Case in Point: The Best CPU Under $300 - HotHardware

Case in Point: The Best CPU Under $300

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I built two systems, one using an Asus P7P55D Pro P55 board and the other built around an eVGA X58 SLI Micro X58 board. The Asus board is typical of most Asus products – it’s solid, reasonably priced (you can find it for around $170), and it's moderately overclockable. Mostly, it’s just stable and works. The eVGA board looks quite cool, but has a somewhat sparse, old-school BIOS. It’s overclockable, to be sure, but you have to work at it. The graphics card in both test systems was an eVGA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 SSC.

Asus P7P55D Pro Motherboard

Interestingly, the Core i7 860 costs slightly more if you’re actually shelling out real dollars, as opposed to Intel price list dollars. This might be simply the effect of a new product hitting the channel, or possibly a glut of Core i7 920s on the street. The difference of $10 is pretty minor though.

On the performance side, there are several parameters that can affect performance: base clock frequency, turbo boost availability, QPI channels and the number of memory channels. The last factor – the number of memory channels – can affect the overall configuration as well. With the 920, you either get 3GB or 6GB with affordable memory kits (I don’t consider $1,700 for Kingston’s 12GB kit as “affordable.) Even 12GB is relatively affordable in motherboards supporting six DDR3 sockets. With the Core i7 860, you can load up on 2GB, 4GB or drop in four modules at 8GB.

eVGA X58 SLI Micro Motherboard

QPI or DMI bandwidth can be an issue, but only in some applications. Perhaps more important from a pure performance play is the number of Turbo Boost “bins” available. Suffice it to say that a single execution core (three cores idle) on the 860 will run at a considerably higher Turbo Boost frequency than a single execution core operating in Turbo mode on the 920.

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Yup, 1156 is the way to go.  And I see no need for buying higher than an i7 860.  I'd love to see the i5 750 thrown in the battery of tests too.  For $199, that's the one I recommend for new Intel builds.  For 45% more cost, the i7 860 really takes a beating in the price to performance ratio.

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Only if you're talking about single-threaded performance. If you look at multi-threaded performance, the 860 is a significant step up from the 750, due to its support for HT.

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Very correct. But for gamers, the HT wouldn't be so important.


Here's a quick rundown of most CPU options available:

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You know what would be interesting? A HH side-by-side comparison of modern games running on a multi-core processor, and then with only single core enabled.

Undoubtedly things have progressed where sound, AI, physics, etc. take better advantage of multiple cores. I'd be interested in knowing exactly how much of a difference it makes in the more popular engines (Valve, ID, etc...).

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I was hoping that someone would pit the 860 and 920 head-to-head! The odd thing, though, is that when I use a system builder's configurator to put together the X58 or P55 system I want, they come out about the same price. [shrug]

This isn't my own work; it's been bouncing around the World of Warcraft forums for a while. But, it's relevant, I think:

Technically WoW only utilizes 2 cores max. However, you can modify your file, the "set process affinity" value to 15 to use all 4 cores equally. If you google "setprofessaffinity" you might be able to find a map, but some general values...

  • 5 = cores 1&3
  • 7 = cores 1,2,3
  • 10 = cores 2&4
  • 14 = Cores 2,3,4
  • 15 = Cores 1,2,3,4

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ClemSnide said...

* 5 = cores 1&3

* 7 = cores 1,2,3

* 10 = cores 2&4

* 14 = Cores 2,3,4

* 15 = Cores 1,2,3,4


Looks binary, with each core being represented by an individual bit:

From your examples, core 1 is the right most bit, and the others move left (as is standard for binary)

So, using one core would be: b0001 = 1 in decimal.

Using cores 1 & 3, would be: b0101 = 5 in decimal.


So here's the missing map you mentioned for the combinations not shown:

Only core 1 = b0001 = 1 decimal.

Only core 2 = b0010 = 2 decimal.

Cores 1&2 = b0011 = 3 decimal.

Only core 3 = b0100 = 4 decimal.

Cores 1&3 = b0101 = 5 decimal.

Cores 2&3 = b0110 = 6 decimal.

Core 4 only = b1000 = 8 decimal.

Cores 1&4 = b1001 = 9 decimal.

Cores 1,2 & 4 = b1011 = 11 decimal.

Cores 3&4 = b1100 = 12 decimal.

Cores 1,3 & 4 = b1101 = 13 decimal.

And of course, my favorite way to play WoW:

No processor cores = b0000 = 0 decimal

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Thank you for this comparison, Hothardware. I am in the process of choosing which Core i7 socket to go with....the 1156 or 1366. I had to ask various computer engineers, friends and early tech adopters on which socket is for the better. You brought interesting economical and future-proof arguments into the mix. Since I am building a PC now, I will stick with the 1156. It may be a gamble...but the cost is an important factor in my purchasing (especially since the Motherboards for 1366 is ridiculously expensive).

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I like to build for as much performance as possible for the money I'm spending at the time. Then I just enjoy what I have until something happens and I can afford to upgrade or build again. If I was building right now it would have to be the Lynnfield Core, i7 860. As software and game development progresses, this platform will be the most advantageous to own.

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I've been waiting for the new CPUs and chipsets before buying anything. I don't need to have the top of the line super expensive stuff. The i5 is just what I needed.

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