Initial Review on i7 Upgrade

The Old:
C2Duo e6550 @ 2.33GHz, occasional OC to 2.66GHz
cheap Gigabyte mobo (was a replacement of a much nicer MSI board that suffered a power overload)
4GB (2x2) of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 800
EVGA 9800GT with S1 passive cooler
Cooler Master 480W PSU

What I Kept:
Thermaltake V3 Black Edition case (much better front panel than the V4, and wonderful airflow for such a cheap case!)
Seagate HDDs, 500GB system, 1TB Documents, 1TB Projects (one of these TB drives is going on 6 years old, will replace when drive prices go back down)
LiteON Blue ray reader/DVD burner
Zalman CNPS9500 CPU Cooler (yes, bought it before I knew what I was doing, but still better than stock. Will replace later)
2 Thermaltake case fans

The New:
i7 2600 (I am not an overclocker at heart, so I saved $30)
16GB (4X4) Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1333
AS Rock Extreme3 Gen3 mobo
Sparkle GTX 570
Some off-brand black USB media card reader I picked up from work, not very fast, but fits nicely in the floppy drive bay.

Win7 64bit Home
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, Editing compressed 1080p footage
Adobe Video Collection CS (only really use Audition (favorite program of all time!) and the occasional Photoshop from this suite)
The Occasional Game, So far only tried Dragon Age Origins Ultimate

This is just a general review of the changes I saw in performance from the old to the new system. I just put the thing together last night, so I cannot really say I have done any extensive testing yet, but there are many on this site who have had upgrade questions, and my thought was to give some first hand idea on what to expect.

While I am still stuck at a WEI of 5.9 due to my system drive, everything else is at 7.6 or above. Ironically, my wife has a near clone of my old system (C2Duo e7xxx, 8600GT with passive cooler), but after a recent HDD failure I replaced her system drive with a 60GB OCZ Solid 3, and it is much snappier than my new system for startup/shutdown/wake and opening programs. Just goes to show that SSDs are not a waste of money even on older systems, and I fully intend to take advantage of SSD cashing on my mobo when I financially recover from this initial upgrade. As most of what you do in Windows is HDD dependent, I will say I am a little disappointed, and while a little more snappy, Windows is for the most part at the same level as it was before the upgrade. The big exception to this rule is that when you have Ram to spare win7 will leave closed programs suspended in Ram. So while it takes a little bit to open a program the first time, it is near instant the 2nd time. I am sure this will change when I can get an SSD.

I was expecting this beast of an upgrade to make a lot of noise, but I am finding that it is quite tolerable for the moment. Last year I put some money in passive and low RPM coolers for the old system, and the only thing that was really audible were the HDDs. Obviously there is a bit of noise now, but not as much as expected. My guess is that it is in the low/mid 30's dba, but none of the fans have a harsh tone to them like the old system had, so I may wait on a GPU after market cooler. I do get free fans at my work (a non profit refurbisher for schools and low income families), so I will probably grab some nicer (and non-LED) fans from broken Dell units I find. Note that I was able to reuse my LGA775 cooler on this system, and it works great (though not as great as a 212).

Video Editing:
So, the real story behind this build is the ability to do more video editing. I went to college as a film major and just fell in love with post production. I am admittedly not the best camera man, but editing is fun, creative, and oddly addictive. The old C2Duo system was just fine with my old Adobe Premiere Pro CS1.5 for SD video editing (though it was built more as a web and movie machine), but over the summer I got a very decent (though not quite Pro quality) video camera (Panasonic SD800k, very color accurate, very quiet running on flash media, just a little quality issue due to compression, but still worlds better than other cameras in the $600-1000 range), which also required a newer version of Premiere to recognize the footage. With the new camera there were just too many bottlenecks; CPU was always at 100%, Ram and VRam were both full, and the GPU was too old to take advantage of. Pressing play resulted in a 1 sec delay before playing at ~8fps, and if there were too many transitions then the video would freeze all together, and rendering took FOREVER. This same project that has been such a thorn in my side runs great on the new system. Pressing play gives an instant result at full quality, and full frame-rate, the project takes just over 11GB of Ram (no wonder I was having issues lol), the CPU runs ~40-60%, and some of the effects I was using (video cleanup, and speedup) are now rendered on the GPU through the mercury engine. I have not exported yet, so I am not sure quite how fast that will be, but from reviews online I am expecting a 3x increase, and possibly more if I RAID my 1TB drives.
Lastly, I feel that I could have gotten away with a i5 2400 or 2500K. From what I can tell CS5.5 is not taking much advantage of the hyper-threaded cores, preferring to put the bulk of the load on the physical cores, but this may change now that I do not have to hold back on transitions and effects. Perhaps with more load the HT cores will be more important? I know the HT will help with the 3D modeling I want to play with later, so maybe it wont be a complete waste.

It is true, current games do not take advantage of Hyper-Threading, so don't waste your money on an i7 unless doing work that takes advantage of them (that $100 would be better used on a GPU or SSD). I have only played Dragon Age: Origins so far, but the experience is entirely different already! While the game was playable on the 9800GT, I was not able to play at max settings, much less AA, without a FPS drop. Now I play with it all on full and vsink never changes from 60fps. I hope this will provide a similar experience to Mass Effect 2, and I cannot wait for Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim (which this should also handle like a dream). I am also debating about grabing Batman and installing the old 9800GT as a Physics card :), but as I dont have much time to game (and the wife just may kill me if I spend any more money right now) I will probably wait on that.

On a related note; Going from DVI to HDMI on my monitor would prevent my monitor from sleeping when the computer was asleep, so I had switched to DVI to VGA (a bit of quality hit, but at lest I didnt have to turn the monitor on an off all the time). On the new GPU I get to go straight HDMI, and everything works the way it is supposed to. When I did this the GPU took over the sound card, but it was a simple change in the audio preferences to get optical audio back.

I LOVE THIS BOARD! I had originally decided on a nice MSI P67 board (which probably would have suited most of my needs), but the forums here reminded me about quicksink and SSD cashing available on the z68 chips (and MSI doesn't make a good z68 board), and they pointed me to this AS Rock Extreme3 Gen3, and it is great (and only $20 more than the original board I was looking at)! I was able to keep my LGA775 cooler (keeping the i7 at a respectable 55*c under load while on the lowest fan setting), it looks good while having a good layout (imagine that!), and it has a great feature set with tons of USB and controlled fan headers.
Optical audio is everything I have dreamed it would be! While there are pickier audiophiles in the world, I am a stickler for having a clean sound with a good signal:noise, and optical gives the best possible option for that. The amp I have may never do surround sound justice, but as stereo it is one rocking system (Pioneer VSX-515 with custom build speakers or Sennheizer headphones). I would rate this way better than my old Audigy Platinum EX that I loved for so long until Win7 made it unusable.
This mobo has 2 CPU fan headers for duel fan heatsinks, and 3 case headers. All of them have level settings to choose from, and if you fill the case with fans, and set them all to level 1 you can run a high flow low noise system :).
I was not a fan of the gold on black in the pictures, but in real life this is one beautiful board, and not very expensive.
Cannot wait to try RAID, quicksink, and SSD cashing, but those will wait for another day.
I tried some of the software that came with it for their instant boot, network monitoring, and other things and found them more annoying than useful, so I uninstalled them. The eXtreme Tuner seems good though, and while I cannot OC with my chip it at least gives me fan options without having to go back into Bios.
Lastly, UEFI Bios is quick, beautiful, and wonderful. Being able to use the mouse in BIOS is liberating, and there are more options in there than you can shake a stick at :) (I even found one to turn off the power button LED)

While not exactly an expert on power supplies I can attest to this PSU being dead quiet, and very accurate on voltage while under the load I can give it. It is currently overkill for my system, but I plan on SLi down the line and wanted to be ready. As a side note; they put the labels in such a way so that if you mount the PSU upside down (like I did to use it to evacuate some case air in my bottom mount case) the label is still right-side up.

Final Thoughts:
I probably could have saved $100 on the i5 instead of the i7, but I am very happy with everything else here. At idle everything sits in the low to mid 30's, and under load the hottest thing is my GPU in the mid/upper 60's (but not high setting on fan). I will definitely SSD cashe later as I cannot fit everything I use on an SSD I can afford (before formatting I was using just under 200GB on my program drive), so that will boost my windows performance. Still debating of using RAID for my drive setup for redundancy, or to use a media and scratch drive for better editing and rendering throughput. I will also get an after market GPU cooler, but I am pleasantly surprised that I am not annoyed by the noise level of the stock one.
Can't wait for my $100 in rebates that will trickle in over the next 3 months.

Well, that is it for now. I hope someone finds this helpful when looking to upgrade!
And Good Luck to all your hardware exploits!
7 answers Last reply
More about initial review upgrade
  1. Get a H67/61 board from Asus/Gigabyte/MSI. Should be plenty good for you. The rest of your system looks pretty good from where I'm at.

    Drop the PSU to a 600/650 Watt one and you REALLY don't need to worry 'bout the HSF. The Intel one is gonna be more than good enough.

    For the PSU I'll recommend PCP&C, Corsair, Antec or Silverstone. OCZ is good but not exactly tier one.

    For Nvidia GPU I'll go with EVGA, Asus or MSI. For you, EVGA (AR) with lifetime guarantee makes a lot of sense.
  2. I think you misunderstand; I already bought the parts and put them together last night. And generally a core system lasts me ~5 years, so I want upgrade options (like 32GB of ram when 8GB dimms drop in price, SSD cashing, raid, SLi, etc.) as well as a solid mobo that I have more control over than a basic one (regulated fan speeds, less cramped layout, etc.). Plus, this only costs ~$30 more than a decent H67 board, so why not go with something better?

    I agree that the stock intel cooler is more than adequate (amazing how small it is!) at cooling the processor. My only beef with them is that what little noise they make is just harsh sounding, which is why I bought the Zalman in the first place. However, I will likely upgrade to the 212 later (give the zalman to my wife's computer) as it is even quieter. I really love having a low noise threshold when editing, it is very important.

    For 2 570's in SLi I will need ~700W, thus the 750W PS and not something smaller. Sure it will be down the line, but I'd rather pay once rather than twice. I was going to get a PCP&C, but this one also has great reviews (even if they are relatively new to the power supply game), and it was on sale, plus rebate making it a killer buy (though hopefully not killer as in killing my fun new parts). I have bought Corsair and Antec power supplies for builds in the past and have not been very impressed with them. The OCZ is quite hefty, very silent when I tested it outside the system, and has many of the features of other great power supplies, so it ought to do the trick.

    I know Sparkle is not exactly a top brand (the name alone makes one want to run away lol), but I have bought their equipment before and always had great luck at a lower price. This one in particular has a better cooler than the others in the price point (using a blower across the length of the card instead of fans) which is important to me, and I am quite happy with the noise level of it.
  3. Still living in Mom's basement?
  4. Ive got a basement of my very own. Supposedly I own the rest of the house too, but dont tell my wife that. :P
  5. 1. your cjoice for a PSU its OK. More power outputs means you have a cooler PSU
    2. i dont know if Adobe Premier CS5 takes advantage of Quicksink, if it does then you made an excelent choice with the CPU.
    3. being an ocasional gamer i would have chosen a GTX 580 over the 570 SLI. Dont get me wrong, it is a great setup, but if you dont play alot you rather avoid the SLI problem that can occur (microstuttering, compatibility issues with newer games etc)
  6. THX, caedenv. I suppose I needed that.
  7. @crisan
    I went with the 570 because it is in the budget now, and I will SLi down the road, while the 580 is simply out of reach financially at the moment. Besides, what I have seen today in use the 570 is more than enough for my use.
    CS5.5 does not take advantage of quicksink, but working in video one is always converting and compressing something to either make things work, or free up space, so I will get plenty of use from it.
    Kicking myself on the PSU now. The PCP&C 750W I was originally looking at now has a rebate making it only $20 more than the one I bought. Still, I think the OCZ will serve me well for years to come.

    lol, no prob. In real life I have a wife and baby, a house, 2 cars, am the head manager where I work, and recently have started sprouting grey hairs. Usially I get mistaken for being much older than I am, not younger, and it's kinda a nice change :)
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