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Phenom II X3 720 or X4 940?

Posted on 2009-04-02
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Hi Guys,

Well, what to do?  The X4 940 is running about $70 more than the X3 720.  I mainly run office programs and play games.  Not a huge gamer, but like good FPS when I play.

So, is the 940 worth the extra $70 or no?  I have the 720 now and my 3DMark scores jumped 2000 points over my 6000+.  Can now run Crysis on High, 4x AA smooth as class with my crummy ole 8800 GT.  I can still return this and get the 940.

Should I?  I have seen some benches where the 940 blows the 720 away and others where it's a basically a wash.

Thanks :)
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Question by:MitchellVII
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by:_
ID: 24056255
That's a hard one. Most of the stuff I have read says that the 4th core still isn't getting used that much.

Log the cpus usage for an average workload for a day, and see if you get anywhere close to getting 3 of them to break a sweat.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24056276
coral,

Well, the latest benchies I've seen online show the 940 pretty much blowing away the 720 - however, those benchmarks make us of all 4 cores, whereas, pretty much nothing else in real life does.  Still, it's only about $80 more and I'll blow $80 drinking on Friday night.

I dunno.  I think it's mostly geek lust.  I could go with the i7's, but you are looking at $300 for the cheapest CPU, $300 + for the MB and $180 for the ram.

Lol, I remember the day when a total POS computer cost over $3000.  Man we are spoiled.

P.S., They are saying that within 2 years, they will start making CPU's with a substance called GRAPHINE.  They say that they will be able to achieve speeds of over 500 Ghz with these.  That is over 100 times faster than the fastest current CPU's.

Man.  that's another reason i don't want to overspend now when it's gonna be a paperweight in 2 years anyway.
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_ earned 167 total points
ID: 24056346
>> ...geek lust...     Man we are spoiled

ROFL   I know what you mean
If you were doing some video editing/transcoding, I would tell you to go with the quad. But for what you stated, it's a coin toss.
So toss a coin.  2 out of 3?    ; )
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by:garycase
garycase earned 167 total points
ID: 24056715
Since you've already bought the motherboard/CPU to go with an AMD CPU, I'd just keep your 720.   Passmark's CPUMark is an excellent measure of CPU "horsepower" ... and your 720 scores a respectable 2875 on that benchmark.   The X4 940 scores 3758 ... 31% more "horsepower" for 50-55% more money (not a good value).   Since you can already play your most demanding games with no problem you're not likely to get any real benefits from the additional "horsepower".

IF, however, performance is more important than the value (and you can still return both the CPU and the motherboard), I'd return both and go with the Core i7.   A bottom-of-the-line Core i7 920 scores 5493 on Passmark -- almost double your 720 (91% higher) for $289.   But of course you'd have to replace the motherboard as well.  

As for the price of systems these days ... they're "free" compared to those we bought in the early days of PC's -- I remember buying an 8K memory board for $1200 (Yes, that's 8K; and yes, it was on a plug in S-100 board ... not just a simple plug-in module) ----  a 26MB (MB is not a typo) hard disk for $4500 ---- an 8-pin SLOW dot matrix printer for about $1000 ---- a 2X CD recorder for $900 ---- etc.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24059756
gary,

When I was in college, we wrote computer programs on punch cards.  I remember a prgram I wrote to do a simple calculation took and entire 2 foot long box of cards.  Really is remarkable how far we have come in only 30 years or so.  Makes you wonder what a civilization that has had modern technology for millions of years might be like?

Short, gray, with big eyes, big brain and no genetalia I assume, lol.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24059791
gary,

I have thought about going the i7 route, and I would if all it meant was buying the CPU.  But it means that I need to buy a new $300+ MB, new Ram, new everything.  Also, in 2 years when the graphine CPU's start coming out with their 500 Ghz speeds, even the i7's will look like a turd.

Honestly, the i7 is like paying $150,000 for a sportscar that can go 200 MPH when the speed limit is 65. As it is, I have a whole new rig (790GX MB and 720 BE) for less than $300.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24059860
Actually, if I am really dying to spend more money on this rig, I should use it to buy a new video card.  My 8800 GT is strained to it's limits playing games like Crysis and I;m sure upcoming titles will be even more demanding.  I will be interested to see what happens to the price of the 4850 once the new 4890's come out.  I have heard two 4850's in crossfire kick butt.  We'll see.
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by:KrazyRhino
KrazyRhino earned 166 total points
ID: 24061835
My 2 cents is with the i7 you are buying the Intel equivilent of AMD. Here are my data points;
On AMD DUAL CORE CPUs they had;
Hyper-threading (now in the i7)
Cache-per-core (now in the i7)
No Front-side Bus [though technically only the Opteron line had no FSB realistically they replaced the FSB with HT so it is just as gone] (added in the i7).

That being said, DDR3 is nice, and the i7 natively likes DDR3. Also while nothing currently uses 4 cores effectively eventually they will, and unless you are planning on upgrading every 18 months, an i7 has more staying power more lifespan than an  x3.

On the other hand, if you can keep your current rig for 12 months this time next year you can get a system with built in USB3.0 and maybe even the 3rd gen of Firewire.



As to the graphene, they are about 10 years from making anything useful from it as it is barely the begining of the research on it, so don't hold your breath.
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by:garycase
ID: 24062382
"... we wrote computer programs on punch cards ..." => Been there, done that, as they say.   In fact my first job in a computer center was when I was a 15-year old college freshman programing IBM 407 accounting machines [You programmed them by wiring a large plugboard (probably 2' by 2.5' with hundreds of wire jumpers).   I was a 15-year old computer "geek" => not exactly unusual today, but VERY rare when I was 15 :-)

An 8800GT is still a pretty good video card => I wouldn't replace it as long as your current games are doing well.    Video cards (as I'm sure you know) have a fairly steep price curve, so the longer you wait, the more "oomph" you can get for the $$.   May as well wait until you buy a new game (or other program) that would really benefit from a newer card before springing for one.

I got a kick out of the description of the Core i7 as "... the Intel equivilent of AMD ..." :-)   While it's true AMD had an on-board memory controller first, that's about the only area where they preceded an Intel feature.  Intel developed hyperthreading first (true, they didn't elect to include it in the Core architecture series until they released the i7 ... but the Netburst CPU's had it long ago);  cache-per-core (they've gone both ways with this over the past few years -- it's not clear that per-core cache is better, as a shared cache allows the most active core to have a larger cache).   I'd hardly call the i7 Intel's "equivalent of AMD" => it's simply the next step in the Core architecture evolution.   I'm glad to see AMD ... after over two years of "no contest" ... finally has a CPU that's reasonably competitive with the Core architecture.   The X4 940 scores 3769 on PassMark ... reasonably competitive with the Q9xxx quads (Q9450 - 3885, Q9550 - 4181, Q9650 - 4386), although still well below the Core i7 series (the bottom-of-the-line Core i7 920 scores 5467, and the Core i7 940 hits 6679).    Perhaps AMD's near-competitiveness will put some price pressure on Intel and help bring the Core i7 prices down a bit quicker.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24062545
Here's the point with these new CPU's.  At what point do we reach a stage of diminishing returns where the ONLY people that want your chip are the uber-geek enthusiasts that will pay thousands to brag about a 3DMark Vantage Score?  How much revenue can those geeks generate and does it justofy the billions spent on R & D?

Right now, we have a $139 CPU (720BE) that along with a $139 MB (Asus 790GX) and a $90 video card (8800 GT) can pretty much play anything out there maxxed with the exception of the foliage heavy Crysis?  The question is, other than bragging rights why pay more?
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by:KrazyRhino
ID: 24062630
Well a built up i7 system with a decent compliment of RAM/current video card you can run a VM with the full settings and still have enough resources to run natively with full settings.

How many people do that? maybe 10?
But for MMO players it could be useful maybe.

Honestly though hardware has done something in the past year or two that it hasn't done in years... and that is outpace the software. Right now the software makers need to step up and get to programing something intense that NEEDS 4 cores.

If people like John Carmack hadn't ignored multi-core when it came out we might be there already, as it is, gaming is about 2 years behind the hardware.
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by:garycase
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There are two types of users who want these high-end CPUs:   (1)  the uber-geek gaming enthusiasts you described; and (2) those who do work that really uses the CPU power -- high-end graphics work (video rendering);  mathematical modeling [another very CPU-intensive application ... and not everyone can afford supercomputers to do it :-) ];  video editing; etc.

I agree the first group largely buys them for "bragging rights" ... since a much less-powerful system can perform well-enough for almost any realistic gaming scenario.   But the 2nd group can ALWAYS use more "horsepower" => even the top-of-the-line Cray's are still not powerful enough, for example, to do real-time weather modeling.

I suppose there's also a 3rd category:  those who just want the best and don't care about the cost :-)    The computer equivalent of those who buy Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, etc.

Isn't technology wonderful?  :-)  :-)
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24064610
gary,

I am waiting for them to perfect OLED technology.  They say that they will be able to create a contact lens powered by a chemical reaction with your eyeball (i.e., no batteries - you ARE the battery) that will be able to pull up any information on demand and show it to you right in front of your eye.

Walking down a street and see something you want to know more about?  Just look at it and say "What's that?" and in seconds you have a full video and graphical readout of what you are looking at on your contact lens.

I am still wating for my robot girlfriend.  I think I'll pay extra for the Angelina Jolie model, hold the crazy.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24064627
Dammit, I just feel like buyin' some tech here.  Don't need it, just want a new toy.  I am waiting for all the amazing new cell phones come out this summer before I upgrade (want the nVidia Tegra chip phone) so I can't buy a phone.  I could needlessly upgrade my rig.  Maybe pick up a 4890?

Lol, I'm such a nerd.
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>>  I just feel like buyin' some tech here

Have you thought about getting a SSD? The Intel X25-M is still a nice deal.   : )
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24067484
Man, I am still torn on whether to return this 720 and spring the extra $80 for the 940.  On the one hand, it's only $80.  I'll blow that in a night chasing women that I have no chance with.  On the other hand, it is TOTALLY unnecessary as I doubt my office applications will run ay faster, web browsing will go any quicker, and maybe I'll pick up and extra 3 or 4 FPS's in games.  But on the other hand, it BUGS me that I'm so cheap and didn't get the best CPU available in the AMD brand.  On the other hand, it sucks 125 watts and my experience has been that those can make your capacitors whine after a while (which I hate).  On the other hand, if I really want better gaming, I should just spend the money towards a new 4890.  On the other hand I don't really even game that much.  On the other hand, I want to buy a new Palm Pre when they come out.

Lol.  I'll get back to you after I am done arguing with myself.
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by:garycase
ID: 24068613
Swap it :-)   As you noted, it's only $80, which is basically nothing.   If you don't do it while you can, you'll always be wishing you had.   [Although you may also be wishing you'd sprung for a Core i7 :-) ]
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24068966
gary,

I'd go i7 in a second except I woulld have to drop a extra $300 for a MB and another $150 for some tri-channel DDR3.  If I am gonna blow that kind of cash, why not just stick with what I have a get a pair of 4890's in crossfire for $500?
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by:garycase
ID: 24069067
Well ... it simply depends on what you use the system for.   I'm not a gamer -- but I do a fair amount of video rendering, so the fastest possible CPU is always nice (although I haven't sprung for a Core i7 yet).   But for gaming, the GPU upgrade is likely a better choice than the faster CPU => although both clearly contribute to overall performance.

You don't need to spend $300 for a Core i7 motherboard => if I was going to build a Core i7 system right now, I'd use this:  http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128375

... and while it's certainly true that 6GB of DDR3-2000 would be pricey, you'd get excellent performance with DDR3-1333, which is now available at fairly good prices -- e.g. here's 6GB for $69:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145220
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 31566100
Ok guys, mods want to me to close this one up.  I'll spread the poinst around.  Thanks for the input!
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ID: 24069635
Thank you much, and good luck with your argument.   : )
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24069692
Guys, I just did an interesting price comparison of the 720 BE rig I have vs an i7 920 rig.

720 BE:
CPU - $150
MB - $140
RAM - $0 (already have 4 Gigs DDR2)

i7 920:
CPU - $300
MB - $260
RAM - $60 (3 Gigs tri-channel DDR3)

The difference in cost is about $330, for which I could keep my current rig and buy a new ATI 4890 and 4 more gigs of ram.  I think the choice on value is clear.  Although the i& rig will beat the 720 rig with the same 8800 GT (current) video card, the current rig with a 4890 would BLOW AWAY the i& with just an 8800 GT in gaming.
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by:garycase
ID: 24069899
Since you can already "... run Crysis on High, 4x AA smooth as class with my crummy ole 8800 GT ..." it's unlikely a newer video card will "blow away" anything.   Outperform?  Of course ... but once you hit the "fast enough" point, any further performance is nice-to-have, but hardly a blowout.   Kind of like switching from a 100MB network to a GB net when all you use the network for is internet access over an 8Mb cable modem.

As for raw performance ... your 720 rig scores 2875 on Passmark -- so you're getting 9.91 CPUMarks/$ (with a zero cost for your memory).   The Core i7 system you listed (except I've assume $185 for a motherboard per my suggestion earlier, and $289 for the Core i7, based on Newegg's pricing) would give you 10.29 CPUMarks/$.   Yes, it's more expensive, but I'd say they're about equal in "value" on a price:performance basis (with a slight edge to the Core i7).   Clearly a better video card will help EITHER system ... and if you can only afford to upgrade the video by keeping the 720, that's not a bad choice.

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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24069977
gary,

The 8800 GT perfoms well in Crysis, but the game still has a nasty habit of just randomly shutting down after 20 minutes or so for no apparent reason - just says Windows has shut down Crysis.  Card is running cool so that isn't it.

Still, I would be curious to see how the game looks at max resolution and max AA.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24077775
One of the "hidden" problems with the 720 BE is a "binning" issue.  Since the thing supposedly has a funky core, and that's why it's not a 940, there is also a likelihood the rest of th chip isn't as strong as a 940 either.

I keep reading about all these huge OC's to 3.9 and 4.0 with the 720.  Perhaps for them.  But mine idles at only 30 C and I simply cannot get it stable about 3.6 and sometimes 3.5.  Did I get a poorly "binned" chip?  Odds are, yes.  That or all these other people online are lying.

Honestly, during regular desktop use, I cannot say I notice much difference between this 720 and my old 6000+.  It still takes remarkably long for Vista to boot completely and performance is a bit sluggish for the first 10 minutes i use the machine.
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by:garycase
ID: 24078526
Boot time is impacted a lot by disk speed -- a Velociraptor makes a VERY nice difference in boot times.   Regardless of the disk you're using, it will also boot faster if the OS partition is modestly small (I use 40GB for XP, 50GB for Vista) and is on the outermost cylinder of the disk (the first partition), which has a transfer rate nearly twice as fast as the inner cylinders.

... the CPU also makes a difference ... but if your system is feeling "sluggish" I suspect a simple realignment of the OS partition could make a very nice difference in boot times.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24080152
gary,

I don't know how to re-align my boot sectors.  I have my OS on a 150 gig HDD.  You think I should limit the OS partition to just 40 gigs?  Should I install all my programs in another partition then?  Will this make things faster?

Well, I just went ahead and sprang for a new X4 940.  It cost me half again as much as the 720 BE, but I did it anyway.  I guess it was just bugging me that I had a CPU with a busted Core.  Kind of like dating a beautiful woman with a crooked nose.  98% of her is perfect, but you just can't stop staring at her damned nose.  I feel happy now and that's worth $80 any day.

I almost went i7, but the extra for the MB and the Ram just didn't make sense when I probably wouldn't notice much real world performance difference anyway.  Lol, I also didn't feel like installed a whole new MB, et al :)

Do you have a good link for me on setting up boot secors to the outer rim, etc?  Do I have to reload the OS or can I just move things around?
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by:garycase
ID: 24080485
If your OS is occupying the entire HD, then you can easily move it to the outermost cylinders by simply resizing the partition.   No need to install your programs on another partition -- although I would move My Documents and other data files to a separate partition.    Keeping the data separate makes it simply to restore the OS if you ever need to without having any impact on the data.

You can do that easily with Boot-It NG [http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm ].   Just download the free demo; create a bootable CD; boot to the CD; select CANCEL at the first prompt; then OK; click on Partition Work; be sure the correct disk is selected (if it's the only one it will be -- if not, note the HD-0, HD-1, HD-2, etc. choices and pick the right one) and that the highlighted partition is the one you want to resize (it will be if it's the only partition); then click on ReSize and just follow the prompts.   You can make the partition whatever size you want -- but I've found that the sizes I noted above are PLENTY as long as your data is kept elsewhere.

After the resize, you just click Close, then click on Reboot -- and you're done.   Windows will want to reboot after it recognizes the "new" drive -- so do that, then you're ready to create a 2nd partition on the drive for your data (you can use Windows Disk Management to do that) ... and you're done.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24080842
Ok, thanks gary, I'll give that a try :).
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24081044
Well, so far (and I haven't done any overclocking yet), the X4 940 just feels more "balanced" than the X3 720.  Could be a placebo affect, but it really does feel better to me.  The 720 just seemed kid of uneven somehow.

Well, anyway, let's see how it does after I try to cook it's innards.  i am going to follow xbitlabs recommendations on overclocking the 940 and see how it goes.  I think i will use the AOD utility for now and people seem to think well of it.
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by:garycase
ID: 24081144
Good luck ... hopefully you won't "cook" it too much :-)
.... personally I run everything at spec -- my #1 criteria for my systems is stability & reliability, so I simply don't overclock.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24082511
gary,

But you can get such amazing performance increases with overclocking.

Well I'm done.  Got it to 3.7 Ghz at 1.425 v on air stable.  Purrs like a kitten.  This cpu definitely runs hotter than the 720 did since thsi goes at 125 W to the 720's 95 W.  I'm looking at low 50's at idle which is about 20 C hotter than the 720, but within safety limits.

Am gonna look into spinning up the fan a bit more and seeing if I can cool it off.

Performance wise, there is no comparison, this is DEFINITELY smoother and faster than the 720 BE.  I am very happy I went with it.
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by:garycase
ID: 24084128
3.7GHz = 23% increase over stock. Assuming a linear gain in power, that would up the PassMark score to 4622.

I agree that's a nice improvement ... but I simply don't overclock -- 23% is not a big enough bump in performance for me to decrease the reliability of my CPU's by running them hotter than they need to be [My Core 2 Duo idles around 32 and rarely hits 50 even after hours of 100% loading]. Yes, I could easily overclock it -- indeed I have a rather overclocking friendly Gigabyte motherboard -- but I just don't.

If I decide I want more performance, I'll just build a nice Core i7 system (probably with a 940, which scores 6168 on PassMark).
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ID: 24084170
Uncle !!   You two are killing me.    ; )
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24086243
coral,

Lol, my geek panties are all in a twist, I'm sorry.  But you are right, grown men going on and on about how fast they can make their tiny little flat square go.  I stand guilty of nerd-dome.
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by:_
ID: 24091003
: D  
My geek panties are in a twist cause I can't spring for one right now.
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by:MitchellVII
ID: 24091171
coral,

Yeah that sucks but hey, they will only get cheaper.  3 years from now we will have graphene based CPU's that are capable of 1000 Ghz and laugh about the days we got excited about overclocking the 4 Ghz.  Today's i7 will be tomorrow's 486.

Once we have 100 Mbs download speeds on our boradband connections, our computers won't even have hard drives anymore.  Just these mega-datacenters embedded in some mountain somewhere.
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: )
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