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Author Topic: Windows workstation, what are you building or buying today?  (Read 13244 times)
tived
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« on: May 28, 2009, 01:58:43 AM »
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Hi guys,

my Dual Opteron is getting a bit long in the tooth (2x 285's) and noisy.

So I am looking at my options, Intel certainly has come a long way since I build my workstation with their Xeon 5500 series, AMD is releasing their Istanbul 6 core as we speak. but which way to go?

What are you building or having build these days?

purpose of this is to build a fast, very fast Photoshop machine, moving large files around, by large I mean 1GB or larger (last few monster files for me was just under 15GB pano's) so, it is not for the faint heart'
this will be a windows machine x64

what platform, INTEL or AMD can get you the most memory for least amount of money and still be fast?

I will probably build this in stages, but CPU's RAM and mainboard in one hit, new graphics card (current Quadro FX 3400) and hard drives (current various SCSI-3 and Sata2) in steps before or after

I look forward to hear what you have to say - NO MAC thanks!

Henrik
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MBehrens
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2009, 10:43:48 PM »
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The new intel i7 processors with a X58 chipset mother board is hard to beat these days. The triple-channel memory architecture is a big boost as long as you populate the modules in sets of 3 -- an "upgrade of 3GB(3x1GB) to 4GB(2x2GB) RAM will result in reduced performance.

I'm a Western Digital HD fan - Seagates are too noisy.

Video - If you are using LightRoom avoid nvidia cards. Otherwise get the best you can afford. $ and performance is a pretty linear scale in the video arena.
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tived
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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2009, 08:57:17 PM »
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Quote from: MBehrens
The new intel i7 processors with a X58 chipset mother board is hard to beat these days. The triple-channel memory architecture is a big boost as long as you populate the modules in sets of 3 -- an "upgrade of 3GB(3x1GB) to 4GB(2x2GB) RAM will result in reduced performance.

I'm a Western Digital HD fan - Seagates are too noisy.

Video - If you are using LightRoom avoid nvidia cards. Otherwise get the best you can afford. $ and performance is a pretty linear scale in the video arena.

Thanks for your replay MBehrens,

I am sort of looking at Dual Xeon or Dual Opteron's again, the Intel certainly has it going for them. Both AMD and Intel is, are they not always, about to release a couple a new CPU's, AMD's Istanbul which is a 6 core cpu and intel with their Xeon i7, forgot the model number, but its faster then the previous one ;-)

Why go for the dual processor platform, well because there i can add more ram, above 24gb, at least that is the idea.

having said that, the cost of workstation grade computers are quite expensive...eg my dual Opteron cost 2-3 times more then my Quadcore Intel box, not quite comparing apples with apples here but still. However benchmarking them, there is only 10% performance difference, with the advantage to the Opteron.

I guess we can all live the a 10% performance hit, and save $5-8k, but there is something about the Opteron, the way it feels, the way it response that makes it so much nicer to use. its a bit like sitting in a Marc and a Glof GTI, both a great drives, but the Merc is just that much smoother, probably a bad analogy.

So why the question, Henrik? You know the answer ......hmm, well, this next box is going to last me the next 3-5 years, with minor upgrades to it. So, I like to get it right and is therefore seeking opinions.

Going for the Dual processor/workstation option, is more expensive, but I have more options for upgrading, in particular when it comes to memory. there will be 2x4cores and perhaps 12 cores the following year (if I go intel, then most likely one would have to replace the mainboard, as the socket will be different, but with AMD, they support their socket for a longer period, in this case socket F and will support their next 6 core processors)

If I went for the desktop version, it would most likely be an Intel i7, not even considering AMD there. cheaper, and I guess i could upgrade the whole rig more often, but I still can only add 24gb of ram.

For the mac people here, peeking in, the Dual Processor workstation is the equivalent to your MacPro.

hmm, I will have to add it all up. I will be using this a lot

thanks all for looking ;-)

Henrik

PS: MBehrens, if you fill all the memory slots the clock speed will also drop :-) therefore you are better off getting 3x4GB sticks over 6x2GB sticks in the x58 board. In my case this is not enough, I want more ram :-)

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tived
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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2009, 08:50:10 PM »
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It looks like the recession is taking its tall here, no one is investing in computers, or at least not in PC's :-) ohh well, I am hurting too and having looked at the cost for a new rig, it may even be out of my own reach $5-7k (cpu, mainboard, ram, SSD)
Henrik
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Christopher
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2009, 06:20:14 PM »
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Quote from: tived
It looks like the recession is taking its tall here, no one is investing in computers, or at least not in PC's :-) ohh well, I am hurting too and having looked at the cost for a new rig, it may even be out of my own reach $5-7k (cpu, mainboard, ram, SSD)
Henrik


One small note form my side. I would not focus to much on ram itself. I mean I think something between 12-16gb is enough. I would focus on larger raid 0 SSD arrays. Why ? You can get more speed you could ever imagine. On the other hand many SSD drives will probably be the most expensive part.
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tived
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2009, 07:34:22 PM »
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Quote from: Christopher
One small note form my side. I would not focus to much on ram itself. I mean I think something between 12-16gb is enough. I would focus on larger raid 0 SSD arrays. Why ? You can get more speed you could ever imagine. On the other hand many SSD drives will probably be the most expensive part.


Thanks Christopher,

Good point, If I am to make the transition, I will have to replace CPU, Mainboard and RAM. which is 2x 3.2GB Xeon, 24gb ram and SuperMicro or tyan mainboard. For SSD disks, I am looking at two Intel disks, for starters.

Alternatively I upgrade my current box, a Dual Opteron 285, with 8GB. by replacing the RAM with 16gb which is the max, and get the SSD disks, and that could potentially sparks some more life into it.

Having said that, there is not a lot more performance gained by going for the Xeon system, only the access to more ram is the biggest benefit, as it can go to either 48GB or 96Gb but the later will definitely be too expensive :-)

I have found that my old Opteron, isn't far behind Xeon when it comes to photoshop, which is the target application.

kindest regards

Henrik

PS: christopher, are you using any SSD disks atm??
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Phil Indeblanc
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2009, 02:39:17 AM »
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Wait until the Win7 OS is available, that way you will have a clean install of the OS rather than an upgrade.  Also, there are nice Asus mobo available.
I think the optimal RAM config is dependant on the motherbaord, and not just the chipset...but I am not too familiar on this, maybe someone can explain this, as in my situation, I would want 12GB on a 6 bank Asus board(P6T-se). What would be the optimal, as the large and pricepoint stick size is 2GB/stick. That would mean to fill all 6 banks, would that cause a bottleneck?
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Plekto
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2009, 05:55:26 PM »
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You need to get an AMD processor and a 64 bit OS, plus *not* have an Intel chipset/memory controller(weak spot in the chain).  That will allow you to properly use all of your memory bandwidth and workspace.  Toss 16GB in your box and turn off the swap file.  This will give you loads more speed than a faster processor, since every time you hit swap you are going 1/500th as fast as the memory.

EDIT - or just avoid Windows entirely and run 32-bit *IX with PAE enabled on such a board.

Another trick is an ANS-9010/9010B with memory in it as a temp swap space/swap drive.  This is as fast as a SSD but bulletproof and about the same cost.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2009, 05:57:42 PM by Plekto » Logged
Phil Indeblanc
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2009, 07:14:31 PM »
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Plekto...

Those are some interesting options.  I used to have a RAMDISK as a swap. It worked pretty good.  

How does the Intel chipset limit the RAM use in 64bit Windows (Vista/7)?

I am open to AMD processors, but I have always read the the floating point math instructions on AMD had some issues.  I have no idea of what that even mean really, but I have had that tossed around often.

On my editing station, I have 4 apps always open, CS4 with a number of plugins(I have more than I should, and find a select couple useful), Capture1, InDesign is open, Acrobat, ACDSee 2.5Pro(gave up on Bridge, it cant manages many drive...my conclusion), Int Explorer, Win Explorer.

I have a Q9650 Core2Quad now with 4GB of slow mem, and OS is on a 10K drive, and 2 scratch disks 10K.  6TB of data and NAS backup for the 6TB.

here is what I put together last night to see what I can build / thinking of going 64Bit (but waiting for Win7)......
« Last Edit: June 18, 2009, 07:16:26 PM by Phil Indeblanc » Logged

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hilljf
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« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2009, 07:03:11 PM »
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Hi Christopher,
   Good to hear from you on the site.

    My own plans is to build a machine that would be based on Dual Xeon 5500 processors.  The new Nahalem architecture offers exceptional performance.  The machine will have at least two SSD drives in raid 0 for the OS, program files and swap areas.  And then a number of large SATA drives for the images and other data.   Regarding SSD it is important to recognize that the best performance comes from single layer cell technology which means lower capacity drives, but much better write performance.   the larger capacity multi layer cel SSD drives have great read speads but poor write performance by comparison.

    I am likely to wait until the fall, when Intel releases their "toc" processors, this will result in lower prices for the exceptional processors recently released.

John
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tived
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2009, 09:28:00 PM »
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Quote from: hilljf
Hi Christopher,
   Good to hear from you on the site.

    My own plans is to build a machine that would be based on Dual Xeon 5500 processors.  The new Nahalem architecture offers exceptional performance.  The machine will have at least two SSD drives in raid 0 for the OS, program files and swap areas.  And then a number of large SATA drives for the images and other data.   Regarding SSD it is important to recognize that the best performance comes from single layer cell technology which means lower capacity drives, but much better write performance.   the larger capacity multi layer cel SSD drives have great read speads but poor write performance by comparison.

    I am likely to wait until the fall, when Intel releases their "toc" processors, this will result in lower prices for the exceptional processors recently released.

John

Hi John,

It is my understanding, that in order to gain the best performance using windows in general, but more so in photoshop, is to separate the OS, from its swap file and again, having Photoshops scratch disk separate again....3 drives, not partitions!! If you have sufficient RAM, this separation becomes less important.

However, if you are using your computer like anything I do, then you will need more and more, bigger and bigger. Eg, images becomes bigger and bit dept higher...suddenly files are no longer in 100s of megabytes but in multiple of gigabytes.

Something to watch out for, if you are building yourself, or for that matter buying it ready-made, is the number of RAM sockets, the new pairs are threesome's :-) and in order to gain the highest clock rate, you need to fill them as described above. And, you may have 12 sockets, eg 4 pairs (of 3's) using 2gb sticks which is the sweet spot you are "limited" to 24gb, using 4gb sticks you will very likely see the price triple, for 48gb. However, if you can find a mainboard, with 18 ram sockets, you can get into the 36gb of ram, which I think will be todays comfort zone, for a power user. anyway, just some food for thoughts

regards

Henrik

PS: which SSD drives have you been looking at? I have been eying off the Intel E versions 80gb
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Plekto
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« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2009, 12:29:10 AM »
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The issue with 32-bit Intel chips and motherboards is that even if they could use PSE to get 32-bit Linux or BSD/Hackintosh to run more than 4GB, the memory controllers in the Intel chips themselves plus the Intel southbridges are incapable of actually allocating more than 4GB to any process.  There's a hard-engineered 32 bit path in the way they work and so you either have to go entirely 64-bit processor, board, and OS, or you can run AMD and one of their boards.   This allows you to create a hackintosh that runs with PAE enabled.  

http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=53725
Read the last reply (by me).  It's long but explains why while it is possible to use a 32 bit os with PAE, it doesn't work 90% of the time due to hardware issues beyond just the chip.  But it IS possible, nonetheless.

BTW, great site - highly recommended for technical information about any computer.
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soboyle
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« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2009, 07:01:56 PM »
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I built a quad core machine last fall, with 8 gigs of fast ram, running Vista 64 bit. It is one fast machine, haven't run into any memory problems with 5dMK2 files in photoshop. I put my money into a monitor, a NEC 2690, very nice setup.
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Vautour
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« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2009, 04:48:28 AM »
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Just to avoid confusion:

  • Currently no AMD processor can be used with an Intel chipset (and vice versa).
  • All current AMD cpus have the memory controller integrated on die, i. e. on the cpu itself, it is no longer on the chipset (has been since Athlon64).
  • Intel has also integrated the memory controller on the cpu with the new Nehalem architecture.
  • As a reference: Digloyd PhotoShop Performance Guide. He's also done the same for Lightroom and looks at SSDs. Unfortunately, since he only looks at Mac Pros, his tests are only valid for Intel based systems. The I/O-Subsystems though (save RAM) should be comparable to AMD systems since there isn't much difference between those controllers. If you're going with AMD: more GHz, more speed, the newer the architecture, the more speed per GHz.
  • Also worth a click: AnandTech CPU Comparison. A similar spec'ed Xeon/Opteron will fare essentially the same as its desktop counterpart. They have also more thorough reviews on the site.

So with current processor architectures generally the chipset (or rather the board's use/implemention thereof) only limits the amount of RAM by the number of RAM sockets available, whether it can support single/double sided RAM modules and how big the modules can be (GB/module, often this is limited by the board's support for single/double sided RAM modules).
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mmurph
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« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2009, 10:54:56 PM »
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Everything I read right now says that multiple CPU's is not all t5hat useful for Photoshop. I think that was basically your conclusion, other than teh ability to load more RAM?

I would go with an i7 920 right now. The premium for eth i7 940 and 965/975 is just too steep.  Add in as much good quality DDR3 RAM as you can. The premium for 4GB sticks might be worth it there if it saves yoiu from going the whole 2 prtocessor route. Then try SSD and RAID on 10,000 RPM. But if you can avoid swappinmg (doing everything out of RAM), they may nor add much.
\
FWIW, I saw a Dell i7 920 with 3GB of DDR3 foe sale yesterday for $900 with a monitor.,  Think the max RAM was 18GB?  Probably sufficient for me. Run Windows 7 on that (I think if you buy after June 26th you get a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it is released.) Big question is how much RAM do you reallythink you need.

PS is alos making uise of GPU's more extensively than in teh past. But a normal 1GB card shoulds be suffoicient - recommended cars on teh Adobe PS blog.

Here is an example of a CNET review of a dual Xeon box that they said offered no benefits for Photoshop. That corresponds to ecerything else I am seeing (and it is a $3K box, vs. the Dell at $1K plus RAM ...)(FWIW as an example only, I know  you are looking at PC)


http://reviews.cnet.com/desktops/apple-mac...7-33541093.html

Apple Mac Pro (Two 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon, Winter 2009

... The bad:
 Relatively slow performance on programs such as Photoshop that rely on single-core CPU speed; we wish it had eSATA instead of FireWire 800 for external hard-drive connections

..... First, it's important to note that the new CPUs' core 2.26GHz clock speed is significantly slower than the pair of 2.8GHz chips in the older model. This does not mean that the new Mac Pro is slow across the board, because remember it still has faster memory and a whole new CPU architecture with a more efficient cache structure. But what it does mean is that for applications that rely heavily on single-core processing speed, such as Photoshop, our review unit actually lagged behind both the older model (in 4GB and 8GB configurations), and less expensive Windows desktop from Velocity Micro. We should add that the less expensive four-core version of the new Mac Pro has a single 2.66Ghz quad-core chip, which could close the performance gap on these kinds of tests


Let us know ho0w your research progresses and what you decide on!

Best,
Mi8chael

(sorry for all of teh typos! late for me ...)  
« Last Edit: June 23, 2009, 10:58:37 PM by mmurph » Logged
mmurph
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« Reply #15 on: June 23, 2009, 11:41:15 PM »
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Driversheaven has a DDR3 review comparing 3 versions of DDR3 RAM: Kingston, OCZ, GSkull, including some overclockings.

Somewhat interesting.  It would be **much** more interesting if they had also tested some DDR2 for comparison in the same mobo.

http://www.driverheaven.net/reviews.php?reviewid=793


Also a SSD review:

http://www.driverheaven.net/reviews.php?reviewid=799


They also have a database of Photoshop test results.

Great idea, crappy execution. People list RAM, but not always how much. No info on video cards, etc.  

They do have a test suite that you can run on your own system.  If anyone runs that it would be great to see the results here with more systems info!  (registration required, but it is free.)

http://www.driverheaven.net/photoshop.php?show=results


There is also an Excel spreadsheet here with a few timings for Photoshop using a handfull of processors, including the i7. No multi-CPU tests:

http://www.ixbt.com/cpu/images/intel-ci7-950/results.xls

Linked from this article:

http://ixbtlabs.com/articles3/cpu/intel-ci7-950-p2.html


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tived
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« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2009, 06:42:11 AM »
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Having looked at some of the links of not most of them,

the i7 single processor, seems to fair very well, of cause the higher the clock speed the higher the performance, at least in these benchmark test, that the various computer hardware site uses. One could question if they are relevant to what we need our computers for.

I haven't priced this out yet, but lets say that one picked the i7 extreme version (the fastest they have) and you can find 4GB DDR3 sticks at the fastest rate. I think you max out at 6x 4GB, so 24GB in total. this would not be a bad base for a photo editing system, add a couple of SSD disks, one for OS, and one for Scratch disk, and use 4x SATA disks for RAID 01 for your image storage (a separate RAID controller will often perform better then the built-in controller). Good graphics card, I don't think Photoshop could take advantage of SLI-technology yet (if ever). Something like this would have some serious horsepower. BUT....

....how will it fare when we are sorting and converting raw files, processing the them in batch, while you get on with your photoshop artwork, or modification, or as some would say beautification :-). While we start working in Photoshop, our raw processor is still chewing away on our last shoot (obviously this could not work with Bridge/ACR) so it will either have to be Lightroom or some other 3rd party converter. Now you are busy, you finish art-working some of your "Photoshopped"  images, and save them. I can see a bottleneck here...writing to disk...both the raw converter and photoshop are now busy writing and saving files to disk.... I am not sure if I am the only one here who works like this? I could be, but I doubt it :-) so what do you do...have a second Array of 4 disks?

Will the i7 be able to compete with a Dual Xeon 55xx, when you have several applications running and working at the same time, as we often do, in our line of work?? will the added cost of a Dual CPU system, save us time?

:-)

Henrik
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mmurph
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« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2009, 12:37:27 PM »
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Quote from: tived
....how will it fare when we are sorting and converting raw files, processing the them in batch, while you get on with your photoshop artwork, or modification, or as some would say beautification :-).

... I am not sure if I am the only one here who works like this? I could be, but I doubt it :-) so what do you do...have a second Array of 4 disks?

Henrik

That is actually a very important point Henrik.

I did not realize how much my process flow has changed through the use of Lightroom and Capture One Pro.  

With my DSLR, I shoot RAW + JPEG. I use the JPEG for quick web posts or reviews - for models, etc.  Then I review, rate, tweak, crop, etc. all of my pictures in one of those two packages.

It is not until I am almost done that I do a RAW conversion on just a handful of files, maybe 5, to take to Photoshop. Yesterday I did the conversion very easily 4 or 5 times in the background with no problem to get different color spaces (sRGB, ARGB) and make a few small changes.

So that is a different model from when I shot all RAW and would come home and convert 400+ files before starting to work with them.  My machine now really is more of a graphics workstation in a traditional sense.

I suppose all that info "sharing" was what you already new - trying to convince myself I guess.  

I like your term "beautifiucation."  

Good luck!  Let us know what you decide!

Best,
Michael
« Last Edit: June 24, 2009, 12:38:40 PM by mmurph » Logged
Phil Indeblanc
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« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2009, 03:58:37 PM »
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thanks for the test and other links mmurph,

I just did the test on driverheaven with my Q9650 running 32bit os cs4 with 4gb ram, and the ram is so slow, I got 428.5
:-(
Extrude test was slowest at 141.5, and SmartBlur at 84.8

interesting to see what the system I posted above will do in the tests!
 (except the vid card will be the 1GB version)
« Last Edit: June 24, 2009, 03:58:53 PM by Phil Indeblanc » Logged

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mmurph
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« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2009, 06:00:04 PM »
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Thanks Phil, that is interesting! I too would love to see teh rating on that new machine you are dreaming of!  

I iwll run it on a few plain vanilla machines plus a laptop I have around here for comparison.

It would be interesting to see what you got at 64 bit! I am in the process of converting a low end machine to Windows 7 just to test. I have Seagate drives so I did an image copy of tyhe existing drioves using their disk manager software.  I'll try to get before and after measurements with 32 bit Windows XP and 64 bit Windows 7.

FWIW today is the last day for the Dell with the i7 920 and 6GB DDR3 at $950. I checked, an upgrade to 12GB of RAM was $300, which is reasonable (6 DIMM's.) An upgrade to 24GB is $2,850!    

Cheers!
Michael
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