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Thread: Processor Choices and Advice

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    Processor Choices and Advice

    I'm currently running an old PC which is struggling to cope with the work I'm chucking at it. It's got an AMD 64 X2 Dual Core 4200+ 2.2 Ghz and 3GB of RAM.

    This is a work machine so it's used for Excel, Outlook and SQL pretty much nothing else besides. So no gaming, graphics production etc.

    I was going to get a Dell with an i7 processor in it but then Intel pulled a load of systems so I'm sitting in limbo, so, as the PC seems to be getting worse I'm considering other options.

    For the type of use the PC is getting what sort of processor should I be looking out for? - Below are some options I considered from Dell but I'm not sure what the benefits of one is over another.

    Core™ i5-760 (Quad Core, 2.80 GHz, 8MB Cache)
    Core™ i7-870 (Quad Core, 2.93 GHz, 8MB Cache)

    A jump from i5 to i7 but both quad core both 8mb Cache, will 0.13 Ghz make enough of a difference? - Is there something else I'm overlooking?

    Some options in a Vostro 230:
    Intel® Core 2 Quad Q8400(2.66GHz,1333MHz,4M,65W)
    Intel® Core™2 Duo E8500 (3.16GHz, 1333MHz, 6MB cache)

    Just two upgrades (there are loads). I'm guessing the Quad is weaker than the i5 because it's a lower speed and smaller cache?

    On some OptiPlex models:
    Core™ i5-650 (4M Cache, 3.20 GHz)
    Faster than the i5 or 7 but smaller cache...


    So yeah, I'm not going to run through the whole Dell site and post it here but I'm just trying to find some more information about what specs are likely to make the most difference for the sort of work I do.

    Oh and I'll be installing 64bit Win 7 with 6 or 8 GB RAM

    Any help, advice, pointers much appreciated!

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Having used a dual core Athlon X2, it shouldn't be that slow for the kind of work you have it doing, unless you have some rather clever multithreaded SQL stuff going on.

    Are you sure it's the CPU maxing out? You can check CPU usage in task manager. I think the lack of speed is more likely to be due to RAM maxing out (possibly) or hard drive access.

    If I'm right you'll notice a much greater speed increase with a RAM expansion and adding a SSD instead of a HD rather than a CPU upgrade.

    Please note that if you're using 32 bit windows, it can't effectively use more than just over 3GB RAM. There are a few tricks to deal with this, such as setting up RAM drives, but really a 64 bit OS is the way forward.

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    What are the specifications of your current PC?? What socket is it using??

    What is your budget?? Can you build your own PC??

    Do you need a whole system or just the base unit??

    TBH,an Athlon II X3 or X4 based system should do the job.

    If you want to get a Dell PC look at this website:

    http://www.dmxdimension.com/

    IIRC,you can get cashback from TopCashBack and Quidco on Dell purchases.


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Uriel View Post
    Having used a dual core Athlon X2, it shouldn't be that slow for the kind of work you have it doing, unless you have some rather clever multithreaded SQL stuff going on.

    Are you sure it's the CPU maxing out? You can check CPU usage in task manager. I think the lack of speed is more likely to be due to RAM maxing out (possibly) or hard drive access.

    If I'm right you'll notice a much greater speed increase with a RAM expansion and adding a SSD instead of a HD rather than a CPU upgrade.

    Please note that if you're using 32 bit windows, it can't effectively use more than just over 3GB RAM. There are a few tricks to deal with this, such as setting up RAM drives, but really a 64 bit OS is the way forward.
    My PC is old, that's a given and there's a multitude of issues with it, not just the processor! - The processor is the bit I'm having issues with buying wise though because I don't fully understand the differences yet the cost changes are substantial for what seems very similar.

    I've been told that the i7 Sandy Bridge basically whips the others I've listed so I think I'll sit tight for a while :/ Come on Intel!

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Why would need to get a Core i7 for the software you listed??

    That is OTT!

    Your problems are more down to either a problem with your OS install or something like your hard disk having issues.


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by CAT-THE-FIFTH View Post
    What are the specifications of your current PC?? What socket is it using??

    What is your budget?? Can you build your own PC??

    Do you need a whole system or just the base unit??

    TBH,an Athlon II X3 or X4 based system should do the job.

    If you want to get a Dell PC look at this website:

    http://www.dmxdimension.com/

    IIRC,you can get cashback from TopCashBack and Quidco on Dell purchases.
    It's basically got to be a straight up PC from Dell, no home build etc it's a work thing. The budget's not fully decided but based on previous spends it's got to come in somewhere between 650-800 GBP, preferably towards the lower end. We've managed to wangle i7 processors, 8GB RAM, 1GB Graphics and decent screen from Dell for under 700 late last year, looking to duplicate really

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by CAT-THE-FIFTH View Post
    Why would need to get a Core i7 for the software you listed??

    That is OTT!

    Your problems are more down to either a problem with your OS install or something like your hard disk having issues.
    Not really, if I do the same countif on a colleagues machine (i7, 8GB of RAM) it completes FAR quicker than mine, mine does complete but just a lot slower! - The 'X% on 2 processors' stays in the excel taskbar for ages.

    His PC was purchased to that spec for Adobe products but still - it's a massive increase in speed which I'd welcome

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by oldskooladdict View Post
    Not really, if I do the same countif on a colleagues machine (i7, 8GB of RAM) it completes FAR quicker than mine, mine does complete but just a lot slower! - The 'X% on 2 processors' stays in the excel taskbar for ages.

    His PC was purchased to that spec for Adobe products but still - it's a massive increase in speed which I'd welcome
    So what about any other modern dual core processor then? Lets say an E8400 or a Core i3?? How fast is the hard disk in the new machines then?? The Core i7 has faster cores than an X2 4200. Hence will there be any difference between a Core i3 and a Core i7 for example? Even a £75 Phenom II X2 560 is twice as fast as an AM2 Athlon X2 4200 in Excel and Photoshop.

    If you are hitting a RAM limitation then the new machine has more RAM too.

    Is your software even multi-threaded??

    Look at the number threads used by the Core i7 when running the application. If more than 4 threads are being fully used a Core i7 make sense. If not then a Core i3 or Core i5 makes more sense.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 24-02-2011 at 07:38 PM.


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Sure, some people don't NEED to pay for the best processor, but the more expensive processors are better than the cheaper ones - they can do more at once and/or do the same thing quicker. Sure there are other system bottlenecks, and sure it depends how much RAM and what speed and a whole raft of other things. However, it's not wrong to go for the most powerful kit you can buy - it'll last you longer, since it will be better able to keep up in the future. For example, the tests done by Anandtech comparing the new sandy bridge i3, i5 and i7 chips:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/t...2100-tested/18

    Flick through the results pages and compare - the i7 completes tasks faster than the i5 which is in turn faster than the i3.

    Does it make a difference that some of the tests are benchmarks? Well sometimes yes, sometimes no, since not everything an end-user experiences is of the intensity of a benchmark test, but it's a good indicator of overall ability. I compare the performance of my work PC - a tired old core 2 duo workstation, and my home pc, a core i3, and i know which one I'd rather have to analyse and render 3D CAD model on... and sadly I don't get to work from home very often. Come on the *promised* new work machines...

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by ik9000 View Post
    i know which one I'd rather have to analyse and render 3D CAD model on...
    He is not running CAD stuff though is he?? He is running SQL and excel based stuff. Like I said he needs to check whether the applications can use more than 4 threads or not. Getting a Core i3 or Core i5 may mean the OP could get a bigger monitor or even a pair of monitors which really does help when you are analysing large spreadsheets for example.

    I have also done a reasonable amount of imaging capture and processing too. For the image processing the dual processor Core2 and Core i7 rigs were faster than a dual core machine as the applications were multithreaded. OTH,I have used equipment which runs fine on a dual core as the software really could not make decent use of anything else AFAIK. However,again it really does depend on the software being run. If anything it was the amount of RAM which was more of a limitation due to the size of the data sets being captured.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 24-02-2011 at 08:08 PM.


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by CAT-THE-FIFTH View Post
    He is running SQL and excel based stuff. Like I said he needs to check whether the applications can use more than 4 threads or not. Getting a Core i3 or Core i5 may mean the OP could get a bigger monitor or even a pair of monitors which really does help when you are analysing large spreadsheets for example.
    That's a fair point - if it's the choice between a bigger monitor and more RAM or a better CPU I'd go for the former for oldskool's uses. If it's the case that you want to get more than you need now, to attempt to allow for future capability as program resource requirements advance, and you dont mind spending a bit more to get both the monitor and the CPU, then I'd probably be inclined to do so. Particularly as Dell's are not the most upgradable of machines.*

    * (I say this because, for example, my work Dell has only 2 RAM slots, both used, two SATA ports (both used), no IDE, and some farce of a hard-drive mounting system that is frustratingly awkward to say the least and allows for just one additional HDD (though without a spare SATA port, I'm surprised they even provided the rack space. Yesterday I had to install a new graphics card, but the bespoke case inside is so arranged that the newer GPUs are too long to fit inside the case. Like I said, roll on the *promised* new work machines...)

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    I would vote for a spring clean. OS reinstall/cleanup some parttioning and defrag.

    We had 120gb SSDs installed at work and they do not help our barbaric software one iota. Others are running i7s and some i5s. Can't understand personally as the software and network connections seem to be the limiting factors.

    Do we hav ean ETA on the SB dualcores (i3 replacements) as this may be the area to target.

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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Domestic_Ginger View Post
    Do we hav ean ETA on the SB dualcores (i3 replacements) as this may be the area to target.
    They were released this week.


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice


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    Re: Processor Choices and Advice

    All I'm looking for is a base unit - the monitor is already decent and I'd not be able to blag an upgrade here!

    I agree that perhaps the i7 is OTT for my uses (as I said, the PC I was testing on is an Adobe beast).

    As I'm sure you all know - spend a while on the Dell site playing around with different models and configurations and you can get a vastly different PC for a similar price. The intention of the thread was to see what processors are out there and for example is an i5 considerably better than an i7 - does it warrant X£ more etc.

    When looking to 'standard' PCs in the past the difference between some of the 'dual core' and 'core 2 duo' processors can be about 50-60 quid per PC - a quick google reveals there's very subtle differences - in this instance it's not worth the upgrade.

    Whilst the i7 may be OTT for current needs if it falls within budget then why not? - It future proofs it for longer and for a wider selection of tasks. I appreciate you guys think I could spend the budget elsewhere but it wont be a case of if I skimp 100 quid less on the base unit that I can add that 100 to a better monitor etc it will just be a case of 'oh good, it was 100 quid less' lol.

    *awaits Sandy Bridge i7* me thinks!...

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