Archive for November, 2008

Holiday Guide 2008 : Core i7 The future of DAWs.

Friday, November 28th, 2008

So another year has come and gone. I’m 21 years old. The world looks like it might be ending, and I’m writing a article on how you can burn your money on toys in the midst appending dooms day. Intel and AMD have both launched new CPUs, though Intel has expanded  dominant position in the market. The introduction of Intels latest CPU  the Core i7 means that whats availible for those of us looking to build hardware now and through next year will be drasticly different, from those who built over  the last two years. In this article I’ll go into a brief whats to know about intels new CPUs, as well as what looks good for those of us looking to build computers.

I.Introduce Nehalem: Nehalem or by its Common name the Core i7,  is the first major change in Intel Processors since the introduction of the Core 2 at the end of summer 2006. It does a number of things differently from traditional Core 2. First the Processor is more similar to AMD’s Phenom in some ways, predominately the use of an unified Quad core, integrated memory controller, and cache hierarchy.

Intel effectively uses a unified quad core essentially meaning all cores are on a single die, instead of have two dual cores on a single piece of silicon for intels previous quad core. In previous generation this seperation meant less effective communication between cores, in addition a core 2 quad had two seperate sets of caches for all its processors, and effectively had more power sitting idle at various points, as processors could not access the other cache. The Core i7 reintroduces intel’s Hyperthreading technology effectively allowing it to work on 8 threads at once, instead of just 4.  (Hyperthreading allows a core to go work on a different process during a Cache miss, where normal CPU’s would have been waiting for a process to simply finish ). Intel platforms also feature turbo mode, which auto oveclocks CPU if the processor runs cool enough, or when cores are idle by  turing off core, and overclocking used core. This is a benifit if you payed 60$ for an after market cooler like some people.

CPU finally moves away from a seperate memory controller VIA northbridge to an integrated controller like AMDs. This will significantly improve memory bandwidth.  The draw back to this is that each generation of CPU is locked to a memory standard in Intel’s case a DDR-3, and new memory standard will only be introduced with new CPUs as opposed to New mobos. This poses a problem for budget users in some ways, if any of your remember the Pentium IV in early days, expensive ram bus memory made it near impossible to afford for average end users. As new chipsets and Motherboards came out, the same Pentium IV CPU could be accross several different generations of memory standards.  SD-RAM, DDR, DDR-2, Dual Channel DDR. Whats more many of these transitions may not have happened, with out third party development of chipsets (VIA released the first DDR Chipset for Intel, effectively was sued for intel for lack of liscence), which forced the DDR standard on inte platforms.  The i7 uses tri channel DDR-3 to achieve peak bandwidth, meaning for peak performance you’ll need 3 or 6 sticks. The integrated memroy controller puts a limitation on careful overclocking as raising the voltage to high risks destruction of the whole CPU. Standard spec on DDR-3 at this point  is @ 1.5V  7-7-7 for DDR-1066. and 9-9-9-24 @ 1.5V for DDR-3. The memory for this is quite affordable. There is a notable performance increase to DDR-1600 however there is no standard spec for DDR-3 1600. Not all mobos will be compatible with all mdoels, and voltages will be unlike standard and latency varied. It will also cost a premium. It is my faith that DDR-3 1600 will be coming in the future with a standard spec, for now due to my own policy I will not be looking at any DDR-3 1600 sticks. Keep in mind if you choose to find DDR-3 1600 you should look for memory that operates at 1.65Volts or less.

The last major change is a Cache hierarchy similar to AMDs with a small L2 Cache (1MB) and a L3 Cache instead (8mb). The draw back to this is this does not benifit many typical desktop applications, rather large code based operations typically run on server environments. This cuases the i7 to net mixed results on many of todays applications, or common applications.

The effective consequence of all this jargon is the i7 is really well designed for multicore computing. However the net results of its performance is 10-40% performance increases in many tasks with huge potential future improvements if multicore takes off.

The Core i7 (bloomfield) range from 300$-1000$ and are readily available. the most affordable model is the 2.66Ghz 920  which range 3.20 which is 300$-1030$

II. The existing Core 2 Quads provide a great value as Nehalem has come out. Their is some price drops, but one of the more interesting phenomena is the introduction of lower midrange quad cores, that are designed for those who have tighter budgets. Intels CPU remain an overall better value at this point. Offer a great performance for those of us not ready to jump ship. Core 2 CPUs range from 180$ in value to 550$ for a Q9650. The more expensive QX9770 extreme is still 1550. The major benifit of the Core 2 Quad is the cheaper ram, and motherboard (you’ll spend more on the mobo for the i7  you’d spend for both the motherboard, and ram for a core 2 Quad, and most of the i7 mobos cost 300$ a pop).

III. Cases. Not much has changed in department of Cases. For silent cases antec remains the standard, but aluminum cases seem to have gone out of fashion. The top cases still remain the Antec P180, P182, Cooler Master Cosmos. The Antec Solo and Sonata designer have significant deals

IV. The Power supply market has exploded in size, and there are many silencing options. Antec Signature,Seasonic, Corsair (made by Seasonic), Enermax,   made provide cost effective solutions for quiet power supply’s. Antec Earthwatts and Thermaltake provide some decent cost effective options.

V. The video card wars have left us with a myraid of video card choices compared to last year where DAW just settled for lowend graphics, as most highend cards were to expesnive and to noisy for making DAWs. The ATI RADEON HD3800 series changed this and created a nice actively cooled midrange offering in graphics, at a bearable noise level. However the introduction of the NVIDIA 9600GT has created a low power consumption video  which can be passively cooled for a mere price of a 120$, that has fairly decent gaming performance. There are also passively cooled 9800GTs and 4850 with fairly good reputations. Giving gaming DAWs a massive expansion The 9800GT from ECS is a 160$ is getting fairly decent reviews.

V. Motherboards. As far as motherboards go there isn’t a lot of maturity to the existing i7 models, but Gigabyte continues to make boards that have features sets that are great for DAW. The initial reviews seem positive. On the i7 Platform they remain the dominant player, and my top choice. All gigabyte biards feature Ti Firewire, and Silent Pipe technology

VI. Hard Drives. 32mb Cache has become a standard with some decent drives being available. Price drops have caused 640GB and 1TB Drives to be extremely affordable.

VII emerging technology. 2009 should see price reductions that make certain emerging technologies extremely affordable to the mainstream. High speed solidstate disks are dropping rapidly in price, though still quite effective. This technology has much faster read write than most hard drives and will have drastic potential for power users who record lots of tracks simultaneous or people who just want things to load up faster.  In addition Blu Ray is falling price as well with DVD+/-RW Blu RAy combo drives approaching 150$. Burners still remain pricey at 225-400$ but approaching more affordable prices rapidly

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Some ideas Upper Midrange i7 Rig 1900.00

Antec P180/P182

Seasonic S12 650watt PSU

3x Scythe S-flex D120mm Casefan

Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHZ

Gigabyte GA-EX58 Motherboard (300$)

3×2GB DDR-2 1333MHZ Corsair XMS Memory (CL9-9-9-24) 1.5Volt (225$)

3×1TB 7200rpm Western Digital w/32mb Cache (120 each)

1x Gigabyte Passively Cooled ATI RADEON HD4850 (Passively cooled Gaming, Good airflow is a must)

LG 6x BLU RAY Burner (225)

Pioneer 12x DVD ROM and 6x Burner (150$

Microsoft Windows Vista Business 64 (downgrade to XP if preferred)

$ 2000.00

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Antec Sonata

Antec Earthwatts 500 Power supply

Scythe 120mm Case fan & Scythe 92mm Casefan

Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz

Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5

3×1GB DDR-3 1066z Crucial CL7-7-7

2x 640GB Seagate 7200rpm w/32mb Cache

Pioneer 20x DVD+/-RW

ATI RADEON HD2600XT HIS Hightech Fanless

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition SP3

$ 1233.00