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Intel Xeon E vs L vs X series

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May 25, 2013 9:56:46 AM

I have noticed intel was making the E, L and X series especially for their Intel Xeon 5000 series chipsets but i am just curious as to how much of a difference in performance exists between these CPU's.

Ok i understand the L series save the most power and all that and the X series is the highest in performance...but my question is "Is the difference in performance that much to really choose one over the other? especially considering the power saving of the L...is choosing the wrong CPU really going to show so much of a difference?

For example is one wants to run a virtualized system with several VMs...yes performance is needed but if i go for the L series is this difference going to cause so much significant difference? Thats just the part i will like to clarify. Also how are these differences justified in tests or research?

thanks

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May 25, 2013 1:01:24 PM

nokia3310,

There is indeed a large variation in performance between Xeon series and it worth researching carefully as there are so many models and they can be so bloody expensive. And to complicate things, some used Xeons can cost twice the price of a new one that far outperforms the older. I've even seen cases where you could buy a whole Dell Precision with the CPU for only $100 or so more than buying a used CPU on it's own, or the opposite case of buying the whole computer with a low end Xeon for $400, buying the CPU for $600 and then having a computer that's selling as a unit for $1,600- the Xeon game is all over the map.

I've long been curious as to Xeon series names, and my conclusion is that there is that there's no discernible, meaningful pattern or attributes to assign each prefix except to know the period of manufacture, the number of cores, and clock speed of the individual model. Generally, like every CPU, the newer it is, the more cores, and the higher the clock speed, the more powerful it is in within it's range- whether it's a lesser series/single CPU, or expensive dual CPU, etc. -at the same clock speed. That's sounds complicated- and it is, but there's a method to work out the best choice.

My suggestion is to determine how much performance you really need by analyzing your applications' needs > whether you need a multiple CPU configuration- a multiple CPU gives you more cores for computationally intensive tasks like rendering and allows more PCIe slots. Then by the nature of your application work out whether you need a really high clock speed - for example servers often can use lower clock speeds, while processing tasks can use high clock speeds. Even in the era of multiple cores, many applications- including very complex ones, are still mostly single threaded. An example is Autodesk Inventor, a $7,500 programme, - which does structural, gas flow, thermal simulations and animations is mostly single threaded- only the rendering uses more cores, so a high CPU clock speed is a benefit. And because most Autodesk and Adobe applications use CUDA acceleration, a lot of CUDA cores on the graphics card are a benefit. So, by beginning with the applications you'll be using, first figuring out the capability you need, see if you really need a high performance CPU- or multiple, with a lot of cores, a high clock speed.

Next, have a look at this chart of CPU benchmarks>

http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php

> and first go down the list of Xeons which will be grouped by series name. If you look, you'll see that each series can have a very large range in ranking- x5XXX can be ranked from 20th to 473rd, and W series run something like 22 to 741! This is why series number alone is not a good method to choose a Xeon.

So, go back to the top of the page and click on the rank to put all CPU's in order of performance. You'll see that Xeons are #1 through 7, 8 of the top 10 CPU's and 15 of the top 20. As the newer the Xeon, the higher the performance- as is the case for every CPU series- you can go down the list until you find a good ranking against price. One of the best cost/performance Xeons is the E5-1650- number 14 at a bit under $600. The next Xeon up, the E5-1660, is number 12, but costs nearly $1,100 and is only 100MHz faster. If you need multiple CPU, the E5 will be an E5-2XXX, if you need a single CPU, 4-core with a bit less cache and less memory bandwidth, the E3 Xeons can be very economical and have high clock speeds. An E3-1290 v 2 has a base clock speed of 3.7GHz- the fastest of any Xeon I know- but $900.

If you're upgrading a workstation, consult the user's manual to see which CPU series it can accommodate, then go back to the Passmark chart and look at the CPU' by name so you'll see that series in a list and you can quickly see which of the compatible CPU's will be the fastest and judge whether an upgrade is useful. I think that within the same series, unless you can improve the benchmark at least 30%, there won't be an important different in use. the clock speed has to be at least 300-400 MHz higher. A newer 2.93 can outperform an older 3.2. When I upgraded the computer I use, a Dell Precision T5400, I could see there was no useful benefit in changing the X5460 @3.16GHz for an X5470 @ 3.33- to have only a 5% improvement, but I knew that adding a second X5460 would be worth the effort and in the Passmark Performance test, the CPU score improved from 4797 to 8528. I can proudly say that on Passmark, thanks to an $80 eBay upgrade (and remember that CPU cost $1,000 new in 2009) my computer now has the highest Passmark CPU score of any T5400. Still, keep in mind an E5-1650 And, as I now have 8 cores/ 16 threads, certain tasks have improved very noticeably- especially rendering, in which the time is cut almost in half for the same quality.

Sorry, for such a long, convoluted post, but choosing a Xeon is especially difficult particularly because there is so much variation in specification. To make the equation even more difficult, it's possible to add a second one in many cases, often the fewer the cores the higher the clock speed, so in some cases it can be better to have 2x 4-core or even 2X 2-core at a higher clock speed than 1 at a slower speed with the same number of cores, or buy an old series for very little compared to the original cost and have quite high performance. Xeons are made for reliability and I have no qualms about buying used.

If I were to make a blanket recommendation for the best all-rounder Xeon to buy today, it would be the aforementioned E5-1650- 6-cores at 3.2/3.8GHz and under $600. In the previous series, the X5680, 6-core at 3.33 / 3.6GHz and which can be used in a pair is great (No. 23 Passmark), and in a lower series / new, an E3-1270 V2 4-core at 3.5 / 3.9GHz, Ivy Bridge, and a cool running 77W for $360- No. 29 on Passmark.

Cheers,

BambiBoom
May 25, 2013 3:35:43 PM

bambiboom said:
nokia3310,
If I were to make a blanket recommendation for the best all-rounder Xeon to buy today, it would be the aforementioned E5-1650- 6-cores at 3.2/3.8GHz and under $600. In the previous series, the X5680, 6-core at 3.33 / 3.6GHz and which can be used in a pair is great (No. 23 Passmark), and in a lower series / new, an E3-1270 V2 4-core at 3.5 / 3.9GHz, Ivy Bridge, and a cool running 77W for $360- No. 29 on Passmark.

Cheers,

BambiBoom


Really appreciate the reply...i enjoyed every single sentence.
Now i have a question for example I see a dell C1100 with just the CPUs only, no hard drives 2 x L5530 (60 watts quad core @2.26GHz) for $300 and with same with 2 x L5630 (40 watts quad core @2.13GHz) for $900...and i am considering the L series because of the low power usage because i want to use these servers for colocation and need low power usage. The servers will be used to run KVM virtualization with around 10 VMs. VMs will be running websites a few with download materials and others blogs running PHP/MySQl or Python/MySQL. So is the L series for me? I am definitely trying to go for the $300 server with 2 x L5520 even though i had love to save more power with the 2 x L5630
!