that the processor maybe slightly faster, but that probably won't ever be the bottleneck of your system. You can have a magic processor from the future that's 20x as fast, but it'll still be waiting to read from memory and disk, so you won't ever feel it. Imagine a guy who is really good at math, but I only give him 1 simple problem to solve a day. The rest of his day, is just wasted."
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Any help or advice would be extremely appreciated! If there is a "better" setup you can suggest for a similar price, go for it. Who do I trust?

Thanks! :D 


EDIT: For those interested, this is "the rest" of the setup I've looked at so far.

Graphics Card - $242.99 - SAPPHIRE 100312-1GSR Radeon HD 6950 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card with Eyefinity
Hard Drive - $59.99 - Seagate Barracuda ST31000524AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
SSD - $109.99 - SAMSUNG 470 Series MZ-5PA064/US 2.5" 64GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Case - $59.99 - RAIDMAX Quantum ATX-798WB Black SECC ATX Mid Tower Computer Case
Power Supply - $101.99 - COOLMAX RM-1000B 1000W ATX 12V v2.2/ EPS12V v2.91 SLI / CrossFire Ready Active PFC and Compatible with Core i3/i5/i7 Power Supply

This is the first machine I am building. Thus, I know very little.
May 21, 2011 6:37:32 PM

I would build the #2 system
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May 21, 2011 8:00:56 PM

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. Any particular reason why you chose it? Just think it is over all a better performing system?
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a b V Motherboard
May 21, 2011 8:32:53 PM

I vote #2, but change the cpu to 2600K. If it's strictly for gaming and web, then the 2500K is fine.
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May 21, 2011 8:48:05 PM

i also vote #2 because its a newer architecture if its a gaming computer keep it a 2500k and it will be upgradeable to ivy bridge in future.
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Best solution

a b V Motherboard
May 21, 2011 9:03:44 PM

I can't find any reviews of that Coolmax power supply, so don't know what it's quality is like. With power supplies it is better to buy units which you know are high quality, from reading a review and sometimes from buying from brands/manufacturers which are known for releasing only high quality products. Coolmax definitely aren't known for releasing high quality products (maybe my knowledge is the limitation).

Secondly you don't need a 1000W for your build even if you added another 6950, you may if you added a third but the Coolmax doesn't have enough PCIe cables for that. A 650W (or 750 if overclocking) PSU will be plenty.
Here's some options:
Corsair 750TXV2 80Plus Bronze $105 ($15 rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

XFX 650W XXX Edition 80Plus Bronze Modular $89 ($20 rebate, $4 shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If you want absolutely no limitations in terms of upgrading in the future and want to go for serious overkill then you'll probably have to spend closer to $150 to make sure you get enough wattage and quality.

As for your dilemma about what is basically performance difference between the two systems. I have seen no evidence to support Frank's initial statement, altho this link shows that there was virtually no difference in performance between dual channel and triple channel on the X58 chipset, so I don't see how the triple channel performance on X58 can be that superior to the RAM performance of dual channel on Sandy Bridge. So that leaves us with CPU performance where the Sandy Bridge processor is clearly superior than the i7 950 in almost every benchmark that I can remember (I haven't checked any in awhile so my memory could be failing me).

Another consideration is upgrading, it is basically not worthwhile to add a third graphics card to Sandy Bridge motherboards, so if you want the option to add a third graphics card then Nehalem-Bloomfield would might be the better option.

The final consideration is cost, I calculated the cost difference at ~$40 and only one thing would be worth the extra cost and that is the option to add a third graphics card, which sometimes is not worthwhile either due to the uncertainty in performance scaling, potential driver issues and diminishing returns, value etc.

TLDR; My vote goes to the Sandy Bridge build.
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May 21, 2011 10:56:53 PM

Thanks so much for the replies and help! I've decided to go with the power supply you recommended, Silvune, and the second setup with the i5-2500k.
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a b V Motherboard
May 22, 2011 1:04:32 AM

dont buy msi seriously there rubbish dont do it

2500k vs 2600k its not a benchmark thing its a user thing, its worth the extra
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May 22, 2011 1:55:22 AM

You should really be going with Donald's choice, even thought it's dual channel, the controller is actually much faster, and thus gives similar bandwidth to triple channel http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sandy-bridge-core-i... also since you have 1600mhz RAM for the 2500K you'll be even better, compared to the 1066mhz of the 950
Beyond that the preprocessor is faster, RAM speed makes very little difference in gaming once there's no bottleneck.
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May 22, 2011 7:37:12 AM

Best answer selected by FluX75.
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