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Some help on processor configuration for a new PC purchase


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,

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3 Solutions
Andres PeralesCommented:
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.

DJ_AM_JuiceboxAuthor Commented:

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.

Andres PeralesCommented:
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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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.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
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)]
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... 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
DJ_AM_JuiceboxAuthor Commented:
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.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
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.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
... 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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