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Time to buy a dual proc! Which one?

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March 18, 2004 2:20:36 AM

It's time, pretty much right now, for me to buy a dual processor system. (something really huge would have to be coming for me to decide to wait, and I don't think it is...)

so the 800fsb Xeons will be infernos of brimstone and lava, and only one board exists that can take them and it can't be bought. And PCI Express will launch with a bunch of chips that already exist for AGP, and are going to be repackaged with AGP <-> Express bridges.

So I'm buying now. What CPU do I get? 1MB Xeons? 512KB Xeons? Or Opterons?

512 Xeons looks more attractive unless the 1MB xeons are more than 40% faster. The benchmarks I've seen for Opterons vs. 512kb Xeons show the Opterons being kicked to the curb in all the benchmarks that matter to me, which are:

IO Throughput, a.k.a. raid with >4 channels in RAID-0.
3D Rendering

JCLW told me in <A HREF="http://forumz.tomshardware.com/hardware/modules.php?nam..." target="_new">This Post</A> that I should look for Xeons whose part numbers start with an SL7, but I have no idea what that means, and I can't find any part numbers like this in online shops. They're all things like "INT-BX80532KE3066D".

So, can anyone support/refute that Xeons perform better than Opterons in the applications I already have, or link a benchmark they've seen for the 1MB Xeons vs. the 512KB xeons, or maybe shed some light on this part number thing?

Also, one thing's been bugging me: Since the new Xeons have hyperthreading, and each one is seen in windows XP as being two processors, can Windows XP support four processors? (two P4 Xeons will be like 4 processors to windows?)

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March 18, 2004 3:11:33 AM

Well, I can't help with most of your questions... my old dualie is a couple of XP1700+ on an old Tyan Tiger board.

But the sSpec's can been seen here on the Intel web site

http://processorfinder.intel.com/scripts/list.asp

Looks like the SL7's are the MO stepping which I would assume is the newer stepping so probably preferrable. Unfortunately, I don't think I've ever seen these sSpecs listed on any on-line site, so I donno how you're going to make sure you're getting one.

Scout
700 Mflops in SETI!
March 18, 2004 5:08:39 AM

Seems to me that the opterons kick butt in rendering and throughput when using 64 bit progs. Cant remember the links though. Get the xeon you'll be happy now pissed latter, when they come out in 64 bit.
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March 18, 2004 6:53:36 AM

but <i>what</i> 64-bit progs? I mean we've already had 64-bit for a while now. I guess no OS for it yet though, so maybe that's what's holding it up. I do assume they'll come out eventually, but I have no idea when, and the packages I use are marketed to companies that have large installed bases of expensive workstations (almost certainly all P4 or Xeon and no Itaniums) that they'll probably be hesitant to upgrade to take advantage of 64-bit.

bah, maybe I should send emails to the companies that make my software, asking if they have any 64-bit plans or any release dates.

And about benchmarks... I've seen one on xbitlabs (that I can't seem to find again, maybe it was somewhere else) and one on Tom's that both had the Xeons rendering scenes in about 3/4 the time of a similarly priced Opteron system. In fact the xeons seemed to kick the Opterons' butts in almost everything, by a huge margin. It would have taken an $800 Opteron to beat a $400 Xeon. 3D Rendering will be 99.9% of my CPU usage. My IO needs will be my large RAID drives for working with HD video, which I just found out I have to do soon.

So it's the MO stepping... I remember this now! I could not for the life of me find the conversation where I knew someone had told me this before.

Will these actually run faster? Or just run cooler? (I'd assume just cooler because it's a stepping not a core change, but you never know with processors.) If it's just a matter of heat dissipation, I don't think it matters much to try extra hard and find them since I can still choose my heatsinks and fans.
March 18, 2004 8:18:18 AM

What app(s) do you use for rendering ?

= The views stated herein are my personal views, and not necessarily the views of my wife. =
March 18, 2004 4:30:13 PM

Maya, though its renderer is really pretty bad compared to some, so in the future I will be trying RenderMan and some other plugins.

Small differences in render time will not matter that much, since even with dual 3GHz Xeons I'd expect the last project I rendered to take 13 hours (took 46 on my current system, Athlon XP 2400). Maya will take advantage of as many processors as are in the system, so it will benefit from dual w/ hyperthreading. That's mostly why I was thinking Xeons.

I do know that the Opterons have much, much better memory interfaces, but I would have to see some benchmarks showing that they perform well to go for them.
March 18, 2004 5:43:04 PM

well um i know your going after the cpu here, but what are your other components? Specifically what video card are you using. beleive it or not, Ive seen some benchmarks showing better performance on opteron over xeon and vice versa , just becuase of the card used. As far as which to get, true there are the 64bit bonuses you get with the opteron now. There are 64bit Oses, namely linux. But you can also get the beta for xp 64bit or the windows server 2k3 64bit. I doubt you want to use linux, but its out there. As far as drivers, if your using nvidia, you should be fine using xp 64bit, ati's drivers arent that far along yet. As far as rendering goes, xeons do not beat opterons in every respect. In lightwave and Cinebench , performance favors the opterons. Now as for maya, there are not alot of benches that specifically use it to compare, so if youve seen just one, I would nto go by there, find at least 3 seperate reviews to try and get a good overview. Of the ones ive seen, I remmber one that used maya and showed that tha opteron 248 outperformed the xeon of the same class, i dont remmber if it was the 3ghz or 3.2, ill check that out.
March 18, 2004 7:54:34 PM

Not sure what difference a video card would make for rendering. It operates in background, launched as a console app, only way to interface with the Maya batch renderer is to open Task Manager and kill it / change priority. Here's my system specs though:

3Ware 7506-12 12-channel PATA Raid-0,1,5 card
8 hard drives
4 in a RAID-0
4 in a RAID-5
1GB RAM, currently have PC3200 DDR, unregistered, dual channel (would prefer to reuse those sticks)
Quadro 4 750 XGL video card (I will have a completely different computer for games w/ an Athlon XP)
Gigabit networking components in three computers on the network (network will be operating in gigabit mode.)
Planning on putting a Hercules GTXP sound card in, could also use my Audigy 2 ZS but I'd rather put that in the game system. (already have both.)


What I need most is maximum speed for video editing (will be working with raw HDTV video soon) so lots of beefy IO power, considering I could have up to 8 drives on my RAID-0 eventually. IO power will also speed up my ability to work in 3D scenes because lots of information is read from HD cache. My 3D video power I'm sure will not be affected by my processors, I already pretty much max it out on the quadro4.

I usually take 3D rendering performance in any 3D raytracing application to be a good indicator for the rest of them too, since they all do pretty much the same set of calculations, but I suppose they could be compiled differently and have individual advantages for either AMD or Intel (though I assume they'll be compiled for Intel, that's what everybody uses in their workstations.)
March 18, 2004 10:19:43 PM

I don't think the MO stepping will run any cooler... most of the time us overclockers try to get the latest stepping hoping to get a better overclock out of a chip.

By the way, I just remembered seeing this article on 3.2 Xeons.
http://www.2cpu.com/articles/27_1.html

Scout
700 Mflops in SETI!
March 19, 2004 2:30:56 AM

But it's so hard to find a GOOD benchmark! Scout, yours would be ok, except it compares the following processors:
$850 Xeons
$680 Opterons
$330 Xeons

And in yours, eugeneMMC, the Opteron that "smokes" the $600 1MB Xeon is a $900 Opteron.

Sorry, just gotta call it as it is! This is why I'm having trouble figuring out how the performance lies though. Can't seem to find a comprehensive benchmark that compares processors that actually compete with each other.
March 19, 2004 2:52:31 AM

If you crunch the numbers a bit, it looks like the $900. opteron is about 15% faster than the $850. xeon. Just my 2c worth.
P4man, didn't you have a maya link for newer chips?
<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by endyen on 03/18/04 11:54 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
March 19, 2004 4:43:01 AM

.... And the "Dual Xeon Duo" article in THG comparing workstation processors is even worse. It compares dual Xeon systems to a Quad Proc Opteron system!

EDIT: How did you arrive to that conclusion? I'm curious.<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by grafixmonkey on 03/19/04 00:44 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
March 22, 2004 7:52:13 PM

Quote:
1GB RAM, currently have PC3200 DDR, unregistered, dual channel (would prefer to reuse those sticks)

Won't be able to with Opterons. They require registered ram.

--
Life Sucks! Then You DIE!!!
March 23, 2004 8:30:27 PM

You want two 512k Xeons in a board that has both PCI-X and AGP.

If you need to buy right now:
<A HREF="http://www.tyan.com/products/html/thunderi7505.html" target="_new">http://www.tyan.com/products/html/thunderi7505.html&lt;/A>
<A HREF="http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon/E75..." target="_new">http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/Xeon/E75...;/A>
<A HREF="http://www.iwillusa.com/products/ProductDetail.asp?vID=..." target="_new">http://www.iwillusa.com/products/ProductDetail.asp?vID=...;/A>

These are all good boards, but only support DDR266.

The DH800 <A HREF="http://www.iwillusa.com/products/ProductDetail.asp?vID=..." target="_new">(link)</A> has just come out, and it supports DDR400, which is 50% more memory bandwidth then the i7505 boards above. It's a little hard to find 'tho as it is brand new.

Also keep in mind to run at DDR400 you'll have to drop the multipliers on the Xeons and up the FSB (if you buy 533FSB default Xeons).

ie:
Xeon 2.8 = 21x133FSB gives DDR266 stock
Xeon 2.8 = 14x200FSB gives DDR400


*Dual PIII-800 @900 i440BX and Tualeron 1.2 @1.7 i815*
March 24, 2004 7:01:06 AM

I think I've pretty much decided on dual 512 Xeons on the Supermicro X5DAE. The ECC memory ends up not being as expensive as I thought, and I like other features of the supermicro board too. I save $200 by going with 2.8GHz Xeons, which I think is worth it assuming the performance drop will only be 10% for single-processor apps and 20% for fully parallel calculations like rendering (where rendering takes a really long time no matter what - it would mean 5 minutes instead of 4 for a preview, and two and a half days instead of two for animation rendering. More time to play on my gaming rig while it's busy. :wink: )

The three independent PCI-X channels of the Iwill board would be helpful, but it costs $500 instead of $350, and that's from some random place called "GameVE" that I'm not so sure about buying server parts from. Can't find any other vendor on Pricewatch that carries it. Haven't tried other searches yet.

I liked the DH800 at first, but I don't think I will want to play with multipliers and bus speeds on these xeons. System costs too much, and stability is too important. I'll be overclocking my gaming rig like there's no tomorrow, though. :evil: 
!