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What Core i7 CPU Family Should I Go With?

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  • CPUs
  • Intel i7
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April 4, 2012 5:55:35 PM

My trusty old P4 is starting to show its age. Time for a 9 year upgrade. I have many questions, but the first is which processor family to go with in the Core i7 line. I've been reading everywhere and talking to anyone who'll answer, and I'm still quite confused. I'm leaning towards a LGA2011, but have been shotgunned out of the sky with that suggestion in more than one nerd herd.

Approximate Purchase Date: May 2012

Budget Range: $300 - $400

System Usage from Most to Least Important: gaming (Diablo III), surfing, watching videos, managing music files, video-editing (no CGI or 3D)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Microcenter, newegg.com, tigerdirect.com

Country: United States

Parts Preferences: I would like to use an Intel CPU

Overclocking: Yes

Comments: Trying to future-proof myself as much as possible without breaking the bank. Something I can keep upgrading off of for at least 6 years.

Thanks in advance.

Joe

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April 4, 2012 6:28:55 PM

Is that budget just for the CPU or for the CPU and mboard? And if you're replacing the mboard, have you budgeted for new RAM too? And if you're overclocking, I think you'll want an aftermarket cooler too.

As for LGA 1155 vs LGA 2011, unless you're going for at least the i7-3930K, which by your budget doesn't look likely, you're left between the 2600K and 3820. Since both are hyper-threaded quad cores here's a copy/paste from a post I wrote yesterday.

The 3820 has better ALUs than the 2600K, so arithmetic and heavy number crunching ( including video editing, ) will be substantially improved. It also supports quad-channel memory with faster rates, so memory intensive tasks will be accelerated. If you're constantly throwing heavy tasks at this machine and it's important that it get done as soon as possible, then the 3820 may be the way to go.

However the 3820 is an all-around more expensive platform, and this particular model can't be overclocked. Not only is the CPU more expensive, but the mboards are much pricier, you need quad channel RAM kits, they require more electricity to run, and you'll need to buy your own CPU cooler. You may have already been planning on aftermarket cooling, and if you're doing heavy video editing, you may want extra RAM anyway, so those two points may be moot. However you're not going to get around the extra cost of the CPU and mboard ( the cheapest LGA 2011 boards are around $200 and that will get you a very nice Z68 board. )

In the end, it's what your budget dictates. It's hard to put a $$$ value on your time, so if you want to throw heavy editing at this thing and have it done as fast as possible, the 3820 may be worth the extra money to you ( and you may decide that a 3930K is even worth it for the extra cores and overclocking. ) But if you're on a budget and you just need a solid machine that can crunch numbers for hours on end but doesn't ahve to be the absolute fastest, the 2600K may be better for you.[/copypaste]

But you may not need an i7 either. The i5-2500K is $100 cheaper and performs about the same as the i7 in most regards. The extra L3, cores, and hyper-threading on the pricier chips will help in video editing, but nothing else. I've also heard the i7 is a higher bin wafer, so you might be able to overclock it better, but that's unsubstantiated. And I would guess the i7-2700K is the absolute highest binned Sandy Bridge ( for overclocking sake, ) but again that's a guess and you may not want to pay that premium either.

I guess for total future proofing, you'll want extra cores ( either physical or hyper-threading, ) and PCIe 3.0. While they may not be used a whole lot now, future games and software might take advantage of extra threads and PCIe bandwidth. That's your call if you want to pay extra for it.
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April 4, 2012 6:45:35 PM

How about:
i5-2500k $180
Asrock z68 extreme 3 gen 3 $75 you can only get this deal at microcenter! :) 
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April 4, 2012 7:06:10 PM

Thank you for your reply! Sorry I didn't search the site better for this excellent answer, and sorry I wasn't complete with my information.

The $300 - $400 budget was for the CPU alone. My budgets for the mobo and RAM are dependent upon figuring out what processor I want.

The 3820 I was looking at is from NewEgg: "Intel Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E 3.6GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 2011 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80619i73820" for $309. It looks like people are talking about overclocking it in the reviews. As your reply makes you an authority in my mind, is this model actually overclockable, or are these people just pushing this CPU into unsafe territory?

And supposing I was to pony up the extra $300 and move up to the 3930. Would the potential futurproofing make it worth the extra money?

Thanks again.

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April 4, 2012 7:23:47 PM

amuffin said:
How about:
i5-2500k $180
Asrock z68 extreme 3 gen 3 $75 you can only get this deal at microcenter! :) 


THIS! Spend the savings on girls. :sol: 
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April 4, 2012 7:32:28 PM

DXRick said:
THIS! Spend the savings on girls. :sol: 


How am I going to impress the nerdy chicks with a Core i5?! :sarcastic: 
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April 4, 2012 7:47:18 PM

AnalogKid said:
How am I going to impress the nerdy chicks with a Core i5?! :sarcastic: 

OVERCLOCK IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! And you add custom watercooling!
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April 4, 2012 8:37:10 PM

After re-reading the review on the 3930 vs 3820, I can't really recommend the 3820.

First, when I said it couldn't overclock, I didn't explain very well. Yes, you can overclock it, but you're limited in how high you can take the multiplier ( which is limited to the # of active cores. ) Anything further requires messing with the strap ratios, which I believe are dependent on the mboard. So yes, you can overclock it, but maybe not the way or to the extent you may want. Sorry for the confusion.

Second, while the 3820 does have improved arithmetic over the 2600, it's not a very noticeable unless you're doing really heavy number crunching, like encryption and 3D rendering. And most applications that benefit from the arithmetic also will use as many threads as your CPU can handle. And if this is what you're aiming at, I'd say the 3930K is the better value four the four extra threads. Otherwise you're spending much more money on a rather small improvement over the 2600K.

Third, the LGA 2011 chips don't have Quick Sync, which is very helpful in video encoding. But this may not be an issue to you if you get a graphics card that can accelerate it.

So I don't think I'd call the 3930K future proofing. You can only future-proof against tasks that aren't currently utilizing all your system resources, and stuff like 3DS Studio and Photoshop already exploit everything in a 3930K. Few games utilize four cores now, let alone six, so any improved parallelization in games of the future will probably just start utilizing the inactive cores on existing quad cores ( and maybe utilize more L3 cache, but that's debatable. ) Basically, the extra muscle in a 3930K just won't get flexed in games or occasional content creation.

If you're not sure right now whether you want/need that extra power, it makes me think that any video editing you're doing is more about a hobby than about regular heavy use. With that in mind, I think you can get by more than adequately with a 2600K ( or 2700K if you want to pay the extra couple bucks. )

If you're willing to spend extra money on LGA 2011, put that money instead toward a really nice case or a SSD instead.
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April 4, 2012 9:18:30 PM

RedJaron said:
If you're not sure right now whether you want/need that extra power, it makes me think that any video editing you're doing is more about a hobby than about regular heavy use. With that in mind, I think you can get by more than adequately with a 2600K ( or 2700K if you want to pay the extra couple bucks. )

If you're willing to spend extra money on LGA 2011, put that money instead toward a really nice case or a SSD instead.



Thanks for the in-depth analysis, I really appreciate it.

I used to build computers back when there weren't so many choices, so all this Core iX crap has me pretty confused. I'll start looking at the 2600Ks and 2700Ks and figure that out. I'll have to start another thread in motherboards when I've read through the site a little better.
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April 4, 2012 9:29:44 PM

Best answer selected by AnalogKid.
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April 4, 2012 9:36:58 PM

You don't need to make a new thread for each component. You can post a single thread in the Systems > Homebuilt section and everything can be discussed there.
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