Some help on processor configuration for a new PC purchase

Posted on 2008-06-24
Last Modified: 2013-12-09

I want to buy a PC to run an application I wrote. It's compiled for 32bit systems, so I want to stay away from 64 bit processors. It makes heavy use of threads, eats up a lot of memory, for CPU intense (it's a scientific application). I'm taking a look at this dell configuration:

Processor-wise I'm confused. Here are the options:

   Intel" Core®2 Extreme QX6850 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/2X4MB L2) 525W [add $1,329]
   Intel" Core®2 Quad Q6700 (2.66GHz/1066MHz/2X4MB L2) 525W [add $659]
   Intel" Core®2 Quad Q6600 (2.40GHz/1066MHz/2X4MB L2) 525W [add $339]
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E6850 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/4MB L2) 525W [add $329]
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E6750 (2.66GHz/1333MHz/4MB L2) 525W [add $219]  
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E6550 (2.33GHz/1333MHz/4MB L2) 525W [add $89]  
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E8500 (3.16GHz/1333MHz/6MB L2) 525W [add $329]  
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E8200 (c) 525W [add $139]  
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E4600 (2.40GHz/800MHz/2MB L2) 525W [Included in Price]  
   Intel" Core®2 Extreme QX9650 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/12MB L2) 525W [add $1,329]  
   Intel" Core®2 Duo E8400 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/6MB L2) 525W [add $249]

1) What's the difference between a Core2 Duo vs a Core®2 Quad? I'm guessing:

    Core®2 Duo = 2 processors each with 2 processors on board - windows sees this as a PC with 4 processors.

    Core®2 Quad = 4 processors each with 2 processors on board - windows sees this as a PC with 8 processors.

Is that right? Since I have to run WindowsXP, I thought that it could only take advantage of 4 separate processors anyway, so would the Core®2 Quad be useless?

2) Also, what's the difference between a Core 2 Duo, and a motherboard that just has 4 individual processors? Performance of any sort?

3) Lastly, what's the "2.66GHz/1333MHz/6MB L2" really mean? I know the 2.66GHz is the clockspeed of each processor, what's the 1333MHz/6MB L2 mean and how will it affect performance?

I'd really like to get the processor configuration that's going to let this app crunch the numbers as fast as possible,

Question by:DJ_AM_Juicebox
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Assisted Solution

by:Andres Perales
Andres Perales earned 166 total points
ID: 21858805
Question 1: A Dual Core is really on processor with two one socket needed on the motherboard and the operating system sees it as two processors.
A Quad Core - is again one processor but with four one socket needed on the motherboard and the operating system sees it as four processors.

Question 2: a Core 2 duo for a single socket motherboard...a 4 socket motherboard as you know would take 4 physical processors...which would cost more money and also put out more heat.

Question 3: The 1333Mhz is the bus speed required to run that processor on the motherboard...the 6MB L2 means that the L2 cache on the processor is 6 MB.

If money is no object get the:
Intel" Core®2 Extreme QX6850 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/2X4MB L2) 525W [add $1,329]

And max out the machine in RAM:
4GB, 800MHz, DDR2 SDRAM Memory, ECC (2 DIMMS) [add $550]

to start with...also get the fastest drives that you can afford.


Author Comment

ID: 21858952

1) I'm a bit confused, is this right:
    Core®2 Duo    = 2 processors to the OS  (1 processor with 2 cores)
    Core®2 Quad  =  4 processors to the OS (2 processors each with 2 cores)

2) Sorry, I mean to compare a Core2 Quad with a plain 4 processor motherboard. To the OS, they both appear as 4 processors, right? The latter produces more heat, but is it better performance-wise?

3) So I want 4 processors, which leaves me to choose between:
    Core®2 Extreme QX6850  (3.00GHz/1333MHz/2X4MB L2)  525W [add $1,329]
    Core®2 Quad Q6700        (2.66GHz/1066MHz/2X4MB L2)  525W [add $659]
    Core®2 Quad Q6600        (2.40GHz/1066MHz/2X4MB L2)  525W [add $339]
    Core®2 Extreme QX9650 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/12MB L2)     525W [add $1,329]

The first and last don't explicitly say they're quad. Are they? Performance-wise, what is the difference between the 4mb and the 12mb L@ cache size? The first  3 have two L2 caches but are smaller than the single L2 cache of the last one? What does it all mean?

RAM and fast hard drive, totally.

LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:Andres Perales
ID: 21859578
Core2Quad means 1 processor...this 1 processor has 4 1 processor that you insert in 1 socket in 1 motherboard.  Operating System see 4 processors...LOL...enough ones...

So what you want is the  Core®2 Extreme QX9650 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/12MB L2)     525W [add $1,329]
This will give you 1 processor with 4 cores, which to the operating system will be four processors...the increased L2 cache will give more of a speed increase than the QX6850...this is the one that I would buy...

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Assisted Solution

Callandor earned 166 total points
ID: 21860048
Here is a performance chart of different processors:

The ones marked [Dual CPU] are two-processor systems, which can mean 4 or 8 cores, depending on the specific model.
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Expert Comment

ID: 21860992
r.e. "... I want to stay away from 64 bit processors ..." ==> What you really mean is you want to install a 32-bit OS rather than a 64-bit OS.   EVERY processor listed above supports EM64T ... i.e. is a "64-bit processor" :-)

As has already been noted, the Core 2 Duo's simply mean there are two processor cores (i.e. XP will "see" two processors);  the Core 2 Quad's have four cores (XP will "see" four processors).   Since your application is designed to utilize multiple simultaneous threads, the cores should all be well utilized ... so a quad core is most likely your best choice.   The tradeoff is that the Core 2 Duo's are faster at the same price point => so, for example, you can have 2 3.16 GHz cores (E8500) for about the same price as 4 2.4GHz cores (Q6600).   The speed difference means the overall performance isn't all that much different -- for example, the E8500 scores 2276 on PassMark's CPUMark vs 2680 for a Q6600 [so even with twice as many cores, the Q6600 is only 18% faster in CPU intensive operations].   The other thing to consider is the heat generated by the CPU's => a 65w E8500 will run quite a bit cooler than the 95w (or 105w, depending on the stepping) Q6600.   This may or may not be a factor, depending on the ambient environment you'll be running the system in.

r.e. the comment above, "... If money is no object get the:  Intel" Core®2 Extreme QX6850 (3.00GHz/1333MHz/2X4MB L2) 525W [add $1,329] " ==>  NO !!!   If you're going to spend that much $$ get the QX9650  [same price; newer 45nm architecture; larger cache; 16% better performance (PassMark CPU Mark of 3909 vs 3382)]
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Accepted Solution

garycase earned 168 total points
ID: 21861065
... Bottom line as far as a recommendation:

=>  If you want the system to run as cool as possible but still have excellent performance, go with an E8500.

=>  If heat's not a consideration, but money is, get a Q6600

=>  If cost isn't a consideration, get the QX9650

Author Comment

ID: 21862568
Hi all,

Thanks for your recommendations. After reading through, it seems the QX9650 is the way to go if I can spare $1329 extra.

I think that may be pushing it so I will probably go for the Q6600 because the heat output isn't an issue for me. I guess in this case it just matters if 2.4 vs 2.6 processor speed is worth the extra $300 for the Q6700.

Thanks for all your help.
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Expert Comment

ID: 21863041
Yes, if the QX9650 is beyond your price range, then the decision is whether or not the 13% performance gain of a Q6700 vs. a Q6600 is worth it to you (CPU-Mark's of 3029 vs. 2680).

Clearly the Q6600 is the "sweet spot" with regard to price:performance of the quad core CPU's in your list ... although I'd ask Dell if they can put a Q9300 (2.5GHz) or a Q9450 (2.66GHz) in, which are both newer 1333MHz FSB and 45nm fab CPU's.   These are the real "sweet spots" of the current Intel quad-core lineup (they just aren't on your list above).

... by the way, if you're comfortable removing & replacing the CPU, you could simply get the system as specified (with the E4600) and for $10 LESS than the price Dell wants for the Q6600 upgrade ($339) you can buy a much-better Q9450 [ ] ... and simply replace the CPU yourself [and have a spare E4600 :-) ].
The Q9450's CPU-Mark is 3579 => 34% better performance than the Q6600.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 21863162
... by the way, I'm sure just about any good tech would be glad to swap out the CPU for you in exchange for the E4600 :-)

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