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HP DL580 G4 vs. Core i7 SB Quad

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March 13, 2012 10:54:57 PM

Hello everyone,
I'm getting ready to put together a DAW (digital audio workstation) - basically a computer designed around music production software. My original idea was to put together a server for the task. However, after looking over the Steinberg forum, I see most of those folks like to stick in the mid-range processors, and they really like the Sandy Bridge set-up. Well, I started asking questions and have concluded they don't really know a lot about the upper end systems, so I thought I'd try this forum.

Basically, my question is this: is it smarter to purchase an older, used upper-range computer, or a new, top-end mid-range computer?

I ran across the following example on ebay:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/170800019128?ssPageName=STRK:ME...

Since this is a temporary link, here are the specs copied over:
-----------------------------------------------------
HP DL580 G4 4x Dual Core 7140M 3.4GHz/32GB/2x 146GB

Condition: Used, Tested Working. Rail Kit is included. Features:
Form factor: 4U rack height
Processors: 4x Xeon Intel 7140M Dual Core 3.4GHz/800bus/16MB L2 cache
Memory: 32 GB DDR-2 PC2-3200 (16x 2GB) - 4 Memory Boards
RAID controller: P400/512
Hard drives: 2x 146GB 2.5" SAS
Optical: DVD
Power supply: Qty 2
-----------------------------------------------------

This unit is selling for around $600, which seems pretty darned good.

On the other hand, I can build a respectable Core i7 Quad 3.4 GHz SB for about $1600.

Here is my best comparison, with my limited, out-of-date knowledge...

Sandy Bridge i7 vs. HP DL580 G4
-------------------------------------------------------
DDR3 vs. DDR2: DDR3 can be clocked up to 1333MHz, 30% faster than DDR2,
plus the 8-bit prefetch for DDR3, over DDR2's 4-bit. Realistically
twice as fast in this category. (?)

32 GB Max vs. 64 GB Max: With the present mobos, slower still offers more
Quad 64bit Dual vs. Quad 64bit Dual: Same # of processors; do both offer HT channels?
Core i7 vs. Xeon 7140M: Architecture has changed a lot in the i7 - still trying to grasp the difference
3.4GHz vs. 3.4 GHz: Same base clock speed, but probably not an apples-to-apples comparison
RAID vs. Hot Plg RAID: Hot plug not necessary, but would be nice to have.
Practically instant vs. 667 MHz FSB: I have educated myself on this since the original post
USB2/3 vs. USB2: USB 3 would be great, but not absolutely necessary.
SATA2/3 vs. SATA2: SATA 2 only would probably be in-line with the slower RAM, anyway
### Edited : $1700 vs. $600: This is where the comparison really makes a difference ###
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What will I use it for? (What is a DAW?)
In studio recording, we stream digital audio at (usually) 48 or 96 KHz sample rates, 32bits fp per sample. I will likely only sample at the smaller value, which is sufficient in most cases. I will track up to 24 of these channels simultaneously to the hard drive. That's 4 bytes x 48KHz x 24 ~ 4.6MB/s. After building the tracks, I could have potentially 50 tracks read from the hard drive, which is about double the bandwidth ~ 10MB/s. On top of that, we have heavy, real time processing on all channels - compression, reverb, delay, pitch shifting, noise reduction, EQ... there's no predicting. Add the fact that many of the audio files will be sliced, rearranged, and read back in real time, as well (the original files remain unaltered throughout the process such that unlimited 'undo' persists throughout the project). With such a system, latency does often become a problem. Musicians need to hear the music in real time as they're attempting to play along - we don't want half-second delays or even 200 ms delays will be a distraction. Ideally, 10 ms or less is ideal.

Now, I'm not in any big hurry, because I want to do this right. But I want to do it smartly. The question is, can the Generation 4 (older) server computer do all this? And does it really pale in comparison to the newer, smaller Sandy bridge chip? And does the difference in price make the older version the better deal, or should I just fork it over and be done with it?

More about : dl580 core quad

March 16, 2012 9:41:02 PM

XEON 7140 was a $1900 CPU when it came out in 2006.
Do you have a rackmount cabinet that would work with the server boards?

Best solution

March 16, 2012 10:04:32 PM
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I'm having a problem finding any meaningful comparison between CPU performance.

I'm thinking this might be the Passmark CPU benchmark score for the 7140:
(Dual CPU) Intel Xeon 3.40GHz - 1151
I feel pretty good about it's accuracy since the single core desktop version gets about half the score:
Intel Pentium 4 3.46GHz - 610

Intel Xeon MP 7140M @ CPUWorld
Intel Pentium 4 651 3.4 GHz

In comparison -
Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.10GHz - 6117
Intel Core i7-2600K @ 3.40GHz - 9098



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March 17, 2012 4:06:44 AM

Thanks for the response. Yes, I do have a server rack and a dedicated room just for such equipment. Thanks for the references, as well. I'll take a look and get back .....
March 17, 2012 4:34:39 AM

!!!!!!!!! Oh, My! :o 

!!!!!!

Holy Hannah! What a difference!

This is truly eye-opening! The gains in performance in the architecture over just a few years is quite staggering. I never realized how much of a rock I've been living under, until this very moment!!

I built my first home-made computer in 2003 - a P4 (P4T533 mobo from Asus, etc.). It's still running strong, with XP Pro, 32 bit.

I built my 2nd home-built job in 2006 - an LGA 755 Pentium Extreme, overclocked and watercooled. I spent too much on this system, but it, too still runs great, although not as stable as the first.

Obviously, I've been very proud of my "babies", bragging about how fast they were, to my buddies, but failing to keep in touch with computer reality.

Anyway, I thought I'd upgrade, while bypassing the overclocking scenario, since it's fairly time-consuming to get it right, and thought I'd be upgrading with a Xeon server, even if it was used and a couple years old. But I clearly see my folly in this approach. You have opened my eyes!

Good heavens, what a difference!!! I can't get over this! Thank you for throwing the floating doughnut my way!
March 17, 2012 11:00:22 AM

Overclocking on a K model is fast and painless.
A $40 air cooler will get a safe 4.5Ghz for your DAW workstation.
The Sandy Bridge follow on - Ivy Bridge - is coming out shortly. About a 10% improvement and about the same price. Motherboards will be a bit more but you won't require a top end MB.
March 18, 2012 8:42:29 AM

I did actually reconsider overclocking after the last post. And I noticed the new designs (new to me, anyway) of the copper "heat pipe" and and aluminum fins. With a switch in mobo suppliers (from Asus to Gigabyte), I can spend only $10 more for the P67, and the CPU is only $30 more. With the system I was contemplating, those are the only added costs. So, yes, I suppose I'll go with the K-chip after all.

Your suggestion is quite logical.... I may wait on the Ivy Bridge, since it is so close. Even if I decide to stick to my Sandy Bridge in the end, the price on those parts should begin to fall soon after the release. Or I may just jump full guns into the new system. We'll see what kind of improvements they come up with.

By the way, what's the best place to read up on the technology enhancements in your opinion? I've been looking at hardware secrets.com for educational info, which I've thoroughly enjoyed.
March 18, 2012 10:14:01 AM

To get the old Xeon, would be few steps backwards : ))
March 19, 2012 1:27:21 AM

Best answer selected by ejbragg.
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