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Dual-Core or Quad-Core?

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#1 Mattbtn

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 11:00 PM

I'm finally putting together a new system, and I think I've got just about everything figured out except for the 'durn processor.

I don't really keep up with what programs currently utilize what technologies, and I really don't have much idea where things are going down the road. I mainly run Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom, along with a few other photo programs and things like Office, Acrobat, etc... In a nutshell, I multi-task like crazy and hate being bogged down.

So, if you only upgraded machines every few years, would you suggest a Quad-Core processor or a Dual-Core processor?

I've boiled it down to 4 different processors:

E8400 - 3.0ghz Dual Core
E8500 - 3.16ghz Dual Core
Q9300 - 2.5ghz Quad Core
Q9450 - 2.66ghz Quad Core


Thoughts? Comments?

#2 Tom L

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 11:08 PM

I went dual core mainly based on price. The quad was twice the price. If money were no object I would go quad, but a minimum of a dual core.

#3 rboe

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 11:22 PM

I got a killer deal on a Dell with a quad core in the Dell Outlet store (Optiplex 755 small form factor). After using it I think you are better off with a faster dual core - not much software has any clue what to do with more than two cores.

I have the Q6600 running at 2.4GHz; but right now it's running at 1.58GHz, sometimes even slower - it's just not that fast. Even when running Photoshop or Elements. I'm using XP so the OS is not really optimized for the 4GB of ram or the four cores either but I have not tried Linux yet.

So at this point it seems to me having a quad core is being a wee bit ahead of the curve and the world is not really ready for it yet.

#4 Rusty

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 11:35 PM

Adobe is likely to be the first to implement multi-threading for quad cores, so if you use Photoshop much, the quad is the way to go (although rumors I've heard is that full-quad support will require CS4 - but they're that - rumors; there may be an affordable upgrade for CS3 - which can utilize quad-core).

Adobe is one of the very few companies which has actually implemented multi-core support, AFAIK.

If you want to be on the "bleeding edge", the Q9450 on an X48 mobo (DDR3 RAM)would be the way to go, and the longest delay to obsolescence (maybe as much as 3 months :grin:). Note that the Q9300/9450 and E8500/8400 are spec'd to run with 1333 FSB, and DDR2 would be tough to bump that high.

I'm facing the same choice before too long, as I'm slowly accumulating parts to replace my 5 year old PC...mobo, processer, heatsink, and RAM are the final choices, and I'm gravitating towards an X48 mobo, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, and the E8500 (maybe the E8400) - as I intend to overclock (as I've always done).

In any event, I'd also recommend an aftermarket HSF - the excellent Zalman CNPS 9700 LED is on sale at NewEgg, here for ~$54.00.

#5 spoolboyy

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 01:32 AM

Just to qualify my comments (not to say "look at me I'm a smart guy!", I am a software developer.

The biggest question here is what OS will you be running.

XP is NOT optimized for quad cores. It will barely utilize them because the OS is designed to handle at most two processors (or cores in this case).

Vista (or Linux for that matter) can handle a quad core and actually get some use out of it. MS Windows Server 2003 can handle 8 cpus/cores, but isn't an ideal desktop operating system.

Photoshop in Vista (but not XP) will take advantage of the quad core for graphical rendering since your operating system is what distributes resources for your applications, not the other way around.

Quad cores also help with video rendering immensely over a single core.

All that said, I'm picking up the parts for MY new system at the UPS depot tomorrow, and I purchased a dual core CPU. That's what I recommend you get if you intend to run windows XP. The quad core may help you if you choose to run Linux or Vista but rboe hit it right on the head when he said that most applications out there are fairly clueless on how to optimize all four cores at this point.

I hope this helps somewhat!

#6 spoolboyy

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 01:35 AM

I have the Q6600 running at 2.4GHz; but right now it's running at 1.58GHz, sometimes even slower - it's just not that fast. Even when running Photoshop or Elements. I'm using XP so the OS is not really optimized for the 4GB of ram or the four cores either but I have not tried Linux yet.

So at this point it seems to me having a quad core is being a wee bit ahead of the curve and the world is not really ready for it yet.


The OS is exactly the problem here. XP is basically unable to take more than intermittent advantage of more than just two of the cores.

with Linux or Vista running a graphics program or executing a CPU test you'd see the CPU running at 100% of its clock speed.

with regard to ram, XP (32-bit XP, the version 99% of XP users run) does not have enough addresses to assign to all 4 gb of ram, so it also only sees 3.x gb of ram when you run direct x diagnostic or check under My Computer, Properties. The RAM is all there, but the OS has no way to index all 4 gigs, so it uses what it can. When running XP, 2 gb is the sweet spot, but more will not hurt performance.

for now he's ahead of the curve, but thats not necessarily a bad place to be, other than his CPU is running well under its most effective speed.

-adam

#7 daev

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 02:06 AM

With non-multi threaded apps, you'll get more bang for the buck with the dual. It will have a higher clock speed for the money spent. As apps become more multi-thread capable this will lean towards the quad. If you plan on upgrading again in a couple of years, satisfy yourself with a fast dual.

dave

#8 Mattbtn

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 06:23 AM

Thanks for the input everyone! :bow:

I'm leaning towards Vista Business 64-bit as my OS, simply because I'm fairly confident that things will work just fine for now. I've still got a few jitters moving away from XP Pro, so I'm going to just have to work past them!!

The Quad Core that I really want is the Q9450, but it's roughly twice the price of the E8400 Dual-Core and I'm not so sure the performance boost will be there right now, and might even be worse in certain applications.

I'll post updates when I get everything finalized, but it looks like Dual Core will be my choice and again, I really appreciate all of the advice!! :bow:

#9 spoolboyy

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:26 AM

good luck with your choices!

#10 rboe

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 12:27 PM

When you go with the Outlet store your choices are a bit limited. :) I'm hoping to grow into mine. Should feel about right just before I have to upgrade - again. :ohmy:

#11 o1d_dude

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 12:30 PM

The E8400 is a good choice for anything less than a "God Box".

Vista on the other hand is a bit more problematic. I'd be more inclined to stay with a proven OS rather than go with an OS not many are supporting or choosing. YMMV.

#12 Mattbtn

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 12:56 PM

Well, I placed the order a short bit ago on Newegg...I went with:

- DFI LP LT X48-T2R LGA 775 Intel X48 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail
- Vista Business SP1 64-bit
- (2) Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 800(PC6400) Memory
- Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor Model BX80570E8400 - Retail
- (2) Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD4000AAKS 400GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM
- ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler - Retail


I've already got an ample Case, Power Supply, Video Card, Sound Card, etc..., so I think all of the above will make my system much more suitable for what I'm doing on a daily basis.

Now I've got to figure out this Windows Easy Transfer and make sure all of my stuff is properly backed up before I make the switch and wipe my current machine clean.

:)

#13 Tom L

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 06:30 PM

Good luck and nice selection!

#14 Rusty

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 11:35 PM

You're on your way! The only thing I'd question is the choice of RAM (DDR2 800) when the CPU is designed to run at DDR3 1333, and the X48 mobo supports it...but if you intend to overclock the memory, the Corsair is one of the better...

But my current choice for mobo is the same as you selected.

#15 Mattbtn

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Posted 29 May 2008 - 06:43 AM

Rusty, I mainly went with the DDR2 800 memory because it's suppose to be a good performer and is 3-4 times cheaper than DDR3 memory, plus the board itself was quite a bit less. According to the documentation I've seen I believe I can overclock the memory to 1066, so I'll probably try that and see what kind of stability and performance boost I can get by doing so.

I actually still can't decide which MOBO I want to use, which is why I've got two coming. Both are very similar boards, except one uses the X48 Chipset and the other uses the P35 chipset. I think I'm going to stick with the X48 chipset since the board itself is better equipped for future upgrades, but I'm going to do some reading over the next few days and try to make a decision before I put everything together.

On that note, do you know much about chipsets and the pros/cons of each?

:)

#16 Rusty

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 12:00 AM

A little - much less than when I built Peecees. Assuming you don't want to run two video cards in harmony (SLU or Crossfire), then the core logic maker isn't an issue. The X48 is Intel's latest (Except for the P45, which is cheaper, and has less upgrade headroom), then the X38/35; the nVidia nForce 790i is its flagship, with the 780i slightly cheaper. IMHO (and remember, I've not any first-hand experience with any of these chips), the X48 is the way to go, as it doesn't command the prices of the 790i, and the P35 is really yesterday's technology.

As to mobo makers, I've used boards from Biostar (a PC with a Biostar mobo I built in '94 - I think it has a P1-233 - is still running as host for an office's backup drives), Soyo, MSI, DFI, Asus, Abit, Gigabyte, and had only one failure, that on an Abit (call from the customer 4 PM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving) due to blown capacitors, an eventually known defect. Lately, I'm inclined towards Asus and DFI. This DFI mobo (what you just ordered) is also my current fave; the only thing I find puzzling is the floppy disk supplied for the Southbridge and RAID, but no FDD header (they're a thing of the past, anyway). I have an external USB 3.5" FDD, which I suppose will work.

As for the power supply, depending on what you have now, you may need adaptors for the mobo and the video card (What will you use? - I caught an EGVA 8800 GT on sale), or, worst-case, a new P/S. I ratholed a PC Power&Cooling 750W Silencer.

#17 Mattbtn

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 05:24 AM

Now that you mention it, I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with the floppy disk issue if that's really what it takes to load the RAID drivers. I guess I can use my existing machine to copy the contents onto a CD and see if that will work.

My OCZ Power Supply is starting to become a bit dated, but I think should work just fine with everything I'm doing with this build. My video card (EVGA 7900 GT) is also becoming a bit dated, but again should be fine for most of the programs I'm running.

My next big upgrade will be a monitor. I've been using this Sony 19" LCD for several years now, and it just isn't anywhere near the quality of a lot of these new ones on the market, not to mention that I'd LOVE to get my hands on a nice 24"-26" Widescreen. :)

#18 dghent

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 11:20 AM

I'd vote that you stay away from the hardware RAID that's built in to consumer boards. If anything, use the software RAID facility in the OS you plan on using, and especially so if all you're going to do is mirror drives.

The reason being is that the hardware RAID that's implemented in the SATA controllers chip on the motherboard ties your RAID'd disks to that particular implementation. This can come back to haunt you later if your mobo dies and you cannot find a replacement with the right SATA chipset. You might as well have a wiped drive in some cases.

If you use the RAID functionality in Windows or whatever your OS us, you will not run into this problem as the usefulness of your disks is not tied to whatever your motherboard's RAID controller happens to be.

/dale

#19 Peter Argenziano

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 06:55 PM

I recently got a Dell XPS420 that uses a Q6600 Quad Core. I'm running a 32-bit Vista OS, so I went with 3 GB of RAM, for the reasons articulated earlier. It also has a 500 GB RAID 1 setup and a decent ATI Radeon graphics card. Nothing real fancy, but I've been really pleased with the system.

Frankly, I don't understand why many people are so reluctant to go with Vista. I also bought 2 laptops recently, both 32-bit Vista OS - and have had zero problems.

On my desktop system I run all kinds of applications: Sky Tools, The Sky, Megastar, Microsoft Worldwide Telescope, Lunar Map Pro, Astroplanner, Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, InDesign CS2, Acrobat Pro 8, Dreamweaver MX 2004, Fireworks MX, Flash MX, Visual C++, Visual Basic, UltraEdit 14, UltraCompare 5, PHP 5, SQL Server 2005, MySQL 5, MS Visual Web Developer 2008, Open Office 2.4, PitStop Pro, Apache Web Server 2.2, etc., etc.
Zero problems installing or running anything.

#20 Rusty

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 01:40 AM

I'd vote that you stay away from the hardware RAID that's built in to consumer boards. If anything, use the software RAID facility in the OS you plan on using, and especially so if all you're going to do is mirror drives


Having installed RAID (Raid 1 exclusively) on mobos using onboard controllers for the last 15 years, I disagree, although that MIGHT apply to RAID 0 and 0+1. A solo HDD running RAID 1 doesn't know it is, and it can be migrated to another mobo with a different controller, and its "slave" mirrored with the new controller. At least every instance I've encountered can, even when going from the early add-on cards (ARCO-RAID) to an onboard controller, whether IDE, EIDE, or SATA.

Software RAID 1 (under Win-whatever) in my experience is both slow and unreliable, but that's not saying that an app under Linux would be also.

Every RAID controller I've encountered treats the Primary as a normal BIOS-enabled HDD,and deals with the secondary, as a mirror.

While you may have reasonable experience to favor software RAID, I submit only this: No hardware RAID I've installed has ever produced the BSOD...:grin:

#21 dghent

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 11:07 AM

Having installed RAID (Raid 1 exclusively) on mobos using onboard controllers for the last 15 years, I disagree, although that MIGHT apply to RAID 0 and 0+1. A solo HDD running RAID 1 doesn't know it is, and it can be migrated to another mobo with a different controller, and its "slave" mirrored with the new controller


The problem I've seen people run into is that some of these on-mobo controllers that offer a RAID feature can play shenanigans with the partition table of the disks under their control, typically wanting to slice of the last (and in some cases, first!) several cylinders of the disks to use as a space to store a plex state database. Unless you're really diligent and find the chipset docs for the controller you plan on dealing with, motherboard vendors generally don't come out and say (down to this detail at least) what's going on.

So if one day you find yourself in the situation of a zapped motherboard, and are unknowing and get a new one that does things differently (different controller, or generation of controller from the same maker, even), frying your partition table isn't out of the question, and hopefully this doesn't happen with both disks.

The other thing I dislike about these consumer-level on-mobo RAID features is often (at least when they first became a common feature) they offer no feedback to the OS as to the plex's disposition. Is it resyncing right now? Does it need manual resyncing? How much time is left to resync so I know when to expect my disks to no longer be bludgeoned with IO? The controller unfortuately abstracts that out of the picture, so something you only can get an idea of what's going on by putting your ear to you computer or watching the blinkenlights.

Software RAID 1 (under Win-whatever) in my experience is both slow and unreliable, but that's not saying that an app under Linux would be also.


Window's RAID facility is a subset of what's offered in Server, which itself is a partial feature-licensing of Veritas Volume Manager, so when set up correctly, it's decent enough for RAID 1 (or 0, if you like tossing caution to the wind). I still prefer other implementations over it, but at the end of the day it won't kill babies or eat pandas.

While you may have reasonable experience to favor software RAID, I submit only this: No hardware RAID I've installed has ever produced the BSOD...:grin:


Fair enough. If it's good for you, then what am I so say :)

/dale

#22 Paula E

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 10:47 PM

Well, I placed the order a short bit ago on Newegg...I went with:

- Vista Business SP1 64-bit


You'll probably like Vista 64 bit. It's pretty nice. One of the things I like about it is that if you run 32 bit programs, especially 3d stuff, Vista 64 actually has a set of 32 bit DLL's that implement the graphics subsystem, so you don't thunk back and forth between 32->64 bit quite so much.

Another nice benefit of this OS is that it's possible link 32 bit programs to be aware of the larger available address space - so they can address more than 2GB of RAM. This is nice feature too - at least if your app needs lots of memory.

The only real downside I know of with Vista 64 bit is that it requires you to use Microsoft WHQL certified drivers. There are ways around this - but you probably won't like them. (They are somewhat intrusive.) 32 bit modules can be replaced (if I'm recalling correctly), but 64 bit drivers require certification.

Obviously this is only a problem if some device or system service you care to use requires a special driver.

#23 half meter

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Posted 31 May 2008 - 11:35 PM

I just upgraded my son's XP Pro 32 bit with VIA chipset RAID 1 to a new Asus mobo with an AMD Phenom 9850 Black Edition quad core on Vista 32 bit Ultimate, and oh, what an ordeal. :p The short version: Vista is surprisingly fussy about how the Master Boot Record (MBR) identifies the system/boot drive.

Vista does not track hard drives by BIOS number at all (HD0, HD1, etc.) but rather by their unique disk signatures. So the disk signature is now a vital component in the boot process and has to be maintained for bootmgr to do its job. Imaging, cloning, updating the MBR with fdisk/mbr (which zeros out the signature), or installing Vista all change the disk signature with annoying consequences. In my case I had to become very familiar with Vista's version of the DISKPART cmd run from a recovery boot using the Vista install DVD. :ohgeeze: In the days of XP and before, it was easier to load a single disk with the O/S and then transform it to a RAID, but now I strongly suggest building your RAID array using the BIOS before loading Vista to avoid the hassles I experienced. Especially avoid having two or more hard drives recognized simultaneously by the BIOS/Vista as independent drives (even *once*) and then later converting them to a RAID array -- good luck if you do...

#24 Rusty

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 10:57 PM




While you may have reasonable experience to favor software RAID, I submit only this: No hardware RAID I've installed has ever produced the BSOD...




Fair enough. If it's good for you, then what am I so say

/dale


We don't disagree - it's emblematic of the fickleness of contemporary OSs and hardware. The original RAIDs I built used the ARCORaid controller (IDE under MSDOS), and they were just fine; they weren't supposed to be able to handle EIDE, but did...

#25 Rusty

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Posted 01 June 2008 - 11:53 PM

Lately, I'm inclined towards Asus and DFI. This DFI mobo (what you just ordered) is also my current fave; the only thing I find puzzling is the floppy disk supplied for the Southbridge and RAID, but no FDD header (they're a thing of the past, anyway). I have an external USB 3.5" FDD, which I suppose will work.


Well, the DFI board DOES have a floppy header, after all (don't know how I missed it in the photos...)

And I ordered the Noctua NH-C12P HSF for whatever CPU I end up with...(quiet) OCing just HAS to happen...:grin:


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