Thursday, September 10, 2009

New System

I waited to get enough spare money and then waited because of rumors of the 3.4 Ghz Phenom II 965. So, I decided to stop waiting and put together an interim system.

I didn't really care for the wattage bump on Phenom II 965 to 140 watts. I figure that AMD will probably release a new one at 125 watts like they did with Phenom so I'll wait for that one before getting a quad core. I did briefly consider Intel but unfortunately the Penryn based quad cores are pretty much obsolete because of the FSB bottleneck. That only left i7 920 but I didn't feel like spending all the extra money for little additional CPU power. Also tipping the scale was that I decided to wait for AMD's 5000 series GPU's to see how good they are. But with an Intel motherboard I would be stuck with some truly second rate graphics. Maybe if i5 were out there would be a genuine option from Intel but right now, it doesn't exist. I picked up:

CPU: Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (tri-core)

Motherboard: Asus M4785TD-V EVO

Memory: 4 x 2GB DDR3 OCZ Gold AMD edition (capable of DDR3-1600)

Power Supply: Corsair HX 850 W Professional Series (modular)

Harddrives: Western Digital 640 GB, 1 TB, and a Western Digital Elements USB 1.5 TB external

DVD drive: Lite On DVD reader

Monitor: Asus 21" LCD

OS: Vista Home Premium and OpenSuse Linux

I'm using the stock HSF so overclocking is limited primarily by cooling. That is fine since I'm not really interested in any severe overclocking. To test stability I run Prime95 with maximum heating. From every test I've done Prime95 always comes up as the toughest. I've found that running windows is not as stressful as running the stability tests in AMD OverDrive and the AOD tests are not as stressful as Prime95. This makes the common practice among overclockers of "being stable enough to get a SuperPi score" something of a joke. I wouldn't trust a system without running the toughest stressor to see exactly where I stand.

The M4A785TD motherboard has had a few BIOS updates. I installed the latest one. I wasn't really interested in trying to unlock the 4th core as some have done since I knew that this would be a weak core. However, others asked me about it so I did give it a try. I was unable to show a 4th core with any configuration using Asus' Unleashed mode. Also, even though the BIOS has an option for setting the NorthBridge multiplier independently of the HT clock it doesn't work. Maybe in the next BIOS update. So, in order to increase the NB speed I have to bump the base clock just as people would have to if they didn't have a Black Edition with unlocked multiplier. I'm running memory in Auto which defaults to ganged mode but I don't know that that makes any difference in stability. Perhaps it would at 1600 but with only three cores I don't really need more than DDR3-1200. With CPU and NorthBridge voltage on auto, memory set to 1.59 volts and 533 Mhz, I ended up with:

250 Mhz base x 13 = 3.25 Ghz is stable. However, the 2.5 Ghz NB is overkill. With all 4 DIMMs I get 667 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate.

238 Mhz base x 14 = 3.332 Ghz is stable. The 2.38 Ghz NB is still higher than it needs to be. With all 4 DIMMs I get 634.7 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate. If the multiplier were locked this would be the fastest configuration.

231 Mhz base x 14.5 = 3.35 Ghz is stable. The 2.31 Ghz NB is okay. With all 4 DIMMs I get 618 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate.

225 Mhz base x 15 = 3.375 Ghz is stable. The 2.25 Ghz NB is about right. With all 4 DIMMs I get 600 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate. This one or the following one seem to be about the best all around configurations.

219 Mhz base x 15.5 = 3.395 Ghz is stable. The 2.19 Ghz NB is not too bad. With all 4 DIMMs I get 584 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate.

212 Mhz base x 16 = 3.392 Ghz is stable. The 2.12 Ghz NB is about the lowest I would want to go. With all 4 DIMMs I get 565 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate.

206 Mhz base x 16.5 = 3.398 Ghz is stable. The 2.06 Ghz NB is a bit slow. With all 4 DIMMs I get 549 Mhz with a latency of 7 and 1T command rate. If I specify 667 Mhz in the BIOS the memory defaults to a latency of 9 and 2T command rate. I might be able to tweak the settings back to 7 and 1T, but with the slower NB it wouldn't be worthwhile.


i5 750, i7 860, and i7 870 were not out yet when I ordered my components. However, now that I've seen the reviews it is clear that these processors wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Remember back when AMD released the B3 stepping of Phenom in early 2008? AMD discovered something that they had overlooked. Their processor wasn't playing nicely with the 700 series southbridge. So, AMD released the new 750 southbridge; and, when these Phenoms were used with motherboards having the 750 southbridge, it made a difference. You could easily get 200 - 300 more Mhz on an overclock. With that painful lesson under their belts, AMD upgraded the phase lock loop in the 45nm Phenom II's so that they got the same benefit whether you used the new 750 or the old 700 southbridge.

However, Intel has apparently fallen into the same experience trap with the newest processors. These chips have PCI-e on the die itself. Great for reducing cost but not so great for overclocking. Intel ties the PCI-e clock to the BCLK much as AMD has tied the HyperTransport frequency to its base clock since K8. Even Anandtech admits that getting away from 133 Mhz multiples will cause PCI-e problems. In contrast I had no trouble running the base clock up from 200 Mhz to 250 Mhz; HyperTransport still worked fine. Secondly, as you increase the frequency on Intel's newest processors it destabilizes PCI-e because the drive transistors cannot keep up at stock voltage. The solution would normally be to overvolt but unfortunately this can't be done very well with Intel's stock HSF. In fact, Anandtech used the word "sucks" several times in describing overclocking with the stock HSF. Anandtech claims a top clock of 3.37 Ghz for the i7 870 with stock HSF. This would be the same as what I'm getting however given Anandtech's checkered history with testing I have to assume that they did not try running Prime95 on all four cores with maximum heating as I did. This sounds like it would easily knock their claim down to the same 3.2 Ghz stock that Chile Hardware was able to get.

This is a problem for Intel if you really want more performance. Anandtech also says that you need to disable Turbo if you want the maximum clock without crashing. However, they then say that you need to leave Turbo on to let the system clock down the cores individually to avoid wasting power. And, even though Intel quietly suggested that reviewers use the Thermalright MUX 120 premium cooler to solve Lynnfield's thermal woes, Xbit Labs saw temperatures of 93 C under load at 4.07 Ghz. No thanks. Maybe Intel will fix these hardware issues in the newer 32nm i5's and i7's but for now these chips have issues. Nor have I even mentioned the problems encountered in trying to get Turbo to work under Linux or the way Turbo is unlikely to work in a standard case with a nice video card installed.

To get the current speed on my system I only had to change the base frequency, the multiplier, and bump the DIMM voltage to 1.59. The CPU base and NB voltages and DIMM timing are all on auto. Even with the bump in speed however I'm still running both the CPU and memory under their maximum rated voltage. My processor idles at 900 Mhz at 25 C and runs up to 3.375 Ghz with about 48 C under Prime95 load. If Intel were able to do this then they would have something to brag about.

I don't know what some of the reviewers have been thinking but worse overclocking than Bloomfield with 33% less memory bandwidth hardly sounds like a revolution. PCI-e onboard to reduce cost while also sabotaging overclocking sounds more like a reluctant compromise than a feature. And less functionality with a higher price tag than Phenom II is just not my idea of a good deal. Intel has a few obstacles to overcome (or a sharp price cut) before the new i5's and i7's will be genuine competition for AMD's Phenom II's. However for anyone with money to burn, a premium cooler, and a calm disposition the new Lynnfields could provide endless hours of fun trying for a high SuperPi score. I would stay away from Prime95 though at least until Intel comes up with a solution to the PCI-e problem.


Usama said...

Good system, although I believe you have a typo with regards to your Memory (so you must be running 8GB). Also why not try Windows 7 RC1? Athough I actually found Vista to be better than XP in some ways, I think most people would agree 7 is even better, and it's free.

Scientia from AMDZone said...


Yes, I changed the MB to GB. I have a coupon to upgrade to windows 7. I know some are running the pre-release now.

Scientia from AMDZone said...

Chuckula said...

"Blah, blah, blah, personal attacks, blah, blah, BUT:

Why didn't you just wait 2 weeks for the inevitable $50 price drop that we all know AMD is going to make to the 965's to undercut the new i5 750?

Notice how I'm not asking you to even consider buying an Intel machine since blah, blah, blah, more personal attacks, blah, blah ... but why the hell are you not even trying to get a good deal on an AMD box?"

The main reason I didn't buy a PII 965 is because I don't like the 140 watt TDP and I figure that AMD will release a 125 watt version in a few months like they did with Phenom X4 9950. When they do I'll upgrade to a quad core, upgrade to an HD 4890 graphic card and might upgrade the motherboard.

In the meantime, I have the world's best integrated graphics, my memory is close to the top, and the 720 Black Edition is a damn good processor. It beats the stuffing out of any of Intel's dual cores and soundly thumps even the fastest Penryn quad in terms of memory bandwidth.

Frankly I'm still laughing at the websites that claim you can get an i5 750 up to 3.9 Ghz on the stock cooler. Chile hardware couldn't get an i5 750 past 3.2 Ghz on the stock HSF. Xbit labs got an i7 870 up to 4.07 Ghz using a massive Thermalright MUX-120 but they exceeded the maximum temperature rating by 20 C, topping out at a whopping 93 C. No thanks!

My 720 runs 3.375 Ghz everyday with no trouble and can run Prime95 maximum heating on all cores at the same time. Yet, when not under load it clocks down automatically to 900 Mhz. Mine idles at 25 C and tops out at about 50 C.

In all seriousness. The Q6600 was able to overclock from 2.4 Ghz to maybe 2.9 Ghz with the stock HSF. The i5 750 is going from 2.66 Ghz to 3.2 Ghz with stock HSF and I'm going from 2.8 Ghz to 3.375 Ghz. Notice how similar the OC ratios are:

2.4 -> 2.9 Ghz, 1.21x
2.66 -> 3.2 Ghz, 1.20x
2.8 -> 3.375 Ghz, 1.21x

There is nothing wrong with an i5 750 but its price is close to double that of the 720 for only slightly more cpu power. And, Intel's integrated graphics would be nearly two generations behind what I have. Again, no thanks.

enumae said...

I can not comment at AMDZone, but I would like to help clear up your incorrect comments towards azaselo in the Intel widens 32nm chasm with AMD thread.

According to an Intel presentation showing inventory by process node Link to Slide, you can see that inventory of 45nm was almost 50% by the end of Q2 2008, meaning production crossover would have been Q2 2008.

According to your own comments, you claim that AMD reached production crossover in Q2 2009.

This would make it almost/if not a full year behind Intel in regards to 45nm production crossover.

You can comment on the thread, or not at all, but I do hope that you read this.

David said...

I thought that at stock speeds Core i5 750 outperforms Phenom II X4 965. Tests done by Tech Report, not by your favorite person Anand.

Scientia from AMDZone said...

My apologies; I didn't realize that I had comments waiting.


Thank you for the link to the slide. I understand your reasoning but you are mistaken. The slide you pointed to does not show inventory volumes of 45nm chips. In reality that slide shows the value of the inventories. So, what you've shown is that the value of 45nm inventories reached half in Q2 2008. However, you did not show that the actual volume reached half in Q2 2008.

Scientia from AMDZone said...


Thank you for your post. I understand your point about the Tech Report review.

However, we need to first take note that Intel itself admitted that it started putting cheater code in its graphics drivers with DX9 and has even better cheater code in the current DX10 graphic drivers.

We know that the cheats work on at least Call of Juarez, Crysis, Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions, and Company of Heroes because they've admitted to this. We do not know if the cheats work on more game benchmarks than this. Intel also admitted that Spec Int was artificially inflated on Dunnington and this is why it doesn't run much faster on Nehalem. Add BABCO to this plus Intel's admission that they altered the power savings on notebook power draw tests and one has to wonder why Intel still has any credibility at all on benchmarks.

Secondly, the configurations are silly. Sure you could try to keep a straight face while claiming passionately that you were just doing a stock review and that is why you knowingly gave advantages to Intel. But since the Asus motherboard includes Turbo Key and Turbo V this requires stretching the truth just a bit too far.

This is nonsense and you know it. I've already had to download and install BIOS updates twice plus an update to the Catalyst drivers. Compared to that, Turbo V is nothing and using AOD with auto configuration is trivial. Or are we excluding these only because Intel has nothing comparable?

I find it really funny that people constantly claim that Nehalem has low power draw and then go through contortions to make sure that Nehalem doesn't get too hot. I've seen reviewers casually run Nehalem at 93 C when the max temperature is 73 C. I can run my PII X3 720 BE at 3.485 Ghz (685 Mhz OC) with Prime95 on maximum heating on all cores with the stock HSF and still put my hand on the heatsink. Can you do that with Nehalem??

I can run my processor in a stock case with a nice video card without worrying that the case temperature will prevent good OC'ing (or negate Turbo) even with the stock HSF. Can you do that with Nehalem?

We all know the reality of the test. In a stock case with stock HSF the PII has headroom while the i5 750 has none. What is the real max clock with a stock Nehalem without burning your fingers on the heatsink when running Prime95? I am skeptical that you could get 20%.

A test with more common sense would have bumped the NB up to 2.4 Ghz on the PII and increased the base clock to 3.6 or 3.7 Ghz (maybe even 3.8). You could probably also get a latency of 7 with the DIMMs at 1333 Mhz. We all know that bumping the clock on i5/i7 would have required turning Turbo off and even then it would have been tight with the HD 4870 in a typical case with a couple of 120mm case fans.

I would give i5 750 serious consideration as a competitor to PII 955 since they are almost the same price. But, I would never screw around with a processor that ran 20 C over max nor one that couldn't run Turbo because a stock case was too hot. I can run all my cores at 3.485 Ghz with Prime95 on maximum heating, not just one core when the others are idling. And because of Cool and Quiet the cores clock down to 800-900 Mhz when there is no load.

If you want me to take i5/i7 seriously then post some CPU temps and OC's with the stock HSF with Prime95 running maximum heating. We can then see how close the review is.

David said...

Yes there's silliness, but it occurs on your side of the non-equation.

1. The graphics card used in the linked tests were done on an Nvidia card, so I'm not sure why you went on WRT Intel graphics

2. The Intel CPUs in that test were sitting on Gigabyte boards (ironically it was the AMD CPUs that were sitting on ASUS boards), so anything WRT "Turbo V" would not involve Intel CPUs

3. Intel Turbo mode would only go up 1 bin or so when most cores are occupied. In other words, Turbo mode comes into play mostly during single- or dual thread tasks. Its existence is mainly something to prop up its single-thread performance, which is not much of an issue in something like Far Cry 2. In fact, the author of the article didn't think that Turbo Mode had much ado with the results. I quote: "Somewhere along the line, something has changed that's tipped the balance in the favor of higher core counts. Incidentally, that fact makes me hesitate to credit Turbo Boost for the strong performance of the Lynnfield processors. If more than two cores are occupied, they'll only be running at one or two ticks up from stock clocks."

I don't care whether you take the results seriously or not- I'm only here to show the results themselves, being what they are. As for your oft-lengthy expositions, sometimes I just wonder what you're going on about and this is one of them.

Also I don't think you understand the mentality of the average DIY user, as evidenced in your most recent post regarding overclocking with a stock HSF. If people even bother to overclock in the first place they would be getting themselves a non-stock fan. If they do not bother, it is most likely that they would not arse themselves enough to touch the rest of the setup either, especially the BIOS settings. All the posturing regarding "I could do XXXX with stock HSF" are just that- Posturing of fans and their fansites. I find your most recent stock OC bench to be, well, not all that relevant to the reality of how everyone else build and use things.

Scientia from AMDZone said...


You really missed the boat. When Anandtech tried to overclock using Intel's stock HSF they kept saying that it sucked.

On the other hand, I've overclocked my X3 720 to 3.4 Ghz and consider this a pretty good result. I have not bothered to get a third party cooler. But this isn't because I am against overclocking (as you suggest) but simply because I doubt that I could raise the overclock more than about 100 Mhz using a third party cooler and I don't consider that worth bothering.

However, I have a C3 stepping PII 965 and Intel i5-750 ordered and I have third party coolers for both of them.

Your comments about Turbo V also missed the point. One of the main arguments about Intel's Turbo is that it achieves an overclock even for unsophisticated users who don't have the technical expertise to overclock. The point I was making was that anyone could achieve a small overclock with Turbo V without ever using AOD or changing the BIOS settings. And, this isn't only available on Asus motherboards; other manufacturers have something similar.

I also got a chuckle out of your comments about DIY'ers. I don't know how old you are but I've been building systems for about 15 years. I overclocked a Celeron 50% by changing the bus speed from 66 Mhz to 100 Mhz. I never did it myself but knew people who overclocked 80386's from 33 to 40 Mhz. I also replaced my 486SX-33 with a 486DX4-100. I've been doing this awhile.

There is nothing wrong with trying to get more speed but speed simply for the sake of speed is ridiculous. I've clocked my 720 much higher than 3.4 Ghz and was even able to boot and run SuperPi but I didn't buy a system for that. 3.4 Ghz is what I run everyday. If you bought a system just to see how high you could get then I guarantee yours views are far outside the mainstream.