# Processors, chipsets, and sockets (oh my!)

Homework Helper
I was trying to compare processors for a computer that I might get/make eventually, and I determined that I don't know enough about the various chipsets to make an informed choice. To begin, I want to be able to compare processor prices including motherboards, since if a motherboard has a new/uncommon socket that's compatible only with a few expensive motherboards, that's an effective increase in the price of the chip. Further, insofar as I have a choice in buying a motherboard (several that all work with a given processor) I'm not sure how to compare them. RAM expandability is one clear difference, but what else is there and how much does it matter?

I could really use a good resource on the topic -- I feel a little out of my league here.

vincentm
Are you building a PC? If so, what will uit be used for? What's your budget? Right now i'd stick with Intel Chipsets, on ASUS motherboards. X38 seems to be the latest, but ASUS boards having this can be quite spendy, you also need to know which RAM you're going to slap in. DDR3 seems to be the fastest thus far.

Homework Helper
Well... I've been thinking about Microwulf and just testing the waters of budgetary feasibility. I'd need at least four motherboards and processors, maybe more. What do you think?

vincentm
uhm ok, i'm not familair with Microwulf cluster

Homework Helper
uhm ok, i'm not familair with Microwulf cluster

It's all on the link I gave. The manifest should give a pretty good overview. Basically, it's four dual-core processors, one a master with a hard drive, CD drive, and Internet connection, and the other three compute nodes. The compute nodes have small boot partitions on the main hard drive -- just enough to get Linux started -- and they're all linked with a fast Ethernet connection.

sl1solo76
Given youd be planning on using the same parts, itd be cheaper... alot cheaper at least with the CPU's and RAM for the MB....

as far as bang for your buck and universality goes, i think the AMD AM2 platform would be good for a budget project like this. Everything in that line has gotten ALOT cheaper in the last few..

taking from your question that your asking about motherboards- To be completely honest, motherboards are really only as good as what you put on them, given you pay a decent price. most run a universal 1000mhz Hyper threading frequency under 100 bucks, and after that, its all preference of what sound/North and South Bridge/ and possibly integrated video chips they run.

Personally, i love either AMD or nvidia Nforce on the bridge(S)

Gold Member
Here is a good site for you http://www.clustermonkey.net//content/view/211/1/

I have also been considering building one to run SETI on.

Homework Helper
Given youd be planning on using the same parts, itd be cheaper... alot cheaper at least with the CPU's and RAM for the MB.

Yes, there's a more recent price estimate on the site I linked to, something like $1200 as of six months ago. But I would use faster chips, so the price wouldn't necessarily be lower. as far as bang for your buck and universality goes, i think the AMD AM2 platform would be good for a budget project like this. Everything in that line has gotten ALOT cheaper in the last few. This is why I wanted to know about motherboards. Right now I have a spreadsheet comparing MHz per dollar and the cheap chips are given an unfair advantage because I'm not considering motherboard cost (or RAM, but that's less straightforward to compare). That's why I want information on motherboards: so I can more fairly compare CPUs. Ideally I'd find the 'best' (cheapest? highest performance?) motherboard for a given chip and compare them to other motherboard + CPU bundles. taking from your question that your asking about motherboards- To be completely honest, motherboards are really only as good as what you put on them, given you pay a decent price. most run a universal 1000mhz Hyper threading frequency under 100 bucks, and after that, its all preference of what sound/North and South Bridge/ and possibly integrated video chips they run. So you'd recommend getting the cheapest motherboard that can support the chip, yes? Science Advisor Homework Helper Here is a good site for you http://www.clustermonkey.net//content/view/211/1/ I have also been considering building one to run SETI on. I read that before posting. Good article. If you do build it or something similar, I'd love to hear how it goes -- plus get any information from you on what did and didn't work. B. Elliott IMO, I would opt for an Intel processor over an AMD if the intention is for raw number crunching. I would save AMDs for gaming machines. The bang for the buck on the mid-range Intel's is unbeatable... faster performance when compared to a same speed AMD. It's also getting harder to compare processor performance if all you're looking at is just the clock speed. How the data is actually being handled can be a considerable tie breaker between two same-speed processors. I know you've probably had quite a few people tell you that you can build the same system for much cheaper now than you could back then, but let me recommend this. The system parts that I found were all on Newgg. Better motherboard, 2GB of ram vs. 1GB (also runs the memory in dual channel mode), a 25watt increase in the P/S output, 52x vs a 16x cd-rom speed and a hard drive with the same capacity only a larger memory cache which has been shown to improve performance with large-file transfers. I'll admit that the cd-rom drive performance will most likely be insignificant considering your application so you may be fine with an older, slower drive. The lesser price just nabbed my attention. That and i've never had any major issues with Asus products. ASUS P5VD2-VM SE$46.99 + 5.85 x 4 = $223.32 Core2DuoE4600 2.4GHz$144.99 x 4 = $579.96 Kingston pc25300 2x1GB$38.99 + 4.99 x 4 = $175.92 P/S PS350MA 350w$17.99 + 6.54 x 4 = $98.12 WDSE16 WD2500KS250GB$69.99 x 1 = $69.99 ASUS CD-S520B 52X$11.99 x 1 = $11.99 +_________ =$1159.30

Intel PRO/1000 PT PCI-Express NIC 164.00
Intel PRO/100 S PCI NIC 15.00
Trendware TEG-S80TXE 8-port Gigabit Switch 75.00
Zalman ZM-F3 120mm Case Fans 32.00
Generic NET12 Fan Grill (120mm) 10.00
36" x 0.25" threaded rods 5.00
Lots of 0.25" nuts and washers 10.00
12" x 11" polycarbonate pieces 0.00
1159.30
+________
Total = $1470.30 Although slightly greater than your last cost update, the performance increase would be considerable for your app, but that's just MO. Last edited: B. Elliott Forgot to add that if you happen to consider overclocking, the E4600s are good overclockers. I was able to hit 2.8GHz with one on stock voltage and a standard 775 cpu cooler. The motherboard is also overclock friendly. Both allowing an extra bit of headroom without stressing any components... if you feel like squeezing a bit more out of them. Science Advisor Homework Helper Could I just scavenge old power supplies? Forgot to add that if you happen to consider overclocking, the E4600s are good overclockers. I was able to hit 2.8GHz with one on stock voltage and a standard 775 cpu cooler. The motherboard is also overclock friendly. Both allowing an extra bit of headroom without stressing any components... if you feel like squeezing a bit more out of them. Since I'm doing math instead of gaming, I've always been a little wary of overclocking. My understanding is that overclocked machines tend to have (at least) floating-point mistakes -- one every trillion, quadrillion, or hundred quadrillion cycles, perhaps -- and while these mistakes don't matter when you're just rendering polygons real-time in a game, I can't tolerate the mistakes doing math. Can you correct any misunderstandings of mine here? Is there a safe zone for overclocking? And yes, RAM errors are just as bad and harder to avoid due to cosmic rays, but hopefully I can make a system with ECC? B. Elliott Could I just scavenge old power supplies? Since I'm doing math instead of gaming, I've always been a little wary of overclocking. My understanding is that overclocked machines tend to have (at least) floating-point mistakes -- one every trillion, quadrillion, or hundred quadrillion cycles, perhaps -- and while these mistakes don't matter when you're just rendering polygons real-time in a game, I can't tolerate the mistakes doing math. Can you correct any misunderstandings of mine here? Is there a safe zone for overclocking? And yes, RAM errors are just as bad and harder to avoid due to cosmic rays, but hopefully I can make a system with ECC? With the newer processors they require an additional four or eight pin power plug for additional processor power. As long as you find a p/s with enough juice and the additional plug, it should work fine. The floating point errors is definitely a concern for you, but as long as you don't try to really 'push' the limits of the cpu you shouldn't experience any random, fluke errors. One thing that i've noticed over the past few years is that Intel's processors have come a long way as far as providing enough headroom for overclocking without stress. It seems as though when they test the processors and are about to stamp them with their rating, they drop the final rating a considerable amount. Back when I was playing with overclocking Celeron 500s i'd be amazed to get anywhere near a stable 18 to 19% overclock. Using Intels E6700 as an example, i'm now able to hit a stable 25% overclock. This is also without any additional voltage increase or a huge aftermarket heatsink. Some people have been able to clock them higher, but that's were having "the pick of the crop" comes in. When you try to push the envelope is where problems start to show. I'd say the safe margin for avoiding any errors would be around a 10-15% overclock... upping it from 2.4GHz to 2.64 or 2.76GHz. While not exactly an Earth-moving increase, it's added performance without any negatives. You should also have no problem finding ECC memory for whatever motherboard you use. The only issue is that it's more expensive than non-ECC. Science Advisor Homework Helper With the newer processors they require an additional four or eight pin power plug for additional processor power. As long as you find a p/s with enough juice and the additional plug, it should work fine. I have power supplies with extra 4-pin plugs, but not with an extra 8-pin. How can I tell which need 4 and which need 8? I'd say the safe margin for avoiding any errors would be around a 10-15% overclock... upping it from 2.4GHz to 2.64 or 2.76GHz. While not exactly an Earth-moving increase, it's added performance without any negatives. You should also have no problem finding ECC memory for whatever motherboard you use. The only issue is that it's more expensive than non-ECC. Sounds good. I'll overclock just a bit, and shell out the extra$ for ECC memory. Is there anything extra I have to do in BIOS to turn on the ECC?

B. Elliott
I have power supplies with extra 4-pin plugs, but not with an extra 8-pin. How can I tell which need 4 and which need 8??

If it's a motherboard made within the last few years it'll most likely have an 8-pin female mounted on it. It's a little iffy, but as long as the voltage supplied to each pin number is the same there shouldn't be any problems, except for a possible lack of CPU power. The motherboard manual should show the voltage layout for the pins though. I've seen adapters out there, but to be honest I haven't run into a situation where i've had to convert. Here's one I found with a quick Google search.

http://www.performance-pcs.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=3204

Sounds good. I'll overclock just a bit, and shell out the extra $for ECC memory. Is there anything extra I have to do in BIOS to turn on the ECC? When I tried looking for the BIOS options on that motherboard I realized that it doesn't support ECC memory. Well, it may see the memory and be able to use it, but the ECC capability won't be recognised. Usually there is an option in the BIOS though. I'll look around tonight to see if I can find any other good, cheap boards... with ECC in mind this time. It would be nice to find a decent priced motherboard with a 975X chipset. That way you could later upgrade to a quad core when the prices really fall. That and the ECC support. g33kski11z ... This is why I wanted to know about motherboards. Right now I have a spreadsheet comparing MHz per dollar and the cheap chips are given an unfair advantage because I'm not considering motherboard cost ... So you'd recommend getting the cheapest motherboard that can support the chip, yes?... It really depends on your budget, experience, and what you are trying to actually accomplish. Lets assume you've got the pc experience to put this all together {hardware & software}, and your trying to calculate data sets that require at least 2 gb ram. Option 1: {the low budget build} - you go bottom dollar on your equipment, meaning lowest priced board, cpu, and ram. With some research, it could be done for$1,000. You would probably get by just fine, but things might seem to take a little longer than you want.

Option 2: {mid level built}
- something along the lines that has been discussed. Intel Core Dou cpu's, decent gigabyte {my personal favorite} boards, fast ram... this would be in the $1,100 -$1,300 range. This is probably where your best bang for the buck is at. You would be able to notice a difference between this type of system and your budget build.

Option 3: {the beast}
- you wait about 3-4 months and Intel releases their new Q9xxx cpu's. You could easily spend $1,500 -$2,000. Higher end boards, 4 Gb ram each. Something in this area could easily double option 1's output. This would be a huge number crunching beast.

I've been overclocking for +5 years.. it's a fun hobby. It can be done safely with out compromising your equipment or the validity of your results. You just have to be careful with what you do. Here is the link to my work machine. I built it about a yr ago and its been running 24/7 at my office as my primary pc. { I'm a system analyst for a local university} http://valid.x86-secret.com/show_oc?id=213938 [Broken]. If you really want to know how to safely overclock, we can open another thread.

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Homework Helper
Some motherboards have unusual features:

Intel D975XBX2 motherboard: 2 Sata controllers, 4 ports each for a total of 8 hard drives. Two independent sets of striped or raid drives can be setup. 3 PCI Express slots. DDR2 up to 800mhz. ATI crossfire (dual video card) support.

Intel DX38BT - 2 Sata controllers, 6 ports on internal with raid, 2 ports on external, also raid. 3 PCI Express slots. DDR3 up to 1333mhz. ATI and Nvidia dual video card support.

I have an older D975XBX motherboard (uses Silicon Image for second SATA controller instead of Marvell), with 4 hard drives, setup as 2 sets of striped drive since I do some video editing and also use the 2nd pair of hard drives to back up (also backup / compare / reformat / restore / compare for full defrag) paritions from the primary harddrives, so streaming transfer rate helps. I'm using a X6800 CPU. To upgrade from this, I'd have to get a new motherboard, DX38TBT, QX9650 CPU, and 2GB of DDR3 ram. My current setup is more than good enough for gaming, but for video rendering, more speed always helps. Since Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, which I use, supports quad core cpus, the QX9650 should help there. HD video work requires striped hard drive (or raid with 3 or more drives). Depending on when I do my next upgrade, this is what I'll consider.

For math purposes, this stuff isn't needed, unless speed is an issue, and your software can utilize dual or quad core cpu's.

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